Russia – China: Cheap Gas, Slow Trains (Eurasianet, USA)

The American edition (EurasiaNet) offers its views on the key events and comments on the relationship between Russia and China in a monthly digest. What did Lavrov talk about in China? How Russia and China operate in Central Asia? What will be the new large investment project of the Chinese in the Far East? Why it was not possible to create a Russian-Chinese analogue of Amazon?

Lavrov’s benefit in China

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov became the first high-ranking Russian official to visit China since the start of the pandemic. He extended the good-neighborliness agreement between the two countries for 5 years. Also, he said that Russia and China are promoting a unifying agenda on the world stage, directly opposing both states to the United States.

Relations with the United States were generally one of the main topics of negotiations on the first day of Lavrov’s visit, Kommersant reports. The parties even signed a joint statement in which they called on to abandon the politicization of the topic of human rights protection (for their infringement, the US authorities regularly criticize the Russian Federation and the PRC), recalled that “there is no single standard of a democratic model,” and the rights of sovereign states to independently determine their own way of development.

The meeting was discussed not only in the Chinese and Russian media. British The Times noted that Russia is seeking an alliance with China in the hope of bypassing US sanctions. But this alliance is unlikely to be complete: China will still look down on Russia, says the German Handelsblatt.

Together Against the Dollar

Lavrov also said that Russia and China will do everything to secure their financial and trade relations from threats from unfriendly countries. It was about the need to move away from the use of international payment systems controlled by the West. Including for the sake of this, Russia and China are switching to settlements in national currencies, the minister added.

As of the end of the first quarter of 2020, the share of the American currency in mutual settlements between Russia and China during the previous 5 years decreased from 90 to 46 percent. But they still fail to achieve monetary independence. First, the share lost by the dollar went mainly to the euro, not the yuan or the ruble. Secondly, as explained by the associate professor of the Department of Mathematical Methods in Economics, PRUE. G.V. Plekhanova Nikita Moiseev, the cross-rates of the national currencies of the PRC and the Russian Federation are still formed through the dollar. Therefore, the fall of the ruble against the dollar due to Western sanctions directly affects the cross-rate of the ruble against the Chinese yuan.

Influence in Central Asia will have to yield?

At the same time, not everything is so amicable in relations between the Russian Federation and the PRC. There are also serious contradictions. The interests of both countries collide in Central Asia. In this region Russia can no longer compete for influence with a stronger economy, said Alexander Gabuev, head of the Russia in Asia-Pacific program at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

According to him, this is especially true in the military sphere. If earlier there was an unspoken division of labor between the countries: Beijing is engaged in the economy, and Moscow is engaged in military issues. Now the Chinese “are developing more and more military instruments in the region”, and even without coordination with Russia they opened a border base in Tajikistan. Chinese leaders have repeatedly stated that this region adjacent to the country’s western borders is of “extremely great strategic value from a geopolitical point of view for the PRC.” The growing tension with the United States can only increase Beijing’s interest.

“China will not stop at economic dominance. It is interested in full-scale influence and transformation of the region into an exclusive sphere of its interests. Russia will be assigned the role of a junior partner,” says the expert at the Carnegie Center.

Trains go, Deripaska urges

The rapid recovery of the Chinese economy after the blow of the pandemic, combined with the increase in the delivery time by sea and the rise in prices, made the transportation of goods to Europe by rail through Russia and Asia more attractive for the Celestial Empire. In the first two months of 2021, more than two thousand freight trains traveled this route. This is twice as much as in January-February a year earlier, the FT reported. Since 2016, the indicator has grown sevenfold.

Despite the growing popularity of rail transport, it still accounts for only a small fraction of China’s total exports. The port of Yangshan alone in January loaded about 2 million containers against 209 thousand sent by rail in the first two months of 2021.

The quality of Russian railways does not allow for fast and reliable transportation. Including on the Europe-Asia route. Oleg Deripaska noted that in his Telegram channel. “In Russia, the average speed of a freight train is now 16 km / h,” he laments. “We won’t get very far this way.”

He also noted that, unlike China, Russia does not have a clear plan for the development of the transport industry. “If you deal with Asian transit and achieve at least 50 km / h for cargo, carry out real digitalization of customs services and, as a result, get the delivery of goods in 9 days from Asia to Europe, you can earn billions. That will be a source for deep modernization of Russian Railways. But you have to think and invest, ”Deripaska summed up.

How German Gref did not agree with Jack Ma

Details of the failed partnership between the Chinese trading giant Alibaba and the Russian Sberbank have become known. The story began in 2016, when the retailer began to develop business localization projects and chose Russia as a pilot region. The management of the Chinese company decided that from the point of view of GR-risk it would be difficult for it to develop in Russia without a local partner. “Jack Ma said that he could not imagine that the Russian government would be comfortable with the fact that the largest online retailer is a foreign company, especially a Chinese one,” sources told Forbes.

As a result, Sberbank and Alibaba did not become partners in the e-commerce market. They understood the essence of partnership in different ways. Sberbank wanted to create a company on the basis of a joint venture that would trade outside of Russia. Alibaba had a different goal – to localize in Russia. She achieved it later. In 2019, the Chinese created the AliExpress Russia company together with Mail.ru Group, Megafon and RDIF. But Sber’s dream – to become a “Russian Amazon” – has not yet come true.

New investment project of the Chinese in Russia

China Jingan Iron and Steel Company intends to build the first large metallurgical coke plant in the Russian Far East in Yakutia. Chinese investors plan to produce up to 4 million tons of metallurgical coke a year from local coal. It is expected that 5 billion yuan (about $ 763 million) will be invested in the project. Other parameters of the deal were not disclosed. In addition to metallurgical coke, the enterprise will produce naphthalene, benzene, and ammonium sulfate.


This is how Russia – China relationship is seen from USA.

The secrets of the newest Il-114-300

Its construction uses modern composite materials, so it is much lighter and more economical, including new powerful Russian engines

On April 7, at the aircraft plant in Lukhovitsy near Moscow, the second prototype of the Il-114-300 was presented. This new turboprop aircraft is an upgraded version of the Il-114 and is intended for regional transportation. Its construction uses modern composite materials, so it is much lighter and more economical, including new powerful Russian engines.

IL-114-300 is already called an air minibus. It is modern, safe, but also unpretentious in maintenance at any airfield, even if there is a difficult short runway. Hundreds of regional airfields need the Il-114-300, which will replace the obsolete An-24 and An-26 aircraft. The main task is to connect remote settlements with regional centers.

“The main thing for regional aerodromes is that this aircraft has a minimum clearance. Here you can get to everything without special airfield equipment. The plane also has its own built-in ladder, through which all 68 people can climb. The Il-114-300 can carry up to 7 tons at a time, “Zvezda’s correspondent Alexei Koshkin said.

Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Yuri Borisov, together with the leadership of the United Aircraft Corporation, boarded a prototype aircraft and talked to test pilots right in the cockpit, where all the instruments are located on five modern LCD monitors. 

“For 30 years we have not made such aircraft. The market is waiting for something, ”Borisov said.

The Deputy Prime Minister also examined the production facilities of the enterprise and the IL-114-300 final assembly shop. There he was also presented with a second prototype aircraft, the assembly of which is proceeding according to the approved deadlines. This model has an updated airframe. It is being assembled using serial technologies, just as all the planes that will go to carry passengers and goods in the regions will be built.

Mass production expected to start in 2023

“We expect that from 2023 the aircraft will enter the series. The production capacity of this workshop is designed for at least 12 aircraft per year. The aircraft has chances in terms of export potential. It can be useful both in India and Iran, ”the Deputy Prime Minister said.

This new turboprop aircraft will withstand temperatures ranging from +45 to -55 degrees. According to the chief designer, the Il-114-300 is also super-safe.

“It has a modern flight and navigation complex for flights in adverse weather conditions, it has modern digital control engines. There is a new air conditioning system on it, ”said Sergei Ganin, chief designer of Il PJSC.

The new aircraft is being created from domestic components. Most of the equipment systems were developed by Rostec enterprises.

“Any employee can come up here, look at a 3D model in order to control or get some initial data for performing work on the plane,” said Alexander Fokin, head of the final assembly shop.

The first prototype Il-114-300 took off for the first time on December 16, 2020 at the airfield in Zhukovsky. The flight task included checking the operating modes of the power plant, the stability and controllability of the aircraft, as well as the functioning of its systems. Flight tests are still ongoing. Two more aircraft will join the test program. During the assembly of this aircraft, the cooperation of various enterprises of the United Aviation Corporation is being worked out.

Russia & Pakistan agree to build gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore

Russia has signed a deal with Pakistan to build a major gas pipeline linking the nation’s southern port of Karachi to industrial hubs in the north. The deal is set to be the biggest between Moscow and Islamabad since the 1970s.

Russia’s Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov and the Pakistani Ambassador, Shafqat Ali Khan, signed a revised agreement on the project in Moscow on Friday, opening the way for the start of construction in the near future.

Spanning more than 1,100 kilometers, the pipeline dubbed the ‘Pakistan Stream’ is expected to have a discharge capacity of up to 12.3 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year, according to the Energy Ministry’s statement.

The pipeline would connect liquefied natural gas terminals in Karachi and another port city, Gwadar, with power plants and industrial hubs in Pakistan’s northern region of Punjab, which includes the city of Lahore.

Both nations “put a major effort” in preparing the amendments to the deal. The signing of the agreement would allow them to begin construction “as soon as possible.” The deal would “help Pakistan strengthen its energy security and increase its reliance on natural gas as an eco-friendly energy source.” 

Last year, a Pakistan official told Bloomberg that the construction could start as early as June. However, officials in Russia have not confirmed this information yet. The project, which has an estimated cost of $2.25 billion according to the Pakistani media, would involve the establishment of a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) company operated jointly by Pakistan’s Inter State Gas Systems and several Russian firms, including the TMK – a company that is one of the world’s leading steel pipe suppliers for the oil and gas industry, doing business in Russia, the US and Canada, among other nations.

Under the agreement, Pakistan would reportedly own 74% of the stakes in the pipeline operator while Russia would have the remaining 26%. The initial agreement on the pipeline construction was signed back in 2015 but it was then reviewed.

The project is set to become the biggest infrastructure deal between Pakistan and Russia since at least the early 1970s, when the Soviet Union built the Pakistan Steel Mills industrial complex at Port Qasim, near Karachi.

“The Pakistan Stream remains a flagship project in bilateral cooperation between Russia and Pakistan and both nations give priority to this issue,” Shulginov said.

Oil tankers park in a terminal at a port in the Pakistani city of Karachi

Kind nuclear neighbor: What is known about the new project of Putin and Xi Jinping

Об этом сообщает “Рамблер”

By Elena Proshina

Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will open a new joint nuclear project between Russia and China on May 19, TASS reports with reference to the Chinese Foreign Ministry . Details of the project are classified. The Chinese Foreign Ministry only announced that the leaders will participate in the presentation via video link. They did not specify what kind of object they were talking about.

Previously, Russia and China collaborated on the construction of four power units at the Tianwan NPP and the CEFR Demonstration Fast Nuclear Reactor. What do they say about the project in Beijing? Konstantin Shchepin, a Russian journalist in China:

“Judging by the open information, we already have a lot of projects in the nuclear power industry. This is the famous Tianwan NPP, which is being built in the Jiangsu province and where more and more power units are being built based on our VVER-1200 reactors. These are uranium enrichment plants in Gansu province. It is said that Beijing and Moscow have long been carrying out a project of a new generation of fast breeder reactors somewhere near Beijing. But there is very little information about this in the official media.

Perhaps this experimental reactor will be officially put into operation. These are my guesses. In Beijing, nothing has been written about this yet, it was the message that went through, everyone was surprised, everyone was inspired, everyone froze in anticipation and opened their eyes – what would it be. But so far the people are perplexed. Maybe this will also start a new project: China and Russia have already quite a long time ago, in my opinion, even last year or the year before, agreed on the construction of nuclear power plants in the northeast of China. It is not clear yet.”

In June 2018, after a visit to China, Vladimir Putin said that the countries had agreed on the construction of two power units of the Tianwan NPP by Rosatom , and also agreed on the construction of another Russian-designed nuclear power plant in China. Construction was scheduled to begin in December 2020.
Representatives of Rosatom and the Chinese National Atomic Corporation have already signed a general contract for the construction of the seventh and eighth units of the Tianwan NPP. According to the head of Rosatom, Alexei Likhachev, in May it is planned to “build the first concrete at the seventh power unit.”

Power unit of the Tianwan NPP launched with the assistance of Russian specialists


The work on the physical start-up of the Tianwan NPP in China was completed on September 30 with the participation of the state corporation Rosatom, the press service of the company reports.
The last stage of work on the launch of the Tianwan NPP was the bringing of power unit 4 to maximum capacity, which was carried out on September 30 with the technical assistance of specialists from the Engineering Division of Rosatom.
Rosatom noted that the physical start-up of the reactor was completed ahead of schedule


Russia and China will build a station on the moon


The Russian and Chinese sides signed a memorandum on the creation of a lunar station. This is stated on the website of “Roscosmos” .

Representatives of the governments of Russia and China – the head of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin and the head of the Chinese National Space Administration (KNKA) Zhang Kejian – signed a cooperation agreement in the format of a video conference. The parties agreed to be guided by “the principles of parity distribution of rights and obligations” and to use “outer space for peaceful purposes in the interests of all mankind.”

The memorandum specifies that the planned lunar station is intended “for multidisciplinary and multipurpose research work,” and considers the further prospect of the presence of a person directly on the moon. The agreement implies both joint planning, development and implementation of the project, as well as its presentation to the world community.


“Russia and China traditionally strive to develop cooperation in the field of space technologies”, – is specified in the conclusion of the agreement.


The document also implies the cooperation of the Russian mission with the orbital spacecraft Luna-Resurs-1 (OA) and the Chinese mission to explore the polar region of the Moon, Chang’e-7.
At the end of 2020, China, which had previously sent a mission to the moon, planted a national flag on the surface of a natural satellite of the Earth. Thus, the country became the third – after the USA and the USSR – power to plant its flag on the moon.

Russia and China agreed to extend the Neighborliness Treaty


The treaty on good-neighborliness, friendship and cooperation, which Russia and China have agreed to automatically extend for another five-year period, will be filled taking into account new realities and will give impetus to the development of bilateral relations, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, which is very important. Over the past 20 years, this agreement has laid a solid legal foundation for the healthy, sustainable development of Russian-Chinese relations and contributed to the optimization and modernization of bilateral relations.

We have agreed on the automatic extension of this agreement, and we must constantly give this agreement a new content, taking into account the realities of the era, so that it adapts to the new conditions of Russian-Chinese relations. I think that this agreement will certainly help us to reach new agreements and give a new impetus to the development of relations, ”TASS quotes a statement by the head of the PRC Foreign Ministry, made before the talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

As Wang Yi noted, in recent days, “a handful of European powers have been on the international stage with accusations against China and Russia, but they know that [this is] a lie under a far-fetched pretext, and [once successful] attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of China and Russia have gone far into the past. ” Wang Yi stressed that despite the changing international environment, “our determination to uphold international justice remains unchanged.” “These attempts cannot prevent China from moving forward and cannot change the historical trend,” concluded Wang Yi.


The day before, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in China on a visit. Earlier, Lavrov, in an interview with Chinese media, said that the Treaty of Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation with China “has successfully passed the test of time and the obligations recorded in it are being sacredly fulfilled,” thanks to the document, relations between the countries reached an “unprecedented level.”


Recall that on March 1, the Ministry of Defense of the PRC characterized the Russian-Chinese relations in the military sphere as a partnership in comprehensive strategic interaction. In early January, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that strategic cooperation between Russia and China has no end, no upper limit, and no exclusion zones.

Then in November 2020, Beijing announced China’s readiness “side by side with Russia to jointly oppose one-sided policies, protectionism and hegemony” of states that “strike a blow at international relations and international order.” In October, Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club admitted the possibility of concluding a military alliance between Moscow and Beijing.


September 2020, the Chinese Foreign Minister stressed the special importance of relations with Russia, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a congratulatory telegram to President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Victory in World War II, announced China’s readiness to join forces with Russia for the sake of global peace, security and prosperity for future generations.

Food has become one of the main points of growth in trade between the PRC and the Russian Federation

Trade in food products in recent years has become one of the key points in the growth of economic cooperation between China and Russia, said Russian Trade Representative to China Alexei Dakhnovsky on Tuesday, speaking at the opening ceremony of the Russian pavilion at the SIAL food exhibition.
On Tuesday, within the framework of the SIAL international food exhibition in Shanghai, a joint stand of the Russian Federation was opened; 18 Russian companies are represented on an area of ​​400 square meters.


“Trade in agricultural products and food products in recent years has been one of the key points of growth of bilateral economic cooperation between our countries. China is the largest importer of these products, Russia has something to offer from this range, the high quality of which is in high demand among the Chinese consumer,” Dakhnovsky said, follows from the widespread video recording of the opening ceremony.


He stressed that the pandemic and quarantine measures that exist in China today have certainly had a negative impact on trade in this area. However, according to the trade representative, with the exception of seafood, in the first quarter of this year, the volume of Russian food products exports to China increased by 17.6%.

“Therefore, companies from Russia pay serious attention to their work in the Chinese market and work at the Chinese international food exhibition. We are confident that the products of Russian companies presented here will find their customers. I wish all the participants of the Russian exposition successful work at the exhibition.” added Dakhnovsky.


According to the General Administration of Customs of the PRC, the trade turnover between Russia and China in the first four months of 2021 increased by 19.8% compared to the same period last year and amounted to $ 40.2 billion.


The official representative of the Ministry of Commerce of the PRC, Gao Feng, said that China expects that trade with Russia will reach a new maximum by the end of this year.


At the end of 2020, trade between the two countries fell by 2.9% and amounted to $ 107.76 billion.

China bought helicopters from Russia for $ 2 billion


In 2019, China bought 121 helicopters from Russia for $ 2 billion, the state corporation Rostec reported.


We are talking about 68 Mi-171 helicopters, 18 Mi-171Sh helicopters, 14 Mi-171 helicopters with a VK-2500 engine and 21 Ansat helicopters. All versions of the Mi-171 are produced at an aircraft plant in Buryatia. China plans to supply 86 helicopters with Ukrainian engines.


The cost of only 100 Mi-171 helicopters can exceed $ 2 billion, expert Konstantin Makienko estimated . One “Ansat” can cost China at least $ 3.3 million.


The contracts for helicopters are the largest known with China after Russia supplied China with Su-35 fighters and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems, said Vasily Kashin , a spokesman for the Higher School of Economics . There are about 500 Mi-8 or Mi-17 helicopters in operation in China. China also produces its own Z-20 and Z-18 helicopters, but, apparently, their characteristics do not satisfy the army, Kashin suggested.

Chinese Foreign Minister calls relations with Russia “unlimited”


Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi commented on the strategic relationship between Beijing and Moscow. They have no “no-go zone” or “upper limit”, RIA Novosti quoted a diplomat who was interviewed by Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television.


The PRC Foreign Minister admitted that last year the Chinese-Russian relations withstood the test of the pandemic and reached a qualitatively new level. At the same time, the countries continue to cooperate on the containment of coronavirus infection and research on the development of vaccines.


“Collaboration in new formats such as digital economy and e-commerce is expanding rapidly,” concluded Wang Yi.

Germany and Russia to work on hydrogen

Russia and Germany will jointly implement projects in hydrogen energy. The corresponding agreement was reached by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Alexander Novak with the Minister of Economy and Energy of the Federal Republic of Germany Peter Altmeier

The meeting was also attended by the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov, the rector of the St. Petersburg Mining University Vladimir Litvinenko and the ex-Minister of the Federal Republic of Germany Klaus Toepfer, according to the website of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Russian Federation.

“We agreed that it is important to make joint projects in hydrogen energy. The Prime Minister of the Federal State of Saxony (FRG) Michael Kretschmer recently visited. He proposed joint projects in the field of hydrogen, ” Novak said at the meeting.

“I will give instructions to the Ministry of Energy of Russia so that we jointly propose one or two projects from which we would start,” added the Deputy Prime Minister, whose words are quoted in the release of the Cabinet. According to the Deputy Prime Minister, it is necessary to continue working on joint energy projects.

A German company is already working with Gazprom on this issue.

Meanwhile, Wintershall Dea and Gazprom are discussing the possibility of transporting hydrogen through the existing gas transmission system. The head of the German company, Mario Mehren, told about this in an interview with the corporate magazine of the Russian holding.

“As part of the Science and Technology Cooperation Program between Gazprom and Wintershall Dea, specialists from our companies and joint ventures are discussing current innovative projects in order to find ideas and jointly develop solutions,” Meren explained.

“This initiative has been around for almost 30 years. And it is one of the largest and most intensive exchange formats of this kind, ”said the head of Wintershall Dea. He stressed that during the pandemic, this work continued in an online format.

“For example, in recent months, there has been intense discussion of the possibility of adapting the existing pipeline infrastructure for the transportation of hydrogen. And the use of decarbonized solutions in our joint gas transportation business. Hopefully, soon we will be able to report on new projects in this area, ” Meren added .

In addition, Wintershall Dea and Gazprom are planning a campaign to measure methane emissions. The goal is to reduce the intensity of these emissions during gas production. The partners also plan to jointly develop measures to improve the energy efficiency of compressor stations.

“I am convinced that international partnership will continue to play an important role in the future. And thanks to joint efforts to decarbonize the energy sector, we will be able to further strengthen and expand the successful Russian-German cooperation, ”Meren concluded.

India-Russia friendship too pragmatic to be ruined

Sreeram Chaulia

Sreeram Chaulia is a professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India. His forthcoming book is ‘Crunch Time: Narendra Modi’s National Security Crises’

Upon his return from India last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said he feels no wavering on New Delhi’s end of its defense cooperation with Moscow. Despite American pressure on anyone doing business with Russia.

The 19th century British statesman Lord Palmerston famously said “we have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual.” This maxim has been used to justify flexibility for a country to choose and discard partners. Depending on the changing times and circumstances.

Whether in defiance, or in support of this very pragmatic logic, one major relationship has persisted. India and Russia have sustained a robust partnership through the Cold War, the post-Cold War era, and now in the emerging multipolar order. The international system as a whole has changed beyond comprehension in the last fifty years, but what New Delhi and Moscow call ‘Druzhba-Dosti’ (friendship in Russian and Hindi) has remained intact.

India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar referred to this while hosting his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on April 7 by remarking that India and Russia have shown a “consistent ability to identify and update our shared interests.”

In spite of the US

While there is a perception of divergence between the two sides due to their respective global strategic compulsions, India needs Russia and vice-versa. The ‘special and privileged strategic partnership’ is not fading away. Defense cooperation is an obvious illustration of that. Lavrov’s comment in New Delhi that ‘prospects for additional production of Russian military equipment on India’s territory are under discussion’ caught attention in India because of the threat of American sanctions on any country that does ‘significant transactions’ with Russia.

New Delhi insists that the Russian-made S-400 anti-missile system is essential for India’s national security and that imposing sanctions on India for pursuing its core national interests would be a strategic blunder by the US. Russia is a touchstone for India to prove its ‘strategic autonomy’ in foreign policy. Moreover, Russia has been the most generous among the world’s military powers in offering co-production and technology transfer to India for defence manufacturing. Lavrov’s emphasis that ‘we are the only partner that indeed transfers to India cutting-edge military technology’ and that this is in ‘the national interests of both countries,’ conveys that the two sides are determined to plough ahead.

President Vladimir Putin’s commitment to enhancing India’s indigenous defence production capacities matches with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of making India an exporter of ‘low-cost, high-quality’ weapons. Russia is keen to retain its share of the Indian defence market, which has historically been massive but lately has fallen to 49% of total Indian military imports. If Russia’s competition for a share of the Indian defence pie with France (18%), Israel (13%) and the US spurs more advanced co-development of weapons with India, it serves both New Delhi and Moscow.

Between China and India

Skeptics who contend that India and Russia are strategically drifting apart because of the former’s closeness to the US, the latter’s alignment with China, and intensifying tensions between India and China, should look at how Russia promptly supplied much-needed defence equipment to India in 2020 as New Delhi was engaged in a major national security crisis along its northern border. Jaishankar acknowledged in Lavrov’s presence that “our defence requirement in the past year was expeditiously addressed” by Russia.

Lavrov’s statement that “we are closely watching the process of normalisation at the Line of Actual Control (LAC)” between China and India was not unwelcome from an Indian point of view. Moscow’s good offices have been creatively used both in the 2017 Doklam standoff and during the LAC dispute that began in 2020. India and Russia serve as each other’s balancing factors that bring stability in relations with China.

Unlike the crude offers to ‘mediate’ or ‘arbitrate’ between China and India that the US made under President Donald Trump, Putin’s Russia has a proven record as a pragmatic interlocutor. Lavrov has assured New Delhi that “Russia has no plans to sign a military alliance with China”. Russia has been willing to hear out India’s geopolitical perspectives and dilemmas despite having a joint front with China in standing up to the West. The same open-mindedness has led to exploration of new avenues such as Japan-India-Russia trilateral economic cooperation in Russia’s Far East and India manufacturing Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines for combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sticking points

One issue where differences have crept in between India and Russia is Afghanistan. Some in India have expressed worries of a ‘Russia-China-Pakistan axis’ emerging in South-Central Asia whose practical effect could be to sideline India from the settlement of Afghanistan’s future. Lavrov’s recent discussions with Jaishankar on Afghanistan, the former’s reiteration that India was very much a part of the ‘Moscow format’ for stabilising Afghanistan and an ‘important player in the settlement in Afghanistan’, should calm nerves in New Delhi.

Russia’s defence sales to Pakistan are much smaller in volume and scope than the India-Russia security cooperation. And in themselves are not major irritants. What is required in order to reduce disagreements on this front is for Russia and India to coordinate better on their commonly stated goal of an ‘Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process.’

Iran is another regional issue where India and Russia are looking more aligned now. The restart of talks involving the Europeans, Russia, China, the US and Iran to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement has India’s wholehearted backing. New Delhi’s investments and plans to integrate with Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia via Iran’s Chabahar port were stuck in limbo as long as Washington applied ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on Tehran. India’s push to get Chabahar included in the agenda of the 13-nation International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) could connect Russia, Iran, India and Central Asia closer and help usher in balance in the Eurasian region.

In this context, it can be a good sign that Lavrov personally met the Joe Biden administration’s climate envoy and former US Secretary of State John Kerry. He had played a crucial role in the US-Iran thaw of 2015, while both happened to be in New Delhi.

With a lot still in common between India and Russia, the global dichotomies of Sino-US confrontation and Russia-US frostiness need not be insurmountable hurdles. In the current fluid multipolar world, there are no watertight or exclusive alliances. Countries have to forge one set of friends on one issue and another set on a second issue. India and Russia are mature enough to understand this dynamic.

Tianwan NPP – the largest object of economic cooperation between Russia and China

In the PRC, there are currently 50 operating industrial nuclear reactors with a total electrical capacity of 47.5 GW. According to this indicator, China is second only to the United States and France. Although, unlike the latter, where nuclear power accounts for over 70% of the country’s total electricity generation, China has only 5%; seven years ago, the figure was two times lower, and the capacity of all power units was 16 GW.

Russia has made and continues to make a significant contribution to the development of the PRC’s nuclear power industry. Through the efforts of Rosatom, the Tianwan nuclear power plant is being built. It is located in the area of ​​the same name in the Lianyungang city district of Jiangsu province. At the moment, its capacity is 5.5 GW. The facility is the largest within the framework of Russian-Chinese economic cooperation.

Start of construction

The construction of nuclear power plants in eastern China began in 1999. Then the operating capacity of nuclear power in the Asian country was only 2 GW. The Russian company had signed a general contract for the construction of the facility two years earlier with the newly formed JNPC ( Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation ).

© 风 之 清扬 / CC BY-SA 3.0 (Construction of the Tianwan NPP, 2010)

Atomstroyexport CJSC – Engineering Division of Rosatom State Corporation – according to the agreements, it was to complete the project of the future plant, supply the necessary materials and equipment, carry out construction and installation work and train Chinese personnel for the further operation of the nuclear power plant.

The AES-91 project, developed by specialists from the St. Petersburg Institute Atomenergoproekt ( now JSC Atomproekt ), was taken as a basis . On its basis, the detailed design of two power units with VVER-1000/320 reactors was carried out. They were put into operation as part of the first stage in the summer of 2007.

At the Tianwan NPP, Russian specialists for the first time used a system of passive protection that was new at that time. Called the Melt Localization Device. This tapered metal structure is installed under the reactor vessel. In the event of a severe accident, retains the melt and solid fragments of the destroyed core, providing insulation for the foundation under the vessel and the reactor building. Thanks to the introduction of the new technology, six years after the launch of the nuclear power plant, its first two power units were recognized as the safest in China. The station began to generate 15 billion kWh annually.

Second stage

Successful cooperation contributed to the continuation of joint work. Russia and China agreed on in the fall of 2009, and in March 2010 they signed a new contract worth $ 1.7 billion for the construction of the second stage. These are power units 3 and 4. According to official publication of Rosatom reported that the negotiations were not easy.

© Mihha2 / CC BY-SA 3.0 / wikimapia.org (Construction of the Tianwan NPP)

By this time, Beijing was cooperating with the Americans, Japanese and French in the field of nuclear energy. Their own projects were also developed. Therefore, the competition for the construction of the next two power units at the Tianwan NPP was serious. The Russian side hoped to sign the treaty back in 2008, but the discussions dragged on.

As a result, taking into account the level of safety and technical and economic indicators, the Chinese side still gave preference to the Russian project. Moreover, it was refined from the technical and operational sides, based on the experience of the accident that occurred in March 2011 at the Fukushima-1 NPP.

The second stage was launched in December 2012. Power unit No. 3 was commissioned at the beginning, and No. 4 at the end of 2018. Everything related to the operation of the nuclear reactor was designed by JSC Atomproekt, the construction, installation and commissioning works were carried out by the Chinese with the participation of specialists from Russia. Chinese President Xi Jinping called the Tianwan NPP an exemplary cooperation project.

New stage

The third stage was implemented by China on its own. The ACPR1000 reactors were installed on the blocks No. 5 and No. 6, which are based on the French project of the M310 reactor.

In the year of completion of the second stage, another agreement was concluded with the Russian side. According to which Atomstroyexport will be engaged in the design of Units 7 and 8. Later, a general contract was signed for construction. These will be new power units with pressurized water power reactors of generation “3+” and with a capacity of 1150 MW each ( VVER-1200 ). Then it was reported that the pouring of the first concrete of power unit No. 7 will begin in 2021. In March of this year, the head of the State Atomic Energy Corporation “Rosatom” Alexei Likhachev confirmed that work on the construction of the fourth stage of the nuclear power plant should begin in late spring.

After the fourth stage is completed, the Tianwan NPP with a total capacity of 8.1 GW will become the largest nuclear power plant on the planet. Until 2011, this was the Japanese Kashiwazaki-kariva ( 8.2 GW ), but after the accident at Fukushima-1, all seven of its units were stopped for modernization. This year, the sixth and seventh are to be restarted, but the fate of units 1-5 is still unknown, it is quite possible that they will never resume work.