Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 179

Since Putin’s September 24 speech announcing Russia’s willingness to work with the United States and the West, there has been endless speculation in the media regarding what Moscow may be looking to get in return for this cooperation. In comments to the press, Wolfowitz suggested that no such trade-offs would in fact be necessary because terrorism is a “common interest” and is therefore “not something where one side should expect to get paid for the cooperation of the other side.” That statement appeared in large part to be window dressing, however. Already the Bush administration has joined other Western governments in softening its criticism of Russia’s war in Chechnya, and a visit to Moscow this past weekend by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick helped to generate rumors that Washington is preparing also to aid Russian efforts aimed at winning membership in the World Trade Organization.

However those U.S. moves are to be interpreted, it did appear that Ivanov had used his public remarks in Brussels to set out with some explicitness at least three areas in which Moscow does want some form of concrete payback from the West. One of those, not surprisingly, involves Russia’s war in Chechnya and the Kremlin leadership’s hopes of getting more from the United States than rhetorical support–or a mere easing of criticism–on the subject of its military effort there. Indeed, Moscow appears now to be asking Washington to provide it with more intelligence of a sort which could help Russian forces in waging their own military operations against Chechen rebels. More specifically, Ivanov told reporters that the flow of intelligence between Moscow and Washington can not occur only in one direction–that is, that it must not be limited only to Russia providing information to the United States about international terrorism and the situation in Afghanistan–but that the United States also needs to pass relevant intelligence information on to Russia, particularly with respect to Chechnya. “Today the exchange of information between Russia and the United States has become more intensive,” Ivanov said in this context.

If Ivanov’s public remarks in Brussels are to be believed, Moscow is also asking Washington’s cooperation on two points relative to the looming struggle within Afghanistan. The first and probably less important of these is that the military hardware supplied to the anti-Taliban forces of the Northern Alliance consist solely of older weapons of Russian manufacture. “The Northern Alliance only likes Soviet-made weapons. It openly says it does not need any other types of weapons, not even modern Russian ones,” Ivanov was quoted as saying. The Kremlin’s concerns here are possibly two-fold: first, that advanced American weaponry not be introduced into an unstable area near Russia’s southern border and, second, that Moscow be allowed to retain the Northern Alliance (and potentially a future Afghan government) as a client for its own military weaponry.

But Ivanov appeared also to make it clear that Moscow wants assurances from the United States and the West that the groups comprising the Northern Alliance be granted a significant role in the formation of any future, post-Taliban government in Afghanistan. Ivanov’s comments here highlight one of the many difficulties inherent in the Bush administration’s efforts to build an international antiterror coalition. In this case, it is the need to negotiate between the conflicting aims of regional rivals Russia and Pakistan–each of which is being seen as a crucial component of the U.S. antiterror effort–as Washington formulates its war aims and longer-term policies toward Afghanistan. Russia is a long-time backer of the Northern Alliance and is likely to resist any policy that excludes it from a future political settlement in Afghanistan. Pakistan, by contrast, has underwritten the ascent of the Taliban and has been insistent that the antiterror campaign neither drive it from power nor result in the creation of a future Afghan government hostile to Islamabad. Reports last week said that Pakistani military officials were particularly angry over budding contacts between U.S. military and diplomatic officials and leaders of the Northern Alliance (Izvestia, Reuters, September 27; AP, September 28-29; Washington Post, New York Times, September 26; Interfax, September 26-27).