Like any major geopolitical event, the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan has automatically fed into the major ongoing disputes around the world – the one that refers to the Cold War, between the United States and Russia, and the current version 2.0 between Washington and Beijing, in which Moscow is also participating.
President Joe Biden himself, in his speech by Pontius Pilate on Monday (16), gave the password, citing the two rivals as countries that had an interest in destabilizing Afghanistan during the 20 years of Western presence.
The fact that there was a military occupation led by the United States and fought by the insurgency has been conveniently ignored by the Americans.
While the ultimate goal is the same, to harass the Americans in yet another military defeat in their post-war history and establish a new beachhead in Asia, the Chinese and Russian approaches are diverse.
Beijing has been most vehement in favor of the Taliban, having received a delegation from the group three weeks ago at a meeting where Chancellor Wang Yi made his words: he would support the fundamentalists if they disassociated themselves. of the Islamic insurgency in Xinjiang in China. Region.
The Taliban, for those who believed in it, agreed. China’s interest appears to be in turning the country into an extension of its Pakistani economic satellite, another courtesy of a 20-year endless “war on terror”, or at least ensuring stability in the area close to it. turbulent Muslim region.
For decades Pakistan was a place where the “three A’s” dominated: Allah, the military and America. Instigator of the Taliban in the 1990s, Islamabad found itself under pressure from the Allies and gradually turned to Beijing.
Communist China saw a golden opportunity to expand and funded the construction of a major port in Gwadar, southern Pakistan, making it easier for its exports to exit to the Indian Ocean and diverting some of its use to the Indian Ocean. off its vulnerable southeast coast.
Besides the economic dimension, Pakistan has become a major military customer for Chinese materiel, abandoning American supplies. All of this put India, the existential rival of the Pakistanis, on alert as to the alliance formed – then beginning to align itself once and for all with the United States in Asia.
Since the Taliban took control of Kabul on Sunday (15), the Chinese have been talking about recognizing the realities and cooperating with the group. On Tuesday (17), Chancellery spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the United States had left “a terrible chaos of unrest, divisions and destroyed families” in the country from which it withdrew.
The Afghan case fits the rhetoric of Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader who for years has preached multilateralism as opposed to what he calls US imperialism.
Critics of the Chinese dictatorship put this into perspective, pointing out that in Beijing’s support for peoples’ self-determination, there are clear economic calculations, adding more people to its sphere of influence, and policies: to turn such membership into support. to the cold war 2.0.
While both readings contain truths, the collapse of the American illusion in Kabul fits the Chinese narrative much better, at least until the Taliban shows their true extremist face and problems arise – which is what the group tried to avoid.
Vladimir Putin, who shares Xi’s pragmatic point of view without having the safety of his colleague, has so far avoided directly supporting the Taliban. The United States accuses the Kremlin of supplying arms and even paying mercenaries to kill Americans in Afghanistan, which Putin denies.
Also on Tuesday, Chancellor Sergei Lavrov said he saw “encouraging signs from the Taliban that they want to form a government with other political forces,” rejecting Moscow’s “unilateral political measures”.
Aware of Afghan history, which included ten years of conflicted relations with Soviet occupiers sent from Moscow in 1979, Lavrov said it was time for a rally of all tribal currents – the famous loya jirga, or grand assembly.
Moscow’s game is increasingly joining that of the Chinese. Having no economic muscle to imagine a very large presence in the new-old Afghanistan, Putin plays with what he has: military strength.
So, on Tuesday, he announced another month of exercises with troops from Tajikistan, a neighbor to northern Afghanistan terrified of the Islamic insurgency infiltrating its lands.
Putin’s staunchest ally in Central Asia, home to a huge Russian military base, the country is at the heart of the Kremlin’s strategy of maintaining certain areas of influence within its former Soviet-era borders (1922- 1991).
Russia’s central geopolitical fear is to see destabilization, whether through civil war or Islamic militancy, in these regions. This is the logic that shifts your actions to the west, to Ukraine and Belarus for example.
Historically, Moscow has been wary of Beijing, fearing for its uninhabited regions of the Far East. But the point is, the two countries are closer than ever, and last week they staged an unprecedented joint military exercise, in which the Russians used Chinese equipment in action.
This is the price of the renewed policy of force, initiated under Donald Trump’s administration and hitherto accelerated by Biden, with great powers moving their pieces to different plateaus.
In Afghanistan, Moscow is playing with what it has, political and military power, to ensure its place at the table of the remnants of the American withdrawal, which will likely have China at its head.