The West’s handling of developments in Ukraine took some curious turns, following the US appointment of former diplomat Kurt Volker as special envoy to facilitate resolution of issues. Secretary of State Tillerson told the media that Russia had requested for appointment of such an envoy. This is strange, since over the past three years, Russia has repeatedly accused the US of sabotaging, rather than supporting, any potential compromise emerging through the Normandy process (involving Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine). French and German diplomats have also been saying this privately. It has been clear for a while that France and Germany are keen to find a way out of the stand-off with Russia over Ukraine, since it is affecting their business interests. The US has no such economic compulsions: its trade turnover with Russia of about $25 billion is less than a tenth of EU trade with Russia. 
 
Russia could not have been pleased by the choice of envoy – Ambassador Volker is a close associate of Senator McCain, who is perhaps the most trenchant critic of Russia in US politics. 
 
Secretary Tillerson asserted that the US envoy would work in coordination with the Europeans. However, after meeting an adviser to President Putin and the Ukrainian leadership, Ambassador Volker announced that the US Administration is considering supplying lethal arms to the Ukrainian government, if Moscow “does not withdraw its forces from Ukraine”. France and Germany have been against such supplies on the ground that this would heighten tensions. 
 
France and Germany were unhappy with the declaration of Ukrainian President Poroshenko, standing alongside Secretary Tillerson, that Ukraine and the US agreed that the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline should not be allowed to go ahead.
 
Independent of the US special envoy, the leaders of the Normandy Four had a telephone conversation and issued a bland joint statement on August 22, declaring a ceasefire timed with the beginning of the school year and pledging their “personal assistance to the further implementation” of the Minsk accords of February 2015 – whose full implementation is the condition for lifting of sanctions. 
 
Separately, the European Union announced fresh sanctions against three Russians (including a Deputy Energy Minister) and three Russian companies for their involvement in transferring gas turbines supplied to the Russian mainland by the German company Siemens to Crimea. The sanctions, involving asset freezes and visa bans, had more symbolic than economic impact, but they illustrated the strength within EU of forces against rapprochement with Russia. 

 

 

August 30, 2017

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About the Author

Ambassador PS Raghavan

Former Ambassador of India to Russia; Convener, National Security Advisory Board

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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