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Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly told President Joe Biden during a June 16 summit meeting that he objected to the U.S. setting up any bases near Afghanistan — including opposition to “any role for American forces in Central Asian countries,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
What are the details?
According to the report, Putin, while in Geneva with the president, said that Russia was opposed to U.S. forces remaining in Central Asia.
A Russian foreign ministry official told the outlet on Thursday that the unraveling situation in Afghanistan does not change the country’s position.
“We do not see how any form of U.S. military presence in Central Asia might enhance the security of the countries involved and/or of their neighbors,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. “It would definitely NOT be in the interests of Russia. This position has not changed against the backdrop of what is transpiring in Afghanistan these days.”
The report added that Putin told Biden that China would also refuse to accept U.S. forces operating in any Central Asian countries.
“The exchange also indicates that Moscow is more determined to try to maintain Central Asia as a sphere of influence than to expand cooperation with a new American president over the turmoil in Afghanistan,” the report continued, citing former and current U.S. officials.
Paul Goble, a former State Department expert on Eurasia, told the outlet, “The Russians have no interest in having the U.S. back in there.”
This could prove problematic for the U.S., for without access to Central Asian nations, the U.S. would be forced to rely only on bases in and around Qatar and U.S. Navy aircraft carriers stationed in the Indian Ocean in order to enter Afghanistan.
“Flight times from the Gulf states are so long that a U.S. drone might spend more than 60% of its mission flying to and from Afghanistan from the U.S. base at Al Udeid, Qatar, a former senior U.S. military official said,” the report added. “This would limit the time for conducting reconnaissance or carrying out strikes over the country.”
According to The Hill, Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently spoke with Russian officials about the deteriorating situation across Afghanistan.
“Our embassy will stay in contact with specially assigned representatives of the Taliban higher leadership to work out a permanent mechanism of ensuring safety of our embassy,” Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s representative in Kabul, said on Monday, according to the outlet.