Russia’s ambassador to Kabul, Dmitry Zhirnov, said the Taliban “are open to Russian participation in the Afghan economy.” The Wall Street Journal writes about the prospect of cooperation between Taliban fighters and Iran and the chances of bypassing international sanctions.
– The Taliban are open to our participation in the economy, including the development of minerals. This is a question for our business, said Dmitry Zhirnov. According to a Russian diplomat, the Taliban is interested in a peaceful border with Central Asia in order to establish trade and economic cooperation.
According to the economic daily “Vedomosti”, Russia’s share in Afghanistan’s foreign trade is insignificant. Moscow is not even in the country’s top 100 economic partners. So far, Russia has exported sunflower oil, petroleum products, fuel and forestry materials there. She imported raisins, almonds and lamb from Afghanistan.
Experts cited by “Vedomosti” believe that Moscow’s non-conflict relations with the Taliban are a plus in terms of possible investments. However, they are skeptical about the possibility of Russia participating in the gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India via the territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Russia’s role in this project may be limited to supplying pipes, the orientalist and economist Dan Potocki told the daily. According to another expert, Sergei Diemidienko, Russia’s participation in this project would be hampered by Moscow’s difficult relations with Ashgabat.
“Vedomosti” reminds that during the times of the USSR, Soviet geologists prepared a map of Afghanistan’s natural resources, which showed 1,500 deposits. Russian companies Niset and Norman have been building small hydropower plants in Afghanistan since 2015. In 2017, the Russian state-owned company Technopromeksport won a tender for the construction of a hydroelectric power plant near Kabul. Russian transport companies, including the largest cargo carrier, the Volga-Dnieper airline, provide cargo transportation services from Afghanistan.
Chances of bypassing sanctions
According to the Wall Street Journal, in turn, trade between the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and Iran gives both sides a chance to bypass international sanctions and obtain Tehran’s deficit foreign exchange, and the Taliban – basic commodities, including fuel.
Iran has recently resumed fuel supplies to Afghanistan. Trade in petrochemicals between these countries was briefly halted during the fighting between pro-Western Afghan government forces and the Taliban, which resulted in the latter taking control of the entire country.
The current turnover in the fuel trade between Iran and Afghanistan is $ 5 million a day, but this figure is expected to increase rapidly soon, the Wall Street Journal predicts.
The American daily lists the factors that may contribute to the rapid boom in trade between the two countries. First, the Taliban desperately needs fuel and other basic commodities, and cannot count on other trading partners.
Such transactions are also very beneficial to Iran, as the Taliban pays the gasoline in dollars in cash, which is transferred outside the official financial system. Due to international sanctions, Iran is cut off from the international financial system and suffers from a lack of currency.
A country cut off from foreign financing
The takeover of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban cut the country off from foreign financing, the central bank reserves deposited abroad were frozen, and disbursements were suspended under programs run by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
Afghanistan suffers from a shortage of cash dollars, but Iran is counting on the Taliban to get them by trafficking in poppy-seed drugs; Income from the production and sale of opiates has always been an important item in the Taliban’s budget, “WSJ” notes.
The development of trade between the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and Iran threatens to weaken the key tools of US and West pressure on both the Taliban and Tehran, the New York daily stressed.
Main photo source: AKHTER GULFAM / PAP / EPA