Here’s Why Russia Abstained From This Week’s UNSC Resolution On Afghanistan
Russia’s stance – which was also the one taken by China – was the most pragmatic response to the West ignoring most of its concerns.
Russian Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya pointed to three reasons why his country abstained from this week’s UNSC Resolution on Afghanistan. They are as follows:
- * ISIS & ETIM weren’t mentioned in the text despite being the region’s most dangerous terrorist groups
- * “Brain drain” wasn’t addressed even though this adversely affects the country’s socio-economic situation
- * No mentioning of the humanitarian consequences connected to the freezing of Afghanistan’s financial assets
Each of these points deserves to be elaborated upon further so that everyone can better understand the rationale behind Russia’s emerging policy towards Afghanistan.
Russia still officially designates the Taliban as terrorists despite pragmatically engaging with it in the interests of peace and security, but it regards ISIS – especially its ISIS-K “franchise” – and the ETIM as being much greater threats to the region. The first-mentioned is obsessed with violently carving a caliphate out of countless countries while the second is laser-focused on carrying out acts of terrorism against China. Both groups can easily be exploited as proxies by foreign forces such as the US in order to serve its strategic interests against the two countries that it nowadays officially regards as its “peer competitors”.
Mr. Nebenzya wondered aloud why ISIS wasn’t condemned in the text despite having just claimed responsibility for last week’s terrorist attack at the Kabul Airport. His reference to the ETIM was likely out of loyalty to his country’s Chinese strategic partners and due to his deep respect for their security interests. It’s unrealistic to imagine that Moscow would have voted for the resolution even if it mentioned ISIS if it still didn’t include ETIM too. He importantly added that “We interpret it as unwillingness to recognize the obvious and an inclination to divide terrorists into ‘ours’ and ‘theirs’.”
To the second point, Russia is painfully aware of how debilitating “brain drain” can be for one’s country after losing so many of its brightest minds in the years following the USSR’s collapse. The Taliban has also said that they hope that its compatriots will remain in their country in order to contribute to its reconstruction. That’s why they’re so sensitive about the large-scale emigration of the past month provoked by the US’ disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Russia understandably shares these concerns and might even suspect that the US is employing what Ivy League scholar Kelly M. Greenhill described as “Weapons of Mass Migration”.
The final point is something else that Russia has direct experience with and relates to the US’ unilateral weaponization of financial instruments in order to pressure those who don’t bend to its demands. America and the international financial institutions most powerfully under its control, the IMF and World Bank, cut de facto Taliban-led Afghanistan off from receiving such support. The US even froze its assets in the country. Russia doesn’t just sympathize with the Afghan people whose socio-economic situations will deteriorate as a result, but might also fear that the US is deliberately trying to worsen the country’s humanitarian crisis.
The effect of such a speculative plot wouldn’t just contribute to delegitimizing the Taliban and potentially triggering Color Revolution unrest against it (which might be brutally put down by the group and thus discredit its de facto leadership even more in the eyes of the international community), but could also have serious consequences for the neighbouring states. Of direct concern for Russia is the risk that this might destabilize the already fragile countries of Central Asia which have visa-free agreements with the Eurasian Great Power. Not only might this trigger an influx of migrants, but some of them might also secretly be terrorist infiltrators.
Altogether, Russia’s stance – which was also the one taken by China – was the most pragmatic response to the West ignoring most of its concerns. The Resolution itself is generally a positive step in the right direction even though it’s far from perfect and was obviously influenced by the West’s self-interested politicization of this process. That’s why neither Russia nor China sought to veto it, but abstained in order to signal their principled displeasure for the historical record. Going forward, those two Great Powers will continue coordinating their policies on Afghanistan due to their shared interests in peace, security, and stability there.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Voice of East.