Is USA’s structural power galvanising Pakistan-Russia



In politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests’

This famous saying rightly depicts the on-going situation of past cold war foes and present friends: Pakistan and Russia.



The thaw between the two nuclear power countries is evident through the joint military drills ‘Druzhba-2016’ (Freindship-2016), despite India’s disapproval, and other two naval drills in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Moreover, Kremlin’s uplifting of the arms embargo act and further agreement of selling Mi 35 helicopters to Pakistan worth $153 million which we will get in 2017.



Besides this, Islamabad and Moscow are in the process of finalising a military deal that includes the sale of Su-35 fighter jets. These developments are now seen as a significant shift in Russia’s foreign policy, to increase defence cooperation between two countries.

Apart from this, Putin supported Pakistan’s bid to join the Shangai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in 2011 which was earlier repudiated by him in 2010.




Visit of the Russian president is also expected in May to inaugurate the $2 billion LNG North-South Pipeline Project. Recent overtures of events between cold war foes are the significant paradigm shift and of course, it is due to reasons; firstly, Moscow’s aversion to India’s proclivity towards America and second important factor is China’s strong alliance with Pakistan.



Thus, as the neo-realist states that balance of power is indispensable to avoid aggression, therefore, alliances are imperative to maintain a balance of terror among states.

However, normalize relations between two countries was not seen in the past.Historically, the relation between two past antagonists had been hostile and unfriendly. This was apparent as we joined the US-led block and USSR, on the other hand, leaned towards India.




USSR and Pakistan established their diplomatic ties in 1948.It is believed that since its inception, Liaquat Ali khan tilted foreign policy of the country towards the USA by preferring its visit over USSR. However, Russian visit was accepted but not materialized due to some reasons. It is the fact that USA was preferred by our pro-western politicians for military and financial aid (which was dire need of the hour), as Russian economy was recovering from WW2 loses.



As aid comes with strings attached, US initially added $0.77 million in our national exchequer for economic assistance in 1948, according toWren ElhaiWashington-based Center forGlobal Development (CGD)and in return, of course, we had to contribute to safeguarding its capitalist structure. While on the other hand, Soviet Uniondeveloped strong strategic, military, economic and diplomatic relationship with India. Besides this, India is the second largest market for Russian defence industry.



In 1950’s, Pakistan became a staunch supporter of US by signingSEATOin 1954,CENTOin 1955 and in 1960 U2 plane incident which further deteriorated already tense relation of Russia and Pakistan.




While the Soviet Union supported India over Kashmir issue even vetoing the Kashmir resolutions in favor of India. USSR tilted towards India in 1965 war and signed Indo–Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship, and Cooperation in 1971 lending its support to India which further separated East Pakistan.



Finally, the Moscow’s intervention in Afghanistan, as some have claimed, originally part of a grand design to seize oil fields and warm water ports in the Persian Gulf region. In order to counter Soviet occupation, Operation Cyclonewas launched by CIA with the help of Pakistan to arm and finance Mujahideenin Afghanistan. The Mujahideen with external support disbanded the Soviet Union which further marked the end of Communism.



So, both the foes had to depend on each other’s rivals to maintain the balance of power.

However, the scenario is quite different now geostrategic relations are rapidly changing in South Asia. India and the US are fortifying defense and enhancing trade ties amid growing concerns about China’s assertiveness in the region, particularly in the disputed region the South China Sea. On the other side, former Cold war allies, Islamabad and Washington are drifting away from each other.



It is important for Pakistan to develop effective diplomatic ties and diversify international relations with other states. Russia is an influential state to be friend with but the relationship should be based on relative gains. Foreign policy must be aligned with national interest as well as national security, based on these fundamentals of diplomacy we should balance relations with America too and also endeavor to make relations more cordial with states.

Waleed Ahmed