All Posts (128)

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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…
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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…

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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…

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The American “deep state” continued a vigorous pushback against President Trump’s declared intention to re-set relations with Russia. Regular leaks of classified information by administration and intelligence officials sustained media reports of Russian “meddling” in US elections, revealed fired FBI chief James Comey’s internal memos and exposed contacts of senior Trump campaign officials with Russia.The administration struggled to counter this nexus of political, intelligence and media…
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Following on the visit of the EU High Representative to Moscow (April 24; see Review, April 2017), there were major Russian interactions with Germany (May 2), Italy (May 17) and France (May 29) during the month. The emphasis in all these exchanges was on political and economic re-engagement.

Though Western economic sanctions and financing restrictions on Russia remain in place, all three countries noted significant increase in bilateral trade and investment. Russia’s bilateral trade…

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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…

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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%…
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The US missile strike in Syria drastically disrupted the Russian game plan in Syria, including the fragile ceasefire brokered with Turkey and Iran and the “Astana process” of intra-Syrian dialogue. These developments had been helped by Trump campaign assertions, which instilled circumspection in various rebel groups and their sponsors. The about-turn from campaign positions released the groups from their caution. Turkey welcomed the US strike; President Erdogan got a further boost from a…
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Moscow (April 27), barely four months after President Putin’s visit to Japan in December 2016, underlined the continued momentum in Russia-Japan relations. The two leaders noted significant events since their last meeting, including the strategic dialogue, the “2+2” Defence and Foreign Ministers’ meeting and the inter-governmental commission implementing priority projects of economic cooperation (see Review, December 2016). Japanese companies…
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The US Air Force strikes (59 Tomahawk missiles) on Syria’s Al-Shayrat airbase in Homs province on April 7 diverted US-Russia relations into a rockier course than even in the last months of the Obama Administration. The strikes were in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in a Syrian government airstrike (April 4) in Idlib province, which was apparently launched from Al-Shayrat base. 
 
President Putin’s spokesman immediately termed it as a…
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As described in our March review, US Secretary of State Tillerson “re-set” the Trump line on Ukraine at the NATO Foreign Ministers’ meeting on March 31, by supporting NATO sanctions and demanding Russian withdrawal from Crimea. However, the United States also moved to signal to Ukraine that this should not be seen as an opening to slacken on implementation of the Minsk Agreements. The US Ambassador to Ukraine warned Ukraine bluntly (April 6, in a speech on US policy towards Ukraine) that…
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An international conference on Afghanistan hosted by Russia on April 14 was attended by representatives of India, Afghanistan, Central Asian Republics, Iran, Pakistan and China. The United States was conspicuous by its absence. 
 
The conference expressed support for the Afghan government’s peace and reconciliation efforts. It appealed to the Taliban to abandon force and to contribute to national reconciliation through direct dialogue with the government. As…
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As part of an intensifying engagement of European Union with Russia over the past few months, the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini visited Moscow on April 24. At her meeting and joint press conference with Russian FM Lavrov, both acknowledged continuing differences over Ukraine, Crimea and the chemical attacks in Syria, but emphasized a growing canvas of cooperation, including the recently re-commenced counter-terrorism dialogue, cooperation in the Arctic and interactions in…

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Russia – and, personally, President Putin – remains involved in an intricate exercise to reconcile the multiple conflicting interests in the tortuous path to an endgame in Syria.


The US-Russia-Turkey Generals’ meeting mentioned above illustrated some convergence of US-Russian perspectives on Syria, but major US-Turkey and Russia-Turkey divergences may be opening up. This was illustrated by the tense standoff outside the northern Aleppo town of Manbij, which had been occupied by…

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An extraordinary drama played out in the US Congressional hearings, accompanied by some sensational media reporting, about alleged Russian “meddling” in the US Presidential elections, “inappropriate” dealings of senior Trump campaign staff with Russian diplomats in Washington and “manipulation” of American public opinion by Russian media. The hearings were dominated by simplistic analyses and partisan posturing.

The drama looks set to continue, with former NSA Flynn, former Trump…

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There has been a flurry of India-Russia bilateral activity, in preparation for the Annual Summit, scheduled for early June, in the setting of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum.


Foreign Secretary Jaishankar had bilateral consultations in Moscow on political and strategic issues, as well as cooperation in BRICS. His meetings with two Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers and with President Putin’s top foreign policy advisor Ushakov were reported to have cleared the air on…

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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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