Sergey Sayenko, international observer
The North Atlantic Alliance stubbornly continues to surround Russia from all sides. The southern borders of our country are no exception, where, after the withdrawal of Afghanistan, the United States is looking for a way to gain a foothold in Central Asia (CA) in order to maintain a presence in the region. However, unlike 2001, today Russia is not ready to let the Americans and its allies into its “underbelly”, although it does not mind helping Washington in the real fight against terrorism.
Moscow’s fears are not in vain. So, back in early 2020, the State Department outlined the official US strategy in Central Asia, the main goal of which was to strengthen Washington’s influence in the region. You can also recall the publications of the American media on this topic. For example, in May of this year, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) wrote that even after the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan, the United States must remain “nearby,” apparently referring to the Central Asian countries. Even then, Washington hoped to strengthen cooperation, primarily with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Judging by the official statements of Moscow, Russia is very determined about the presence of the US and NATO military in Central Asia and is categorically against their deployment on the territory of any of the neighboring Central Asian states. Russian officials of various levels, in particular, the Russian Foreign Ministry, constantly remind about this. So, suffice it to recall the statement made by the head of this department, Sergei Lavrov, in the form of a video message to the participants in the recent ministerial meeting of Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
At this meeting, Sergei Lavrov called on Afghanistan’s neighbors to prevent the appearance of NATO and US forces on their territory. “Once again, we urge the neighboring countries of Afghanistan to prevent the military presence of US and NATO forces on their territory, which are planning to move there after leaving Afghan soil,” the Russian Foreign Minister said at the time.
By the way, earlier Sergei Lavrov, disclosing some details of the meeting in Geneva in June this year between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart Joe Biden, said that the Russian leader had already warned the head of the White House against attempts to create US military bases in Central Asia against the background of events in Afghanistan.
“In this regard, we are from the very beginning, and the President told Biden about this in June, when they met in Geneva – because this topic surfaced, we already foresaw what would happen, – and Putin told Biden:“ We are categorically against so that you try, as we have heard, to negotiate with the Central Asian countries on the deployment of part of the military infrastructure on their territory in order to deliver, if necessary, the so-called over-the-horizon strikes on the territory of Afghanistan, ”Lavrov said on the air of Kirill Vyshinsky’s program“ 1/6 “On the TV channel” Russia-24 “.
The WSJ newspaper, which reported that at the June meeting in Geneva,, by the way, confirmed this information, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his American counterpart Joe Biden about the inadmissibility of NATO’s presence in Central Asia.
The last time, the Americans were reminded clearly and unequivocally of their unwillingness to see NATO in Central Asia during a recent visit to Moscow by US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland. According to the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova, many topics were touched upon at the talks with Nuland, including the desire of the United States and its allies to gain a foothold in Central Asia. “Once again, it was clearly, unequivocally stated that the deployment of the US or NATO military infrastructure in Central Asia was categorically unacceptable for Russia,” Zakharova said.
In turn, Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council Yuri Kokov noted in an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta that the United States, under the pretext of countering terrorist groups, “is seeking to gain a foothold in neighboring states, having formed bases there for the deployment of its unmanned aerial vehicles and training centers for training local military personnel. Law enforcement agencies and special services”.
In this regard, it must be said that Moscow has repeatedly warned its Central Asian neighbors that the very fact of the presence of the US and NATO military automatically makes them targets for international terrorists. And it must be admitted that the leadership of the Central Asian states heard the calls of Russia and did not agree to the persuasion of the United States to place military bases on their territory.
It should be emphasized here that even before the American complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, Moscow began to take measures to prevent a scenario in which NATO would take root in the region. As the Kommersant newspaper reported in May, the Russian authorities had already warned partners that the United States and the North Atlantic Alliance were not so much interested in maintaining control over the situation in Afghanistan as they were seeking to use Central Asia as a springboard to contain Russia, China and Iran.
It is important to note that in September Dushanbe hosted a meeting of foreign ministers, defense ministers and secretaries of the Security Councils of the CSTO member countries (in addition to Russia, the bloc includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan). As a result of this meeting, the CSTO countries made a joint statement on the inadmissibility of the deployment on their territory of the military infrastructure of the United States and other NATO countries, which were previously in Afghanistan, as well as Afghan citizens who collaborated with foreign military.
Tashkent, which is not a member of the CSTO, also expressed solidarity with the position of its neighbors and announced that it did not intend to deploy US military bases on its territory. At the same time, the Uzbek authorities noted their readiness to negotiate the exchange of intelligence as part of the common fight against terrorism. “I want to reaffirm that this issue (on the deployment of US troops – ed.) Is not worth it, is not discussed or raised,” said Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov. According to him, “in the course of many serious meetings” the United States was told that Uzbekistan does not accept the deployment of American troops on its territory: “The reality is that there is no need for this”.
It is quite obvious that from a strategic point of view, the Americans have lost in Afghanistan not only a government loyal to themselves, but also their regional presence. Against the backdrop of the strengthening of Russia and China, it is vital for Washington to have leverage in Central Asia. That is why the United States is flirting with the Central Asian countries, trying to win their favor. The only trouble for the United States and its NATO allies is that the capitals of the Central Asian states understand that it is Russia, being their long-standing and reliable partner, that continues to remain the closest link in regional security issues. For this reason, the countries of Central Asia intend to rely on Moscow, and not on Washington or Brussels.