All Posts (119)

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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At an international conference in Vietnam (February 25), FM Lavrov took aim at the concept of the Indo-Pacific, calling it an artificially imposed construct promoted by the US, Japan and Australia to contain China and “to get India involved in military-political and naval processes”. He said Russia was comfortable with the Asia-Pacific concept. When questioned by a participant why, in a multipolar world, the objective of balancing China should be considered artificial, he said a more natural…

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Russia balances India and Pakistan

President Putin was among the first world leaders to send a condolence message to the Indian President and PM, condemning the terrorist attack of February 14 in Pulwama, asserting that “those who ordered it and carried it out” should be “duly punished”, and offering to further strengthen bilateral counter-terrorism cooperation. The Russian Foreign Ministry statement (February 15) went further, expressing confidence that the crime, “for which the Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group has claimed…

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US launches an onslaught on Nordstream2

While the US leadership, from President Trump downwards, has been strongly critical of the Russian-German gas pipeline project, Nordstream2 (NS2) (see earlier Reviews), the US moved multiple levers in February to block it. Strong pressure was apparently brought to bear on the European Commission through various EU countries, urging it to apply its intra-EU energy rules to the project. EU rules require pipelines operating in the intra-European market to unbundle transportation from…

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Russia hosted a two-day conference in Moscow of senior Afghan political figures and Taliban representatives (see Review, 1/19). Though projected as a non-governmental meeting called by the Afghan diaspora in Russia and Central Europe, there was no doubt about Russian government backing for it – the final document showed diplomatic drafting expertise and Russian Presidential envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, was close at hand to claim credit and to declare that the meeting had shown that…

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Russia stirs Afghanistan Pot

Russia’s Presidential Envoy on Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov met the Pakistani Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretary on January 29 to discuss the Afghan peace process. The Pakistani FM proudly told him (as per a Pakistani press release) that Pakistan is facilitating the ongoing talks between the US and the Taliban, which he hoped will lead to an intra-Afghan dialogue for peace. Kabulov, in turn, is reported to have appreciated Pakistan’s role as a facilitator in the Afghan peace…

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Russia-Belarus squabble

Recent months have seen a progressive public airing of differences between Russia and Belarus, including at the level of their Presidents. Sovereignty and economic benefit have been the bones of contention. 

The sovereignty theme surfaced shortly after President Trump announced US’ intention to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. A Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said Russia and Belarus had the military-technical capacity to counter an American…

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Syrian Challenges

As the ramifications of President Trump’s announcement of US troop withdrawal from Syria unfolded, Russian efforts were focussed on protecting the framework it had painstakingly built to further its interests in and around Syria. At its core was the Astana process, balancing the divergent interests of Russia, Iran and Turkey, while keeping the Syrian government’s interests adequately protected. It also included the combination of political, economic and military levers with Saudi Arabia,…

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In December 2018, the US (following up on President Trump’s decision in October) announced suspension of its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 60 days, unless Russia returns to “full and verifiable compliance.” 

Russia-US discussions in Geneva (January 15) to salvage the treaty were unsuccessful, with each side claiming compliance with the treaty and alleging violations by the other. Russia said it had offered to the US an inspection of…

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As in the case of Syria, Russia’s MFA cautiously welcomed the US announcement of withdrawal of half its military contingent from Afghanistan, calling it a move in the right direction, but adding the caveat that its implementation in practice remains to be seen. However, Russia was less amused by the USs closed-door bilateral consultations on Afghanistan with the Taliban and selected countries, from which Russia was obviously excluded. Welcoming “in principle” talks of US Special…

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The India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC) at the level of Defence Ministers discussed various ongoing projects of defence cooperation, including joint manufacturing of AK-103 Assault Rifles and the joint venture for manufacture of Ka-226T helicopters.

There were two new elements. One was an agreement to conclude a bilateral logistics supply agreement that would allow their military forces to share each other’s facilities for…

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The Russian detention of Ukrainian naval vessels and sailors from the Black Sea, when they were allegedly illegally trying to cross the Kerch straits (Review, 11/18), continued to dominate interactions with Europe. Russia resisted strong European pressure to release the vessels and soldiers, insisting that an investigation is underway to establish whether the Ukrainian vessels had deliberately violated the terms of the Russia-Ukraine agreement on the passage through the Kerch straits (as the…

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Though the scheduled Putin-Trump meeting in Buenos Aires (on the margins of the G20 Summit in end-November) was called off after the Kerch Strait incident (Review, 11/18), Russia continued to express the hope that high-level bilateral engagement would recommence. While the US State Department and the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs traded critical comments, the two leaders did not. President Putin continued to be uniformly complimentary about President Trump. In his media conference in…

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The Astana process on Syria achieved a notable success on December 18, when representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran handed over to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, a final agreed list of Syrian civil society representatives for the “Syrian Constitutional Committee”, which would draw up a new Syrian constitution, under which elections would be held. The list of government and opposition representatives (50 each) had largely been finalized earlier, but many names on the…

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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.

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