Moscow is trying to reestablish Russia as a superpower and extend its geopolitical sphere of influence by undermining the United States and capitalizing on the chaos in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Libya, and beyond, according to American military officials and analysts.
Military commanders and analysts see Moscow’s efforts as aimed at taking advantage of the geopolitical turbulence in the Middle East to re-establish Russia as a major player in the region and by extension the world stage
The Soviet Union maintained a substantial military presence there during the Cold War, propping up an array of anti-Western regimes to counterbalance American partners and extend its geopolitical sphere of influence.
“Russia is certainly expanding its influence and trying to reestablish itself as a superpower,” Bill Roggio of the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) told CNN.
Roggio, who also serves as managing editor of the Long War Journal, described the Kremlin’s efforts as a new form of “growing Russian imperialism” intended to “undermine the US and NATO.”
The assessment of the Kremlin’s ambitions comes as the top commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan declared to the Sunday Times of London that the United States and Europe need to deploy 5,000 additional troops to Afghanistan to break a stalemate between the Afghan forces and jihadists, primarily the Taliban.
American Commander Gen. John Nicholson and other U.S. military officials have accused Russia of lending support to the Taliban in an effort to delegitimize the U.S.-backed Afghan troops, allegations that Moscow has dismissed as false.
“These fabrications are designed, as we have repeatedly underlined, to justify the failure of the US military and politicians in the Afghan campaign. There is no other explanation,” Zamir Kabulov, the Kremlin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, recently told the state-run RIA Novosti.
Currently, there are 8,400 American troops and 5,000 forces from other NATO countries fighting terrorists in Afghanistan where Nicholson conceded the Afghan government only controls “about 62 percent of the population and about 57 percent of the territory.”
Citing U.S. officials, CNN points out that Russia’s ambitions extend well beyond the Middle East:
From Afghanistan to Libya, US Pentagon officials are increasingly concerned by mounting Russian military and diplomatic activity they believed is aimed at undermining the US and NATO.
Some of the actions Moscow is accused of participating in include sending operatives to support an armed faction in Libya and providing political legitimacy—and maybe even supplies — to the Taliban in Afghanistan. These moves come on top of their overt dispatching of warplanes and ships to target the political opponents of its ally in Syria.
Referring to U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of responsibility (AOR), which includes 20 countries stretching from Northeast Africa across the Middle East to Central and South Asia, the top American commander in charge of that region said he believes Russia is trying to expand its influence there.