Source: The Wall Street Journal
Excerpt for the article:
Afghanistan, battered by worsening security, is reaching out to an old ally and patron—Russia—just as the Kremlin is seeking to reassert its position as a heavyweight on the world stage.
President Ashraf Ghani has asked Moscow for artillery, small arms and Mi-35 helicopter gunships for his country’s struggling military, Afghan and Russian officials say, after the U.S. and its allies pulled most of their troops from Afghanistan and reduced financial aid.
The outreach has created another opening for the Kremlin, stepping up the potential for confrontation with Washington. East-West relations are already strained over such issues as Ukraine and Middle Eastern policy.
“Russia is seizing the opportunity,” a U.S. official said.
Beyond such rivalries, however, the move also reflects Russian concerns that the deterioration of security in Afghanistan could destabilize Central Asia—and bring Islamic extremism closer to its own border.
At an Oct. 16 summit in Kazakhstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the situation “was becoming close to critical,” with militant groups looking to expand their reach across the region.
“It’s important for us to be ready to react in concert to just such a scenario,” he told other Central Asian leaders.
Russia launched an air war in Syria last month with the aim, it said, of combating the rise of Islamic State in the region by buttressing its ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It also has forged a new alliance with Iran and Iraq with the same goals.