Staunton, January 4 – Despite Moscow’s dispatch of additional forces to Tajikistan to counter threats from Afghanistan, a senior Russian foreign ministry official says that Afghan radicals may cross via the border with Turkmenistan because topographically it would easier for them to do so.
Aleksandr Sternik, the director of the CIS countries department of the Russian foreign ministry, said yesterday that the borders between Afghanistan, on the one hand, and Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, on the other, are mountainous and thus easier to defend than the lowlands along the Afghan-Turkmen border (militarynews.ru/Story.asp?rid=1&nid=399661).
And despite Ashgabat’s longstanding policy of neutrality, he continued, “Russia and the neighbors of Turkmenistan and its partners in the CIS are following with friendly concern the efforts of their Turkmen friends for strengthening what are in essence our common southern borders.”
“I am certain,” Sternik said, “of our readiness to provide more concrete assistance in the case of need.” That is perhaps especially likely because of the nature of the frontier: “Here the risks of a breakthrough may be higher, and the resources for dense cover required an order more than let us say in the case of the Uzbek-Afghan border of 137 kilometers.”
Moscow has kept Ashgabat informed about its support for Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, he said, a reflection of the common understanding that no one country can stand alone against threats emanating from Afghanistan.
Instead, the Russian diplomat said, “the majority of the neighbors of Afghanistan, including the countries of Central Asia, prefer joint efforts and the involvement of partners tested by time who do not have any other agenda besides the guaranteeing of stability in the region.” Russia, he suggested, is “one of these.”