All Posts (18)

Russia Review | September 2020

Overview

• India-China dialogue & India-Pakistan turbulence in Moscow
• Nagorno-Karabakh: another foreign policy tight rope
• The slow-burning Navalny fuse
• China pips Russia as biggest threat to the US    

SCO & BRICS: platitudes & discord

In a flurry of diplomatic activity, Russia hosted the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) meetings of Defence Ministers (September 3–4), Foreign Ministers (September 9–10) and NSAs (September 15), with the satisfaction of holding two of them in a re

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Russia Review | August 2020

Overview

• Belarus: near-abroad drifting away?
• Khabarovsk: a Siberian challenge
• Navalny: shades of Skripal  
• Sputnik V: “vaccine nationalism

Belarus challenge for Russia and the West

The ongoing events in and around Belarus raise the prospect of yet another part of Russia’s “near-abroad” drifting away from it.

The runup to the Presidential elections was marked by a controversy over the arrest by Belarus authorities of 33 private military contractors of Russia’s Wagner group, accusing th

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Russia Review | July 2020

Overview

• Russians approve a raft of constitutional amendments 
• Reported wrinkles in Russia-China relations
• The snakes and ladders of the Minsk accords
• Snippets: Trump calls Putin, Ukraine & Poland to sabotage NordStream2  

 

Successful referendum on constitutional amendments
 
Between 25 June and 1 July, Russia held a referendum, involving e-voting, postal ballot and physical voting (on July 1), in which they approved the constitutional amendments that flowed from President Putin’s “Stat

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Russia Review | June 2020

Russia-US: telephone talk, bilateral talks, “foreign hand” & Afghan “bounty”

 

The month started on an upbeat note for US-Russia relations, with a telephone call to President Putin from President Trump, in which (as per the Kremlin readout) the Russian President thanked his US counterpart for the timely donation of ventilators, the two Presidents congratulated themselves on piloting the OPEC+ agreement on oil production caps, and President Trump informed his counterpart about his idea of inviti

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Russia Review | May 2020

Overview

• Russia’s Covid-19 challenges mount
• Mixed signals in US-Russia relations
• Libyan setback, Syrian kerfuffle
• Snippets: Putin’s ratings decline, Russia’s MFA on India-Pakistan  
 

Russia’s Covid-19 challenge grows
 
Russia rapidly climbed up the global Covid-19 ladder in May, reaching third place globally (it was briefly in second place, till Brazil rapidly overtook it), with over 400,000 reported cases and over 4600 deaths by May 31. By end-May, the daily incidence figures appeared

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Russia Review | April 2020

Overview

• Covid-19 grips Russia
• “Covidiplomacy” yields dividends
• Trump’s “teleshuttle” mediation defused Russia-Saudi oil spat
• Snippets: Russian PM gets Covid, Russians return from India, Putin’s full plate

Covid-19 gathers force

Russia’s Covid-19 cases shot up from under 2000 in end-March to over 110,000 a month later, with about 1200 deaths, up from just 9. It had been observed (RR, 3/20) that early and strict border control measures had checked the disease from spreading overland from

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Russia Review | March 2020

Overview

  • Russia’s Coronavirus campaign
  • Foundations laid for Putin Mark V & VI
  • Russia-Saudi oil spat aggravated Covid impact on energy markets
  • Snippets: Covid diplomacy, Idlib peace, Putin-Modi telecon

 

Russia combats Coronavirus
 
After relatively low incidence of detected Covid-19 cases in the first half of March, Russia announced a spike on March 24 (with 163 new cases). After visiting a newly created medical facility and holding a live televised discussion with medical specialists there,

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Russia Review | February 2020

Overview

  • Russia-Turkey “marriage of convenience” on the rocks
  • Russia endorses US-Taliban deal
  • Snippets: US-Central Asia, Ukraine backtracking, coronavirus frictions 

 

Mutual recriminations replaced Russia-Turkey understanding on Idlib

The delicate balance between Russian and Turkish interests in Syria was destroyed in February, as Syrian troops (reportedly reinforced by Iran-backed militants) used Russian air cover to launch an all-out attack on Idlib to retake the last rebel-hel

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Russia Review | January 2020

Overview

  • A new economic and social deal for Russia
  • Hesitant forward movement on Ukraine
  • US Sanctions target NordStream2

 

Russia promised a new economic and social deal
 
President Putin’s annual address (January 15) to the joint houses of the Russian parliament got global attention, because of a few sentences that were seen as providing clues about post-Putin Russia. In fact, the bulk of his speech dealt with Russia’s economic, social and technology problems, the government’s handling of whic

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Franco-German pressure for Russia-Ukraine thaw

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s bold initiative to break the Russia-Ukraine logjam on the Minsk accords (see RR of September 2019) predictably continued to face opposition within Ukraine. Protestors, led by former President Poroshenko and former PM Tymoshenko, demanded that the Ukrainian government should press for the return of Crimea, prevent “federalization” of Ukraine, preserve its European and Euro-Atlantic integration and ensure that Ukrainian

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Russia-Turkey accord keeps Syrian political process alive


There were upheavals in the Syrian theatre, with President Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw US troops, Turkey’s military action to create a “safe zone” in northern Syria (see RR 1/19 & 5/19), consequent US sanctions on Turkey, lifting of the sanctions after Vice President Pence brokered a temporary ceasefire, and President Trump’s announcement that US troops will remain in northeast Syria, ostensibly to keep the oilfields from fall

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Overview

•      India unveils its Act Far East policy in Vladivostok

•      Ukraine: furore in the US, but progress at home 

•      News snippets: elections, Google/Facebook, France, Israel, Syria

 

The Indo-Pacific enters the India-Russia partnership

Prime Minister Modi combined his attendance at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok with the annual India-Russia summit meeting. The four main messages from the visit were a reaffirmation of the strategic partnership, assertion of

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Overview


•      Inching towards a Russia-West rapprochement

•      The Idlib headache in Syria continues

•      Russia sings the right tune on Article 370

 

Russia-West engagement intensifies

There is now a discernible change in the tempo and tenor of Russia’s engagement with the West. The tentative steps forward in relations with the US (Review, 6 &7/19) are being reinforced by a stronger thrust from Europe, led by France’s President Macron, who invited President Putin to France about a

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Presidents Trump and Putin re-engage

After meticulous preparation in May (see RR 5/19), Presidents Trump and Putin met on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Osaka on June 28.  The atmosphere was cordial, but both sides avoided the mistake of overdoing the effusiveness or disclosure of detail about the discussion, which contributed to the derailment of the progress promised at their Helsinki Summit in July 2018. President Trump said in his public remarks at the meeting that they had many things

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A US-Russia Summit in prospect again

The Trump Administration launched a fresh initiative to resume summit-level discussions with Russia on bilateral and international issues. The stage for this was set by the conclusions of the Mueller Report on Russian Interference in the US Presidential Elections in 2016 which, while confirming Russian disinformation and social media operations and hackings of the Democratic Party emails,  did not (according to the US Attorney General) find collusion of the T

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Uncertain impact of new Ukraine President 

Russian official reactions to the election of Volodymyr Zelenskyy as President of Ukraine were subdued. Russia’s MFA alleged various irregularities, including disenfranchisement of large numbers of southeast Ukrainian (Donbas) citizens, but acknowledged that the result was genuinely decisive. 

The President-elect’s campaign pronouncements did not hold out much hope of a resolution to the Russia-Ukraine impasse. He rejected the idea of a “special status”

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Fault line on Venezuela

Russian criticism of the US-led move to replace Venezuelan President Maduro crystallized into a veto of a US draft resolution at the UN Security Council (February 28), calling for restoration of democracy, fresh elections and recognition of self-proclaimed interim President Guaidó. The resolution got the requisite nine votes for, but the Russian (and Chinese) veto sank it. South Africa also voted against the resolution and three members abstained. Russia’s counter draft r

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Russia balances India and Pakistan

President Putin was among the first world leaders to send a condolence message to the Indian President and PM, condemning the terrorist attack of February 14 in Pulwama, asserting that “those who ordered it and carried it out” should be “duly punished”, and offering to further strengthen bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation. The Russian Foreign Ministry statement (February 15) went further, expressing confidence that the crime, “for which the Jaish-e-Mohamme

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About the Author

Ambassador PS Raghavan

Former Indian Ambassador to Russia

Born in 1955, Ambassador Raghavan holds a B.Sc. (Honours) degree in Physics and a B.E. in Electronics & Communications Engineering. He joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1979. From 1979 to 2000, he had diplomatic assignments in USSR, Poland, United Kingdom, Vietnam and South Africa, interspersed with assignments in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi. From 2000 to 2004, he was Joint Secretary in the Indian Prime Minister's Office dealing with Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Energy, Space, Defence and National Security. Thereafter, he was Ambassador of India to Czech Republic (2004 - 2007) and to Ireland (2007 - 2011).

He was Chief Coordinator of the BRICS Summit in New Delhi (March 2012) and Special Envoy of the Government of India to Sudan and South Sudan (2012-13). Ambassador Raghavan conceptualized and piloted the creation of the Development Partnership Administration (DPA) in MEA, which implements and monitors India’s economic partnership programs in developing countries, with an annual budget of $1-1.5 billion. He headed DPA in 2012-13. From March 2013 to January 2014, he oversaw the functioning of the Administration, Security, Information Technology and other related Divisions of MEA. Since October 2013, he was also Secretary [Economic Relations] in MEA, steering India’s bilateral and multilateral external economic engagement. Ambassador Raghavan retired from the Indian Foreign Service in January 2016, after serving from 2014 as Ambassador of India to Russia. Since September 2016, he is Convenor of the National Security Advisory Board of the Government of India.

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