The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, recently voiced what both the partners of the Russian Federation in the CSTO and some other actors in big politics, whom we will not mention so far, had been seeking to hear so much.
Thus, Russia's top diplomat said that in the event of an attack on Tajikistan from Afghanistan, Russia, as a member of the CSTO (just as Tajikistan) will employ its troops to repel the Taliban aggression.
That is, in other words, the threat from the Taliban is assessed in Dushanbe as extremely high. In turn, Russia implies by providing support to Tajikistan within the framework of the CSTO in the event of hostilities with the Taliban something that clearly goes beyond the presence of a limited military contingent on the territory of the republic itself. Obviously, in such a situation, Moscow will go further in this confrontation – not immediately but probably in the near term.
What is most funny in this situation is that since 2017, it was at the suggestion of the Russian Foreign Ministry that the legitimization of the Taliban terrorist group as a political force has begun. It was Russia that brought it to the big arena, through setting up regular meetings with its leaders in Moscow at the official level. In parallel lines, through Tajikistan, weapons and ammunition were transferred to the Taliban, while militants paid for attacks on the American military, with bonuses provided if the Americans were actually killed.
And now, it would seem, the dream of Moscow is coming true as the United States, along with the entire coalition, with the exception of Turkey, which will continue to control the airport in Kabul, is leaving Afghanistan. Moscow's win, one might suggest? The thing is that this "win" comes while a real threat looms over the CSTO members and it is high time for Russia to form new battalions for foreign deployment…
In this context, the situation can be viewed from three perspectives.
The first one is an agreement between the Taliban and Moscow to create the appearance of a dangerous situation for Tajikistan, which will lead Russia to deploy its troops, right up to their crossing into Afghanistan. In essence, this will get Russia back to Afghanistan, to a certain extent on its terms, but the "victory" from such a step will still be temporary. After returning to the region and creating a relevant information wave with some elements of bravado and reflection, Russia will repeat the history of the USSR. Obviously, very soon, the Russian military will already be perceived as enemies and targets, while their presence will suck colossal sums out of the Russian budget, already replete with black holes.
The second perspective is the nature of the actions by Taliban, the organization which Moscow can't really control today, even at the level of agreements and contacts. In this case, a complete failure is observed of the Kremlin's policy in the region and its efforts to bring the Taliban any legitimacy. Also, intervention in the conflict would initially mean actual combat confrontation from the very first days, historically always not in favor of those who come to Afghanistan with the aim of "international assistance."
And the third perspective is perhaps the most interesting.
Right now, practically all Russian "experts" and media outlets are victoriously claiming that Washington has surrendered in Afghanistan and is now leaving this country in disgrace. Of course, within the framework of information warfare and harsh anti-Western propaganda, as well as in the context of ideological revanchism for the pullback of Soviet army from Afghanistan, these narratives sound very inspiring for a Russian jingoistic patriot. But the problem is that even while the United States is yet to withdraw the remainders of its troops, the Taliban is already becoming a problem for Russia, of which Moscow had not thought before, although it had skillfully used it in some of its hybrid scenarios.
Now Russia will be forced to focus its forces and resources on Tajikistan, and perhaps it will go much further than that, by driving itsef into yet another Afghan trap. So why should the Russian average jingoistic patriot be fine with the Kremlin settling its issues at their expense?
But, most importantly, Afghanistan, which is much closer to Russia than the Russian average jingoistic patriots might think, calls into question the expansion of Russian PMCs on the African continent, which in turn will not only weaken its presence in Africa, but also return the monopoly to the old players.
So the question arises, to whom does Afghan Trap 2.0 actually means "check and checkmate"?