Moscow, Central Asia and the Taliban two years after their return to Kabul
by Stefano Caprio

In Putin's mind, the flight of the Americans from the Afghan capital triggered the spring of the 'great revenge'. Russia now regularly invites Kabul's representatives to Moscow for consultations, despite the fact that the Taliban are still considered an unwelcome 'terrorist organisation'. And the other former Soviet countries are also in solidarity with the Kremlin in officially condemning the Afghan government, at the same time considering it a necessary partner.

Two years have passed since the the American beat a hasty retreat from Afghanistan, twenty years after the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, which had provoked the reaction against Islamic extremism worldwide, begining with Bin Laden's lair in the Asian mountains.

The withdrawal had begun in May 2021, and in mid-August the Taliban sensationally returned to Kabul, forcing the West to give up its role of "exporting democracy" to the world, together with civil rights and the political, economic and moral progress of the values based on personal freedom.

The dramatic days of the abandonment of the Afghan capital's airport now seem to have vanished into grayness and oblivion, without the return to medieval Asian Islam really questioning the conscience of the "civilized world", were it not for the even more dramatic invasion Russia of Ukraine, symbolic consequence of the decline of the West, which from the Central Asian plateaus moves the "war of values" into the heart of Europe.


The renunciation of the United States' dominant role at a world level had already been revealed a few years earlier in Syria, when the Americans had in fact left the field free to the Russians and the Turks in controlling the territories occupied by Isis terrorists, radical Islamism "globalized" which now evaporates in the face of increasingly pressing sovereign radicalism at all latitudes.

Even then, between 2014 and 2016, the coincidence between Asia and Europe was quite evident, in the mobilization of the Russians towards the Near East (where Prigozhin's Wagner company was born) and towards the near western Ukraine, with the beginning "hybrid" of the war of Donbass after the reconquest of Crimea, a symbol of Russia imposing itself on enemy empires, as had happened at the origins of its history.

From the Crimea the "baptizing" prince, Vladimir the Great, had threatened to invade Constantinople, and again from the walls of Chersonese, today Sevastopol, the new Tsar Vladimir "the Terrible" threatens to destroy the whole of Europe, from the Baltic Sea to the Black, also looking to the lands beyond the oceans.

When the patriarch of Moscow Kirill met Pope Francis at Havana airport  on February 12, 2016, the topic of the meeting was the defense of the eternal values of Christianity, together with the blessing of the Russian presence in Syria instead of the Americans, and the admonition to Ukrainians not to quarrel with each other, to avoid worse trouble.

A few months later the Russian Church decided not to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council of Crete, starting the historic break with Constantinople, thus returning to its medieval origins.

In Putin's mind, the escape from Kabul two years ago triggered the spring of the "great revenge", the right moment to re-propose the lost greatness of Russia and take revenge for the many offenses suffered, starting with the end of the Soviet Union.

The defeat in Afghanistan was precisely one of the decisive elements of the "most tragic event of the 20th century", as the Kremlin leader repeatedly repeated, who came to power to counter Islamic extremism in Chechnya, a consequence of the collapse of the Soviet empire .

The presence of the Americans in Kabul, beyond the military reasons, was unbearable for the Russians above all due to the spread of the "Western poison", that morally "degraded" civilization which finally tried - always according to the more radical Russian version - to insinuate itself into the minds and hearts of people around the world with the invention of the coronavirus, the pandemic that preceded and in turn inspired the special operation for the "defense of traditional values".

The links between Covid, Afghanistan and Ukraine are not accidental, it is not the misfortune of the "seven years of troubles" with an Old Testament flavor, which since the explosion of the virus at the end of 2019 today risk turning into a new era of endless conflict between the different sides of the 21st century.

Taliban extremism overlaps Orthodox extremism today, in a "rebirth of religion" with a satanic and inhuman flavor, with bombs, chariots and blessed drones that could not even be dreamed of at the time of the Crusades and the wars for the reconquest of the Holy Land .

Russia now regularly invites representatives from Kabul to Moscow for consultations, despite the fact that the Taliban are still considered an unwelcome "terrorist organization", while it is now clear that their return has been very welcome by Putin's "Russian world".

Even the Central Asian countries, which thanks to the war in Ukraine are gradually moving away from Moscow and towards Beijing, are in solidarity with the Kremlin in officially condemning the Afghan government, considering it at the same time a necessary partner, both for business and for the lifestyle.

While not reaching the excesses of the Taliban, who have completely excluded women from school education, the proud defense of "values" sees great harmony in condemning any form of expression of the individual, especially homosexuality and "LGBT propaganda ”, as in the law approved these days in Kyrgyzstan, literally copied from that of Russia last year.

Patriarch Kirill's declaration, a week after the invasion of Ukraine, which at first seemed to have provoked a negative reaction, seems to be increasingly confirmed: "We must defend ourselves from the West, otherwise they will force us to go to gay parades".

What seemed like a polemical imposition was actually the crux of the problem: the "metaphysical" war, of which Ukraine and Afghanistan are the opposite poles of a different vision of the world, tending towards apocalyptic ruin. Both Putin and Xi Jinping are now over seventy years of age, and are no longer afraid to build walls that could turn the whole earth into a large cemetery.

Even in the ex-Soviet countries meetings to talk about Afghanistan and with Afghans are multiplying, last week in an "economic forum" in Kazakhstan, and a short time before in Samarkand in Uzbekistan.

These are not rallies inspired directly by Russia, but parallel trends of geopolitical movements, for which Moscow is not afraid of losing military and economic control over its former subjects, putting the ideological continuity of a new Eurasian world first. The only country still hostile to the Taliban is Tajikistan, for a very clear reason: the Tajiks are relatives of the Afghans, and they would like to be the ones to lead the government in Kabul.

Turkmenistan, place par excellence of the symbolic transformations of all forms of extremism, be it Islamic, homophobic, Russophile or Sinophile, had been the first to recognize the Taliban's seizure of power as legitimate, masking the satisfaction with the cynical proclamation of its own " neutrality".

Uzbekistan, which is also very ethnically involved in the relationship with the Afghan tribes, has in turn adapted quite quickly to the new reality together with Kyrgyzstan, not to mention Kazakhstan, which by not bordering Afghanistan allows itself to enhance its vastness as a great way for the union of all peoples, if only the Russians do not manage to invade it in a possible replica of the operation in Ukraine.

Russia has to reckon with the galloping economic crisis caused by Western sanctions, which is only now really beginning to make itself felt with the irrepressible devaluation of the rouble; and Central Asia together with the Caucasus participates in these shocks due to the economic ties of Soviet heritage, now reactivated to the maximum as a way around sanctions.

Armenia even risks 'Dutch disease', the excessive growth of some sectors of the economy to the detriment of others, due to an abnormal strengthening of its currency, the dram, due to the huge flow of currency from Russia in 2022, while in turn trying to untie the knots of the border between East and West with its historical enemy, Azerbaijan.

Yet Russia's 'thirst for victory' does not primarily concern the economy: the people have always been used to suffering, the oligarchs always know where to draw for their luxuries, and in the torrid days of Ferragosto many of them serenely enjoy them in the 'Russian colony' of Forte dei Marmi, in defiance of any sanctions.

The Afghanistan of the Taliban, the country plunged two years ago into its dark past, is in danger of becoming the model of the country of the future. The 'Talibanisation' of Russia and the whole of Eurasia, the clash of civilisations between anthropological models before being political or economic, extends from the border territories to the soul dimensions of the whole world.

When Moscow and Beijing officially recognise the government in Kabul, then the ongoing war will find its true solution: not in the peace negotiations between Russians and Ukrainians, which will last centuries without result, but in the great Victory over the inner enemy, the fear and shame of feeling excluded from the rest of the world.