Special Issue | Russia-Ukraine: where to now? | 31st May 2022
Posted on May 31, 2022
RUSSIA-UKRAINE: WHERE TO NOW?
Ukraine vs Russia becomes NATO vs Russia
In early-April, there was a dramatic shift in the US/NATO approach to the Russia-Ukraine war. US and European statements defined new, maximalist goals for its endgame.
President Biden’s remark in end-March that “Putin cannot remain in power” had been quickly ‘clarified’ by his aides as an off-the-cuff remark, but a few weeks later, Secretary of State Blinken made the considered assertion that “a sovereign
Special Issue | Russia Goes to War | 5th April 2022
Posted on April 5, 2022
RUSSIA GOES TO WAR
Russia leaps over the cliff
After four months of Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s borders, President Putin announced his decision to launch a “special military operation” into Ukraine, early in the morning on 24 February. This was preceded by an equally dramatic announcement on 21 February of Russia’s recognition of the two self-declared Donbas “republics” of Donetsk and Lugansk, followed by the signing of a treaty of friendship and cooperation with each of the
Special Issue | War Clouds Over Ukraine ? | 25th January 2022
Posted on January 25, 2022
WAR CLOUDS OVER UKRAINE ?
Sabre-rattling and verbal volleys
The decibel-level of the Russia-West standoff over Ukraine has been rising inexorably over recent weeks. Reports of the Russian military build-up near Ukraine’s borders quote ever-higher troop figures and more aggressive postures. Russia has been accused of political subversion in Ukraine, false flag operations as a pretext for invasion and cyberattacks on Ukrainian official websites. Russians have been equally vocal in al
Russia Review | November 2021
Posted on December 20, 2021
• India-Russia relations seek a revival
• Re-engaging on Afghanistan
• US & Russia spar and talk
India-Russia relations seek a revival
2020 and 2021 have seen a litany of commentaries on the health and relevance of the India-Russia relationship, prompted by the postponement of the annual summit in 2020, the India-China standoff in Ladakh, President Putin’s comments on a Russia-China quasi-alliance, Foreign Minister Lavrov’s intemperate comments about India’s Indo Pacific engagement
Russia Review | October 2021
Posted on November 23, 2021
• Russia shrugs off Nobel Peace Prize message
• US & Russia tone down rhetoric and rev up engagement
• Finding a modus vivendi on Ukraine
Russia shrugs off Nobel Peace Prize message
The award of the Nobel Peace Prize 2021 was awaited with expectant anticipation in various constituencies in the post-Soviet space. The responses to the announcement ranged from quiet relief in official circles to indifference and disappointment elsewhere.
The Russian recipient, Dmitry Muratov, who shared
Russia Review | September 2021
Posted on October 18, 2021
• Russia flexes oil and gas muscle
• Retaining the initiative on Afghanistan
• Parliamentary elections show public apathy
Russia flexes oil and gas muscle
About a couple of months ago, the Russian media bristled at President Biden’s comment that President Putin was in “real trouble”, because of an economy “that has nuclear weapons and oil wealth and nothing else”. As the summer wore on, Russia fortuitously found itself in a position where it could leverage its oil (and gas)
Russia Review | August 2021
Posted on September 16, 2021
• Afghanistan: Russian schadenfreude may be short-lived
• Can/Will the US engineer a Russia-China split?
• Russia and India re-engage on Afghanistan
Afghanistan: Russian schadenfreude may be short-lived
As the Taliban rolled into Kabul with unexpected ease, the first reactions in Russian media, academia and officialdom were of glee at the Americans’ discomfiture. The social media gloated that the fate of the government in Afghanistan also awaited that in Ukraine, since the US was in
Russia Review | July 2021
Posted on August 14, 2021
• Russia’s National Security Strategy looks inward
• India & Russia rediscover convergences
• As India disavows non-alignment, Russia embraces it
• Putin bats for Sputnik
Russia’s National Security Strategy looks inward
On July 2, the Russian president signed off on the country’s new National Security Strategy (NSS), succeeding NSS 2015. NSS 2021 has apparently been under discussion in the Russian Security Council (which President Putin chairs) since mid-2020. Presumably, Covid 19
Russia Review | June 2021
Posted on July 15, 2021
• Biden and Putin explore “rules of the road”
• Proof of the pudding: Afghanistan, Iran, Syria
• Russia and China transcend alliance
• Putin skates around the Quad
Biden and Putin explore “rules of the road”
The June 16 Biden-Putin meeting in Geneva – awaited with anticipation in Russia, unease in Europe and scepticism in the US – generated just a sliver of hope for some abatement in the acrimony that has dominated US-Russia relations over the past decade.
Russia Review | May 2021
Posted on June 9, 2021
• US & Russia move gingerly towards a summit
• The US yields on NordStream2
• Ukraine feels let down by the US & NATO
• Lukashenka challenges Europe by “hijacking” an aircraft
US & Russia move gingerly towards a summit
With the US Intelligence Community confirming Russia’s interference in the Presidential elections of 2020 and its involvement in the “Solar Winds” cyber hacking, and the inevitable US sanctions that followed, US-Russia relations looked like continuing on the turbu
Russia Review | April 2021
Posted on May 17, 2021
• Russia & US talk and spar
• Ukraine crisis erupts; a lid is put on it
• A band-aid for India-Russia relations
Russia & US talk and spar
The US intelligence community had determined that Russia had interfered in the 2020 Presidential elections and that Russian intelligence was behind the Solar Winds cyber hacking. Tensions in eastern Ukraine were escalating. Just when it seemed the US-Russia hostility would move up a notch, President Biden telephoned his Russian counterpart on April
Russia Review | March 2021
Posted on April 5, 2021
• The “killer” exchange
• “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” – but in Moscow, Doha, Istanbul & New York
• Russia and China define democracy, human rights and the international order
• Global arms transfers: US rising, Russia falling
The “killer” exchange
By accident, coincidence or design (or a combination of them), US-Russia relations are administered a jolt whenever they show the slightest signs of a thaw. This time, the jolt came from a March 15 decision of the US Director of Nation
Russia Review | February 2021
Posted on March 16, 2021
• Which is the bigger threat: Russia or China?
• Navalny: in Europe we trust
• Nordstream 2: in or out?
• Eastern Ukraine: on a snakes-and-ladders board
• Sputnik V finally takes off (almost)
Which is the bigger threat: Russia or China?
Pronouncements on the foreign policy and national security priorities of the Biden Administration provided some clues on unfolding US policies towards Russia and China, in Europe, on Ukraine and with respect to Syria and Afghanistan.
Russia Review | January 2021
Posted on February 27, 2021
• Russia-and the Biden Administration
• The legacy of Obama & Trump
• Initial signals and contacts
• US Coordination with allies on Russia
• Biden Administration and China: first steps
• Lavrov clarifies his remarks on the Indo-Pacific
Russia-and the Biden Administration
Over the past few months, this Review has recorded Russia’s expectations and apprehensions about the course of Russia-US relations under the Biden Administration. The return to office of officials who had occupi
Russia Review | December 2020
Posted on January 12, 2021
• Reflections on post 2020 India-Russia relations
• FM Lavrov’s Indo-Pacific comments
• The impact of Russia-China relations
• The Indo-Pacific dimension
• The US-China-Russia triangle
• India’s “strategic choice”
• Obsolete templates need discarding
• The summit
• The Outlook
Reflections on post 2020 India-Russia relations
The narrative of dilution and drift in India-Russia relations has been prevalent in Indian political, official, business and media circles over a few year:
Russia Review | November 2020
Posted on December 3, 2020
• Russia’s subdued expectations of a Biden Administration
• A fragile Russia-brokered peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
• Another layer of complexity in Russia-Turkey relations
• Russian Navy eyes the Indian Ocean
Russia awaits Biden without illusions
Vladimir Putin is one among very few world leaders not to have congratulated US President-elect Joe Biden. Asked about this, Foreign Minister Lavrov gave the legalistic response that congratulatory messages are usually sent after official
Russia Review | October 2020
Posted on November 5, 2020
• The world according to Putin
• The world order and its institutions
• The malaise in international organizations
• Constructive multilateralism
• Arms control
• Relations with Germany
• Russia-China relations
• US elections
• India-Russia relations
The world according to Putin
It is universally believed that President Putin has unchallenged control over Russia’s foreign, defence and security policies. He makes frequent public pronouncements on these issues, announcing,
Russia Review | September 2020
Posted on October 13, 2020
• 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
Russia Review | August 2020
Posted on September 7, 2020
• 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
Russia Review | July 2020
Posted on August 6, 2020
• 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
Russia Review | June 2020
Posted on July 7, 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 invite
Russia Review | May 2020
Posted on June 12, 2020
• 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
Russia Review | April 2020
Posted on May 6, 2020
• 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
Russia Review | March 2020
Posted on April 2, 2020
- 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,
Russia Review | February 2020
Posted on March 7, 2020
|Russia-Turkey “marriage of convenience” on the rocksRussia endorses US-Taliban dealSnippets: 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
Russia Review | January 2020
Posted on February 4, 2020
- 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 which
Russia Review by Ambassador P S Raghavan | November 2019
Posted on November 30, 2019
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
Russia Review by Ambassador P S Raghavan | October 2019
Posted on November 14, 2019
|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
Russia Review by Ambassador P S Raghavan | September 2019
Posted on October 17, 2019
• 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
Russia Review by Ambassador P S Raghavan | August 2019
Posted on September 13, 2019
• 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|
Russia Review by Ambassador P S Raghavan | June & July 2019
Posted on July 30, 2019
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
Russia Review by Ambassador P S Raghavan | May 2019
Posted on May 30, 2019
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
Russia Review by Ambassador P S Raghavan | April 2019
Posted on April 30, 2019
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”
Russia Review by Ambassador P S Raghavan | March 2019
Posted on March 30, 2019
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
Russia Review by Ambassador P S Raghavan | February 2019
Posted on February 27, 2019
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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