Two recent articles attacked the Russian government's credibility gap with regards to the Taliban. On the one hand Russia still officially defines the Taliban as a terrorist organization and insists that the print media should affix the terrorist tag to the Taliban, when reporting on the organization. Russian diplomats have been busy engaging the Taliban years before the Taliban took power. Now that the Taliban are in charge, official Russia is attempting to put the Taliban in the best possible light, and this includes government controlled broadcast outlets. Both articles invoke the anecdote about the Jew Solomonovich entering a public bathhouse with a crucifix around his neck. His fellow bathers gawk at him until one of them cannot contain himself and demands of Solomonovich to either remove the crucifix or put on underpants. Russian policy, likewise, cannot sustain such incompatibility with regards to the Taliban
Political scientist Arkady Dubnov call for an end to this two-facedness. He also warns the government that by its policy towards the Taliban, it was essentially contradicting Russia's own cardinal principle of opposing the overthrow by force of a sovereign government. Russia has invoked this principle in support of Belarus' Alexander Lukashenko and Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro.
Satirical columnist Dmitry Popov seeks to end Russia's state of schizophrenia by wedding the official definition of the Taliban as a terrorist organization to the current campaign designed to paint the Taliban as moderates. Some of his suggested headlines betray Popov's skepticism about the government's attempt to give the Taliban a remake.
Dubnov's article followed by Popov's article appear below:
Taliban delegation visits Moscow in January, 2021. (Source: Aa.com.tr)
Dubnov's column titled "To Ban The Taliban Or Not To Ban" appeared in Kommersant.
"The Taliban’s accession to power in Kabul places Russian diplomacy before various prospects, some are pleasant; others not quite pleasant.
"The pleasant ones are related to the well-deserved expectations of high government honors for diplomats tasked with the Afghan direction. The contacts established with the Taliban seven years have fully justified themselves. It was a courageous decision, and back then the author of this article advised Moscow to take this step, when the Taliban initially came to power at the end of the last century.
"Back in 1995, even before the Islamic radicals emerged victorious the aides of the Taliban governor of Kandahar showed me kilometers of minefields left by the Shuravi (the Soviets). 'Provide us with the maps of the minefields, and we become friends. We respect our northern brothers, even though we fought with them,' said one of the aids. Thus, an attempt to establish ties with the Taliban took place in Ashgabat. A high-ranking Russian diplomat held a meeting with them, but the bearded men [the Taliban] put forward unacceptable demands, demanding that Afghanistan’s seat at the UN should be occupied by the Talibs.
"Now for the unpleasant prospects [associated with the Taliban coming to power]. More precisely, I want to mention traps, into which Russian diplomacy falls, when issuing a stream of friendly compliments to the Taliban, they are a 'sound [party to the talks],' 'reasonable,' and 'willing to enter negotiations.' To put it in one word, they are sweeties.
"The Taliban have been entrusted to guard the perimeter of the Russian embassy in Kabul. To put it simply, Russian diplomats are cooperating with an organization, which was recognized as terrorist and outside the law in Russia. Such cooperation is severely punished in our country, all the way to imprisonment. Diplomats with healthy cynicism explain that such steps are being made in the name of the supreme interests of [state] security. 'Circumstances of force majeure,' they say.
"Essentially, it’s the very same 'crucifix and underpants' story. However, why not issue a special diplomatic fatwa, just for internal use at the ministry? After all there are competent professionals in the Department of Information and Press at Smolensk Square [Foreign Ministry Headquarters].
"Alas even a more dangerous trap exists. Supporting the Taliban is unprecedented for Russian foreign policy and puts its official doctrine stipulating that Moscow [always] stands for legitimate power in the country and condemns its violent overthrow, in doubt.
"Revolutions are unacceptable for the Kremlin. However, if they happen, it nullifies all Moscow’s obligations made to the previous government. It is even possible to use force against the new government. For instance, exactly that happened back in 2014 in Ukraine, when President Viktor Yanukovich fled from the country.
"These days, the legitimate (albeit not so beloved) President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, recognized by Moscow, has fled the country. He didn’t resign, making any change in power illegal. First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, who remained in his country, declared himself to be an acting president, which is fully in compliance with the constitution. He encouraged fighting the Taliban, which staged the coup. Saleh, along with Ahmad Masoud Jr. who took refuge with his supporters in the Panjshir Gorge, do not recognize the change of power in Kabul, believing it illegal.
"So, what should Moscow do about its former trusted Afghan partners, since they support the legitimate authorities and stand against those, who staged the coup? Russian diplomacy will now have to come up with an explanation for such a blatant betrayal of Kremlin principles."
Arkady Dubnov (Source: Cyprusdaily-news)
Popov's piece titled " The Taliban Delivered a Heavy Psychological Blow to Russia
appeared in Moskovskij Komsomolets, where Popov is a featured columnist.
"The anecdote about underpants and the crucifix with regards to relations between Russia and the Taliban is interesting not only on the issue of whether the Taliban militants wear underpants (Wahhabis, for instance, do not). 'The Taliban was recognized in Russia as a terrorist and illegal organization.' Roskomnadzor [the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media] is closely monitoring that the tag should be mandatory.
"Why won’t they just write or say on the TV screen 'they are terrorists?' Once the movement is recognized as terrorist, and it is also banned, that means they are terrorists, is that not the case?
"For instance, [why won’t the pro-Kremlin presenter Olga] Skabeyeva, or whoever announces the news these days, say 'The Russian Foreign Ministry held constructive talks with a delegation of terrorists.' One doesn’t actually need to focus the audience’s attention on the fact that these designated terrorists, although banned under Russian law, are free to enter, leave and move around the country.
"But that’s a thing of the past. Current news could have also sounded fine:
"'The Russian ambassador in Kabul called the terrorists "reasonable guys," who are guarding the embassy.'
"'The terrorists gave assurances that they won’t obstruct the departure of Russian citizens from Afghanistan.'
"'The terrorists gave security guarantees to foreign embassies and international organizations.'
"'The terrorists announced that their emirate won’t take revenge or feud with anyone.'
"'The terrorists issued a general amnesty order for former government officials and issued a universal pardon decree.'
"'The terrorists urged officials to resume work in government agencies.'
"'The terrorists opened schools for girls.'
"'The terrorists announced that women will be able to receive an education, including at universities, and would have the right to work. Wearing the burqa won’t be mandatory for women; a headscarf will suffice.'
"'The terrorists brought back female journalists to Afghan television, including for live reports.'
"'The terrorists claimed that they won’t tolerate vigilante justice in the state, and that all political punishments, for instance executions and hand amputations, will be possible only under a Sharia court. No one will be allowed to execute or stone people to death without a court decision.'
"'The terrorists announced that a strong inclusive Islamic government will be formed in Afghanistan.'
"'The terrorists asked UN agencies not to withdraw from Afghanistan.'
"'The terrorists announced that they desire to improve trade and diplomatic relations with all countries.'
"So, what do you think of such news coverage in full compliance with Russian law?
"So, what will it be 'terrorists' or a school for girls?
"This no longer the 'underpants and the crucifix' principle, which could’ve been shrugged off as flexible policy. This reeks of schizophrenia."
Dmitry Popov (Source: Mk.ru)