All Articles (99)

Russian MFA briefings conveyed increasingly positive accounts on the war against terrorism, as the Syrian forces, supported by Russian air strikes, reclaimed more territory from opposition groups, including ISIS. By the end of October, it was asserted that the Syrian Government had established control in Deir ez-Zor, on both banks of Euphrates, and that ISIS now controlled less than 5% of Syrian territory. The MFA spokesperson said the ceasefire continued to hold, by and large, in the…

 
The special investigation in the US into Russian election meddling took new turns, when the President’s former campaign manager faced money laundering charges and a former foreign policy adviser pleaded guilty to perjury over his contacts with Russians. US-Russia interactions on international issues, however, continued though on a low key.
 
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) expressed indignation over the occupation by US special…
As US Secretary of State Tillerson sought dialogue avenues with North Korea (under cover of the exchange of hostile rhetoric between the leaders), Russia offered a channel of communications. Following Russian-US consultations in Moscow at Deputy Foreign Minister level, and further Tillerson-Lavrov telephonic conversations, Russian and North Korean Deputy Ministers met in Moscow in end-September. The US State Department spokeswoman commented that the US would welcome it, if Russia could…
The BRICS Summit in Xiamen provided another opportunity for a bilateral meeting between PM Modi and President Putin within three months of their high-profile summit in St Petersburg. Official briefings on both sides projected it as a review of decisions taken at St Petersburg. One follow-up of the discussion was the visit to India in end-September of President Putin’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, for detailed discussions on…
The US media reported that investigations into Russian “meddling” in the US elections had widened to investigate efforts of Russian agents to use social media to sow social and political divisions in American society. Facebook and Twitter reportedly briefed Congressional investigators on this.
 
In early September, Russia was incensed by a US demand that it close down the Russian Consulate in San Francisco and trade missions in Washington and New York. Russia…

Russia was careful to avoid official comment on the India-China Doklam stand-off. When asked about the significance of the forthcoming India-Russia joint military exercises, Indra2017, in the context of India-China tensions, the MFA spokeswoman stated that this routine annual event reflects the “special and privileged strategic partnership” and should not be perceived “in the context of the current situation in India-China relations”. She said Russia was confident that, “as responsible…

Russia and the US traded accusations on their activities in Afghanistan. US generals reiterated their accusation that Russia was funding and arming the Taliban. Russia denied this and, in turn, accused US and NATO of condoning or facilitating the activities of “foreign fighters” (read ISIS), including those responsible for the recent attack on the Shi’a mosque in Herat. The MFA also alleged that the area under poppy cultivation had expanded rapidly this year, that export routes from…
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 intensified its diplomatic activity for a political settlement in Syria, in consultation with the US, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Israel – trying to expand ceasefire zones, even while balancing the conflicting interests of these parties. In early August, Russia announced the establishment of a third safe zone in areas north of Homs city. This is in pursuit of the plan drawn up in the tri-partite Astana process in May (see Review, May) for a total of four such safe zones, where…
The investigation into Russian “meddling” in the US elections receded somewhat from media headlines. US Secretary of State Tillerson and Russian FM Lavrov had a lengthy bilateral meeting in Manila (August 6). The read-outs of the meeting from the two sides were broadly consistent: discussions on Syria, North Korea and Ukraine. There were convergences on tactics in Syria (covered in a subsequent section). FM Lavrov complained that the US military posture escalated tensions in the Korean…

The reaction of some European countries to the US sanctions legislation was considerably sharper than that of Russia. As elaborated in the June Review, the Act would allow the US to sanction any company (including a foreign one) involved in the maintenance or development of Russia’s energy export pipelines. Increasing US LNG exports to Europe is explicitly stated as one of its objectives This would impact, not only on construction of the major Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to…

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia on July 4, en route to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, provided both countries the opportunity to showcase the range and depth of their strategic partnership, especially in the context of the uncertainties in their relationships with the United States.

Russia conferred its highest state award to President Xi, in recognition of his contribution to bilateral friendship. Russia-China trade continues to surge: $66 billion in 2016 and $32 billion…

The reaction of some European countries to the US sanctions legislation was considerably sharper than that of Russia. As elaborated in the June Review, the Act would allow the US to sanction any company (including a foreign one) involved in the maintenance or development of Russia’s energy export pipelines. Increasing US LNG exports to Europe is explicitly stated as one of its objectives This would impact, not only on construction of the major Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to…

Media focus in the United States moved from the Congressional hearings and Special Counsel investigations to new Russia-related controversies. These flowed from the Trump-Putin meeting on the side-lines of the G20 Summit, their one-to-one meeting at the official dinner, new revelations of a meeting of Trump Jr. with a Russian lawyer during the campaign and, finally, the Congressional legislation on sanctions against Russia (along with Iran and North Korea), which provoked a Russian…

Through the month, Russian MFA has been claiming “positive momentum” in the military and political situation in Syria, including successes in key battles in Aleppo, Homs, Hama, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. The main thrust of the Syrian Army, with Russian cover, is to link up with its besieged garrison of about 10,000 troops in Deir ez-Zor. Besides liberating this town, it would prevent the ISIS fleeing from Raqqa and Mosul from establishing a new base in Deir ez-Zor.

The veteran journalist…

The European Union announced on June 22 the extension of its financing and sectoral sanctions against Russia by six months, upto 31 January, 2018.These sanctions are directly linked to implementation of the Minsk agreements of 2015. Unlike the US sanctions, this did not arouse much reaction in Russia. As this Review has noted in earlier issues, the economic engagement between Europe and Russia has been deepening in recent months, with increase in trade and investment.

Major European…

 
Prime Minister Modi’s visit to St Petersburg for the annual India-Russia Summit was in the backdrop of a pervasive impression in India that the bilateral relationship was on a downward curve. 
Both leaders seemed to be consciously addressing this narrative. There was effusive cordiality –the Modi-trademark hug (though it was probably a first with President Putin), a hand-in-hand walk in a St Petersburg park and President Putin’s fulsome compliments to Mr…

US Secretary of State Tillerson called his Russian counterpart on June 10 to discuss how the Saudi-Qatar standoff could be defused. They also agreed that the meeting of Foreign Ministry officials to discuss irritants in bilateral relations – agreed on at Secretary Tillerson’s meeting with President Putin in April – would be held on June 23.

This progress was stalled by the US Treasury announcement on June 20 of new, expanded sanctions against Russia. Reacting angrily, the Russian…

President Putin attended the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in Beijing on May 14 & 15, at which he was accorded the treatment of a principal guest. He has expressed support for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since 2015 and has talked about cooperation between the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB – the land component of BRI) and the Eurasian Economic Union. For Russia, BRI presents both major challenges and attractive opportunities. The latter is exemplified by the acquisition of nearly 10%…

The fourth round of the “Astana Process” talks on Syria on May 3-4 ended with signing of a document by Russia, Turkey and Iran, envisaging the creation of four “de-escalation zones” in Syria, where no military activity (including aerial) would be allowed and conducive conditions for humanitarian access would be created.The four zones are the city of Idlib, north of the city of Homs, the eastern Damascus suburb of Al Ghouta and Deraa in southern Syria. In effect, it recognized the areas of…

About the Author

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.