Staunton, July 1 – Despite official denials, many Russians are quite prepared to accept the idea that the GRU gave money to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan and, more than that, to welcome it as an act of revenge against Soviet losses in that country that led to the demise of the USSR, Aleksandr Polozov says.
The Znak journalist recounts the story now swirling in the US, involving media reporting of such arrangements, President Donald Trump’s denials that he knew anything about it, and the denials Russian officials and the Taliban have issued as well (znak.com/2020-07-01/rossiyu_zapodozrili_v_finansirovanii_atak_na_amerikanskih_soldat_v_afganistane_pochemu_v_eto_gotovy).
But despite all these denials, Polozov says, “in the eyes of many,” an alliance between the GRU and the Taliban seems to many Russians as “completely believable” and even entirely appropriate and welcome. They have their reasons both drawn from events in the recent past and also from those at the end of Soviet times.
“At the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019,” he writes, there really occurred intensive cooperation between Russia and a movement which, however strange it may seem, has been prohibited as a terrorist group in Russia itself since 2003.” A Taliban delegation came to Moscow three times and met with officials at the highest levels.
But even more important in the minds of Russians is the fact that the GRU sought to kill Russian defector Sergey Skripal in 2018 and has conducted “analogous murders” elsewhere that bear “a significant trace of Russian involvement.” That the country’s military intelligence arm might do something like what it has been charged with is entirely plausible to Russians.
Moreover, Russians believe, the West no longer has any effective means to counter such acitons. “Moscow no longer especially fears any sanctions which might follow its unmasking, and it has even begun to learn how to turn to its use international scandals given the delight many in the country feel as a result of the secret work of the special services abroad.”
“In the case of Afghanistan, by the way,” Polovov says, “this works in an ideal way” given that “more than 30 years ago Russia itself had to withdraw from that country after suffering significant losses.” Three years after that, the Soviet Union disintegrated, and most Russians to this day draw a clear line from one event to the other and blame the US.
As a result, the journalist says, “for a significant part of Russians, the current accusations against their country however strange it may seem do not need any confirmation. They are ready to believe in such actions, condemned as they are beyond the ocean or somewhere else, as a long-awaited form of historical revenge.”