Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

September 19, 2001
Russia will not actively participate in new Afghan war
In exchange for cooperation, Americans are prepared to simplify and speed up
Russia's entry into WTO

By Nikolai Ulyanov

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Russia will not actively
participate in the Pentagon's "Noble Eagle" military operation against
terrorist bases within Afghanistan. Russia is most likely to limit itself to
providing the US with political support and stepping up cooperation with
American intelligence agencies in the area of information exchange.

This conclusion can logically be drawn from analyzing the statements made by
Russia's government leaders and top military brass.

For instance, while on a state visit to Armenia last week, President Putin
cautioned America not to take any hasty armed actions that would be in
violation of international law.

The Russian General Chief of Staff, Anatoly Kvashnin, said in Dushanbe on
Wednesday that the execution of armed operations in Afghanistan was "first
and foremost America's business." He made it clear that he sees no sense in
Russian servicemen participating in a joint American armed operation in

Likewise, the majority of Russian politicians reject the idea of Russia
actively involving itself in a new war in Afghanistan. For instance, the
leaders of the Russian parliamentary factions of the Unity Party, the
Communist Party of Russia, the Peoples' Deputy Group and the Liberal
Democratic Party all stand firmly against any form of Russian military
participation in the evolving anti-terrorist coalition.

Only Yabloko leader, Grigory Yavlinsky, supports the idea of Russia standing
shoulder to shoulder with the US in the new geopolitical situation, and of
Russia's full participation in implementing Washington's anti-terrorist

Although Yavlinsky did not state outright that Russia should participate in
joint armed operations with the United States, his stance can be easily
deduced by the careful words he chose. The liberal leader's critics, however,
would be quick to point out that his apparent tough stand against terrorism
is shacky at best, as he has lobbied incessantly against Russia's own
anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya.

The remainder of national politicians and influential experts are unanimously
speaking out against Russia being dragged into a new war. Nor is any such
idea likely to find support among the Russian public at large, weary of long
years of bloodshed in the Northern Caucasus.

Therefore, during their consultations on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister
Igor Ivanov and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will most likely
be talking about the extent and forms of indirect Russian assistance to the
United States.

The United States is undoubtedly eager to receive intelligence about
Afghanistan from Russia's secret services - as well as the Kremlin's consent
to use the military infrastructure of certain Central Asian CIS countries to
prepare the operation against Afghanistan.

In connection with this, signs of bartering can already be discerned. The
Americans have clearly signaled their preference to have Russia actively
involved in their "Noble Eagle" operation. For instance, the U.S. ambassador
in Moscow, Alexander Vershbow, said on Wednesday that America wants to
cooperate with Russia so that it could join the World Trade Organization as
quickly as possible. He even hinted that Russia could acquire WTO membership
even if it did not fully open up its markets to foreign companies.

That is but one of the "carrots" that the Americans have for Russia. There
are probably others as well. It is no coincidence that Moscow corrected its
stance on the possibility of deploying American forces on the territories of
CIS Central Asian states. Earlier, Russian statesmen and the military
outrightly rejected such a possibility. But speaking in Washington on
Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was no longer that
categorical: "Each country will decide for itself to what degree it will be
cooperating with the USA."

In spite of the likelihood that Russia and the USA will ultimately cooperate,
this is by far a foregone conclusion. While the geopolitical interests of the
two countries coincide in Central Asia (the idea of terminating terrorist
support from Afghanistan for rebel activity in Russia and the CIS is
extremely attractive to Moscow), they diverge as concerns the Middle East.

It was certainly no coincidence that US secret services leaked information
concerning a link between Mohamed Atta, who led the group that hijacked the
American Airlines passenger plane, and Iraqi intelligence officers.

American acts of retribution against Iraq would be extremely disadvantageous
for Russia - both economically and politically. In the delicate balancing act
between Russia's traditionally friendly relations with the Arab world on the
one hand, and American economic preferences on the other, the former might
prove to be more attractive for Russia.

In the immediate future, however, Russia is likely to maintain and develop
its idea of creating a worldwide anti-terrorist center under the auspices of
the United Nations and to conduct active consultations both with the
Americans and CIS members, to whom it is linked by a series of collective
defense treaties.

Back to the Top    Next Section