BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Russian Polish Albanian Greek Czech Ukrainian Serbian Turkish Romanian
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Europe  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 25 September, 2001, 01:23 GMT 02:23 UK
A significant step for Russia
President Vladimir Putin meeting Russia's Muslim leaders
Mr Putin spoke to lawmakers and Muslim leaders
By Caroline Wyatt in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin's announcement that Russia will support US military operations in Afghanistan heralds a very significant step for Russia.

In a televised speech, Mr Putin said Russia would funnel fresh arms to the Afghan opposition, open its airspace for aid shipments, and widen the cooperation with the international alliance against terrorism.

Only a few weeks ago this level of co-operation with the US would have been unthinkable.

Now the Russian president says that Moscow will not stand in the way of America using former Soviet airbases in the central Asian republics that border Afghanistan.

Those states, including Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, must still give their consent, but Mr Putin has made it clear they shared Moscow's position.

Russians still fearful

It has taken a long time for Mr Putin to come to this decision.

He spent several days in his Black Sea retreat discussing it with the Russian military and his closest advisors.

Many of them argued strongly against giving America this much support, but these moves show that Mr Putin is very much his own man and that he has come down firmly on the side of the US and its allies.

The Russian people are still fearful about the consequences of fresh conflict in Afghanistan and the impact it could have so close to Russia's borders.

Some 20 million Muslims live within the Russian federation and with the former Soviet republics of central Asia still relatively unstable, Moscow is wary of stirring up a new wave of fundamentalism there.

Equal partner

Mr Putin has also made it clear he wants any US presence in central Asia to be temporary although Russia does not want to be left to deal with the humanitarian and political consequences alone if the conflict spills over into neighbouring states.

In return for Moscow's help, Mr Putin will be expecting some concessions from America.

Those could include an end to Western criticism of Russia's conduct in Chechnya or perhaps a restructuring of its Soviet era debt.

What Mr Putin and Russia would like, above all, is to be seen by Washington as an equal partner.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Anatol Levin, Russian Affairs Analyst
"Russia has been backing the Afghan forces fighting the Taleban for many years"

Rebuilding

Political uncertainty

Profiles

Issues

FACT FILE

IN DEPTH

FORUM

TALKING POINT
See also:

19 Sep 01 | Europe
17 Sep 01 | Europe
23 Sep 01 | South Asia
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes