MOSCOW — Since the return of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the calculus for Moscow has been tricky: how to reassert its regional influence after the U.S. military exit while also keeping some distance from internal Afghan struggles.

“Afghanistan itself is not of interest to Russia,” said Andrei Serenko, the head of the Moscow-based Center of Contemporary Afghan Studies. “Russia wants to use Afghanistan without getting involved in Afghanistan.” 

Russia’s gambit will be tested Wednesday as it hosts Taliban envoys for multinational talks on the security and political situation in Afghanistan. Russian President Vladimir Putin has cautioned that “there should be no hurry” to officially recognize the Taliban’s governance of Afghanistan.

But the meeting offers another stage for the Taliban to open international channels.

Taliban leadership will attend the meeting to present its “point of view,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement Tuesday. Since the takeover of Afghanistan two months go, Taliban leaders have visited a handful of countries in an effort to secure international recognition, in part to avert an economic catastrophe.

Earlier this month, U.S. officials held talks with a Taliban delegation in Doha, Qatar, to discuss security issues and safe passage for those seeking to leave the country.

The Moscow talks, in various configurations, aim to be far broader, with participants expected to include China, Pakistan, India and Iran. The United States, though invited, is not attending.

No potential breakthroughs are on the agenda, Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s presidential representative for Afghanistan, said on Friday, although he added that there will be “a candid conversation behind closed doors.”

In talks involving representatives of Russia, China and Pakistan on Tuesday, the countries “expressed joint interest in providing urgent humanitarian and economic assistance” for Afghanistan, according to a statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

After the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan was hit with international economic restrictions and cuts in development aid — billions of dollars that helped the previous government provide basic services. The moves threaten to push millions more Afghans into poverty and destabilize Taliban rule.

During previous international visits, the Taliban has faced questions over its past human rights abuses and severe restrictions imposed on women and girls.

For Russia, perhaps more important than the substance of Wednesday’s meeting is that it’s happening at Russia’s initiative, analysts said.

Moscow wants to appear as the key mediator in matters concerning Afghanistan, said Serenko, noting that Russia still feels the sting of the humiliating withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 after a 10-year occupation of Afghanistan.

He said Russia’s top priority, however, is using the new regional security concerns to increase its influence in Central Asia, an area where Moscow competes for sway with Beijing.

As the Taliban swept into Kabul in August with U.S.-backed Afghan forces in disarray, Russian armored vehicles appeared at the Afghanistan border with Tajikistan for military exercises — a signal from Moscow that it can fill the security void in the region with the Americans now gone.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this month that Russia’s “Central Asian friends” have assured Moscow that they do not want U.S. military units stationed on their territory. The U.S. military maintains partnerships with some Central Asian nations but no longer has the temporary footholds in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan established after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Moscow initially took a warmer tone toward the Taliban after it regained power. Russia was one of four countries that did not immediately evacuate Kabul embassy staff. Its ambassador to Afghanistan, Dmitry Zhirnov, said at the time that “the current situation in Kabul is better than under Ashraf Ghani,” the Afghan president who fled the country.

Putin encouraged other countries to establish good-neighbor relations with Afghanistan’s new leaders in the days after the Taliban takeover. But last week, he expressed skepticism that the Taliban will stanch drug production and said the threat of terrorism in the region has increased. Recent bombings in Afghanistan have raised concerns that the Taliban is unable to curb other militant and terrorist groups, mainly the Islamic State.

Russian officials have said they’re preparing to send humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, but it is expected to be modest compared with other countries’ financial support. The Taliban remains on Russia’s list of banned terrorist organizations.

As for diplomatically recognizing the Taliban, Putin told a virtual summit of former Soviet republics on Friday, “We realize that we have to interact with them, but there is no need to jump the gun.”

In Turkey, Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban’s acting foreign minister, told journalists that lack of recognition for the group will benefit other militants in Afghanistan, including the Islamic State.

Muttaqi also called the economic restrictions imposed on Afghanistan a violation of human rights that would ultimately hurt only Afghan citizens.

Though Russia has hosted Taliban officials several times in recent years, Serenko said Moscow doesn’t hold much sway with the group, especially with the Haqqani network, considered one of the Taliban’s most influential and feared factions.

The Taliban was invited two weeks ago to Wednesday’s talks, but it didn’t accept until Friday.

 “This conference is not about Afghanistan,” Serenko said. “It’s all about Russia. Russia wants to show the Americans that without Russia, the Afghanistan problem won’t be solved.”

George reported from Islamabad, Pakistan. Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.