Indonesia picks France for its new sub ambitions

Indonesia plans to acquire France’s Scorpene-class submarines in a move away from refurbishing its old German-built boats

By GABRIEL HONRADA

Indonesia’s Navy has announced plans to acquire France’s Scorpene-class submarines. Formalizing a deal expected to jettison South Korea as Jakarta’s primary submarine technology partner.

Scorpene-class subs are jointly built by French shipbuilder Naval Group and Spain’s Navantia. It feature a modular design that can carry a large payload at reduced manning and lifecycle costs.

The diesel-propelled boats measure 66 meters to 82 meters in length. They displace 2,000 tons, carry a crew of 25 to 31 members and feature the SUBTICS Combat Management System.

On February 10, Indonesia’s PT PAL and France’s Naval Group signed a preliminary agreement to collaborate on the construction of two Scorpene submarines and to establish a joint research and development facility in Indonesia.

Both sides aim to finalize a contract by mid-2022 to facilitate the integration of weapons and systems onboard the submarines and the provision of training for operation, construction and sustainment with technology transfer in mind.

The Indonesian Cakra class submarine KRI Nanggala 402 docking at the naval base in Surabaya before its April 2021 disaster. Photo: Handout / Indonesia Military / AFP

The contract may also provide a lead-in for the construction of two more Scorpene subs in Indonesia

That’s likely bad news for Seoul. On February 21, South Korea’s Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Kim Jung-soo opened the sensitive topic of Indonesia’s order for a second batch of submarines from Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME).

The project to deliver three DSME subs to Indonesia has been in limbo for three years. Indonesia has refused to make the down payment necessary for deliveries to officially begin.

Indonesia is apparently considering canceling the contract in order to reduce defense expenditures amid expectations of shrinking budgets in coming years. The 2021 loss of the KRI Nanggala submarine may have served as an impetus for Indonesia to acquire new-build subs over refurbishing their older German-built, South Korean-refurbished Type 209 units.

 

Preserving strategic independence

France has sold Scorpene subs and Rafale jets to India, and has sold Rafales to Indonesia as well. These arms sales may reflect converging interests between these three countries.

Both France and India harbor fears of becoming subordinate partners within a US-led security architecture. Indonesia has long maintained an independent foreign policy. It has built its defense capabilities without becoming overly reliant on one source.

As such, Indonesia’s purchase of Scorpene subs and Rafale jets may form yet another concrete focal point in an emerging trilateral defense relationship between Indonesia, France and India.

These countries all share democratic principles. Yet they are keen on preserving their strategic independence and national interests without being overly reliant on the US.

Why is the president of Argentina going to Russia and China?

At a critical juncture in Argentina’s $40 billion IMF debt talks, President Alberto Fernandez will travel to China on Feb. 2, stopping in Russia en route. The reasons and purpose of the trip are reported by the Argentine news agency Pagina12

The most important political aspect of the trip is joining China’s new Silk Road, a strategic investment project in regional infrastructure promoted by Beijing. The visit to Asia will pave the way for many projects launched after the signing of a bilateral cooperation agreement during the Kirchner period . The main project financed by China will be the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant. Beijing will invest more than $7.9 billion in it, which will be 85% of the total project budget.

The issue of attracting investments from Russia was not officially discussed, however, some facts point to the possibility of its implementation. The last major investment was made at the end of December, when the government won a $864 million tender to supply 70 electric trains from Russia’s TransMashHolding.

Total trade with China

It is also known about negotiations with Lukoil , which is interested in the Vaca Muerta shale oil field in Neuquen, Argentina. The company plans to implement a project to develop it jointly with the Argentinean oil and gas company YPF.

As for nuclear energy, Rosatom also plans to take part in the construction of a nuclear power plant in Argentina. The company also plans to conduct research into the peaceful atom.

Argentinian experts compare Russia and China as a South American country, noting that “Russians are more difficult as they are forced to inherit complicated geopolitical relations with the American region and also enter the market with a state-run market economy” . China, on the other hand, has “more capital” and intends to invest in infrastructure and geopolitics much more than Russia.


Spectacular Turkey: Central Anatolia itinerary

Turkey outside of all inclusive hotels

Moscow tries to find a balance between Beijing and Delhi

Relations with the two giants of Asia – China, and India is for Russia one of the main foreign policy plots of the year. Beijing and Delhi, which are part of the Russia-India-China (RIC) alliance. As well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and other organizations. It is a serious challenge to Russia’s strategy of turning to the East. Moscow is forced to balance the two centers of power in Asia. It must not allow their conflict to complicate strategic partnership with each side.

The intrigue in Russia’s relations with two strategic partners and implacable opponents in Asia, who are zealously following each other’s steps, reached a climax at the end of the year, when, with an interval of one and a half weeks, on December 6 and 15, the Russian-Indian, and then the Russian -Chinese Summit.

At the same time, in the short interval between them, on December 9, a Russian-American summit was also held in the format of a videoconference. It was already the second this year.

Vladimir Putin’s second foreign trip during the pandemic, who had previously flown from Moscow only once – to the summit with US President Joe Biden in Geneva in June this year, was intended not only to reaffirm the importance that Moscow attaches to relations with Delhi, which has an official status ” especially privileged strategic partnership ”.

Throughout the year, there were numerous signals that relations between Russia and India, despite their strength, are developing in an environment of heightened geopolitical turbulence and a risk zone created by both the confrontation between Russia and the United States and the aggravation of India’s relations with China.

India entering the QUAD alliance

So, this year, India entered the new Indo-Pacific alliance QUAD (USA, Japan, India, Australia), which openly aims to contain the growing influence of China. The emergence of QUAD was bad news not only for Beijing but also for Moscow. Moreover, India, which actively supported this American geopolitical project QUAD, together with China, is included in the RIC triangle (Russia-India-China). In addition, India and China are partners in the SCO, BRICS, and other organizations.

Even before the creation of QUAD, at the very beginning of the year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made a resonant statement that, in its confrontation with China, the United States is increasingly trying to make Beijing and Delhi quarrel, increasing pressure on India.

Despite the absence of an official reaction from the Indian side, this assessment caused bewilderment among many in Delhi: numerous interlocutors of Kommersant, including experts and former ambassadors to the Russian Federation, insisted that the conflict between India and China has purely internal roots and is associated with increasingly active Beijing’s attempts to change the status quo on the demarcation line with India in East Ladakh.

The ambiguity that arose, apparently, was to be eliminated by the Russian-Indian summit, the holding of which acquired special significance for each of the parties.

Drawing attention to the importance of a personal meeting between the leaders of the two countries, the aide to the Russian president, Yuri Ushakov, who accompanied him on his trip to Delhi, recalled that one of the mechanisms of their dialogue was informal one-on-one communication.

India – Russia summit

According to Mr. Ushakov, this allows Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi to discuss “the most difficult, most delicate issues of the international situation.”

The main result of the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi was the signing of a joint statement “Russia – India: partnership for peace, progress and prosperity.”

This document lists in detail the most promising areas of bilateral cooperation designed to give a new acceleration to the specially privileged strategic partnership between Russia and India.

After his trip to Delhi, Vladimir Putin held the second summit this year with US President Joe Biden.

Against this background, a certain pause in the Russian-Chinese dialogue at the highest level became more and more noticeable. The previous talks between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, held in the format of a video conference, took place on June 28 and were timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Russian-Chinese Treaty on Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation, which was extended for another five years this year.

Apparently, the fears of the Chinese side that Moscow will reach some separate agreements with Washington behind Beijing’s back, and will also begin to take into account the Indian position in the region to the detriment of China’s interests, and predetermined the decision to hold the second Russian-Chinese summit. 

Video Conference between Xi Jinping and Putin

Like the first meeting of the two leaders, it was held in the format of a video conference, given that Chinese President Xi Jinping has never left the country in the two years of the pandemic. In addition, in September, he turned down an offer by US President Joe Biden to hold a face-to-face US-China summit to begin the process of de-escalation in relations between Washington and Beijing.

Thus, after the Russian-Indian and Russian-American summits held in the first ten days of December, Beijing still managed to retain the final say.

The “Chinese ending” of Moscow’s diplomatic year turned out to be very effective on the outside, despite the distance communication between the two leaders, which lasted an hour and a half (the summits of Vladimir Putin with Narendra Modi and Joe Biden were longer). So, with Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin talked face-to-face for three and a half hours, and with Joe Biden, he had a two-hour conversation.

Not limiting themselves to summing up the results of 2021 and demonstrating personal friendship, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping made it clear that Moscow and Beijing, which have not entered into formal allied relations, are already acting as allies.

Speaking with his Chinese counterpart, Vladimir Putin confirmed his plans to attend the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing in February.

A new page in Chinese-Russian relations

Thus, he struck a blow at the idea of ​​a political boycott of the Olympics, which the United States and its allies are calling for. “I look forward to our Olympic meeting with you. I am ready to go forward with you hand in hand, together to open a new page in Chinese-Russian relations in the post-pandemic period, “Xi Jinping reacted to this. “The world has entered a period of turbulence and great change. Sino-Russian relations, having withstood all kinds of tests, have shown strong vitality, acquired a new breath, ”he added, also thanking Vladimir Putin for not allowing the West to“ drive a wedge ”between Moscow and Beijing.

Analyzing the ambiguous situation in the Russia-India-China triangle, which is increasingly influenced by the activity of the United States, which is moving closer to Delhi and continuing to put pressure on Beijing and Moscow, Alexei Maslov, director of the Institute of Asian and African Studies at Moscow State University, notes: “We admit that India is much less interesting for American investors than China. Despite all the contradictions between Washington and Beijing, private American business relies on China, given the huge number of preferences, excellent logistics, and full vertical integration of the production of any product. In addition, many American investors choose Chinese government securities for investments as they are quite reliable, which cannot be said about Indian assets.

But the idea of ​​developing special, that is, free from one-sided bias, Russian-Indian relations can be quite productive for Moscow. India can support the idea of ​​a Greater Eurasian space, to which China is still skeptical, and integrate into a new political and economic sphere, where it can be one of the leaders outside the opinion of Washington or Beijing.”


Sergey Strokan

Turkey seeks allies

The reduction of the American presence in the Middle East and the possible strengthening of Iran’s positions in the event of the lifting of the sanctions imposed by the Americans, are forcing the leading countries of the region to reset their relations with their neighbors. In particular, with Israel, the existential enemy of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). And with Syria, trying to balance Tehran’s influence in this country.

Turkey is also trying to integrate into the conciliatory trend, but for different reasons. Turkey’s hyperactivity within the neo-Ottoman foreign policy paradigm was perceived by the overwhelming majority of Arab countries as a certain threat to the regional status quo. Ankara’s use of various Islamist organizations, for example, the Muslim Brotherhood , caused additional irritation from the Arab regimes.

It is not surprising that the ultimatum of the leading Arab countries put forward to Qatar (perhaps Turkey’s only ally in the region) included the termination of military cooperation with Ankara and the elimination of the Turkish base on Qatari territory among the conditions for lifting the blockade. Back in 2018, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Anwar Gargash called on the Arab countries to rally against the threat of the growth of Turkish (and at the same time Iranian) hegemonism in the Middle East About the same time Cairo called on the members of the League of Arab States (LAS) to develop a consolidated position to condemn the Turkish military campaign in Syria.

Ankara realized that it was in regional isolation, exacerbated by growing friction with the United States and NATO

They decided to start reconciliation with the three leading states of the region – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Relations with them in recent years have balanced on the brink of the Cold War, and the mutual exchange of reproaches, as a rule, proceeded in a sharp, if not offensive form. Along with “personal” contradictions with Ankara, all three countries are united by their rejection of the support of the Turkish leadership for the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Turkish activity in northern Iraq and Syria. The Emirates, by the way, reopened the embassy in Damascus. Cairo is actively lobbying for the return of Syria to the Arab League. Riyadh, at least, does not bother him in this.

The Saudi-Turkish dialogue resumed at the end of last year, in May the Turkish Foreign Minister visited Riyadh, but then the process stalled, although the Saudis lifted an unspoken ban on imports from Turkey.

At the end of 2020, the Turkish president announced his country’s desire to restore “historical friendship” with Egypt. In addition to “breaking through” political isolation, Turkey, whose foreign economic paradigm was becoming a European energy hub, was clearly counting on the transit of Egyptian natural gas through its pipelines. Such a project is not without interest in Cairo, but it has an alternative proposal – overland and sea transit through Israel (with which relations have been normalized for a long time), Cyprus and Greece (with which Cairo has become close, first of all, on the “gas” basis). 

Trying to improve relations in the region

This makes it possible to act without haste in the Turkish direction: “If we see from Turkey real actions to stabilize the situation in the region, and they will take place in parallel with the actions of Egypt, then this can become the basis for the normalization of relations,” – the head of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry stated with restraint. In full accordance with the old anecdote: “… if a diplomat says ‘maybe’, it means ‘no’.”

Relations with the UAE inspire more optimism in Ankara. Last November, Recep Tayyip Erdogan received the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the de facto ruler of the Emirates. At the talks, they discussed both the multi-billion dollar Emirati investments in the Turkish economy and the political situation in the Middle East. Upon their completion, the Turkish leader even rushed to announce the beginning of a “new era” in relations between the two countries.

Nobody talks about a “new era” in relations with Israel , the leaders of the two countries just started calling some time ago, and Erdogan, in the process of this communication, argued that “Turkish-Israeli relations are important for security and stability in the Middle East,” and “disagreements can be minimized if mutual understanding is shown on bilateral and regional issues. “

In order to stimulate dialogue, the Turkish side even staged an “incident” by arresting Israeli tourists on charges of espionage who were photographing one of Ankara’s main attractions, the new presidential palace. Then they were released, and the President of Israel thanked the Turkish counterpart for “humanity.” Again by phone.

Possible exchange of ambassadors with Israel

Also, according to a number of media outlets, the parties are preparing to exchange ambassadors. After Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the suppression by the Israeli security forces of the Palestinian protests that began in this regard, Turkey and Israel recalled their ambassadors.

Recent events in Turkish-Iranian relations – an example of how the escalation of confrontation is extinguished with the help of diplomacy

These relationships are a complex interweaving of cooperation and conflict. The two countries have been competing for influence in the Middle East (primarily in Iraq and Syria) for more than one hundred years, and such a story does not promote mutual trust.

In addition, today’s Turkey remains a member of NATO and, despite a whole series of mutual reproaches, is an ally of the United States – the “big shaitan” from the point of view of the Iranian authorities. In addition, Ankara is trying to reconcile with Israel and Saudi Arabia, which also cannot please Iran. As well as the active penetration of Turkey into Syria, Transcaucasia and Central Asia, moreover, under slogans that can be interpreted as pan-Turkic. And quite recently, this complicated process led to a demonstration of the full combat readiness of the Iranian and Turkish armed forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

However, to the surprise of many observers, on November 15, 2021, the Iranian Foreign Minister, following talks with his Turkish counterpart, said that the parties agreed to adopt a roadmap for long-term cooperation during Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Iran scheduled for December.

The presence of partners and a way out of regional isolation should, in the opinion of the Turkish leadership, raise its rating within the country and add political weight to it in the eyes of the world’s leading actors, and above all the United States, relations with which have been degrading for a long time.

Not particularly successful at the moment

So far the situation is not particularly successful for Ankara. Most experts are skeptical about reconciliation with the Arab countries. They are believing that the process will end not with the establishment of allied or even partnership relations. It will be only with a temporary truce in the Arab-Turkish confrontation. The situation has changed: even the Palestinian problem, with the help of which Erdogan tried to gain prestige among the Arab capitals, lost its relevance: it came to joint US-Arab-Israeli military exercises.

In trying to normalize relations with Israel, Ankara, given the geopolitical role of the Jewish state, is likely hoping to reclaim the White House. The transportation of Israeli natural gas is also of considerable interest. For its part, the Jewish state is ready to normalize ties. But, obviously, nothing more.

The economic interests of Turkey and Iran are complementary. Turkish market needs Iranian energy resources, the Iranian market needs Turkish industrial goods. And the threat of Kurdish nationalism “with a separatist bias” is equally painful in Tehran and Ankara. They also need to “do something with Afghanistan” and avoid clashes in Syria. And again, to confirm to ourselves and to the world the ability to find regional partners.

So far, it is rather a process for the sake of process. In order to achieve real results, Ankara will obviously have to revise a number of paradigmatic attitudes in foreign policy. It will be extremely difficult for the current Turkish leadership, which has spent a lot of effort on creating the current political image of Turkey.

New Great Game in the Caucasus and Central Asia

Players unite and face off so fast Eurasian integration’s chessboard feels like musical chairs prestissimo

By PEPE ESCOBAR

The Eurasian chessboard is in non-stop motion at dizzying speed. Caucasus and Central Asia are in the focus of developments.

After the Afghanistan shock, we’re all aware of the progressive interconnection of the Belt and Road Initiative, the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). And of the preeminent roles played by Russia, China and Iran. These are the pillars of the New Great Game.   

Let’s now focus on some relatively overlooked but no less important aspects of the game. Ranging from the South Caucasus to Central Asia.

Iran under the new Raisi administration is now on the path of increased trade and economic integration with the EAEU, after its admission as a full member of the SCO. Tehran’s “Go East” pivot implies strengthened political security as well as food security.

That’s where the Caspian Sea plays a key role. Inter-Caspian sea trade routes completely bypass American sanctions or blockade attempts. 

Iran’s renewed strategic security anchored in the Caspian will also extend to and bring benefits to Afghanistan, which borders two of the five Caspian neighbors: Iran and Turkmenistan. 

The ongoing Eurasian integration process features a Trans-Caspian corridor as a key node. From Xinjiang in China across Central Asia, then Turkey, all the way to Eastern Europe. The corridor is a work in progress.

Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC)

Some of it is being conducted by CAREC (Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation), which strategically includes China, Mongolia, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the five Central Asian “stans” and Afghanistan. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) coordinates the secretariat. 

CAREC is not a Chinese-driven Belt and Road and Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB) body. Yet the Chinese do interact constructively with the Western-leaning, Manila-based ADB.

Belt and Road is developing its own corridors via the Central Asian “stans”. And especially all the way to Iran, now strategically linked to China via the long-term, $400 billion energy-and-development deal.

The Trans-Caspian will run in parallel to and will be complementary to the existing BRI corridors. There we have, for instance, German auto industry components loading cargo trains in the Trans-Siberian bound all the way to joint ventures in China while Foxconn and HP’s laptops and printers made in Chongqing travel the other way to Western Europe.

The Caspian Sea is becoming a key Eurasian trade player since its status was finally defined in 2018 in Aktau, in Kazakhstan. The Caspian is a major crossroads simultaneously connecting Central Asia and the South Caucasus, Central Asia and West Asia, and northern and southern Eurasia.

It’s a strategic neighbor to the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC) – which includes Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan and India. While also connecting Belt and Road and the EAEU. 

Watch the Turkic Council

All of the above interactions are routinely discussed and planned at the annual St Petersburg Economic Forum and the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. These are Russia’s top economic meetings alongside the Valdai discussions.  

There are also interpolations between players – some of them leading to possible partnerships that are not exactly appreciated by the three leading members of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.  

For instance, four months ago Kyrgyzstan’s Foreign Minister Ruslan Kazakbaev visited Baku to propose a strategic partnership – dubbed 5+3 – between Central Asia and South Caucasus states.

A specific problem is that both Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace – which is a military gig. And also of the Turkic Council, which has embarked on a resolute expansion drive. To complicate matters, Russia also has a strategic partnership with Azerbaijan. 

The Turkic Council has the potential to act as a monkey wrench dropped into the Eurasian works. There are five members: Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Pan Turkism or Pan Turanism

This is pan-Turkism – or pan-Turanism – in action, with a special emphasis on the Turk-Azeri “one nation, two states.” Ambition is the norm. The Turkic Council has been actively trying to seduce Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Hungary to become members.

Assuming the 5+3 idea gets traction that would lead to the formation of a single entity from the Black Sea all the way to the borders of Xinjiang, in thesis under Turkish preeminence. And that means NATO preeminence.   

Russia, China and Iran will not exactly welcome it. All of the 8 members of the 5+3 are members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace. While half (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia) are also members of the counterweight, the Russia-led CSTO.  

Eurasian players are very much aware that in early 2021 NATO switched the command of its quite strategic Very High Readiness Joint Task Force to Turkey. Subsequently, Ankara has embarked on a serious diplomatic drive. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Aka visiting Libya, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Translation: That’s Turkey – and not the Europeans – projecting NATO power across Eurasia.

Add to it two recent military exercises, Anatolian 21 and Anatolian Eagle 2021, focused on special ops and air combat. Anatolian 21 was conducted by Turkish special forces. The list of attendants was quite something, in terms of a geopolitical arc. Apart from Turkey, we had Albania, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – with Mongolia and Kosovo as observers.

Once again, that was Pan-Turkism – as well as neo-Ottomanism – in action.

Watch the new Intermarium

Speculation by Brzezinski nostalgia denizens that a successful 5+3, plus an expanded Turkic Council, would lead to the isolation of Russia in vast swaths of Eurasia are idle.

There’s no evidence that Ankara would be able to control oil and gas corridors. This is prime Russian and Iran territory. Nor to influence the opening up of the Caspian to Western interests. That’s a matter for the Caspian neighbors, which include, once again, Russia and Iran. Tehran and Moscow are very much aware of the lively Erdogan/Aliyev spy games constantly enacted in Baku. 

Pakistan for its part may have close relations with Turkey – and the Turk-Azeri combo. Yet that did not prevent Islamabad from striking a huge military deal with Tehran. 

According to the deal, Pakistan will train Iranian fighter pilots and Iran will train Pakistani anti-terrorism special ops. The Pakistani Air Force has a world-class training program – while Tehran has first-class experience in anti-terror ops in Iraq/Syria as well as in its sensitive borders with both Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Turk-Azeri combo should be aware that Baku’s dream of becoming a trade/transportation corridor hub in the Caucasus may only happen in close coordination with regional players.

India and Iran are developing their own corridor

The possibility still exists of a trade/connectivity Turk-Azeri corridor to be extended into the Turkic-based heartland of Central Asia. Yet Baku’s recent heavy-handedness after the military victory in Nagorno-Karabakh predictably engineered blowback. Iran and India are developing their own corridor ideas going East and West.

It was up to the chairman of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization, Alireza Peymanpak, to clarify that “two alternative Iran-Eurasia transit routes will replace Azerbaijan’s route.” The first should open soon, “via Armenia” and the second “via sea by purchasing and renting vessels.”

That was a direct reference, once again, to the inevitable International North-South Transportation Corridor: rail, road and water routes crisscrossing 7,200 kilometers and interlinking  Russia, Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, India and Western Europe. The INSTC is at least 30% cheaper and 40% shorter than existing, tortuous routes.

Baku – and Ankara – have to be ultra-savvy diplomatically not to find themselves excluded from the inter-connection, even considering that the original INSTC route linked India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia.

Two Camps

Two camps seem to be irreconcilable at this particular juncture. Turkey-Azerbaijan on the one hand and India-Iran on the other. Pakistan in the uncomfortable middle.

The key development is that New Delhi and Tehran have decided that the INSTC will go through Armenia.

That’s terrible news for Ankara. A wound that even an expanded Turkic Council would not heal. Baku, for its part, may have to deal with the unpleasant consequences of being regarded by top Eurasian players as an unreliable partner.

Anyway, we’re still far from the finality expressed by the legendary casino mantra, “The chips are down.” This is a chessboard in non-stop movement.

We should not forget, for instance, the Bucharest Nine. These are: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. That concerns a prime NATO wet dream. It is the latest remix of the Intermarium – as in de facto blocking Russia out of Europe. A dominating team of 5 +3 and Bucharest Nine would be the ultimate pincer in terms of  “isolating” Russia.

Ladies and gentlemen, place your bets.

Russia and India signed documents on military cooperation

Russia and India have signed several documents on small arms and military cooperation, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said on Twitter.

“I am glad that a number of agreements, contracts and protocols have been signed regarding small arms and military cooperation,” the Indian minister wrote.

However, he added that India “appreciates the strong support of Russia.” “We hope that our cooperation will bring peace, prosperity and stability to the entire region,” Singh said.

On December 6, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced the beginning in New Delhi of a meeting of the Russian-Indian intergovernmental commission on military and military-technical cooperation with the participation of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. During the meeting, he noted that India is one of the key partners of Russia in the defense sphere, and relations between the countries are of a “particularly privileged strategic nature.”

“The unprecedented level of trust between our countries is evidenced by the intensity and depth of military-technical cooperation, which is reaching a new qualitative level every year,” the Russian Defense Minister said.

On December 6, the Ministry of Defense announced the signing of an agreement between the governments of the two countries on a program of military-technical cooperation until 2030. The document implies cooperation of the branches and arms of the armed forces, and includes the supply and development of weapons and military equipment.

On November 14, the director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) of Russia, Dmitry Shugaev, announced the start of supplies to India of equipment for S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. The contract for the supply of the complexes was signed in 2016. India became the third foreign buyer of these complexes after China and Turkey.

Why India and Russia need an alliance?

Before gaining independence, India was a colony of Great Britain. After World War II, when the Cold War broke out between the USSR and the United States, India chose neutrality. Along with Egypt and Cuba, she joined the Non-Aligned Movement.

At the same time, the Indians had rather close relations with the USSR. Soviet Union provided significant military assistance to India under Khrushchev during the Indo-Chinese conflict. And despite the fact that China was a communist country and Moscow’s ally in the Cold War. In the same 1960s, Moscow supported New Delhi in a dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. Moreover, it was with the participation of Chairman of the Council of Ministers Kosygin that the Second Indo-Pakistani War was stopped. The declaration on January 10, 1966 on the cessation of fighting was signed in Tashkent.

India is trying to pursue the same course of non-alignment today. 

However, just as then, geopolitical realities – lingering rivalries with China and Pakistan – are forcing Indians to seek strong allies. In this sense, India has little choice: the United States, the European Union and Russia. Europe could be a mainstay, but traditionally tries not to get involved in the battle of the titans. Even in the US-Russian confrontation, the Europeans are calling for a reduction in the intensity of passions, and by the way, they recently challenged the conclusions of the US intelligence about the alleged Russian invasion. The EU has close economic ties with China. Plus the EU is a very heterogeneous structure. France is now offended by the Anglo-Saxons because of the anti-Chinese AUKUS. Germany is very modest in foreign policy.

As for the United States itself, this would be a very convenient option for India. The United States is now actively opposing China. Both economically and through military alliances. India participates in the QUAD alliance and is conducting naval exercises in the Indian Ocean with the United States, Japan and Australia. The last of them, in October, became the largest in 40 years. Only the whole snag of the alliance with Washington for New Delhi is that the Americans demand complete submission . The United States literally prohibits India from buying S-400 air defense systems from Russia. It is threatening it with sanctions, as was the case with Turkey.

Unique partners

Russia is for India, if not the only, then at least a unique partner. Unlike the United States, it will not oppose China. But at the same time the Russian Federation is selling weapons to India. That helps maintain the balance of power in Asia. It is thanks to Russian efforts that India and China are now full members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Can you imagine joint military exercises between Indians and Chinese under the auspices of the Pentagon? Of course not. But almost such exercises took place this year! In September, 200 Indian military personnel, as well as Chinese and Pakistani observers, took part in the Russian-Belarusian maneuvers “West-2021”.

Russia is trying to bring China and India closer together economically. Within the BRICS format, there is a joint pool of reserve currencies, which helps to strengthen the financial sovereignty of the five countries. Russia is strengthening India’s defenses and working to reduce its conflict with China. Separately, it is also worth mentioning the North-South project, leading from Russia to India and vice versa. That will enhance trade opportunities and macro-regional significance of both countries.

For Russia lations with India must be strengthened. This enhances its role in Asia. It strengthens its cards in front of the United States. And, in a good sense of the word, allows it to balance the growing China. After all, an alliance with India is good money. For 30 years, the supply of aircraft, tanks and Kalashnikovs alone increased the Russian budget by $ 60 billion.

India does not hide interest in the Arctic

Often, when referring to the Northern Sea Route (NSR), one can hear the definition that this is the “Russian way to India.” Indeed, the NSR is the shortest and safest access to the powerful, developing market of this vast country.

No pipe, even the widest in diameter, can meet India’s oil and gas needs. But shipping by sea is a different matter. It seems that India has been eyeing alternative routes for a long time to ensure its energy security. For Russian gas and oil companies, a partner such as India will help diversify the markets for minerals.

The development of the Arctic for New Delhi is also a matter of constant competition with another global player in the region. With China, which has already laid the foundation for the third icebreaker in the “Snow Dragons” series. India is trying to keep up. It is known that she has been eyeing the Russian project 21180 (M) icebreakers for a long time. These auxiliary diesel-electric icebreakers of a new type with a powerful energy complex and a modern propeller electric installation of Russian production are assessed by the Indians as ships with enhanced functionality. They are able to mill ice up to 1.5 meters.

In terms of displacement, they correspond to the Norwegian patrol icebreaker Svalbard. However, the practice of military-technical cooperation between India and Russia shows that New Delhi trusts more Russian developers and shipbuilders. That is more than once expressed in mutually beneficial and long-term contracts. The project 21180 icebreaker “Ilya Muromets” became the first icebreaker in 45 years, created exclusively for the needs of the Russian Navy. It is part of the Northern Fleet.

Proven partnership over the years

The reincarnation of the aircraft-carrying cruiser Admiral Gorshkov took place in Severodvinsk. With the active participation of the Nevsky Design Bureau, thanks to India. Russian shipbuilders have gained unique experience in the implementation of such global tasks. The Indian order made it possible to actually upgrade the Russian MiG-29K carrier-based fighter to the 4 ++ level.

Today MIG-29K meets all modern requirements for carrier-based aircraft. It is unobtrusive – 20% of the aircraft are assembled from non-metallic composite materials. To reduce visibility in the infrared range, the “cooled wing” technology has been implemented.

The fighter is equipped with the latest avionics, infrared target finder, guidance of close air-to-air missiles by turning the pilot’s head. The new radar “Zhuk-ME”, installed on board, finds targets at a distance of 200 km. With its help, guidance is carried out with corrected bombs and medium-range missiles.

Although the MiG-29K has a shorter range and payload than the Su-33, it is more compact. Thanks to the money of the Indians, is deeply modernized relative to the original Soviet projects MiG-29K and Su-33.

MiG-29KUB. 
Photo: Rulexip / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Military cooperation is being transformed into the Arctic Cooperation between Moscow and New Delhi. It continues not only in the military, but also in the oil and gas sector. This may allow India to become the first non-Arctic state to extract resources in the Arctic. 

Russian-Indian cooperation in geological exploration and joint development of oil and gas fields, including offshore projects, is rapidly developing. Indian companies are involved in the development of oil and gas fields within the Sakhalin-1 project and the Vankor oil and gas condensate field. It is worth noting that Rosneft is a shareholder in the large Indian oil refinery Vadinar.

Is China jealous?

Improving the delivery of Russian energy resources to Indian partners is also a priority. China is very jealous of India’s admission to the region. At the same time, the economic potentials of India and China differ.

China, in addition to having ice-class ships, has long been active in investing in infrastructure energy projects in the Arctic. India in this sense lags far behind. And it’s not just New Delhi’s caution. There are players who constantly distract India from projects that are profitable for it.

India has a clearly positive image in the Arctic G8. In addition, India has lobbying opportunities for a representative diaspora in the Arctic countries. Especially in the United States and Canada. Weak investment activity of Indian business structures is a profitable business.

Chasing two hares

India has long surpassed Japan and has become the third largest economy in the world, calculated in purchasing power parity terms. The consumption of hydrocarbons is growing every year.

According to the forecasts of the International Energy Agency, India will become the third country in the world in terms of energy consumption by 2030. Due to the lack of its own sources of primary energy, the country will increase their imports. And she is going to do this, taking the most active part in the development of polar resources. In any case, there is such a desire.

In this sense, Russia for India is a guarantee of colossal investments. The only problem is the inconsistency of the concepts of the development of the civil and military navy. It’s like chasing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, India does not want to lag behind China in the Arctic. But on the other hand, it is implementing an ambitious maritime strategy. The goal of which is to turn the country into the main power in the Indian Ocean.

Does India have enough finance, especially considering that the United States is increasingly engaging India in a clash with China through a four-sided military bloc, the so-called Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), which also includes Japan and Australia. Will India have time for the Arctic if it is drawn into the war?

The US is indeed purposefully luring India into a trap from which the Asian giant simply cannot emerge victorious. Indeed, Pakistan will take the side of China in the event of an escalation of the regional conflict. And a conflict between nuclear-weapon states can easily escalate into a nuclear catastrophe. This is already fraught with stability on the planet, but do such little things worry the hawks in Washington …

Divide and conquer

The development of the Arctic by India is postponed every time the word “Aksaychin” appears on the world agenda. A region of confrontation between India and China. Two powers that more than others can influence the radical redistribution of world resources. Can the United States allow such “gluttonous” countries, in the opinion of the Yankees, to approach the division of Arctic resources? The question is rhetorical.

The United States can say whatever it wants in the Congress, but the Americans will not allow the strengthening of the influence of China and the supposedly allied India in the Arctic. Their true desire is for India and China to moderate their ambitions. For this, Washington is making every effort to play off Beijing and New Delhi in a senseless duel. That is obviously disadvantageous for both countries.