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Russia's reversal on the Afghan Taliban reflects a larger strategy linked to its clash with the U.S. and its European allies – a clash that has intensified considerably since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea spurred the U.S. and Europe to impose heavy economic sanctions.The Taliban, which has acknowledged that it shares Russia's enmity with the U.S., will take whatever help it can get to expel the Americans.In cozying up to the Taliban, Putin is sending the message that Russia could destabilize the Afghan government in the same way the U.S., by aiding Syrian rebels, has undermined Bashar Assad's Russian-backed regime.In some ways, it was the U.S. itself that opened the way for Russia's Afghan strategy.Add to that the Taliban's conspicuous exclusion from the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and it is difficult for the U.S. credibly to condemn Russia's overtures to the Taliban and ties with Pakistan.Now that Russia has revived the "Great Game" in Afghanistan, it may be impossible.
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