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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia must not get involved in fight against Taliban - MP

RIA Novosti

30/01/2009 16:41 MOSCOW, January 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russia should avoid getting involved in the fight between the Afghan government and Taliban militants, but strengthen its influence with its neighbors in Central Asia, a member of parliament said on Friday.

Despite the recent deterioration in relations with NATO, Russia has continued to support the military alliance's operations in Afghanistan, and has expressed its concerns with NATO over the worsening security situation in the country.

"It is imperative for Russia to avoid interfering as much as possible in the situation in Afghanistan," said Semyon Bagdasarov, member of the committee on foreign affairs in the lower house of the Russian parliament, in contrast with Moscow's official stance on Afghanistan.

The parliamentarian said Russia should be concerned by NATO's military buildup in the region, rather than by an apparent increase in the activities of the Taliban.

"Demonization of the Taliban plays into the American hand. Under the guise of the fight against terrorism, the Americans and their allies have increased their presence not only in Afghanistan, but also in Central Asia as a whole," Bagdasarov said.

NATO currently deploys a 62,000-troop contingent in Afghanistan and the U.S. is planning to bring in up to 30,000 reinforcements in the near future.

"The U.S. is literally encircling Russia, considering that the Americans have bases in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and an airfield in Kazakhstan where they are allowed to land their aircraft," the MP added.

He called the presence of NATO troops in the countries, which are members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), "an absurd situation."

The CSTO is a security grouping comprising the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

CSTO members use the organization as a platform to fight terrorism and organized crime, and have pledged to provide immediate military assistance to one another in the event of an attack.

The bloc has already agreed to deploy a 5,000-troop Collective Rapid Reaction Force in Central Asia, and is continuing to build up its military forces, which some experts view as an attempt to counter-balance NATO's further eastward expansion.

Bagdasarov believes that the current situation reflects "poorly-conceived Russian policies in the region," and Russia must focus on "forcing U.S. bases out of Central Asia by turning the CSTO into a real political force that serves its purpose."

"The CSTO members must adopt an agreement establishing Russia as a security guarantor for member-states in case of a crisis on the border with Afghanistan," he said.

"I would assume that such a move would be welcomed by the majority of CSTO members," the parliamentarian concluded.

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