Mikhail Khodarenok, a retired colonel who’s held many high-level positions all across the Russian security sphere during his several decades of service, proved that his country’s previous political taboo on calling out India’s military-strategic alliance with America is over after sharing his remarkably frank assessment with RT that his country’s Soviet-era partner is “increasingly drifting towards the US and Europe” so Russia “should abandon stereotypes and build closer ties with Pakistan” by selling Islamabad whatever military equipment it requests in response.
International Relations are in the midst of many paradigm-changing processes as a result of the New Cold War, and nothing more convincingly proves that in the geopolitical sense than the fast-moving Russian-Pakistani Strategic Partnership. This seemingly unexpected development was actually entirely predicable in hindsight when considering the shared security interests in Afghanistan that first brought these Great Powers together, after which they quickly turned the page on their previous Old Cold War differences and jointly decided to chart a new future of cooperation together. Despite the best efforts of Russia’s Indophile “deep state” faction to sabotage this relationship, it’s actually flourished to the point where President Putin publicly bonded with Pakistani Prime Minister Khan all during the recent SCO Summit despite how uncomfortable this must have made the Indian leader who was also in attendance at the same event.
In fact, what some are already describing as Putin’s snubbing of Modi might have actually been intentional in order to send the message that Russia disapproves of India’s newfound military-strategic alliance with America that it regards as aiming to “contain” China and coming at its expense. Russia’s “Return to South Asia” is all about “balancing” this geopolitically disruptive development through its unprecedented strategic partnership with the global pivot state of Pakistan, which is poised to become more meaningful than ever before after PM Khan revealed in his exclusive interview with Sputnik just before the SCO Summit that his country is considering purchasing all sorts of military equipment from Moscow. That important interview and the Putin-Khan bonhomie (“Vladimran”) that immediately followed sent a strong signal to Russia’s international information outlets that it’s time to change their editorial take on South Asia away from their largely partisan support for India and towards a more “balanced” approach that accommodates the Russian-Pakistani Strategic Partnership.
This contextual backdrop explains the “surprising” observation that a retired Russian colonel shared with RT about South Asian affairs, which was only surprising in the sense that it had hitherto never been expressed on this globally influential platform and proved without a doubt that Russia’s previous taboo on calling out India’s military-strategic alliance with America is over. Mikhail Khodarenok isn’t just a random run-of-the-mill commentator either, but RT’s main military analyst, and the storied career that he had during his decades of service includes stints as a senior officer at the High Command of the Air Defense Forces (1988–1992) and then as an officer at the main operational directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces (1992–2000). Suffice to say, his analyses carry serious weight not only in the sphere of perception management, but also in the sense that they unofficially represent the stance of the Russian military given his professional pedigree.
With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at what exactly Khodarenok said that’s so significant. The high-level military expert was remarkably frank in his regional assessment when he pointed out that “Russia has always been loyal to its Indian customers, but that attitude did not necessarily pay off in recent years”, adding that “India is increasingly drifting towards the US and Europe” so Russia “should abandon stereotypes and build closer ties with Pakistan”. Given that this was the note on which he concluded his commentary about PM Khan’s desire to purchase all sorts of Russian weapons, it can be implied that he also thinks that Moscow should sell Islamabad whatever it requests, having previously pointed out exactly which equipment he believes would be best-suited for meeting the South Asian state’s security needs. To describe this as a watershed event in Russia’s international media wouldn’t be an exaggeration since nothing like this has ever happened before.
It’s clear from Khodarenok’s comments that Russia’s regional “balancing” strategy envisions arming Pakistan in order to offset the destabilizing effect of the Indian-American alliance, with Moscow no longer being shy about its intentions after it’s become obvious that Washington wants to replace it as New Delhi’s primary military supplier. It’s therefore for reasons of strategic and economic necessity that Russia is ready to sell Pakistan whatever it can afford to purchase so as to restore the balance of power and compensate for the profits that it’s losing out on to the US in India. The very fact that someone as influential as Khodarenok telegraphed this intent on Russia’s main international media outlet says a lot about how serious Moscow is about these plans, which are nothing short of game-changing if they ultimately come to fruition and could conceivably stabilize South Asia after the rogue state of India almost brought the region to the brink of nuclear war earlier this year.
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.