Russia’s Push South

by Alec Metz on 10/11/2012 · 1 comment

Building on Elmurad Kasym’s recent post, Russia has long been concerned with the reduction in ISAF troop levels in Afghanistan, and the NATO presence in the former Soviet Central Asian republics, namely Kyrgyzstan, and to a lesser extent (now) Uzbekistan. Although the government in Moscow may be unable to convince the wildlife of Central and South Asia to follow Putin, cash is easier to send than cranes, and Russia has recently concluded three agreements with Pakistan to refurbish some critical infrastructure of the latter. The two nations are also discussing military cooperation, no doubt to the concern of the U.S. and India. This is somewhat lost in the American media as Russian policy in the Middle East ebbs (regarding its Syria policy) and flows (arms deals with Iraq).

This is a change in policy for Russia from only two years ago, when Putin affirmed to Indian PM Singh that Russia was not interested in military ties with Pakistan. It has only been 23 years, well after Putin joined the KGB, since Pakistan celebrated the Soviet failure in Afghanistan it helped bring about (the Russian consulate in Karachi has a decent summation of relations since Pakistani independence in English). There have been small advances in cooperation since then, but this new evolution is important to the region for three reasons: first, it shows how, in keeping with Russian moves in Tajikistan, the Russian government is preparing for the worst in Afghanistan post-2014. The greater leverage Russia has with Afghanistan’s larger “brother” in future, the greater Russia’s ability to avoid or at least interdict narcotics, people, or extremism trying to enter Russia. Second, Russia is seeking energy influence in the area, just as it has seen the U.S. do in pushing the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline idea. In promising Pakistan cooperation with its steel works, railroads, and energy plants, Russia may increase its ability to stall or disrupt the TAPI. Lastly, this may serve as a notice to India and others that Russia is a growing, not shrinking, power in the region.

Russia is seeking not simply seeking to reassert itself in Central Asia, but South of Afghanistan as well. I would expect this to continue.

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– author of 18 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Alec Metz is an independent policy analyst focusing on security and development in South and Central Asia.

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{ 1 comment }

Alec Metz October 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Josh Kucera at put out a piece on the Russia/Pak friendship today as well: It will be interesting to see how China, which has had a solid relationship with Pakistan for decades, while view this Russian move towards China’s ally.

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