AUKUS – the beginning of the end of NATO?

Is creation of a new alliance between the US, UK and Australia – the beginning of the end of NATO pact?

So it started!

The announcement that the United States, Great Britain and Australia have entered into a joint pact in the field of defense and security, dubbed AUKUS, has become an event that has already caused quite a lot of noise in the world from the very beginning.

In particular, in China – this event was received with hostility. In Beijing, in general, they called this pact directed against China. And Chinese interests not only in the Asia-Pacific region, but also in the world. China announced that this agreement between the three countries intensifies the arms race and seriously undermines the “regional peace”.

In the EU, this event, judging by the first reactions of politicians and various institutions of power on this fact, was a complete surprise. And even more, it was the reason why one of the EU countries, namely France as a whole, announced that this agreement on the creation of a kind of alliance – “was a stab in the back” which undermined trust between the allies!

Moreover, I want to note that the reaction of France in this case is quite understandable. This event became the reason for Australia’s refusal to purchase submarines from Paris.

First reactions

In the countries of Oceania, this event, in general, was the reason for the condemnation of the creation of a new military-political alliance and the signing of this agreement. In New Zealand, this event became the reason for the statement that they would ban Australian submarines from leaving their waters!

Only in Russia so far, at the time of this writing, this event has not been commented on at the official level. It has not generally expressed any reaction, but I think that if not today, then tomorrow this event will still receive assessment.

I consider this event from the point of view as the beginning of the end of NATO.

Yes! This is exactly what it is in my opinion. European members of NATO were already shaken in their trust in the aliance leaders – USA. It seems that Afghanistan debacle was just a beginning of something much bigger. Has American establishment made assessment that NATO is not necessary and is too expensive? Are we starting to witness transition of an intelligence alliance known as the “five eyes” into new military alliance spreading over Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Will Europe be left to deal with “Russian threat” on its own?

Why do I think so?

Let’s consider this situation, or rather this event, from a purely political point of view. EU “neither sleep nor spirit” knew about the ongoing negotiations on the creation of this alliance. This came as a complete surprise to the EU! It should be noted that it can and even should be regarded as an open expression of mistrust and even disregard on the part of the United States, Great Britain and Australia for the interests of their allies from the EU. 

In fact Washington, London and Canberra are simply, and not so simply, created a new military-political alliance without notifying their closest allies in the military-political NATO bloc about it. Thus, openly demonstrating their true attitude towards their own allies!

The creation of US, UK and Australia alliance in the field of defense and security without notifying its NATO allies is essentially nothing more than an open demonstration of complete disregard for the opinions of its so-called “allies.” In my opinion, it is a very rash step on the part of the participants in the new pact. It suggests that there is a rather serious split in views in the ranks of NATO. This gives a clear understanding of the fact that the very essence of the meaning of NATO’s existence for some of its member countries, such as the United States and Great Britain, has simply lost its relevance.

There is no alliance without trust

Well, the right thing is how you can be an ally with those who talk about the need to confront threats to Europe, but at the same time, behind Europe itself, it creates new alliances, which not only leave Europe alone with China, but also take away from the countries of Europe large enough orders for their military products?

It is impossible to talk about some kind of alliance if one of the parties makes and creates new pacts, about which the other ally finds out only after the fact. What do we understand and say that there is no longer any sense in the existence of NATO!

Secondly, if this event is viewed from a purely economic and technological point of view, then it should also be noted that the creation of this new alliance is nothing more than the beginning of the end of NATO! Especially if we take into account the fact that Australia has abandoned its plans to purchase submarines from France. 

The United States essentially destroyed the multi-billion dollar deal between France and Australia. And even more than that, the United States has pledged to transfer its technologies for the production of nuclear submarines! Yes, not transfer them to NATO member countries, but Australia – not even a member of NATO. In my opinion it also suggests that there is no longer any sense in the existence of NATO!

Technology transfer

During the entire existence of NATO, the United States has shared its technologies only with Great Britain!

There is a possibility that Europe may be outraged for the sake of appearance and then calmly forget all this. It would not be the first time. 

Something inside tells me that it is quite real. The events of recent year demonstrate to the whole world the fact that NATO is no longer relevant! And this event underlines this very clearly!

Please share your opinion in the comments!

India will help Russia turn Arctic into global trade route

New Delhi is planning to assist in developing Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR). And turning it into an international trade artery, according to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“India will help Russia in the development of the Northern Sea Route and opening this route for international trade the same way as Russia helps India to develop with the aim of space exploration and the preparation of the national manned Gaganyaan program,” Modi said, speaking via video link at a plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum.

The Indian prime minister also said Moscow and New Delhi had managed to make significant progress in developing commercial ties despite massive disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The friendship between India and Russia has stood up against the test of time,” he said.

“Most recently, it was seen in our robust cooperation during the Covid-19 pandemic, including in the area of vaccines. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the health and pharma sectors in our bilateral cooperation.”

According to the Indian head of state, an energy partnership between the two nations would bring greater stability to the global energy market.

Modi also said that such joint projects as the Chennai-Vladivostok sea corridor, which is currently under development, provide greater connectivity along with the North-South transport corridor.


Major deal on developing Russia’s Big Northern Sea Route sealed at Eastern Economic Forum

A broad agreement aimed at providing stable growth of exports, cabotage and transit traffic along Russia’s Arctic sea route has been signed at the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok on Friday.

Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom and the Ministry for Development of the Far East and the Arctic agreed to closely cooperate on projects aimed at developing the transport artery stretching along Russia’s Arctic coast.

“The Big Northern Sea Route from Murmansk to Vladivostok plays an important role in transport security, and connects by sea the European part of Russia with the Far East,” Rosatom’s director general, Aleksey Likhachev, told the media on the sidelines of the EEF.

“We are interested in promoting cooperation under this project with both Russian and foreign counterparts,” he added.

The Northern Sea Route lies from the Kara Gate Strait in the west to Cape Dezhnev in Chukotka in the east. The Big Northern Sea Route includes the Arkhangelsk, Murmansk regions and St. Petersburg and the Far East from the Northern Sea Route’s border in Chukotka to Vladivostok. The 5,500-kilometer (3,417-mile) lane is the shortest sea passage between Europe and Asia.

Russia, China & India – Working together in Afghanistan

By Pranay Sharma

While world leaders debate whether or not to engage with the Taliban-led leadership in Afghanistan and how, Russia seeks to reassure its longtime partner India that New Delhi’s perspective matters.

Just recently Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. To assess the situation in Afghanistan. The leaders agreed to create a joint group of representatives of the foreign policy departments and the national security sphere.

Russia appears to be in no hurry to recognize the Taliban *. Moscow will share its assessment of the situation with New Delhi as soon as it is held.

The capture of Kabul by the Taliban opened the way for Russia and China to expand their influence in South and Central Asia. Both countries, as well as Qatar, which maintains good relations with Taliban political leaders, have not closed their embassies in the Afghan capital, while the United States and its allies, as well as India, hastily seek to evacuate their staff.

New Delhi’s influence on the Taliban is small, given India’s deep suspicions of an Islamist group, which it accuses of harboring militants who carried out attacks in Kashmir, which it controls, with the encouragement of the country’s nemesis, Pakistan.

Earlier this month, Russia convened an “enlarged three” meeting in Doha with the US, China and Pakistan to discuss the future of Afghanistan, but India was not invited.

The Taliban owe nobody for their victory

“Everyone is rushing about right now, trying to figure out how to protect their interests,” says PS Raghavan, former chairman of India’s National Security Advisory Council. However, according to him, it is not easier for Moscow and Beijing to deal with the Taliban. Although both countries supported the US withdrawal, he adds, “The Taliban owe neither China nor Russia for their victory.”

Indeed, while China has offered to help rebuild Afghanistan, it is concerned that extremism will spread to Xinjiang, the country’s northernmost province. On Wednesday, Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping held a telephone conversation to discuss the security situation. Xi told Putin that Beijing is willing to work with other countries, including Russia, to push all parties in Afghanistan to create an inclusive political structure cut off from terrorist groups.

Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, believes that Russia views China and India as its two main strategic partners. India and Russia define their ties as a “special and privileged strategic partnership” and meet regularly to engage in trade, energy, science, technology and culture.

However, Indian observers also point to Moscow’s warmer relations with Beijing as a source of concern for New Delhi. Last year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov characterized the Quadripartite Security Dialogue (Quad), which includes the US, India, Australia and Japan, as “anti-Chinese” and called it an American ploy to shield New Delhi from Moscow’s influence. Then Indian observers noted that he was silent about the threat that China poses to India, because these countries are involved in a border dispute.

In the modern world, there is no exclusivity in relations

“In the modern world, there is no exclusivity in relations. We can talk about Russia and China, and they will talk about India and the United States, ”says Raghavan, who served as ambassador to Russia in 2014-2016. India, he adds, will have to control bilateral relations in such a way that they do not affect the core interests of other relations.

New Delhi’s concerns about Moscow’s commitment to their partnership increased when Russia took part in a large-scale joint military exercise with China in the Ningxia region earlier this month, using Su-30SM fighters, motorized rifle formations and air defense systems.

This move has caused bewilderment in Delhi, and not only because Moscow is the main supplier of military equipment for India and provides 55% of its military needs. The joint exercises took place against the backdrop of a year-long military clash between China and India in Ladakh.

Deependra Singh Hooda, a retired lieutenant general and former chief of the Indian Army’s Northern Command, said the joint exercise was “intended for the United States, not India.” In his opinion, fears that China will learn about India’s military equipment are unfounded, since most of the equipment supplied by Russia is the same for both sides. “It is wrong to feel oppressed by such teachings,” added Huda.

Moscow tried to facilitate dialogue between Dely and Beijing

Kanwal Sibal, a former Indian foreign secretary who served as Indian ambassador to Moscow from 2004-2007, says Russia has been supplying advanced military equipment to China for many years and has also conducted military exercises with Pakistan. Joint exercises are also conducted within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s security group, in addition, Russia has conducted naval exercises with China in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. As noted by Sibal, Russia also conducts annual military exercises with India. “There is no reason to be particularly worried about these joint military exercises,” he adds.

According to the head of the Carnegie Trenin Moscow Center, Moscow also tried to facilitate dialogue between Delhi and Beijing last year, but the Ladakh dispute is a sovereign issue between the two countries. “Russia will never unite with China against India, it is a completely reliable partner of India,” he said.

According to former national security adviser Raghavan, a guaranteed supply of spare parts for military equipment is better than joint exercises. When China wanted Russia to suspend supplies to India during a border clash, he said, Moscow calmly signaled that it would continue its supplies.

Unlike the Cold War era, Trenin says, India-Russia relations are not exclusive, as India has moved closer to the United States in recent years, which sees Russia as a rival and imposes sanctions on it. India took part in joint naval exercises with the United States as part of the Quad, he said, and while Russia may not like it, it did not question New Delhi’s right to choose partners. “In the changing geopolitical and strategic environment of the 21st century, Moscow and Delhi need to learn to develop their valuable strategic partnership in a non-exclusive manner,” Trenin said.

Most of India’s military equipment is of Russian origin

According to the Washington-based Stimson Center, 86 percent of India’s military equipment, weapons and platforms are of Russian origin, from aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines to tanks deployed in Ladakh. The Su-30MKI fighter, the backbone of the Indian Air Force, is also of Russian origin, while the Indian supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, capable of carrying a nuclear charge, was developed with Russia.

The US is also supplying India with military equipment, such as Apache and Chinook helicopters and M777 howitzers deployed in Ladakh, as well as Boeing C-17 and C-130J aircraft, which provide the Indian Air Force with strategic airlift capability. The US-made P81 anti-submarine aircraft is also popular with the Indian Navy.

According to the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India was the second largest arms importer in the world in 2015-2019. Although New Delhi has diversified its defense sources, making Israel and France the main suppliers as well, Russia remains at the top of the list.

According to the SIPRI database, since 2014, Russia has sold $ 9.3 billion worth of defense materials, and the United States received $ 2.3 billion for similar goods over the same period. Since 2000, deliveries from Russia have accounted for more than two-thirds of India’s total $ 51 billion defense imports.

According to Trenin, Russia does not have a monopoly on the sale of military equipment to India, and New Delhi has been diversifying its defense imports for many years. “However, a defense relationship is a matter of mutual trust, like treating a friend you can trust in times of crisis,” he said.

US withdrawal from Afghanistan – Leonid Ivashov

A shameful flight or a move in a big game?

Leonid Ivashov and Igor Shishkin on what is behind the US defeat in Afghanistan. What are the consequences of the change of power in this country can have for Russia and the world. Why Afghanistan is called the solar plexus of Eurasia.

I. Shishkin: Leonid Grigorievich, this is the first question I have for you in connection with what happened in Afghanistan: the flight of the United States is very much reminiscent of what happened in Vietnam, they are talking a lot about this now, showing some footage, drawing parallels. And the question for you, in fact, as a specialist is to understand what is behind such an escape? Or they are deliberately doing this in order to provoke chaos in this territory, which will engulf its neighbors, China, Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Or, secondly, the United States really could not otherwise hold on to the situation. According to some experts, the United States has demonstrated by such a flight that it is a fading power, they say, there can be many ambitions, but not so many abilities.

Leonid Grigorievich Ivashov. Russian military and public figure, colonel general. Specialist in the field of geopolitics, conflict management, international relations, military history. President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems.

L. Ivashov: Igor Sergeyevich, I generally exclude “flight” from my vocabulary when assessing the actions of the Americans. Let’s think about why the Americans are organizing their military presence, for some reason we think, since they have come, then they will put things in order there, make the population happy, stabilize the situation, and so on. Alas, Americans do not go anywhere for this purpose. They came there to take control of this very important geostrategic region. Afghanistan is the solar plexus of Eurasia, as it is called. Here is an access to powerful states, even civilizations, for example, like China. They once deliberately did this, their nuclear missile test site. Plus access to Pakistan, which has good relations with China lately. There is also an exit to India, then Iran, and so on.

In general, this is a very important region of the world, especially for Eurasia. The Americans built an airfield there, they came to influence the former Soviet, Central Central Asia, to influence Iran, India and so on from here. How to influence? Not only where to carry out some kind of military provocations or special operations, but to influence the maintenance of uncontrollable chaos. Let’s not forget that it was with the arrival of the Americans that drug trafficking increased, because this is the impact on your opponents through drug flows. Americans leave from wherever they go, they stay when they leave. 

So I, while still in the service for several years, noticed that they are campaigning, including among Afghans, in Russia, luring people to their territory in the United States. Moreover, there they are given appropriate education, training, and so on. The question is: what for? This is the preparation of the fifth column, or you can call it whatever you like. They stirred up, created this powerful Taliban movement and calmly leave, they were not even touched at the airport. And now, when they leave, they say, they say, you are going to clean up now. They armed, in fact, this population, everyone lives with some kind of weapon, created these warring groups and left. Further, we see that it is not the Americans who are alarmed now, but precisely the neighboring countries are alarmed. Therefore, to consider it a defeat or flight is, well, at least premature. that it is not the Americans who are alarmed now, but the neighboring countries are alarmed. 

I. Shishkin: This raises the following question then. You say that they came there not to make happy, not to deal with international terrorism, but they came in order to create a lot of trouble for their geopolitical opponents. But, doesn’t this mean that they were still unable to keep Afghanistan? After all, it was probably more profitable for them not to plunge into chaos, but to create powerful bases there, from which they could threaten China, for example, India and Russia, Central Asia and so on.

L. Ivashov:I think that all of this in the aggregate was at the same time and was planned. There is a continuous war, of course, the population is tired, the population wants peace, and I believe there will be peace. But, Americans, look where they just did not conduct these military actions, the same Iraq, Yugoslavia, in Libya. And then they calmly leave, therefore, did they try to stay there? Yes, of course, they would like to have military bases there, and so on, because they have already begun to build airfields there. It was not even Biden who decided this, it was even under Trump that it was decided that the troops would withdraw. 

You need to understand that the nature of this war has changed. And then, let’s see who’s coming there now? Turkey is paired with Qatar, it goes there. We are talking about the current moment, some of the Syrian militants were not accidentally transferred there, although the Afghans themselves are against the presence of other countries in general. China and Pakistan, for example, they also act in pairs, they were very interested in the Americans leaving. But, China is very powerful there, let’s face it. You can’t see it, nothing, but it is present, because China needs a stable and calm Afghanistan. But the Anglo-Saxons learned to do well, not to be present by military force, but to be present in a different way. 

Well, for example, we saw Syria, in Syria the Americans were little present, but look what movements they created there. They were in the shadows, but at the same time they created very powerful movements. We wish, of course, stability to be there. But, the question arises: will different groups of the Taliban start fighting among themselves tomorrow? And will they not create some other movements with American money that will fight against China and others, for example. they were very interested in the Americans leaving. 

I. Shishkin: Considering that the United States absolutely does not need “one belt, one road”, they are very interested in such a development of events.

L. Ivashov: Let’s see, God forbid, that this happens. But, experience suggests that the Americans, it seems, were not present somewhere militarily too strongly, but the states are gradually being destroyed. And it is not known how long such cases will last, because they are always and everywhere.

I. Shishkin: That is, to paraphrase the famous phrase that Great Britain has no eternal enemies, no eternal allies, but only eternal interests, then we can say that the Anglo-Saxons are guided by that there are no eternal victories and eternal defeats. After all, each victory will then turn into a defeat, but this defeat can be turned into a victory.

L. Ivashov: It was recorded that British intelligence spoke about its tasks, they say, that the Arabs should fight against the Arabs for our British interests.

I. Shishkin: One more question: nevertheless, the interest of the Americans is understandable, they are masters of organizing chaos in their own interests, but what about the regimes? They left Saigon, what they were creating collapsed instantly. They did not have time to leave Afghanistan completely, the regime they created collapses instantly. Vietnam still exists, for example, Cuba still exists, even though we left. It turns out that the regimes they create collapse instantly as soon as the bayonet disappears, and the regimes that we created exist and are very stable.

L. Ivashov: Well, they really consider Vietnam their defeat there. But, they know how to benefit from defeats, and then the same Middle East, stirred everything up there, brought some regimes that are unstable. As a result, the entire Middle East is unstable now, but here you must always look at what economic damage the Americans have suffered. Have they suffered any economic damage at all?

I. Shishkin: It seems that no.

Can Australia achieve economic growth without China?

By Stan Grant

China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Brazil: What do these five countries have in common?

They are the future. Our future depends on them. They are not the West.

Collectively, they will account for more than half of all global growth through to 2024, according to figures from the International Monetary Fund. Think again about that: five countries, 50 per cent of growth.

The giant among the five is, of course, China. It has already surpassed the United States as the biggest engine of global economic growth — 28 per cent annually between 2013 and 2018.

By the end of this decade, China is expected to overtake America as the single biggest economy in the world. And of the other four countries — Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, India — each lists China as its biggest trading partner.

The IMF says there is no way the global economy can grow unless these countries also grow. Yet in this week’s budget, did we hear mention of any of them?

No. We did not even hear mention of China. Incredible, given China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, too.

How is Australia handling this hinge point of history?

Australia’s trade with China dwarfs its trade with any other country: more than $90 billion, an enormous 43 per cent of all our exports. For comparison, the next biggest market is Japan, at $19 billion.

Trade is equivalent to 45 per cent of Australian GDP and one in every five jobs in the country.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has said this budget is about stimulating, spending and creating jobs. How do we seriously achieve that when our political leaders cannot speak to their counterparts in Beijing? 

In the meantime, we hear increasing talk of the “drumbeats of war”. How can we achieve economic growth and boost jobs when the Treasurer, in his budget speech, cannot mention China by name and instead makes allusions about a more dangerous world (read: China threat) and commits to ever more spending on our military?

This isn’t to deny that we live in a more perilous age or that an authoritarian China does not present a threat — or that we need to keep our defence force ready and equipped for any eventuality. But there are serious questions about how our political leaders are handling this hinge point of history.

China is an indispensable nation; our future depends on it. Our future depends on those other countries that make up half the world’s growth — countries we rarely even talk about.

This is not 1992. We have not just emerged from the Cold War; America is not the predominant or sole power in the world; this is not the end of history. We can no longer say, as Western political leaders did then, that China is on the wrong side of history.

The world is turning, history is turning

In its report The World in 2050, international professional services company PwC lists what will be the top 10 economies in the world:

1.China

2.India

3.US

4.Indonesia

5.Brazil

6.Russia

7.Mexico

8.Japan

9.Germany

10.UK

Where did the West go? The report says simply: today’s developing markets will be tomorrow’s economic superpowers.

Outside of the top 10, Vietnam, the Philippines and Nigeria will be the biggest movers in the rankings.

The report compares the E7 (emerging economies) with the G7. In 1995, the E7 were half the size of the G7; by 2015, the E7 had drawn level; by 2040, the E7 could be double the size of the G7.

A Rip Van Winkle “go to sleep and dream away the future” approach won’t work.

The West has been battered by war, growing inequality, stagnant wages, terrorism, economic collapse, declining democracy and rising political populism.

America — the so-called leader of the free world — is a country damaged by unending crisis.

President Joe Biden talks a good game about “America is back” and rebuilding alliances. But how does America lead a world where economic power has so dramatically shifted?

Betting against America

In his recent speech to Congress to mark the first 100 days of his presidency, Joe Biden said it was never a good idea to bet against America. But that’s precisely what many countries are doing.

China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative — one of the largest infrastructure and investment projects in history, covering 70 countries, 65 per cent of the world’s population and 40 per cent of gross domestic product — is a bet against America.

It is part of Xi’s China Dream of a rejuvenated nation, returned to the apex of global power.

Australia is caught in the crosshairs of this global historical turn. We are still a European outpost in Asia, a country with historical ties to Britain and all in with the US. 

It has served us well, but that world is passing. The geopolitical, economic and military plates are shifting as the world walks ever more treacherous fault lines.

But this isn’t the discussion we have been having post-budget.

Instead, we are talking about debt and deficit and vaccine rollout and possible election dates. Journalists are engaging in the usual round of predictable “gotcha” questions, and politicians are looking to score tit-for-tat political points.

All around us, the world we knew is giving way to the world we don’t truly understand, let alone are truly equipped for.

China, our biggest trading partner, is now a global Voldemort — he who cannot be named.

But call it what we will — or won’t — China looms over our world and it is dragging those other emerging economic giants along with it.

To stay with the movie analogy, for the West, there is no back to the future.


Source: ABC

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.

Iran wants to join Eurasian Economic Union

Will Russia allow it?

There are some good reasons for Moscow’s lukewarm response to the possibility of Tehran’s admission to the EAEU. What are factors for and against Iran joining Eurasian Economic Union from Russian point of view?

By NIKOLA MIKOVIC

The Russia-dominated Eurasian Economic Union might soon be acquiring a new member: Iran. Boxed in because of its rivalry with other states in the Middle East, and laboring under US-imposed sanctions, Tehran believes it needs to strengthen ties with such neighbors as might be willing to accept it.

Iran appears to think that membership in the EAEU is a done deal. That is despite officials of the bloc denying they had received any formal request. When Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Speaker of the Iranian parliament, visited Moscow on February 10, he declared Iran would “permanently join the EAEU in two weeks.” Apart from the fact that the date has passed, such optimism is extremely premature.

The response from Mikhail Myasnikovich, chairman of the board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, was telling. The Eurasian union wants Iran to have “a special view on cooperation with Eurasia,” he said. It hardly sounds like a warm welcome. Other EAEU officials have stressed that Iran must formally apply for membership. A veiled warning, perhaps, that Iran cannot expect to bypass procedures.

On the face of it, there are reasons for Tehran and Moscow to support Iran’s inclusion into the bloc. The economic area is an integrated market of 180 million people with a combined GDP of more than US$5 trillion. It encourages the free movement of goods and services and can formulate common policy in key areas such as energy, agriculture, transport, customs, and foreign trade and investment.

Iran already has had a free-trade agreement with the Eurasian union since 2018. In 2020, trade turnover between Iran and the EAEU increased by 2%, exceeding $2 billion.

Mutual benefits

Food products and agricultural raw materials accounted for most of that trade in both directions. 80% of the goods that the EAEU supplied to Iran and 68% of what Iran sent to the EAEU.

Joining the EAEU would improve Iran’s economic and political position globally and help to offset, at least partly, the cost of US sanctions.

On the Russian side, Moscow wants another pathway to the markets of the Middle East. That is why the Kremlin strongly supports the construction of the Nakhchivan corridor. It is a land route connecting not only Azerbaijan to its Nakhchivan exclave between Turkey and Armenia, but also Russia and Turkey and – crucially – Russia and Iran.

A future rail link between Russia and Iran, passing though Azerbaijan and Armenia, will undoubtedly enhance economic ties between the two countries as well as Iran’s trading relations with other Eurasian union member states.

However, how receptive Arab Middle East states would be to Russian goods transiting through Iran is another question altogether. This might be a reason for Moscow’s distinctly lukewarm response to the possibility of Tehran’s admission to the bloc.

In fact, there are several large questions hanging over inducting a new member into the bloc. Bloc consists of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, in addition to Russia. Uzbekistan, Moldova and Cuba have observer status.

Impact on Russian relationship with Israel and Arab States

It is not improbable that closer economic ties would lead to stronger military ones. The UN Security Council embargo on conventional arms shipments to Iran expired in October. It is no secret that Iran is interested in purchasing Russia’s S-400 anti-aircraft system. As well as Su-30 fighter jets. But such a deal would almost certainly ramp up tensions between Moscow and Washington and raise alarm bells in Gulf Arab states.

Then there is Russia’s relationship with Iran’s arch-enemy, Israel. The Russians have not prevented Israel from striking at Iranian targets in Syria, despite operating S-400 units in the area. Russia was the mediator in a prisoner exchange between its ally, Syria, and Israel that took place this month and there are rumors of further ongoing negotiations on humanitarian issues and even on wider geopolitical matters.

Speculation aside, what is known is that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed continued coordination between their two countries in light of developments in regional security. Was Iran also on the agenda?

Moscow, after all, must maintain its own delicate balancing act and guard its geopolitical interests. The normalization of ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and other Arab states has changed interest-dynamics in the region, tilting the balance further toward the Arab Gulf region’s anti-Iran alliance. How does Russia profit from the new Middle East?

Some other countries are already in the queue to join

Finally, there is the fact that there are others ahead of Iran in the queue to join the Eurasian union. Syria is one of them; 40 other countries also have stated their wish to develop trade and economic cooperation with the bloc.

As well as declaring that Iran would soon join the EAEU, Qalibaf said he had brought “a very important message” from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It may well be that Moscow is composing its own, equally important message to send back to Tehran.

NIKOLA MIKOVIC

Nikola Mikovic is a political analyst in Serbia. His work focuses mostly on the foreign policies of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, with special attention on energy and “pipeline politics.” 

More by Nikola Mikovic