Last Monday, NBC News published a report suggesting that Russian government had put bounties on the life of American soldiers in Afghanistan for Taliban to reap. This created quite a stir in US and got a strong denial from Russian government. However, the article contained some other information that was overlooked by the media.
Deep into the article, an anonymous source in the defense establishment of the US says that the intelligence community of the country assumes that bounties had been offered for American soldiers' life in response to American surreptitious intervention in Crimea.
The source is quoted as describing the alleged offering of bounties as "a proportional response to the US arming of Ukrainian units fighting Russian forces in Crimea." After the outrage in US, now its time for Russia to get angry and ask some tough questions to its long-term strategic rival.
The Russian Embassy in US has issued a strong statement asking whether the claims about American aid to militants in Crimea is true.
The Facebook post put out by the Embassy states: "...Unnamed US officials speak about their country's support of terrorist activities in third countries. In this case, they talk specifically about Russia. If it is true (and not the channel's geographical myopia), we then demand the US side to clarify whether or not Washington directly or indirectly has facilitated the SBU in organizing terrorist attacks against the people of Crimea?"
There are good reasons for the Russians to feel worried about such a possibility. The demonstrations against the then-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich in his own country, during 2014, received ample support from the American administration. The Vladimir Putin government decided to react proactively at that time and take control of the Crimean Peninsula, citing anti-Russian mood in their neighboring country.
Even though the Russian government conducted a plebiscite over whether the region should become part of the Russian Federation – where people voted in favor of the merger – Western countries regarded the annexation as unjust and unethical.
Since then, a civil-war like situation has existed in Eastern Ukraine as insurgents of Russian ethnicity have battled government forces. Americans have supplied money and weapons to Ukraine for maintaining its territorial integrity. A covert support to anti-Russian insurgents can't be ruled out.
If the US government is indeed indulging in such activities, it would feel like déja vu to Russians as the same strategy was adopted by the Americans in Afghanistan during 1980s. Implicit support was given to Mujahiddin fighting against the Soviet Troops in that country. One hopes the trajectory of events won't be repeated on this occasion.