Afghanistan: China and Russia will be strong influences on the Taliban as they fill void left by the US and its allies

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This article has been contributed by CHRISTIAN NOVAK, who has undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in history from the University of Sydney.  He is working for a private company in Wellington in a government relations role.  

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While attention has been focused largely on the US and its allies as they abandoned Afghanistan, China and Russia have been waiting in the wings to fill the void.  From energy and construction projects to military and diplomatic initiatives, both countries will be an integral part of any international effort to influence and/or reign in Taliban behaviour.

Although Beijing senses an opportunity to press its belt and road interests, it worries that the disorder created by the Taliban could spill over the narrow border it shares with Afghanistan into Xinjiang province.  Indeed, the Taliban has long acquiesced to the presence of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which contains Muslim Uyghurs from Xinjiang – where more than 1 million are being held in “re-education” programmes.

When Taliban representatives travelled to Tianjin for a two-day visit in July, the delegation assured China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, that it would “not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against China”. Beijing, in turn, reiterated its commitment to not interfere in the country’s internal affairs.

But such goodwill doesn’t immediately translate to trust. Over the past two decades, Uighurs have launched several terror attacks in China in pursuit of their own independent state.  As a result, Beijing will be watching on closely to see if Taliban leaders can bring some sort of control to the beleaguered country.

But Beijing remains pragmatic and is prepared to exercise patience in pursuit of potential returns, such as its Mes Aynak concession.

Back in 2007, the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corporation won rights to lease the giant Mes Aynak copper ore deposit in Afghanistan, which is said to be the second largest in the world. Continue reading “Afghanistan: China and Russia will be strong influences on the Taliban as they fill void left by the US and its allies”

Will China’s communist party complete a second century?

The Economist has marked the 100th birthday of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) with one of its context-rich historical essays.  It puts its money on the side of the party’s continuing adaptability and resilience.  This is probably the orthodox position.  But, as the Economist’s editorial staff themselves say when hedging their bets, only time will tell.

The more optimistic among us might look beyond the party’s seemingly-monolithic strength and see it – in pleasingly Marxist terms – as a prisoner of its own fundamental contradictions.

Continue reading “Will China’s communist party complete a second century?”

Who made the bigger mistake in Syria: Trump or Putin?

This blog asked whether Donald Trump might have made a serious error – perhaps even a fatal one – when he acquiesced in Turkey’s attack on America’s Syrian-Kurdish allies. He managed to irritate key supporters in the US Senate and early polling suggested a drop in support for his Middle East policies among Republican voters.

Failure to stand up for allies, dislike of Turkish self-assertion, fears of an ISIS resurgence and a sense that the US was being railroaded, all seem to have played some part in this reaction.

But for an explanation of why this might work out splendidly for the US (and Donald Trump), look no further than the piece by Israeli political analyst Zev Chafets on Bloomberg. Continue reading “Who made the bigger mistake in Syria: Trump or Putin?”

Is Trump really a Russian spy?

There has been extraordinary criticism of Donald Trump’s Russian diplomacy from the US intelligence community (aka former spies) after last month’s G7 meeting.  His lobbying for Russia to be readmitted to the G7 organisation and his failure to condemn Russian aggression in Ukraine (indeed blaming some of the problems on the policy of former President Barack Obama) led a former Justice Department official to say Trump’s behavior was “directly out of the Putin playbook. We have a Russian asset sitting in the Oval Office.” and another suggested that Trump was currying favor with Putin for future business deals.  Indeed, one former CIA agent was even quoted accusing Trump of behaving like “a spy for the Russians.”

Is there any substance to this or is it another outburst of Trump Derangement Syndrome? Continue reading “Is Trump really a Russian spy?”

This security statement should have come from one of our political leaders

The Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) tells us it has established clear links between the Russian government and a campaign of malicious cyber activity targeting overseas political institutions, businesses, media and sporting organisations.

The bureau  says  New Zealand organisations were not directly affected by these malicious cyber activities.

We are, however, seeing a range of activity in NZ that contains indicators which can be linked to Russian state actors. These incidents reinforce the need for NZ to have robust national systems to address cyber threats”.

Continue reading “This security statement should have come from one of our political leaders”