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The Great Game, continued in Afghanistan

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The British and Russian empires fought for control of Central Asia in the nineteenth century in what is known referred to as “the Great Game.” Recent messages from Moscow indicate the game never ended.

Asia Times Online published two articles this week hinting at increasing influence on Afghanistan from Russia and East Asia. “Politics is much like physics,” columnist Conn Hallinan writes. “For every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Thus with NATOs expansion into Croatia and Albania and its looming anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) shows signs of possible military expansion as well.

The Great Game continues

Russia recently announced it will be increasing weapons exports to Afghanistan (much like Canada), and Washington also recently approached China and India to dispatch troops to Afghanistan. Reports suggest India will remain a neutral player as the SCO expands, and it appears China is also opposed to the militarization of the SCO (largely because they have been exerting their influence for favorable economic turns within the SCO). However, the Asia Times Pakistan bureau chief writes that “Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov recently proposed that the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Community must merge into a single body to create a ‘powerful union capable of becoming a counterbalance to NATO and the EU.’” Most notably, Zamir Kabulov, Moscow’s veteran diplomat who served in the Soviet Embassy in Kabul all through the 1980s when the Soviets occupied the country, is the present Russian ambassador to Afghanistan. “Moscow has put NATO on the defensive by stretching a helping hand to Afghanistan,” Asia Times reports. The Great Game never ended. Even bloodsports need reprieve.

Russia assumes SCO chairmanship in 2008-2009, following the SCO summit meeting scheduled to be held at Dushanbe (Tajikistan) in August.

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