Beneath the Radar, Russia-Pakistan Entente Takes Shape

Wikistrat analyzes the rapprochement between two former Cold War rivals.

Pakistan and Russia have begun cooperating on energy and military matters.

Pakistani prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called Vladimir Putin to congratulate him after his electoral victory and invited him to visit Islamabad later this year, which Putin agreed to. It would be the first visit to Pakistan, a Cold War rival, by a Russian leader.

This comes on the heel of a growing rift between Pakistan and its longtime patron, the United States, which has seen it diversify its allies in the region, most notably China as of late. In the last year, there have been growing contacts (high level visits) between the two nuclear powers, concentrating on regional security and economic investment.

Most notably is Pakistan’s purchase of fifty JF-17 Thunder fighter planes from China, which use a Russian engine (thus requiring Russia’s approval), the proposed construction of the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline that will bring natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to the subcontinent and a state of the art coal and natural gas complex in the Sindh.

In response to growing American ties with India (Russia has maintained its close ties with India as well), including joint military exercises in the Rajasthan desert, there is a ongoing discussion between the military brass of both powers to begin greater military cooperation. Pakistan, desperate for energy, has also begun negotiations with Iran over a proposed natural gas pipeline, which would bring sanctions against it from the United States.

Analysis

Pakistan’s move toward Russia isn’t working like it used to.

During the Cold War, the fear that Moscow would march through Afghanistan and to Pakistan was a staple of Western planning nightmares. Peter the Great’s advice to seek ports useable all year has been a constant feature of Russian foreign policy for centuries and has just as consistently been opposed by the major naval power of the day. Today, a Russian-Pakistan entente doesn’t even elicit American comment, much less opposition.

Russia is always looking for more energy consumers and Pakistan has a large domestic market. In addition, the jet fighters Pakistan is looking to purchase would provide jobs and profit

On Pakistan’s side, Russia would be another world power they have as an ally of sorts. The energy supply from the potential TAPI pipelines would help stabilize the domestic economy and thus the political situation.

Wikistrat Bottom Lines

Opportunities

Russia gains a new consumer of energy resources and military hardware which would be worth billions of dollars. Pakistan can improve relations with another world power while diversifying its energy supply.

Risks

Russia has a contentious relationship with European nations which purchase energy via its pipeline. This could easily occur with Pakistan once the TAPI is built.

Dependencies

The United States may disprove of Pakistan’s growing relationship with Russia so these deals must remain relatively quiet in order to continue lest anti-Pakistan sentiment grow in the United States and risk decreasing foreign aid.

Kathryn Basinsky, T. Michael Lutas, Lennea Mueller, Steven Robinson and Abe Schreier contributed to this analysis.