Russia’s “deep state” has been deeply divided over South Asian affairs for the past few years already, but the Indophile “Traditionalists’” fierce competition for influence over the rising policymaking appeal of the Kabulov-led “Progressive” faction is unprecedentedly spilling over into the public sphere through their increasingly intense lobbying efforts that inadvertently risk “delegitimizing” the country’s modern-day “balancing” strategy from within during its sensitive international and domestic transitions.
“Traditionalists” vs. “Progressives”
It should be obvious to all objective observers that a concerted influence operation is actively underway in the public sphere to pressure Russia to reconsider its “balancing” strategy that’s hitherto seen it make enormous peacemaking gains in Afghanistan and pioneer a game-changing rapprochement with Pakistan.
This effort is being led by the Indophile “Traditionalists” who are fiercely competing for influence with the rising policymaking appeal of the Kabulov-led “Progressive” faction per the rivalry that I described in two of my pieces over the past three years:
- 6 October, 2016: “Is Russia’s ‘Deep State’ Divided Over India?”
- 1 September, 2017: “Russia’s Foreign Policy Progressives Have Trumped The Traditionalists”
In a broader geopolitical sense, the triumph of the “Progressives” over the “Traditionalists” led to the formulation of Russia’s 21st-century grand strategy of “balancing” that can be observed all across the Eastern Hemisphere nowadays and which I elaborated upon in detail last year in my piece about “Russia’s Grand Strategy In Afro-Eurasia (And What Could Go Wrong)”.
The Indophiles’ Influence Operations
As it relates to the South Asian context, however, Russia’s “balancing” strategy has faced stiff institutional resistance from the Indophiles which has unprecedentedly begun to spill over into the public sphere recently as evidenced by the plethora of pieces in its international and especially domestic media indirectly (but nevertheless obviously enough) opposing this policy.
The modus operandi has been for its international media outlets to give extensive attention to the statements of Indian officials regarding the recent post-Pulwama debacle with Pakistan and the subsequent commentary by their surrogates attempting to downplay their rogue state’s humiliation in parallel with spreading false weaponized accusations about their rival being a “terrorist-sponsoring state”, while its domestic media largely focuses on giving extensive attention to Russian experts who sharply criticize the US’ talks with the Taliban.
Although neither never directly touch upon Russia’s strategic relations with the global pivot state of Pakistan or its de-facto “diplomatic patronage” of the Taliban, both carry very clear innuendo against these interconnected “balancing” policies that’s evident to anyone who follows South Asian affairs.
The Desperation Of Defeat
While the publishing of such strongly implied dissent by a powerful “deep state” faction and its international supporters disproves the Western Mainstream Media’s fake news claims about Russia not having a free media and could be commended for increasingly involving the public in important foreign policy matters like many (but importantly, not all) democracies seek to do, it nevertheless raises the question of why the Indophiles felt the need to make their lobbying efforts public in the first place when such actions are usually (key word) carried out quietly behind the scenes by all nations’ “deep states” in order to give off the appearance that the strategic policymaking community is united behind the government’s policies.
This development is unprecedented in Russia and is being undertaken out of desperation after the Indophiles begrudgingly realized that the groundbreaking achievements of the Kabulov-led “Progressives” obviously couldn’t have been possible had they not had the approval of the country’s leadership at the highest level.
Instead of Russia’s Indophiles recognizing that decision makers no longer favor the approach that this faction sincerely believes is the best one for advancing their nation’s interests, they refused to relent and have instead sought to generate public pressure against this policy as a last-ditch attempt to get the Kremlin to reconsider, ergo the ongoing influence operation that’s taking place across the country’s international and especially domestic media.
This has never happened before in Russian history and risks “delegitimizing” the country’s modern-day “balancing” strategy from within at the sensitive moment of its international and domestic transitions into the emerging Multipolar World Order and the post-Putin era (which I refer to as PP24 for Post-Putin 2024), respectively.
To be sure, had the authorities done a better job explaining the “balancing” reasons behind the Russian-Pakistani Strategic Partnership and Moscow’s attendant de-facto “diplomatic patronage” of the Taliban to the international and domestic audiences, then the Indophiles probably wouldn’t have thought to take their lobbying efforts public, but that faction is now trying to exploit the very same shortcoming that I warned about in my piece last year about what could go wrong with Russia’s grand strategy in Afro-Eurasia.
There should be no doubt about their patriotic intentions, but there’s serious concern that the Indophiles’ well-intended efforts could backfire if hostile foreign forces attempt to take advantage of them by exaggerating the extent of Russia’s “deep state” divisions through the manufacture and dissemination of weaponized fake news aimed at destabilizing the domestic situation ahead of PP24.
Having said that, the chances of such a scenario succeeding are slim, though it should be noted that the Indophiles risk planting the destructive seeds of anti-state cynicism and “deep state” suspicions in the public’s mind if they intensify their domestic lobbying efforts and continue them indefinitely, especially if some of their audience is receptive to the false narrative being implied about their government “selling out” to a “terrorist-sponsoring state” (Pakistan) and almost “treasonously” supporting the spiritual successors of the same “terrorist” group that killed Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan (the Taliban).
Again, it can’t be emphasized enough just how deceptive such weaponized narratives are, but the social environment for their potential proliferation and exploitation by the Indophiles and hostile foreign forces alike (albeit for totally different reasons and in pursuit of totally different ends) was made possible by the state insufficiently explaining the “balancing” reasons behind the Russian-Pakistani Strategic Partnership and Moscow’s de-facto “diplomatic patronage” of the Taliban.
No Need To Worry
In any case, it’s extremely unlikely that either of these two interconnected policies will be offset in the future, especially if Russia’s Pakistani state partners don’t overreact to the Indophiles’ influence campaign in Moscow’s international and domestic media, confidently continue the positive trajectory in bilateral relations, and don’t put any pressure on Russia to accelerate ties beyond the pace that it’s comfortable with at any given time.
After all, the Kabulov-led “Progressives” successfully defeated the Indophile “Traditionalists” and it’s for that exact reason why Russia promulgated both of the previously described policies, as well as why the Indophiles unprecedentedly took their lobbying efforts into the public sphere.
In addition, the Indophiles continue to discredit themselves whenever their surrogates lend “credence” to India’s verifiably false fake news assertions about Pakistan and the Taliban, and none other than the Indian Ambassador to Russia himself just dealt heavy irreparable damage to Russian-Indian relations by publicly lying about his country’s refusal to accept international mediation while explaining the reason why New Delhi rejected Moscow’s interest in this respect.
In view of everything discussed in this analysis, it can therefore confidently be predicted that the Indophile “Traditionalists’” unprecedented public lobbying efforts against the Kabulov-led “Progressives” will fail and that Russia will continue to strengthen its strategic partnership with Pakistan in parallel with expanding its de-facto “diplomatic patronage” over the Taliban.
DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.