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Taliban’s Diplomatic Moves and Moscow Shift

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Although the Taliban has been ruling Afghanistan since August 2021, it has not been recognized by any states. However, it establishes dialogue and communication with many states. The Taliban, who wants to increase interaction with all actors, especially neighboring countries and states in the nearby geography, tries to overcome the problem of recognition and legitimacy through cooperation. In this context, one of the countries that the Taliban tend to is Russia.

During the second Taliban period, relations on the Taliban-Moscow line followed a fluctuating course. However, recently, it is seen that the Taliban have given constructive messages to Russia. On January 12, 2023, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaki met with Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s Special Envoy to Afghanistan. During the meeting, where bilateral relations and regional developments were discussed, Muttaki stated that Moscow has a special position in the foreign policy of the Taliban. He also stated that the Taliban administration wants to expand its diplomatic mission in Moscow.[1]

As known, the Taliban is not recognized by any countries. However, it tries to overcome this situation through diplomatic missions. The same request also was made to India. The Taliban are trying to persuade the Indian government to allow it to appoint a diplomatic representative in New Delhi.[2] However, it can be said that while the diplomatic missions in Kabul are under the threat of terrorism, the countries will not be willing to have the Taliban keep diplomatic missions in their own territory.

Currently, the so-called Emirate of Khorasan (ISKP) of the terrorist organization State of Iraq and the Levant (DAESH) has increased its anti-Russian propaganda activities. There were also attacks against the Russian and Pakistani diplomatic missions in Kabul. Therefore, Moscow will not allow DAESH to target it’s missions further. On the other hand, allowing the opening or expansion of a diplomatic representation can be accepted as a sign of recognition. But in the current conjuncture, no country will agree to this.

On the other hand, during the said meeting, Kabulov also condemned the terrorist attack that took place near the Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently and mentioned that the country should not be destabilized. At the same time, he stated that Moscow, unlike the West, does not want to criticize Afghanistan and interfere in its internal affairs and is against the isolation of Afghanistan.[3] These statements are very important in terms of demonstrating that the Taliban’s presence in the international arena is supported. It could also be a message that the Taliban should not over-develop its relationship with the West. In other words, Moscow may be implying that if it treats the Taliban the way it wants, mutual satisfaction can be achieved. However, how to respond to the expansion of the diplomatic mission remains a question mark for now.

Despite the dialogue developed with the Taliban, it is understood from the relationship style that Moscow will not recognize the Taliban or take a step in this direction. The exclusion of the Taliban at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Leaders Summit held in Samarkand in September 2022 can be read as an indicator of this situation.

From the Taliban’s point of view, Russia is seen as a substitute for the West. The Taliban follow a method that aims to establish a balance between the parties and to use the actors as alternatives to each other. There is a Taliban reality that tries to make concessions from Russia when communication with the West is increased, and from the West when closeness with Moscow is established.

At the regional level, it is possible to say that security problems and the threat of terrorism are factors that shape Russia-Taliban communication. On the other hand, factors such as Russia’s demand for the release of Afghanistan’s national reserves and blaming the West and the United States (US) for the insecurity problem in the region make the Taliban pay more attention to its ties with Moscow.

In addition, Russia is taking some steps within the scope of the Afghanistan Problem through international meetings which called “Moscow Format”. Taliban officials were not invited to the last meeting held in November 2022, and this was an important message to the Taliban that they should pay attention to the protection of their communication with Moscow.

At this point, it can be said that the economic agreement with Russia is of great importance for the Taliban. As it will be remembered, in September 2022, it was announced that Russia would supply natural gas, oil and wheat to Afghanistan and an agreement was reached between the relevant parties. The aforementioned agreement is significant in that it is the first known major economic agreement of the Taliban.[4] The Taliban interpreted this as “one more step towards recognition”. It is possible to say that the Taliban’s demand for a diplomatic mission was shaped by these steps. Another factor that makes Russia important for the Taliban is energy.

Considering all these aspects, it can be said that Moscow is seen as an important partner by the Taliban. Russia, which is isolated due to the war in Ukraine, also acts with the strategy of directing its resources to Asia. Even though the Kremlin is busy with the war, it also tries to play a decisive role within the scope of the Afghanistan Problem. Therefore, it uses the situation of the Taliban as an isolated actor in this sense.

In the final analysis, Moscow and the Taliban, two internationally isolated actors, act by measuring and using each other as balancing factors. It can be said that the Russian factor has an important effect on the communication of the Taliban with Central Asian countries, the West and the USA. On the other hand, the Taliban is trying to carry out a strategy that considers the West-Russia balance. It also wants to increase its visibility. Diplomatic missions requests to Russia and India are also important in this context. However, it does not seem possible to get results in this regard.


[1] “Russia Place is Special in Afghanistan’s Foreign Policy: Muttaqi”, Bakhtar News, https://bakhtarnews.af/en/russia-place-is-special-in-afghanistans-foreign-policy-muttaqi/, (Date of Accession: 13.01.2023).

[2] “Taliban Wants to Send Envoy to Delhi, Boost Ties Between India, Afghanistan”, First Post, https://www.firstpost.com/world/taliban-wants-to-send-envoy-to-delhi-boost-ties-between-india-afghanistan-11972332.html, (Date of Accession: 13.01.2023).

[3] “Russia Place…”, op. cit.

[4] “Russia and Afghanistan’s Partnership of Convenience”, East Asia Forum, https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2022/11/03/russia-and-afghanistans-partnership-of-convenience/, (Date of Accession: 13.01.2023).

Şeyma KIZILAY
Şeyma KIZILAY
Şeyma KIZILAY, 2016 yılında Erciyes Üniversitesi İktisadi ve İdari Bilimler Fakültesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini, 2019 yılında Kırşehir Ahi Evran Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda sunduğu ‘’Uluslararası İlişkilerde Ulus İnşası Bağlamında Irak Örneği” başlıklı teziyle almıştır. Doktora eğitimine Uludağ Üniversitesi Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda devam eden Kızılay, tez aşamasındadır. Başlıca çalışma alanları; güvenlik, terörizm, Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Kızılay, iyi derecede İngilizce ve orta seviyede Arapça bilmektedir.