Source: The Washington Post
KABUL — To the white-bearded Afghan machinists, it felt like the Cold War era had suddenly returned.
After 25 years of working in a sprawling Soviet-built factory — a vestige of a war and occupation long extinguished — they suddenly spotted a new shipment of gleaming Russian equipment arriving last fall on an 18-wheeler.
The factory was abuzz. The Russians were back.
As the U.S.-led war winds down and Russia reasserts itself in Ukraine and the Middle East, Moscow is also ramping up its investment in Afghanistan. It is rebuilding the relics of the Soviet occupation and promoting its own political and cultural prowess.
“You see Russia’s interest in Afghanistan rising. It’s visible,” said Stepan Anikeev, the spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Kabul. “We want to enlarge our role in the region. It’s not only for Afghanistan, but for our own goals.”
Russia’s recent incursion into its neighbor, Ukraine, and its annexation of Crimea reflect its intent to maintain influence in some former Soviet republics. It also reaching out to old allies further afield. Last month, President Vladimir Putin received Egyptian army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, whose relations with Washington have been strained since a coup last summer, and expressed support for the military man’s expected presidential bid.
Moscow is also negotiating a major arms deal with Sissi and agreed in 2012 to sell Iraq $4.3 billion in weapons. In Syria, Putin is strongly backing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as he seeks to crush a rebellion that has received support from the West.