The Kremlin worries about the risk of Islamist militants invading Central Asia from Afghanistan and clings to the idea of the West gaining a foothold in a region that once belonged to the Soviet Union.
“We (…) call on the neighboring countries of Afghanistan not to allow a military presence of the American and NATO forces which plan to settle there after having left the Afghan territory”, declared the Russian Minister of the Affairs Foreign Sergey Lavrov.
The diplomat made the remarks in a video link speech at a conference in Tehran on Afghanistan attended by China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Lavrov said it was important to curb and control migratory flows from Afghanistan and that criminal and terrorist elements were already trying to enter Afghanistan’s neighbors disguised as refugees.
Moscow sees the former Soviet region as its southern defensive flank, but in June President Vladimir Putin proposed to Washington the use of Russian military bases in Central Asia, according to Kommersant newspaper sources.
Russia operates its largest foreign military base in Tajikistan, which has a long border with Afghanistan, and has expanded its own presence of troops and military equipment there since the Taliban takeover.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Andrew Osborn)