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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nato Seeks Russian Aid for Afghans

APA Russian-made car driving with sacks of cotton Sunday on a street in Mazar-i-Sharif, north of Kabul, Afghanistan.

BRUSSELS — Frustration is growing in NATO at what it regards as Russia’s lukewarm support for its mission in Afghanistan, senior diplomats said Friday, days before the military alliance’s chief visits Moscow.

Russia says it shares Western concerns about Islamist militancy and narcotics in Afghanistan, and backs NATO’s campaign against the Taliban.

It has also allowed the transit of NATO supplies, cooperates in the fight against drugs, and has offered to supply Afghan forces with weapons and to upgrade hardware such as helicopters.

But some senior alliance diplomats, speaking before NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen arrives in Russia on Tuesday, are hoping for a stronger contribution.

“There’s a lot more they could do,” one envoy said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “They could send AK-47s. There’s oil, and there’s gas. And they could be giving these things, not selling them [to NATO].”

Another senior NATO diplomat said Moscow’s position seemed ambiguous even though Russia did not want NATO to fail in Afghanistan because of shared security concerns.

Moscow could see an advantage if NATO was bogged down in Afghanistan and less able to exert influence elsewhere, he said.

Afghanistan is expected to be on top of Rasmussen’s agenda in Moscow, his first trip there since he took over as head of the 28-nation alliance in August.

The former Soviet Union fought for 10 years against U.S.-backed Islamist guerrillas in Afghanistan before pulling out in 1989, at a cost of at least 14,000 Soviet dead.

NATO-Russia ties have warmed since a freeze after Russia’s brief war with Georgia in August 2008. Moscow has since held out the prospect of more help for NATO’s Afghan operation.

NATO wants an agreement on the transit of nonlethal supplies across Russia to be broadened to include lethal military hardware. It also wants to secure overflight rights for military goods, which now transit by train.

Most fuel for NATO in Afghanistan transits Russia, but Moscow is offering its help at a price, NATO officials said.

Equipment, including Russian assault rifles, would be especially useful, they said.

However, one envoy said it remained to be seen what new commitments Rasmussen would secure from talks with President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Rasmussen, a former prime minister of Denmark, has been criticized privately by some NATO diplomats over his methods and a push to boost ties with Russia that has not been welcomed by member states that were once in the Soviet bloc.

Other NATO officials reject criticism of Rasmussen over his dealings with Russia.

“Rasmussen came into NATO with a reputation as a hawk on Russia. It’s a little funny to hear such concerns,” he said.