The Russian ambassador in Afghanistan, Dmitry Zhirnov, confirmed the Kremlin’s interests in improving its diplomatic and commercial relations with Kabul and supporting the national peace process without any forms of foreign interference. Zhirnov’s words underlined the Russian desire to play a strategic role in Afghanistan and counter the United States and Chinese presence.
During the interview with the Afghan T.V. channel ‘Shamshad T.V.’, Zhirnov stated that the peace process inside the country would be possible only without the presence of a foreign army. According to the Russian ambassador’s statement, the Russian government prefers to see Afghanistan as an independent country with an independent, free, capable government instead of supporting any Afghan political force. Zhirnov confirmed that Moscow views the Taliban as part of the Afghan society, people and civil war. Therefore, discussing any peace process without considering them is impossible. The Russian ambassador underlined the Kremlin’s goal to enhance its partnership with Afghanistan, especially in counter-terrorism and fighting corruption.
On April 29th, 2020, the Kremlin appointed Dmitry Zhirnov as the new Russian ambassador to Afghanistan. From 2016 to 2019, Zhirnov worked as Minister-Counselor of the Russian Embassy in the USA. It should also be emphasised the fact that Zhirnov speaks Chinese and English.
The Russian Federation is adopting the strategy of supporting the Afghan peace process and economic development to become one of the leading foreign partners and undermine the U.S. foreign policy, particularly after the Trump Administration signed a peace deal with the Taliban.
Furthermore, following the past Soviet strategy of controlling a strategic area in the Eurasian region, such as Afghanistan, the Russian Federation might contrast the Chinese economic presence since Beijing launched the Belt and Road Initiative and has invested a tremendous amount of money in the Afghan infrastructure projects. At the same time, on the other hand, thanks to the presence of a Russian ambassador who might speak Chinese, the Russian Federation might cooperate with the People’s Republic of China to contrast the U.S. presence and strategy in Afghanistan and Central Asia and Washington’s soft power in the region.
 Afghanistan.ru (2020) Москва обвиняет Кабул в подрыве мирной сделки. Link: https://afghanistan.ru/doc/138052.html; Vladimir Nikolaevich Ivanov (2020) Москва и Вашингтон на пути к согласию в Афганистане. Link: https://afghanistan.ru/doc/138219.html
 The Kabul Times (2020) President Ghani accepts credentials of the new Russian Ambassador. Link: https://www.thekabultimes.gov.af/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/page-1-17.pdf.
Author: Giuliano Bifolchi