Policy Memos

Does Russia Want the West to Succeed in Afghanistan?

Policy Memo:


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As in the United States, Russia’s policy on Afghanistan has recently undergone an evolution of sorts, prompting speculation about Moscow’s “true” motivations for engagement. Two prominent assessments of Russia’s agenda in Afghanistan dominate the discussion. The first is that Moscow offers genuine, if tactical, support to the West on several issues of shared importance, such as antiterrorism and counternarcotics. The second is that Russia is operating within a familiar “zero sum” framework and tacitly hopes to see the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization fail in Afghanistan. As this memo argues, both of these perspectives are oversimplified. Neither identifies the main dilemma Russia faces: whether to prioritize its own genuine interests in Afghanistan or to use the country instrumentally as a way to improve Moscow’s standing on other, not necessarily related, security issues. [...]

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About the author

Lead Researcher, Department of International Politics; Head, Peace and Conflict Studies
Institute of World Economy & International Relations (IMEMO), Moscow