With the sudden discovery of trillions of dollars worth of oil and mineral deposits in its own backyard, Afghanistan is earning new friends in its fight against militancy.

The announcement that Pakistan and Russia — two states that share a historically temperamental relationship with Afghanistan — plan to support the Afghan government in its fight against the Taliban seems to give credence to this fact. Suddenly the stakes seem to be worthwhile. Or could it be that Moscow has been left out in the cold for too long in the region by the US, its age old foe?

Taking a fresh guard in diplomacy, Russian President Dimitri Medvedev attempted to erase the events that took place during his country's bid to occupy Afghanistan from 1979 till 1989 and assured visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai of his support.

Not averse to making the right noises in a bid to bolster his waning popularity abroad, Karzai described Russia as a ‘friend'. Medvedev's commitment to Karzai was made in the presence of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, whose country is also in the process of rebuilding a fragile association with Karzai, but is a key ally in the war against terror in the region.

Russia has so far taken a back seat, preferring to be silent observers to Nato's military operations in Afghanistan. But the fact that both countries are located in the same region gives rise to common problems and therefore common prospects.

Moscow does not have troops in Afghanistan but has allowed Nato to use its airspace. As the stakes get higher Medvedev will have to resort to serious introspection before allowing his government to pitch in, mainly with defence-related assistance.

There could be little to gain and lots to lose if Afghanistan's problems spill over Russia's borders. Medvedev only has to consult his counterpart Zardari on this.