Ukraine is a peaceful country. But it cannot distance itself from the world, for according to the Chaos Theory, something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world. In other words, withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan will somehow influence the situation in Ukraine, especially under drastic world transformations, instability, transnational criminality, illegal migration and terrorism.

Mission accomplished

Afghanistan is a country of contrasts. On one hand, it is one of the poorest countries of the world, suffering civil war since 1978. On the other hand, being located at the crossroads between West and East, Afghanistan is an ancient center of trade and migration. Moreover, its geopolitical position between South and Central Asia on one side and Middle East on another one makes it important for economic, political and cultural relations among countries of the region.

International forces of NATO coalition have been functioning on Afghan territory since 2001. After the September 11 attack, US government launched Operation Enduring Freedom as a new phase of the war in Afghanistan. However, members of NATO coalition in Afghanistan are now planning to turn over control of security to the local authorities and to terminate the mission before 2014. At the same time, in his address to the Congress US President Barack Obama announced that a half of American military contingent would leave Afghanistan within 2013, and the full withdrawal of troops would be carried out by the end of 2014. 

It was reported that Ukraine as a participant of events on maintenance of peace and security in the world will take part in NATO operation in Afghanistan before its termination. Ukraine also offered NATO coalition its services on withdrawal of troops and means via its territory.

There is an opinion that withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan will lead to inevitable changes in the foreign policy of international players, will cause aggravation of situation in Middle and Central Asia, as well as increase of terrorist threats. In particular, head of the Anti-terrorist center of CIS countries Andrei Novikov believes that withdrawal of troops will destabilize the situation in the whole Central Asia. 

"It's no secret that the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 will create a strategic situation in Central Asia. After all, the states of the Central Asia have very long borders with Afghanistan. Hence, there is an issue of a transfer of responsibility of the U.S. and the coalition. The actual situation in Afghanistan and its development after 2014 is a kind of trigger for destabilization in the Central Asia," he said. According to the expert, there is a risk that "Arab revolutions" will manifest in the CIS countries.
In addition, he said that terrorism today is large-scale constructions and planned economic relations. In his opinion, there organizations formed with the involvement of representatives of the criminal world, which hind behind the idea of faith but solve exclusively economic issues.

According to the expert, the terrorist activity is associated with the issues of energy resources for consuming countries, and the countries of transit. "This is especially important for the Eurasian community, as well as for Europe and China. In particular, there may be attempts to influence energy and transportation routes, including cyber attacks," he said.

At the same time, Novikov believes that Ukraine has not-too-high level of terrorist threat. "The level of terrorist activities and extremists threats is rather low on Ukraine's soil, including Crimea," he added.

Universal energy conservation law

As the principle goes, energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can be transferred or transformed from one form to another. This principle can be applied to Afghanistan as well. Thus, expert of the independent geopolitical center "Borysfen-Intel" Viktor Gvozd states that the situation after withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan will definitely have an impact on security and politico-military state of the whole world.

"No doubt Afghan Dischargee operation will affect not only Central Asia, but the whole world. Leading geopolitical players understand the risks. Though US authorities have failed to agree with Afghan government on the number and status of remaining American troops, there is a hope that with support of these specialist pro-governmental forces will be able to control the country. However, after the full withdrawal of foreign troops Afghanistan faces large-scale civil war again. Taliban troops will fight against Karzai government for control over the country, and judging by the failure of negotiations between the sides, the war will be devastating," he told ForUm.

According to Gvozd, the world must be ready for destabilization of politico-military situation in Central Asia. "Both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan will be involved in the conflict, even unwillingly. They will be hit by humanitarian disaster, when tens of thousands of refugees will try to run to Europe, including through the territories of Ukraine and Russia."

Iran, according to Gvozd, will definitely welcome the withdrawal of American troops from the region, as it will be able to strengthen its influence on the western part of Afghanistan, which in turn will aggravate the conflict between  Sunnites and Shiites.

The expert also states that the matter involves economic issue as well: oil and gas prices, transportation. Considering the fact that Middle East is closely connected to Black and Caspian Sea basins, we should take into account the escalation of situation on nuclear program of Iran. Security of Middle East energy resources becomes even more important for Ukraine, especially in the light of the policy diversification of oil and gas supplies.

The expert pays special attention to Pakistan and India. "Pakistan is a leading player in the region and demands to participate in every discussion on Afghan situation. Moreover, the relations between Pakistan and India have worsened after India started interfering into the political and economic life of the country during Karzai ruling. Thus, India as no other country is interested in stability and peace on Afghan soil. Otherwise, it has much to lose."

Gvozd believes that China also should not be excluded from the analysis of the situation. "China cares about security in Afghanistan only for the stability of transportation of Central Asian energy resources. China considers itself the leader in the Asian region, but with the new government in office wants to reach a new level - to become a world leader of US level. And following the ancient strategy, China will simply "watch the fire from the other side of the river", and in case of aggravation of the politico-military situation in Afghanistan will observe the behavior of opponents and allies to use the situation for own interests."

Afghan echo

In response to the question about possible threats for Ukraine, expert Gvozd gave his decisive "Yes". "Take into account that illegal migrations have always been used by various extremist organizations as a mean to spread their activities. Thus, the geopolitical position of our territory may be used for stationing of militant groups, for holding actions in Europe and/or countries of Black and Caspian Sea basins, including for destabilization of situation in Crimea. We should have no illusions upon our possible problems."

Moreover, the expert points out that despite being located far from Afghanistan and being a non-aligned country, Ukraine supported NATO anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan, offered its air space and heavy-lift aircrafts and sent certain numbers of peacemakers. Among other important aspects, the expert pointed out drug trafficking. "The biggest routes of drug smuggling go through territories of Central Asia, Russia and then Ukraine. It is another challenge Ukraine will have to meet."

According to Gvozd, taking into account the above-said, Ukrainian officials should start preparing for withdrawal of NATO and US troops in 2014, namely estimate risks and challenges Ukrainian state may face following the situation in post-coalition Afghanistan.

In turn, head of Crimean Tatar Majlis, MP Mustafa Jemilyov told ForUm that the situation will depend on the regime in office after the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan - democracy or legalized terrorism. For the moment, no democracy is observed in Afghanistan, as major parts of the territory are controlled by extremist forces. Jemilyov also informed that radical Islamists are indeed interested in Crimea, as among Crimean population there are people professing Islam. 

"We already have supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Wahhabites, Salafites. And if there is free access, the situation will go worse. What we need is a complex of measure, not banal prohibitions. Certain political forces should stop splitting Crimean Tatar movement using Hizb ut-Tahrir followers and Wahhabites, who traditionally stand against Majlis of Crimean Tatar people," he said.

Former head of Security Service of Ukraine, MP Valentyn Nalyvaichenko told ForUm that Afghanistan security is pressing issue for the whole world, including Ukraine and Crimea. "Crimea is no different from Ukraine. The fact that there is Russian Black Sea Fleet on its territory should even strengthen law enforcement control over own territory. However, our citizens must be protected countrywide - in Sevastopol, in Donetsk, in any other city or village."

As for terrorism in general, Nalyvaichenko pointed out Boston bombing. "The latest events in Boston proves that terrorism becomes more cynical and closer to people. The situation in Afghanistan may bring complications to Ukraine. There are two planes to solve the problem. The first one is to assist to the establishment of democratic government in Afghanistan with parallel demilitarization of the region. Well, big countries - military vender can influence the situation, Ukraine cannot. Ukraine also sells weapons, and the only thing it can do is to make sure our weapons do not end up in that region."

"The second aspect concerns the strict control within Ukraine, especially it concerns entry and travel of criminal elements through Ukraine's territory. Our law enforcements should focus on tracing those who seek access to weapons and explosives," Nalyvaichenko said.

Political scientist Oleksandr Paliy has a different opinion. He believes that due to geographical and political remoteness of Ukraine, the question regarding ruling government in Afghanistan has a theoretical interest. "Ukraine is not the primary target for Islamists. I think Afghanistan will be focused on its internal problems for a rather long time. However, its relations with CIS countries may deteriorate in the future, and not because of some expansion of Afghans, but because 30% of the population of Afghanistan is Tajiks (there are more Tajiks in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan), and there are three million of Uzbeks and one million of Turkmen living there as well. In case of emergency, Islamic opposition will have a shelter within reach."

Paliy also says that withdrawal of US forces from the region will bring more intrigues to the local political life in Central Asia, but though the government changes in Afghanistan are more important for Ukraine than the situation in Honduras, it is still less important than the situation in Iraq, for example.

"The major problem for Ukraine is drug trafficking. At the same time, it should be said that the situation is already extremely bad. Russia is a consumer of the fifth part of the world heroin market, and it is incapable to contain drug inflow, mostly from Afghanistan. And Ukraine has practically open borders with Russia. The situation simply cannot go any worse," he summed up.

Peace to the world!

The history of humankind is war-soaked, and with the development of the world, the "laws of war" develop as well. Men no longer come out in the field to match strength against each other, but use violence, intimidation and scare tactics instead, in other words - terror. The majority of people want worldwide harmony, but still we have no right to turn the blind eye to possible challenges and risk and to forget that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can indeed cause a typhoon halfway around the world.

Yulia Artamoshchenko


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