Leadership and Democracy LabWestern Social Science

Russia’s Plan to Supply Arms to Afghanistan

Russia’s Plan to Supply Arms to Afghanistan

February 9, 2016

Demyan Plakhov – Primary Article Contributor

Nathan Sukhdeo – Team Leader following AfPak

Keywords: Afghanistan, Russia, Arms, Military

Zamir Kabulov, Russian Presidential envoy to Afghanistan, has publicly stated Russia’s plan to supply small arms to Afghanistan. Questioned by the ambiguity of the size of military assistance Afghanistan will be receiving, Kabulov answered that “the delivery will be in February and for now it’s more than sufficient.” The return of Russian involvement in Afghanistan raises many questions – most surprisingly, this includes the Russian elites who are questioning Putin’s latest actions. Russia’s economy relies on oil exports, however with Western-imposed sanctions due to Putin’s actions, Russia’s oil prices have plummeted below 30 USD per barrel destroying the Russian Rouble. Therefore, this arms deal is Russia’s opportunity to stop their own economic woes by providing military assistance for trading leverage purposes rather than mere good will.

Afghanistan’s government has been under increased pressure from the Taliban and the expanding Islamic State. With the American depletion of military support, Afghanistan has been in dire need of military for domestic security, protection and advancement of projects that could rebuild the region. Small arms from Russia may not be enough – knowing this, Afghanistan has asked for more military assistance including Russian artillery and MI-35 helicopters. However, Afghanistan was previously promised military assistance this past September that never arrived, casting some doubt on the current promise of aid..    

Russia’s military backing is derived from their own national interests of trading with the Afghan officials rather than the good will of supporting the region in its projects by securing it from the Taliban and other external threats. Kabul’s pleas for military help and Russia’s hope for economic safety have coincided seamlessly: Russia will trade its military support in return for an economic boost from Afghani natural resources, this way Russia is receiving the economic support it needs and Afghanistan is receiving its military security. The planning of TAPI pipeline with the combination of the first pipeline ever built in Afghanistan that leads to Uzbekistan will result in a huge economic relief for Russia. Moreover, for these pipelines to remain secure, Afghanistan and other countries need military security from the Taliban and the Islamic State. With extended Russian military support, there is no doubt that this could be done.