Moscow and Beijing in de facto alliance against Islamist terrorism
Notwithstanding the competition between the two great powers, the seizure of Afghanistan by the Taliban imposes united front to curb radical groups in Central Asia. Already in recent days joint Russian-Chinese military maneuvers. Meanwhile, Lukashenko also risks economic repercussions from the new course in Kabul.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - The joint Russian-Chinese military maneuvers of the past few days in northwest China, in an effort to present an anti-terrorist maneuvers testify to Beijing and Moscow's shared concern over the spiral of violence that could be unleashed after the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
Many observers believe extremist groups could strengthen their positions at the borders of the two great Asian powers and this seems to bring the two countries, which often appear as competitors in the economic sphere of Central Asia, closer together. Although some fear that in reality this tension could exacerbate their antagonism later on.
In the Chinese autonomous region of Ningxia there are currently more than 10 thousand soldiers from both countries, with a large equipment of artillery, aircraft and armored vehicles. Training maneuvers are planned to counter guerrilla acts in territories that are difficult to control.
The Russian Defense Ministry stresses that the exercises aim to be a "the demonstration of the decision and capabilities of Russia and China in the fight against possible ground enemies." Similar maneuvers are held with the cooperation of the Russians in other Central Asian countries, especially in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
The conflict between the Russians and the Chinese remains in the economic field, where both try to attract the countries of the region to their area of influence.
At present, both have to worry first of all about the economic stability of the area, as Vasilij Kašin of the Institute of the Far East of the Russian Academy of Sciences says: "Both Russia and China must now avoid the destabilization of the area, and also the relocation of the US military presence".
In his opinion, if the situation were to worsen, the problem of acting more decisively would arise: "It could come to a Russian-Chinese military coalition, no one could control the situation alone." If a conflict were to put everything back into play, it would, however, be difficult to predict the outcome of this purely tactical alliance.
Russia is also particularly concerned about the possible expansion of the Taliban within the territories of the Federation, across the lines of the former Soviet countries. This is what the well-known journalist Dmitry Gordon points out in Ekho Moskvy: "If the Taliban were to appear on the Russian borders, the problem of how to contain them would arise, knowing their ability in such inaccessible lands, and their indefatigable aptitude for guerrilla warfare, which begins with putting Kalashnikov rifles in the hands of 10-year-old children".
In Russia, Gordon reminds us, almost 30 million Muslims live in territories annexed by Russia in the last two centuries, and many of them could be attracted by the fundamentalism of the "students of Allah".
The same Central Asian countries, led by formally "secular" regimes, are very worried about the formation of an Islamic emirate behind their homes. The Taliban assure that they do not want to meddle in the internal affairs of these countries, but their own ideology seems to contradict them, and it is not at all clear what relations will actually be established both on a bilateral and overall level.
A particular alarm comes from Belarus, one of the strong points of its economy being exports to Afghanistan: in 2020 alone, these amounted to 184 million dollars, and in 2021 they had already reached 113 million. In reality, this would be only 1% of total Belarusian exports, but the country will soon be hit by heavy Western sanctions due to Lukashenko's repressions.
The Afghanistan situation, moreover, occurred at the very crucial time of Belarusian foreign debt payments, to be made in dollars, and Afghan revenue shortfalls could be particularly painful, as Belarusian economist Katerina Bornukova notes on Zerkalo. I: "Belarus currently exports mainly tractors and oil products to Russia, which often act as a camouflage for arms deals... it is not known how much the Taliban will now need them, since they seem to have no shortage of weapons."
As a result of sanctions, Belarus will be forced to look for other ways to make money from its production, and the risk is that the whole thing will spill over to Russian "big brother".