KABUL — To the white-bearded Afghan machinists, it felt like the Cold War era had suddenly returned.
After 25 years of working in a sprawling Soviet-built factory — a vestige of a war and occupation long extinguished — they suddenly spotted a new shipment of gleaming Russian equipment arriving last fall on an 18-wheeler.
The factory was abuzz. The Russians were back.
Седобородым афганским механикам показалось что Холодная война вернулась. После 25 лет работы на заводе построенном Советским Союзом - остатком давно ушедшей войны и профессии - они неожиданно заметили как новое, сверкающее фабричной краской российсое оборудование доставлено на 18-колёсной фуре.
Завод оживился. Русские вернулись...
... In Afghanistan, Russian officials point to their development activities as a counterexample to U.S. aid projects, which many Afghans criticize as wasteful and misguided.
“The mistake of the last 12 years is that people were eager to give money, but without the proper strategy,” said Russian Ambassador Andrey Avetisyan, who was also based in Kabul as a young diplomat in the 1980s.
Many Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, praise the Soviet model even though they fought a bloody 10-year war against the country’s army, which invaded in 1979 to support an unpopular communist government.
“The Soviet money went to the right place. They were efficient in spending their money and doing it through the Afghan government,” Karzai said in an interview with The Washington Post this month.
The new warmth between the Kremlin and Afghanistan was visible this week when the Afghan government released a message from Putin marking the Persian new year. It was the only such message made public, and was released at a time when the United States and European governments are imposing sanctions on Russia for its expansion into Ukraine.
AID THAT’S APPRECIATED
Afghanistan is still peppered with reminders of both the Soviet Union’s war and its infrastructure projects. Soviet land mines continue to kill and injure dozens of Afghan civilians every year. But its bread-making factory still produces thousands of loaves every day. Its housing complexes are among the country’s most desirable (and the only ones with central heating).
The machinists who were in their 20s when they were trained by Soviet engineers are now middle-aged, but they’re still working on the same equipment, with instructions in fading Cyrillic characters. The new Russian technology is expected to be installed in the coming months.
There are other signs of a Russian revival here.
The number of students studying Russian at Kabul University has doubled in the past two years. Russia, in turn, has doubled the number of scholarships it offers to Afghan students. The cultural center, when it reopens this fall, will hold a vast library of Russian literature and offer language courses.