Russia Is Not Financing the Taliban, but Probably the Empire Would Respect Her More If She Did
Where the US sees anything that is bad for Russia as welcome the opposite simply isn't true
When the Soviet Union was in Afghanistan to prop up its Communist government (as well as to restrain the revolutionary excesses of the Afghan Communists (who had taken power against Moscow wishes in a coup d’etat against the already pro-Soviet left-wing nationalists)) the US was famously arming the Islamist resistance against it.
Once the Soviet Union withdrew, the US continued arming the Islamists against the Communists, even though by that time Gorbachev and Reagan had dismantled much of the Cold War.
Once the Soviet Union dissolved and the pro-Western Yeltsin ruled in Moscow, the US still continued arming the Afghan Islamists against the Westernizing Communists, and furthermore ordered Yeltsin to cut off the modernizing Afghan faction logistically and politically which led to its final downfall in 1992.
When the Russians were in Afghanistan the US refused to see any sort of common Western civilizational, cultural or strategic interest in that country. Instead, it was single-mindedly focused on one thing and one thing only: rolling back as much of the Soviet legacy in Afghanistan, even if that meant eroding Afghanistan’s westernization in favor of Islamism. The American Empire remained committed to that goal even as the Cold War ended and even as the Soviet Union itself disappeared and was replaced by a pro-Western Russia.
By contrast, when the US in 2001 set upon entering Afghanistan to engage the Taliban (who had been backed by its own Saudi, Qatari, and Pakistani clients) Russia opened its skies for US logistical flights, and put its ties with the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance and Central Asian ‘stans’ at America’s disposal.
In the 1990s Russia participated in a war in Tajikistan to help prevent an Islamist takeover of that country. If the US now wanted to expend its own resources on the same side in neighboring Afghanistan then that was perfectly fine with Russia, especially if the cooperation would earn Moscow some gratitude with the Empire (it didn’t).
The Russians thus went on to back the government in Kabul that the Americans installed, albeit understandably with fewer resources than the Americans.
Furthermore, where throughout the 1980s Moscow was pursuing negotiations with the Islamists but this was being thwarted by the US, in the American war in Afghanistan the Russians did the exact opposite. Seeing the Americans were trying to wrap up the war but did not know how, the Russians went and established communication channels with the Taliban so they could offer them to the Americans.
The Russians had acted as the perfect friend of the Americans in Afghanistan. The equivalent would be if in 1979 when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan (and deposed its revolutionary Communists), the US offered Moscow bases in Pakistan, sent limited aid to the Soviet-installed Communists in Kabul, and used its ties with Afghan Islamists to help facilitate Soviet-Mujahedeen negotiations.
True enough the Russians also sought involvement in the process of US withdrawal from Afghanistan in order to secure their own basic interests. However, their own interests — at least as Moscow understands them — does not lie in dismantling as much of the American legacy in Afghanistan as possible, but to the contrary, in preserving as much as possible of it.
Russia welcomes a US-Taliban deal because an orderly, managed retreat precludes the possibility of a return of ISIS and al-Qaeda that might follow in the wake of a 1992-style collapse.
For the act of trying to help talks going (which the US had itself been trying for years) Moscow was demonized as “legitimizing” the Taliban (in fact what legitimizes them is the US presence as it makes them the patriotic faction combating occupation). — Just as earlier Russian help in establishing a logistics network in 2001 was followed up by trying to alienate the post-Soviet Central Asian ‘stans’ away from Moscow.
Now as yet more “gratitude” Russia is being accused of paying the Taliban to target US soldiers. That is not even a tale concocted primarily to be thrown at Russia, but primarily to serve the interests of the Deep State and the cultural establishment in the context of the 2020 election.
The big hole in the story is that where the US to this day sees anything that sets back Russia as a positive, the opposite is simply not true. Nonetheless, it is easy for the US to chose to believe the Russians are doing so because that is exactly what the Americans would be doing in their place.
However, where the US chooses to believe Russia is an anti-liberal anti-American outpost of barbarism that could not be more different from the United States, Moscow instead looks at America and sees incomprehensible excesses mixed in with a lot that is sound and worthy of reproducing.
In fact, never in history have the US and Russia been more similar. Russia today roughly speaking is what the US was in the 1980s. However, in the meantime, the US has traveled so far from there that it now despises what it was as recently as 30-40 years ago and therefore finds reason to despise Russia.
Ironically Moscow commanded more respect when it really was an anti-America, rather than the nation-state version of a 1980s Reagan Democrat (minus the foreign policy).