All Posts (135)

Franco-German engagement with Russia

Notwithstanding the fact that France was a party to the NATO, EU & G7 statements on the Kerch strait developments, President Macron went ahead with a bilateral meeting with President Putin on the margins of the G-20 summit. Equally significant was the fact that in his (public) opening remarks at that meeting, he first mentioned cooperation on Syria, before talking about the situation in Ukraine, which he linked to the implementation of the Minsk Agreements. He also said he would discuss…

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Remaining engaged in West Asia

Russia remained intensively engaged in the search for a political settlement in Syria. Its Foreign Ministry continued to denounce terrorists’ actions in Idlib to thwart Turkey’s efforts to fulfil its commitment to disengage them from “moderate” rebel forces and to establish a demilitarised zone (Review, 9/18). It was alleged that al-Nusra militants continued to fire on Syrian forces and populations on the outskirts of the province, including “chlorine-filled mortar rounds” at residential…

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President Trump’s announcement on October 20, that the US has decided to pull out of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Russia (as the successor state to the Soviet Union), had been expected for some time, but nevertheless provoked negative reactions from Russia (as also Europe, China and Japan). The US has insisted, with increasing intensity since 2014, that Russia’s deployment of a cruise missile (which the Russians call 9M729) violates the treaty. The Russians,…

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India-Russia summit in the shadow of CAATSA

President Putin came to India for the 19th annual India-Russia summit – his 15th – in what has become the usual backdrop to such summits: perceptions of drift in the relationship, of flagging defence cooperation and stagnant economic partnership, and of divergences in perspectives on key issues in India’s neighbourhood — Pakistan, Afghanistan and China — and on India’s strategic linkages with the US. However, the biggest question surrounding…

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Russia’s bilateral dialogue with European countries continued, with the President of Austria (which currently chairs the Council of EU) and the Prime Minister of Italy (currently OSCE chair) visiting Russia. The progressive strengthening of their bilateral economic engagements was noted. Austria supports the trans-Baltic sea Nordstream 2 pipeline; Russia was also pleased that Austria supported (as President Putin announced) extension of humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, including…

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Russia continued its effort to take forward its two main objectives in Syria: piloting the search for a political settlement through the UN-mandated Geneva process and securing international support for rehabilitation assistance to Syria, even while the political process continues. Moscow hosted the head of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC) of Syrian opposition groups to discuss approaches in the Constitutional Consultative Committee to be convened by the UN Special Envoy. The…

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The Russia-backed Syrian forces preparations for a decisive military campaign on the Syrian rebel stronghold of idlib provoked strong international protest. President Trump warned sternly against the campaign in a couple of tweets, saying it would be “reckless” and a grave humanitarian mistake costing hundreds of thousands of lives. US NSA Bolton conveyed the same message to his Russian counterpart, as did the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. The US warned of possible chemical…

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Chinese President Xi Jingping was the principal guest at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok. EEF is an annual, Davos-like, high-profile event, spearheaded by President Putin, intended to showcase economic opportunities in Russia’s Far East and to invite domestic and foreign investment to it. This year, the Presidents of China and Mongolia and the Prime Ministers of Japan and Korea joined President Putin for the event. Though Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, who has become a regular…

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On September 20, the US announced the first sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), which authorises the US Executive to impose sanctions on any entity involved in a “significant” defence transaction with Russia. The sanctions – on a Chinese entity and its management – were in response to the Chinese import of S-400 air defence systems and Su-35 fighter aircraft. The timing of the announcement and its stated justification merit attention. The Chinese…

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Breaking a drought of high-level US-Russia exchanges since the visit to Moscow of NSA Bolton in June, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry made a surprise visit to Moscow (September 13) and met the Russian Ministers of Finance and Energy. The principal objective of the visit was apparently to explore the possibility of Russian cooperation in keeping oil prices in check when the Iran sanctions kick in fully – on the eve of the mid-term US Congressional elections. A US press release said the two…

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The five Caspian Sea littorals – Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan – signed (August 12) a Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea, which has been under discussion over nearly three decades. It defines a special status for the waters, distinct from a sea (where the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea would apply) and a lake (giving all littorals equal share). The surface waters of the Caspian Sea would be open for common usage, but the seabed would be divided…

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In the face of continued harsh bipartisan criticism, in Congress and large sections of the US media, of the substance and outcome of President Trump’s July 16 summit with Russian President Putin, the Trump administration launched a major “corrective” exercise, impacting on the entire range of the US-Russia relationship.

In an unprecedented action, the entire national security team of the administration – Director of National Intelligence, National Security Advisor, FBI Director,…

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President Putin’s visit to Germany (August 17) came in the backdrop of worsening US-Russia relations (as described), President Trump’s public rebukes to Germany, and personally Chancellor Merkel, on German defence spending and the Russo-German Nord stream 2 gas pipeline project.

In the event, Chancellor Merkel was cautious in her public statements. She confirmed that Nord stream 2 would go ahead, but warned that gas transit through Ukraine should also continue (President Putin…

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High-level defence contacts between Russia and Pakistan included a visit to Moscow (August 9) by General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chairman of Pakistan’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the 1st session of Russia-Pakistan Military Consultative Committee on Defence and Security Issues (August 6-7) in Pakistan at the level of Deputy Defence Ministers.

General Hayat was hosted by the Valdai Club (which organizes President Putin’s annual interactions with domestic and foreign strategic analysts).…

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As with its initiatives in Syria, Russia’s efforts to take centre-stage in the Afghan political process were nipped in the bud. Early in August, the Russian MFA announced the convening of a second round of Afghanistan consultations in the “Moscow format” on September 4. The first round, held in April 2017, included Russia, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Iran, China and the five Central Asian Republics. The US was invited, but did not attend. The Taliban had also been invited and had declined.…

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As on other issues discussed in Helsinki, the seeming US-Russian convergences on some Syrian issues unravelled rapidly. Both the Presidents agreed that humanitarian assistance to Syria was important. President Putin talked about coordination between the small group (of the US, UK, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan) and the Astana process of Russia, Turkey and Iran; President Trump did not demur. However, in a detailed media briefing on August 17, the State Department poured cold water…

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At the same time, there is increasing disquiet in Russian defence circles at the recent lack of progress on defence cooperation with India. The threat of US CAATSA sanctions has introduced considerable uncertainty about even ongoing projects. Russian exporter Rosoboronexport claims an Indian order book of over $4 billion, but there have already been payment disruptions due to Indian banks’ fears of attracting US sanctions (even before a sanctions regime is in place!). Russian officials also…

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The Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki held on July 16 signalled a thaw in US-Russia relations, which have in recent years degenerated into acrimonious mutual recriminations, expanding economic sanctions and military confrontations (through proxies) across Europe and Asia. The two leaders projected cordiality and mutual respect in their joint press conference, though they were frank in expressing their differences.

Impressions about the summit have been dominated by the narrative in…

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Since the Helsinki summit was billed to discuss Syria, there was hectic diplomatic activity from both Israel and Iran prior to the summit. Israeli PM Netanyahu met President Putin in Russia and spoke on the telephone to President Trump. His concern was to rid Syria of Iranian presence, in return for which he was reported to have promised to accept continuation of the Assad government. Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign affairs adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, also visited Moscow to seek…

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PM Modi and President Putin met on the sidelines of the BRICS Summit in Johannesburg on July 26. President Putin is due to visit India for their annual Summit in October. Russia and India held a Joint Working Group meeting at Deputy Foreign Minister level on countering global terrorism. The official release of the meeting contained the usual formulations on cooperation in preventing terrorism, tackling its ideological mainsprings, choking off its financing, combatting the phenomenon of…

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About the Author

Ambassador PS Raghavan

Chairman, National Security Advisory Board & 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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