Patrick Armstrong was an analyst in the Canadian Department of National Defence specialising in the USSR/Russia from 1984 and a Counsellor in the Canadian Embassy in Moscow in 1993-1996.
THE END. The unipolar moment is over and the hyperpower was defeated by a guy on a bicycle (with, note, a rifle the US taxpayer provided.) NATO’s brag of going everywhere and doing wonderful things pops like a bubble. Members learn that NATO membership is a ticket to death, humiliation, failure and abandonment. (Tabaqui, take note: Shere Khan doesn’t care.) The New American Century has ended – thanks largely to those who dreamed up the idea. (Would Zbigniew Brzezinski still say it was worth it? PS, here is the one time he got it right – their struggle did succeed.)
ANGUISH. "However, many countries wonder what commitments the US has in return when it asks friends and partners to help it in this rivalry” worries the Jpost. "What does it say about NATO if we are entirely dependent on a unilateral decision taken by the United States?” wonders Theresa May. The question of who will be the new international leader troubles Garten Ash. "What should I say to the Germans if 20 years of service in the Bundeswehr had been in vain?” asks Merkel. "Is America back or has it turned its back?” asks a "British official ". EU must step in bloviates Borrell. Will we be tossed next? wonders a Ukrainian MP.
TALIBAN II. Seems to be different: "when it comes to experience and maturity and vision, of course, there’s a huge difference between us, in comparison to 20 years ago". The theme of a long press conference was pardon to all, inclusive Islamic government, no intention of moving out of its borders, no more narcotics. I noticed that its first advances were in the north which immediately suggested that it was no longer exclusively Pashtun. Also appointed a Hazara to a position. Therefore, at first glance, more inclusive and much more polished. A senior mullah condemns Wahhabism. But it will undeniably be a Muslim state – which notion includes a certain amount of variation.
SHIITES. Yesterday was Ashura, the Shiite mourning day for Hussein’s death. Yesterday’s Taliban was hostile to Shiites so their behaviour will be a good indicator. So far so good: a Taliban representative visited a Shiite area in Kabul to participate in one of the ceremonies. The day was subdued but not interfered with.
RUSSIA AND AFGHANISTAN. No victory lap for Moscow (or Beijing) – the US/NATO forces in Afghanistan soaked up a lot of jihadist activity that may now become be a problem for them. However, the embassy operates peacefully and Moscow’s representative, Zamir Kabulov, is busy (Googlish). But note that Russia has been holding military exercises with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. And Russia and China just wrapped up a big exercise. Moscow’s interest can be simply stated – no spread of jihadism or instability. Recognition will follow in time.
SCO. It’s generally agreed that Iran will become a full member of the SCO. So all of Afghanistan’s neighbours will be members (Turkmenistan only as a "guest”); Afghanistan itself is an "observer”. This is the organisation that the new Kabul government will principally deal with.
RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY. MacDonald is amazed: "how so many Western ‘Russia experts’ can’t seem to understand the simplicity of contemporary Russian foreign policy. Moscow wants good relations with those who want good relations with it. It’s not interested in ideology”.
PUTIN TEAM POPULAR. Why? Simple: they do what you hire governments to do. Check the graph – World Bank says GDP (PPP) tripled. And probably an underestimate. Meanwhile, in the West…
BELARUS. The Emperor Aleksandr told de Caulaincourt that Napoleon’s enemies had given up too soon. Lukashenka followed his advice and the colour revolution is over as admitted by Protasevich: "Without the street, it is impossible to carry out a revolution.” (What he really meant, of course, the simulated street.) In short, they’ve figured out how to stop the outside-created overthrow – and part of the secret is to tough it out. Lukashenka says he will be going "very soon".
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Canada Russia Observer