Most Americans would like the Afghan war to come to an end and, especially, want our soldiers to come home. That’s not what Russsia’s President Putin, thinks, however. Speaking to the Duma, Putin announced his support for the ISAF mission:
“We understand what is happening in Afghanistan – right?” Russia’s educator-in-chief lectured the Duma. “We are interested in things there being under control, right? And we do not want our soldiers to fight on the Tajik-Afghan border, right?”“It’s in our national interests to help maintain stability in Afghanistan,” he continued. “Well, NATO and the Western community are present there. God bless them! Let them do their work.”
This is not going to make the Afghan War any more popular in the US. Surprisingly few American mothers think their sons should go into combat to pull Russia’s chestnuts out of the fire. However, if President Obama goes ahead and withdraws from Afghanistan before fulfilling the objectives laid out in the UN resolutions authorizing the war, the Russians are threatening to sue. As the Voice of America reports,
[The Russians] are threatening to sue NATO, or the U.S. government, for not fulfilling U.N. Security Council resolutions mandating the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force to stabilize Afghanistan. They argue that NATO troops have to stay in Afghanistan until Afghanistan is stable.
One somehow suspects that this will not get far, but it’s one more sign that leaving Afghanistan is going to be an awkward process.Meanwhile on the home front, Putin faces push back from the Communists and the arch-nationalists over his alleged plans to give NATO an airbase not just anywhere in Russia, but in Ulyanovsk of all places. (Ulyanovsk, for those not up on their Russian geography, is the birthplace of Lenin himself.) By defending NATO’s Afghan role to the Duma, Putin was justifying his decision to allow NATO to use an air hub (not a base) for non-lethal cargo shipments to and from Afghanistan.Despite all the harsh words, Russia and the United States have some interests in common around the world. American presidents should have no illusions about the nature of our relationship with the Russians, but when US goals can be better or more easily achieved by cooperation with Moscow, we should see whether some kind of arrangement can be made.