All Posts (132)

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 to discuss, including “trade,…

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Russia’s engagement with Europe ranged from President Putin’s meeting with a grim-faced UK PM Theresa May to a cordial visit to Italy (which included a conversation with the Pope) and the now usual exchanges with the French and German heads of government. 

President Putin’s handshake with a frosty-faced UK PM (on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Osaka) went viral on the wires. According to Downing Street, she told him that UK-Russia relations could not be normal until Russia…

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President Putin participated in his annual Direct Line show, carried live on Russian TV, radio and digital outlets, in which he answers questions and fields complaints from the Russian public, through phone-ins, video calls, online texts and a studio audience. It is a major public relations exercise, with correspondents fanning out across the vast country, weeks in advance, to collect participants and questions for the show. It is said that President Putin prepares meticulously for the show,…

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As in earlier months, Russia continued to keep the increasingly fragile Astana partnership alive, seeking to nudge its partners to finalize the constitutional committee to work for a political settlement and to restore Syrian control over the Idlib governorate. Mobilizing international participation in rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Syria and keeping Israel-Iran tensions from spilling over into Syria were other Russian pursuits.

The situation in the Idlib…

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President Putin was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Prime Minister Modi on his re-election, sending a message and making a phone call on May 23, well before the final results were announced. His message paid the usual tributes to the friendship of the two peoples and the strength of the bilateral strategic partnership. 

On the same day, the spokesperson of the Russian MFA spoke at length on the recent intensification of Russia’s contacts with Pakistan,…

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Russia continued efforts to sustain the increasingly fragile Astana partnership from the divergent perspectives of Turkey, Iran and Syria, further complicated by American actions and Israeli interests. 

The last major rebel hold-out of the Idlib governorate in Syria remained a thorn in the flesh of the Syrian government (and the Russians), with the al-Qaeda linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) continuing to launch missile attacks on surrounding Syrian areas, including the Russian…

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The advent of a new Ukrainian President revived European efforts to re-engage with the “Minsk process”. President Macron and Chancellor Merkel had a telephonic discussion with President Putin, who (according to the Kremlin, and consistent with Russia’s constant refrain) emphasised the need to prioritise extending special status to the Donbas region, granting amnesty to the “freedom-fighters” and withdrawing forces and heavy weaponry to agreed positions. The French and German Foreign…

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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 Trump Campaign with the…

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On April 12, President Putin issued a Presidential order, conferring the “Order of St. Andrew” to PM Modi for "outstanding services in the development of the special privileged partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of India and friendly relations between the people of Russia and India". The Order is Russia’s highest state award, established before the 1917 revolution and restored in 1998.

Thanking President Putin and the people of Russia, PM Modi said the…

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West Asian engagement

The liberation of Baghouz from ISIS did not catalyse a Syrian political settlement; it has, in fact, introduced new complications, as was illustrated by the Astana group meeting in Nursultan on April 25-26. The meeting was attended by, in addition to representatives from Russia, Iran and Turkey, UN Special Envoy Pedersen and delegations from the Syrian government and opposition. The US, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon were added as observers of the Astana Process. Russia pushed to finalize the…

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The Russia-orchestrated “intra-Afghan” dialogue in Doha, April 19-21, did not take place, owing to disagreement over the size and composition of the delegation nominated by the Afghan government. The dialogue was a follow-up of that organized by Afghan community representatives in Moscow in February, which adopted a nine-point agenda for Afghan reconciliation (see Review, 2/19). This time, Afghan government representatives were invited “in their personal capacities”, as agreed with the…

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As in the first Belt & Road Forum (BRF) in 2017, President Putin was a Guest of Honour at the second BRF in Beijing (April 25-27). He paid the customary tributes to the vision of President Xi Jinping and reaffirmed his line that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) rhymes with Russia’s concept of a Greater Eurasian Partnership. In reality, Russia has not seen a harmonization of the two concepts. In 2017, he had suggested linking of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) with the Eurasian…

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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” for Donbas and of an…

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Nordstream2 issues continue

US pressure on Germany and the EU to scrap the Russia-Germany Nordstream2 (NS2) gas pipeline project has been covered at length in earlier Reviews (see, in particular, Review 2/19). The pressure continued, with the US Energy Secretary telling the media that the US is considering imposition of sanctions on all companies associated with the project. 

Meanwhile, Denmark – the only country still to grant permission for the project (Russia, Finland, Sweden and Germany have done…

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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 resolution, calling…

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Walking a tightrope on Syria

The last ISIS bastion of Baghouz fell to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, but a Syrian political settlement still appeared distant. Russia remained at the centre of efforts to draw together the multiple strands of the Syrian political process, papering over widening cracks between the Astana process partners and keeping the Syrian government on board in the exercise of finalizing the Syrian Constitutional Committee.   

The effort to clear Idlib of extremists…

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Reacting to India’s anti-satellite weapon test (March 27), Russia’s MFA noted India’s declarations that it was not directed against any country and that India remains opposed to weaponization and arms race in outer space.

It then goes on to say that “in many respects”, this Indian action was the result of the “substantially degraded situation” in arms control that has resulted from destructive actions of the US, weakening the architecture of international strategic stability by…

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Consultations on Afghanistan

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Khalilzad met his Russian, Chinese and EU counterparts on March 21—22. They issued two separate statements, one US-Russia-China and the other US-EU, though they were all at the same meeting. The former statement underscores “respect for the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity” of Afghanistan and its right to make its own political, security, and economic decisions. The three agreed to seek “common efforts and…

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Stumbling along on Syria

As US withdrawal plans from Syria remained unclear (and changing), Russia sought to maintain some commonality of purpose among the Astana trio of Russia, Turkey and Iran on the way forward. A summit meeting of the three in Sochi (February 14) resulted in a joint statement, but also revealed their divergent perspectives – the Kremlin website, which normally carries statements and media responses of all leaders interacting with President Putin, carried only President Putin’s statement and…

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India-Russia defence cooperation

The biennial Aero India show in Bengaluru had its traditional large Russian participation and provided the occasion for expansive claims of defence cooperation prospects. Russian products being showcased included fighter and military transport aircraft, multirole helicopters, air defence and radar systems. Russian Industry Minister Manturov was reported to have presented to Raksha Mantri Sitharaman the unique features of the MiG-35 fighter jet, including competitive life cycle cost and “a…

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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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