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South Asia

Moscow Sent A Strong Signal To India By Condemning The Quad As Anti-Russian

Moscow Sent A Strong Signal To India By Condemning The Quad As Anti-Russian

22 SEPTEMBER 2021

Moscow Sent A Strong Signal To India By Condemning The Quad As Anti-Russian

India doesn’t have any anti-Russian intentions and is even remaining loyal to its S-400 air defense deal with Moscow despite Washington’s sanctions threats. Nevertheless, Patrushev considers the bloc that it’s part of to be a regionally destabilizing force whose overall impact negatively affects Russian interests.

Russian Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev condemned the Quad as anti-Russian in a recent interview. He also described it as “an Asian NATO prototype” that pursues anti-Chinese policies too. This was a strong signal to India, which joined that emerging US-led military alliance due to its members’ shared intent to contain China. India doesn’t have any anti-Russian intentions though and is even remaining loyal to its S-400 air defense deal with Moscow despite Washington’s sanctions threats. Nevertheless, Patrushev considers the bloc that it’s part of to be a regionally destabilizing force whose overall impact negatively affects Russian interests.

The timing of his remarks is also significant since it comes ahead of the Quad’s first-ever in-person summit on 24 September. Patrushev is also probably aware of how uncomfortable India has become after being left out of the new Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) trilateral military alliance. New Delhi shares those countries desire to contain China and thought that it could play a leading role in this respect only to be kept in the dark during this bloc’s secret negotiation process. With this in mind, Patrushev is hoping to encourage his country’s special and privileged strategic partner to reconsider its participation in such US-led attempts.

The ideal scenario would be for Moscow to mediate a rapprochement between New Delhi and Beijing, though that might not happen due to their deep differences over sensitive issues. These include their disputed frontier, India’s controversial revocation of Article 370 in August 2019, its subsequent publication of a map laying claim to Chinese-administered Aksai Chin, warmongering comments from its officials, and New Delhi’s last-minute decision to remain outside of last year’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), among many others. Even Russia’s world-class diplomats can’t realistically bridge all of these very serious differences.

Rather, the most practical outcome that Russia likely hopes for is that India will reach an unofficial “non-aggression pact” with China for responsibly managing these disputes across an extended period of time. During the interim, they can seek to “normalize” their relations as much as they can considering these unresolved issues. The path to this scenario is only possible if India no longer attempts to militarily contain China in the aggressive way that it’s thus far done through the US-led Quad. By continuing to do so, it risks destabilizing Eurasia and therefore worsening the overall strategic situation for Russia.

Patrushev doesn’t expect the Chinese-Indian rivalry to disappear overnight, which is why Russia aspires to remain the South Asian state’s top military partner in order to help it balance the People’s Republic. In practice, this takes the form of their trusted military cooperation on sensitive technologies such as the S-400 deal and their joint collaboration on the Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles which they plan to export to the Philippines and potentially other regional countries that are in fierce territorial disputes with China. If countries like India are going to keep balancing China, then Russia prefers for them to receive relevant wares from it, not the US.

The reason for this is that Russia’s “military diplomacy” seeks to maintain the balance of power between its various partners, quite a few of whom are rivals of one another such as Armenia & Azerbaijan, China & India, China & Vietnam, and Iran & Saudi Arabia. By contrast, the US seeks to tip the balance of power in favor of its preferred partner with the expectation that this will encourage them to behave aggressively against their rival. The American method of “military diplomacy” is therefore aggressively intentioned and aims to dangerously disrupt regional balances whereas the Russian method is predicated on defense and retaining such balances.

India can therefore responsibly manage its rivalry with China by relying more on Russia than on the West. Continuing to participate in the Quad will only worsen Eurasia’s US-provoked security crisis and could potentially lead to unpredictable consequences up to and including another border war with China. India’s relevant needs can therefore be met by Russia, which will help it balance China without any serious risks to regional stability. The South Asian state should therefore take Patrushev’s condemnation of the Quad as anti-Russian very seriously and thus reconsider the wisdom of remaining within this US-led military alliance.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Quad, Russia, India, US, China, Balancing.


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Eurasia

AUKUS Inadvertently Opens Diplomatic Opportunities For Russia With France & India

AUKUS Inadvertently Opens Diplomatic Opportunities For Russia With France & India

19 SEPTEMBER 2021

AUKUS Inadvertently Opens Diplomatic Opportunities For Russia With France & India

Ideally, Russia would like to regulate its growing competition with France in Africa (especially in the vast region of ‘Françafrique’ that Paris considers to be its exclusive ‘sphere of influence’) while encouraging India to enter into a meaningful rapprochement with China.

The Ruckus Over AUKUS

Last week’s announcement of the new trilateral Australia-UK-US (AUKUS) anti-Chinese military alliance is already backfiring on America after it unprecedentedly offended its oldest French ally and also resulted in uncomfortable racial optics of Anglo-American superiority within the Quad that strongly implied India’s “junior partner” status within that structure. These consequences are still manageable though since France won’t leave NATO in protest like some have speculated nor will India abandon the Quad.

The Diplomatic-Strategic Backdrop

Those two countries’ leaderships still believe that their national interests are advanced by continuing to participate in efforts to “contain” China, though there’s discernibly a major trust deficit between their governments and America’s after what just happened. This might reduce the overall effectiveness of their joint measures to “contain” China. It’s this observation that inadvertently opens up diplomatic opportunities for Russia with both of them, which could bolster Moscow’s balancing act if it successfully capitalizes on this.

France and India regard America as more unreliable than ever before, and this perception likely won’t dissipate no matter how much time passes. Paris naively fell for Biden’s ploy whereby the newly elected Democrat leader promised that “America is back” and that he’d thus respect Washington’s allies unlike his predecessor. New Delhi, meanwhile, was already concerned that Trump’s successor would compromise on its interests since his team seemed not to appreciate their country’s anti-Chinese “containment” role as much as the Republican did.

France just found out the hard way that the US is untrustworthy regardless of whichever part of the duopoly is officially running its affairs after Washington poached a AUS$90 billion nuclear-powered submarine deal from Paris with Canberra upon clinching this major military alliance behind its back. As for India, its leadership is more self-conscious than ever before that the US doesn’t consider it to be an equal and is thus very worried that this risks dooming the South Asian state to a fate of perpetual second-class status vis-a-vis America.

Russia can take advantage of these concerns as its diplomatic angle of approach for engaging them in order to explore two very exciting diplomatic opportunities. Ideally, Russia would like to regulate its growing competition with France in Africa (especially in the vast region of “Françafrique” that Paris considers to be its exclusive “sphere of influence”) while encouraging India to enter into a meaningful rapprochement with China. These two geostrategic tasks are among the most important ones for contemporary Russian foreign policy.

The Path To Mutually Beneficial Outcomes

They aren’t unrealistic to achieve either in light of AUKUS. The French and Indian Foreign Ministers already released a joint statement pledging “to work on a joint program of concrete actions to defend a truly multilateral international order” in what can be interpreted as a signal to the US of their intense dissatisfaction with that alliance. Those two countries are clearly interested in “multi-aligning” with one another in order to create a more trustworthy axis of cooperation within the world’s growing anti-Chinese “containment” network.

This demonstrates several shared desires on both of their parts: increase strategic autonomy vis-a-vis the US; creatively multi-align in pursuit of this end; and potentially go as far as offending America in the process by keeping it out of the loop. None of these interests is contradictory to what Russia could attempt to explore with each of them. To the contrary, they’re complementary and strategically consistent. The outcomes that Moscow might advance would be mutually beneficial within this context.

Russian-French Interests

To explain, France is increasingly being forced to accept that Russian influence in Françafrique must be reckoned with since it’s too powerful of a factor nowadays to ignore. Instead of remaining mired in a “hybrid” competition, both Great Powers would do better to discretely delineate their new “spheres of influence”, both geopolitically and also strategically within those African countries where they overlap. The US wants them to remain at each other’s throats there so that it can then swoop in to capitalize on the chaos.

The solution is to negotiate a so-called “non-aggression pact” there whereby France and Russia agree to “freeze” their competition for a certain period of time, cooperate on issues where their interests align like anti-terrorism and socio-economic development, and thus contribute to Africa’s stabilization. This would reduce the chances of the US exploiting these competitive dynamics in an attempt to sideline both of their interests as it seeks to advance its own. It would also show how truly independent French foreign policy is becoming.

Russian-Indian Interests

When it comes to India, New Delhi can no longer completely rely on Washington’s support when it comes to “containing” China. There’s only so far that the South Asian state can go towards this end without suffering unacceptable costs that it now knows that its new ally won’t help it shoulder. This growing awareness will naturally compel India to seek some sort of accommodation with China similar to the one that was proposed above between France and Russia, which their shared partners in the Kremlin might help them broker.

Candidly speaking and with full respect to India, its leadership is extremely self-conscious of how their country is perceived and treated by the US, so much so that some observers can convincingly claim that they suffer from an inferiority complex. This isn’t being brought up as a criticism but to hint at an opportunity since that same complex could inspire them to behave more independently vis-a-vis the US after being condescendingly treated as its “junior partner” if Russia mediates an improvement of ties with China in response upon their request.

Shared Interests & Solutions

It’s more important than ever for France and India to increase their strategic autonomy relative to the US after both were so brazenly disrespected by it through AUKUS. They also have a pressing need to repair their soft power at home and abroad. Their people are upset at America trampling over them in such a humiliating way while the rest of the world is beginning to think that they’re just powerless puppets if they don’t do anything significant in response. Their geopolitical interests and prestige are therefore on the line.

Both sets of problems can be adequately resolved through the proposed solutions with Russia. France and India would bolster their strategic autonomy by regulating competition with Russia in Africa and with China in Asia, respectively, which would open up a new array of geopolitical opportunities for them that they didn’t have before. Their people would be pleased at how independently their leaders are conducting their foreign policy, especially in spite of America’s expected misgivings, while the world would be impressed with this as well.

Managing The French-Russian Arms Competition Over India

The only potential wrinkle in this scenario is the emerging French-Russian competition for India’s arms market. Paris has recently become one of New Delhi’s top partners, which makes its historical ones in Moscow very uncomfortable. Be that as it may, each Great Power could potentially fulfill different military needs for their shared partner. Russia has already carved out a vast “sphere of influence” in this strategic space while France could replace America’s present role there if the US sanctions India for its S-400 air defense purchase.

American-Indian military cooperation isn’t anywhere close in terms of value to the AUS$90 billion nuclear-powered submarine deal that the US poached from France with Australia, but Paris could still make up for some lost financial opportunities by attempting to poach Washington’s future deals with New Delhi. In fact, France and the US are more akin to competitors with one another in this space than they are competitors with Russia, whether separately or jointly. Their intensified competition there could advance Russian and Indian interests.

India is one of the world’s top arms purchasers and will continue to attempt to “contain” China even if it doesn’t do so to the radical extent that the US demands. Comparatively speaking, the expansion of French influence in India through “military diplomacy” via arms sales would be a more moderating force than its American counterpart. Russia would obviously prefer for neither of them to have this sort of influence over its special and privileged strategic partner, but if it’s inevitable to a degree, then it’s better for it to be French than American.

From the Indian perspective, it could play France and the US off against one another in order to get the best deals from both. In the event that the US goes through with its threats to sanction the country for purchasing Russia’s S-400 air defense systems, then India’s strategic autonomy wouldn’t be all that adversely affected since it could just multi-align away from America and towards France in order to meet its pertinent military needs that it feels more comfortable relying on Western countries to achieve than on Russia for whatever reason.

Concluding Thoughts

To recap the insight that was shared in this analysis, France and India aren’t likely to have any serious rupture in their relations with the US such as leaving NATO and the Quad respectively, but their ties with it won’t be the same again due to the enormous trust deficit caused by AUKUS. This presents exciting diplomatic opportunities for Russia to explore a “non-aggression” pact with France in Africa and the possibility of mediating an Indian-Chinese rapprochement, both of which would serve their interests while sending a strong signal to the US.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: AUKUS, France, India, Russia, China, Balancing.


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Middle East

Rusrael Is Still Strong Despite The Departure Of Putinyahu

Rusrael Is Still Strong Despite The Departure Of Putinyahu

13 SEPTEMBER 2021

Rusrael Is Still Strong Despite The Departure Of Putinyahu

Their strategic partnership stood the test of “Israel’s” latest political transition because it’s mutually beneficial and has successfully diversified beyond the leadership level to encompass their permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (‘deep state’).

The de facto Russian-”Israeli” alliance that can casually be referred to by the portmanteau “Rusrael” is still strong despite former Prime Minister Netanyahu’s departure from office earlier this year. The last “Israeli” leader had such close ties with Russian President Putin after having visited him on multiple occasions (including as his guest of honor during the 2018 Victory Day parade in Red Square) and spoken to him on the phone even more times than that over the years that one could actually refer to them as the singular “Putinyahu”. Even though this duo is no longer a political force, their Russian-”Israeli” relations remain excellent as proven by the successful outcome of the “Israeli” Foreign Minister’s visit to Moscow last week.

For those who haven’t been closely following Russian-”Israeli” relations, or if they’ve been indoctrinated with the fake news about their ties that has been incessantly propagated for years by some prominent voices in the Alt-Media Community (AMC) and hope to finally liberate their minds by learning the truth about this topic, here are two of my most recent analyses that summarize the contemporary state of affairs between them:

* 19 March 2021: “Lavrov Authoritatively Debunked The Fake News About Russian-‘Israeli’ Relations

* 2 August 2021: “Is Russia Recalibrating Its De Facto Alliance With Israel In Syria?

(four additional analyses are hyperlinked to in this piece, one of which leads to 15 other ones for reference)

To sum it up, Russia and “Israel” are practically allies at this point after Moscow pledged to secure Tel Aviv’s security interests in Syria. Although the Kremlin criticizes “Israel’s” regular strikes against the IRGC and its Hezbollah allies in the Arab Republic, it hasn’t done anything to stop them until recently when it belatedly bolstered Damascus’ air defense capabilities. Even so, this latest development hasn’t harmed bilateral ties.

Before their talks began, Lavrov praised the state of Russian-”Israeli” relations by proclaiming that “These decades have proved that our relations have become mature, advanced and trustful, and that they are of benefit to the people of Russia and Israel.” This sent a strong signal to observers not to expect anything but the most positive outcome possible from their meeting. Once it was finished, he held a press conference with his counterpart where he updated the press about everything that they talked about and touched upon the most pressing issues of relevance to their relations.

What follows are quotes from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ transcript of their talks followed by my analysis:

* “As is traditional, the atmosphere was friendly and trust-based. We agreed that the results were useful.”

– This shouldn’t surprise anyone: Russia and “Israel” truly trust one another and always have fruitful talks.

* “We also agreed to continue cooperating in various interdepartmental areas, investment and other projects that were negotiated and supported earlier by the President of the Russian Federation and the Prime Minister of the State of Israel.”

– This is a reference to the importance that the “Putinyahu” factor had on bringing relations between them to the strategic level. Intergovernmental ties are intensifying with an aim towards strengthening these two’s economic relations in order to comprehensively diversify their de facto alliance beyond the military realm.

* “We focused on the need to coordinate our efforts in curbing attempts to rewrite the universally recognised results of World War II, preventing the glorification of Nazi criminals, and putting an end to the connivance of neo-Nazi trends that are being manifest in Central and Eastern European countries. We will continue coordinating our actions at all international venues, including the UN.”

– Russia is fundamentally opposed to fascism, especially when it comes to its anti-Semitic manifestation. Putin made this absolutely clear during his keynote speech in January 2020 at the “Remembering The Holocaust: Fighting Antisemitism Forum” where he was invited as Netanyahu’s guest of honor. Lavrov is simply reminding everyone of Putin’s pledge to fight anti-Semitism and other forms of fascism through the UN and other forums.

* “We welcomed the normalisation of Israel’s ties with a number of Arab countries and we support the continuation of this process. We believe it should facilitate a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East.”

– While some so-called “Non-Russian Pro-Russians” (NRPR) loudly criticized the trend of Arab-”Israeli” normalization, Lavrov is letting them know that Moscow feels very differently and is in full support of it.

* “We discussed the prospects for military and political developments in the Syrian Arab Republic. We noted the need to fully comply with UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which reaffirms support for the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Syria and the lawful right of the Syrians to decide their own destiny.”

– This is just a repeat of what Lavrov said earlier this year while meeting with his counterpart’s predecessor, which itself was a reaffirmation of prior statements. In essence, due to their trust-based relationship, Russia sincerely believes that its “Israeli” ally respects UNSC 2254 and supports it just as much as Moscow does.

* “We will continue our dialogue at various international organisations. We have ramified contacts in the foreign and defence ministries and security councils. This allows us to fully consider each other’s interests in international and regional affairs when planning our work.”

– Lavrov wants the entire world to know that Russia and “Israel” are de facto allies, which is why the Kremlin “fully considers [Israel’s] interests in international and regional affairs when planning [its] work.” This is a strong message to Biden that Putin is “poaching” “Israel” from him as an ally after his team took it for granted.

* “The minister kindly invited me to visit the State of Israel, which I will do with pleasure.”

– Lavrov can’t wait to travel to “Israel” and meet its new government, which will further strengthen their ties.

* “We discussed all aspects of the Syrian peace process. The situation is difficult and is not getting any easier so far. Largely because too many external players and their interests are involved in these processes. Some of these interests are legitimate, such as Israel’s security. We always emphasise that for us, this is one of the key priorities in the Syrian case as well as in other conflicts.”

– Lavrov already said in January of this year that Russia will “neutralise” any of the Syrian-emanating threats that its “Israeli” ally informs it of so no one should doubt Moscow’s commitment to the self-professed “Jewish State’s” security, which the Kremlin regards as “legitimate”. Having said that, there still exist some differences between their respective tactics, which leads to the next quote.

* “As for Israeli strikes on Syrian territory, I can confirm that we strongly oppose turning the Syrian Arab Republic into a theatre of confrontation between third countries. We do not want Syrian territory to be used for actions against Israel or anyone else. Our military officials discuss the practical issues of this substantively on a daily basis. I think this has proven to be useful. Today we agreed that it will be continued.”

– This is consistent with the Kremlin’s publicly proclaimed foreign policy goal of always strictly respecting international law. In practice, though, it can be compellingly argued that Moscow has turned a blind eye to these same “Israeli” strikes for years already despite its occasional rhetoric. This is due to the strategic costs associated with countering them and the seemingly more important need to maintain their de facto alliance.

* “We think it is useful to use any opportunity to revive the process of a Palestinian-Israeli settlement. At this point, our Israeli friends are giving priority to socio-economic problems on Palestinian territory. We are also contributing to these efforts. This is necessary to allow the residents of the Palestinian National Authority to feel more confident.”

– Russia not only supports its “Israeli friends’” investments in Palestine, but is also contributing to them in an unclear way. This speaks to the Kremlin’s gradual shift from geopolitcs to geo-economics whereby economic factors are increasingly taking precedence over political ones when it comes to the way in which Russia conceptualizes international problems and their possible solutions.

————-

Considering all of the fact-based insight that was shared above from Lavrov’s recent press conference with his “Israeli” counterpart, it can confidently be concluded that “Rusrael” remains strong despite the departure of “Putinyahu”. Netanyahu indelibly left his mark on “Israeli” grand strategy by leveraging his very close friendship with Putin for the purpose of unprecedentedly accelerating their decades-long rapprochement into a de facto alliance by the time he left office earlier this year. Their strategic partnership stood the test of “Israel’s” latest political transition because it’s mutually beneficial and has successfully diversified beyond the leadership level to encompass their permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”).

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Israel, Syria, Balancing.


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South Asia

Robust Russian-Indian Defense Ties Prove That New Delhi Still Values Moscow

Robust Russian-Indian Defense Ties Prove That New Delhi Still Values Moscow

3 SEPTEMBER 2021

Robust Russian-Indian Defense Ties Prove That New Delhi Still Values Moscow

Russia and India’s “military diplomacy” with one another and jointly with others has strengthened their strategic partnership.

The recalibration of Indian grand strategy over the past decade away from its prior model of non-alignment towards the de facto pro-Western pivot that it describes as multi-alignment raised concerns about the future of Russian-Indian relations. This trend was commenced in response to the Indian leadership beginning to view neighboring China’s rise as a threat. The US aims to contain the People’s Republic, which is why India found a commonality of grand strategic interest with it and decided to prioritize the comprehensive improvement of their relations. By contrast, Russian-Chinese ties have only strengthened during this time, which is why some Indians began to regard the Eurasian Great Power as unreliable when it comes to their anti-Chinese goals.

Russia will never do anything to harm its Chinese and Indian strategic partners’ interests, unlike the US which seeks to play India off against China in order to divide and rule Asia. Moscow’s military cooperation with both Great Powers is motivated by the desire to retain a balance of force between them whereas Washington wants to tilt the balance in New Delhi’s favor at Beijing’s expense. Even so, India realized that it cannot completely rely on the US to meet its military needs after being threatened with CAATSA sanctions for its planned purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems. That deal also importantly signified the start of India once again recalibrating its military relations between both Great Powers and moving closer to Russia as a result.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released a report in March 2021 comparing trends in international arms transfers between the periods 2011-15 and 2016-20. it found that there was a whopping 53% fall in relevant Russian exports to India during that time. Even so, Head of International Cooperation and Regional Policy of Rostec state corporation Victor N. Kladov told The Hindu during late August’s Army 2021 exhibition in his country that their defense trade was worth $15 billion over the past three years. The outlet reported that the bulk of this was attributable to some big ticket deals such as the S-400s, which Mr. Kladov praised India for remaining committed to despite US sanctions threats.

I concluded in January of this year that “The Future Of US-Indian Relations Depends On New Delhi’s S-400 Decision” since it’ll show whether the South Asian state truly defends its national interests like Mr. Kladov believes or if it’ll submit to American pressure into becoming its new ally’s junior partner against China. As it presently stands, India has no such intentions of playing second fiddle to anyone as proven by its commitment to the Russian air defense deal. Military-technical cooperation has always remained the mainstay of the special and privileged Russian-Indian strategic partnership, and despite the negative trend that SIPRI recently reported, India evidently doesn’t feel comfortable sacrificing this and instead relies on it to retain balance with the US.

Had India compromised on its national interests by pulling out of the deal under American pressure, then it would have inevitably led to the irreversible deterioration of relations with Russia that would have seriously reduced its defense capabilities since it’s unable to realistically diversify away from its historical supplier anytime soon. Remaining committed to that deal complicates its ties with the US, though, but India believes that this is an acceptable cost for retaining its strategic sovereignty and still hopes that America might eventually grant it a sanctions waiver. Even if it doesn’t, India wouldn’t have lost out on all that much since its military-technical industry still remains dependent on Russia, not the US.

In fact, India seems to have once again begun to appreciate the reliability of its Russian partner after clinching so many big ticket deals over the past three years. The two sides are also looking to expand their military cooperation as well. The latest reports indicate that they’re negotiating an upgrade to the T-90S Bishma MBTs and Russia’s potential modernization of the Talwar-class guided missile frigates. They also just inked a deal for 70,000 AK assault rifles. Furthermore, they plan to export their jointly produced BrahMos supersonic cruise missile to countries in Southeast and West Asia, including the Philippines and potentially also Vietnam, both of which are embroiled in tense territorial conflicts with China in the South China Sea.

This last-mentioned observation shows that Russia isn’t afraid to cooperate with India in order to retain third countries’ military balances with China despite Moscow’s close ties with Beijing. Once again, it must be pointed out that Russia doesn’t seek to give anyone an edge over the other – neither China nor its other arms partners in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam – but to help each match the other’s growing capabilities with the hope that this would reduce the likelihood of a military clash between them and therefore improve the odds of a political solution to their disputes. The US, by contrast, hopes to give the Philippines, Vietnam, India, and others an edge over China in order to encourage them to provoke the same clashes that Russia hopes to avoid.

Russia’s and India’s planned BrahMos exports to third countries, especially those in the South China Sea, serve to positively reshape Indian perceptions about Russian reliability by showing that Moscow isn’t under Beijing’s influence like some in New Delhi fear. The Eurasian Great Power, just like its South Asian counterpart, doesn’t want to play second fiddle to anyone and is thus confidently showing the world that it’ll help others militarily balance China with Indian support the same as it helps China balance others such as India. Russia will never go as far as the US does by infringing on China’s interests, whether directly in the South China Sea or indirectly through the types of military equipment that it exports to its partners, but it’s still highly appreciated by India.

The BrahMos missiles can therefore be said to have been a game-changer in Russian-Indian military cooperation. Not only are they impressive in and of themselves, but their planned export to third countries embroiled in territorial disputes with China showed India that some of its experts were wrong about Russian intentions. This reassurance helped them to realize that they don’t need to put all their eggs in the American military basket, especially at the potential loss of their strategic sovereignty with time, which convinced them to remain committed to the S-400 deal despite the US’ sanctions threats. The end result is that Russia and India’s “military diplomacy” with one another and jointly with others has strengthened their strategic partnership.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, India, China, US, Balancing, BrahMos, Military Diplomacy.


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Russia’s Balancing Act Is The Key To Averting Another Civil War In Afghanistan

Russia’s Balancing Act Is The Key To Averting Another Civil War In Afghanistan

22 AUGUST 2021

Russia

It’s incumbent on Russia to use all realistic means at its disposal to urgently convince the “Panjshir Resistance” to negotiate with the Taliban, ensure that the Taliban offers its opponents a fair deal with respect to the inclusive government that it’s promised to create, and prevent any Tajik civilians from crossing over the border to fight for their co-ethnics (and in the process potentially provoke Taliban-Tajik clashes that could automatically involve Russia through the CSTO).

Taliban-Russia Ties

The Taliban’s lightning-fast conquest of Afghanistan has resulted in the group becoming its de facto authorities in less than half a month’s time, though it still hasn’t been formally recognized as such because it continues to be designated as a terrorist organization by the international community. Nevertheless, Russia enjoys excellent political ties with the Taliban that were forged over the past few years of the Moscow-led Afghan peace process in spite of still banning the group for the aforementioned reason.

Recalibrating Russia’s Balancing Act In Afghanistan

The Eurasian Great Power’s pragmatic stance towards them is the result of its diplomatic balancing act which saw the Kremlin pioneer a new era of relations with former rivals in recent years in an attempt to position itself as the supreme balancing force in Eurasia, which its leadership regards as their country’s geostrategic destiny this century. In particular, Russia has invested tremendous time and effort in practicing this policy towards majority-Muslim states as part of what can be described as its “Ummah Pivot”.

The rapid collapse of the US-backed Kabul government saw Russia replacing that partner with the Taliban as its de facto interlocutor for managing national affairs while the anti-government role that this group played with respect to Moscow’s balancing act there has been replaced by the so-called “Panjshir Resistance” which popped up in its eponymous valley. It considers itself to be the successor of the erstwhile “Northern Resistance” that used to enjoy Russian support during the 1990s. Unlike then, however, the Kremlin has no intentions of militarily aiding this opposition force but instead wants it to compromise with the Taliban.

Strategic Symbiosis

This observation is evidenced by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announcing that he supports a political dialogue between those opposing forces, which was followed up by Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov declaring that “there is no alternative to the Taliban” and elaborating on the many reasons why the “Panjshir Resistance” is doomed. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Zhirnov revealed that the Taliban asked for his assistance in reaching a political solution with that group. This development speaks to the symbiotic strategic relationship between Russia and the Taliban.

Russia expects the Taliban to function as the region’s anti-terrorist vanguard against ISIS-K while the Taliban expects Russia to facilitate a political compromise with the “Panjshir Resistance”. These outcomes would be mutually beneficial if they succeed since they’d ensure regional stability by averting another Afghan Civil War. Moscow is the only force capable of potentially convincing the “Panjshir Resistance” to reach a deal with the Taliban since the former’s members are thought to be mostly Tajiks – Afghanistan’s second-largest ethnic plurality – and therefore within Russia’s indirect “sphere of influence” by virtue of its alliance with Dushanbe.

Is The “Panjshir Resistance” The US’ “Plan C”?

Although Ahmad Massoud – the head of the “Panjshir Resistance” whose father of the same name was the legendary leader of the “Northern Resistance”known as the “Lion of Panjshir” – is close to the liberal-globalist imperialist Bernard-Henri Lévy (BHL) of Libyan War infamy and provocatively published an op-ed in the Washington Post requesting as much US military assistance as possible, it’s unlikely that anything significant will be forthcoming. Even if some was American support was received, without Russian support via Tajikistan, his movement stands no chance of succeeding but would only function as a US proxy for prolonging the war.

It’s unimportant whether some observers sympathize with Massoud’s comparatively more secular vision of Afghanistan since it’s objectively the case that his ties to BHL and direct appeal to the preferred media outlet of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) confirm the counterproductive role that he’d play with respect to regional dynamics if his movement is allowed to continue. It might very well be that some neoconservative “deep state” forces regard him as their “Plan C” for Afghanistan after “Plan A” of an indefinite occupation failed just like their “Plan B” of ISIS-K did shortly after.

Strategic Dynamics

Russia has no interest in militarily supporting the “Panjshir Resistance” since it’s aware of the destabilizing role that it’s expected to play in sabotaging February’s agreement to build the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway that Moscow intends to utilize for expanding its economic influence to the Indian Ocean like it’s wanted to do for centuries. It’s true that the US also intends to use PAKAFUZ to expand its own economic influence northward into the Central Asian Republics, but it can indefinitely postpone that ultimate fallback plan if the “Panjshir Resistance” successfully functions as its “deep state” proxy for sabotaging Russia’s plans.

The US doesn’t even have to do all that much anyhow for the “Panjshir Resistance” to further destabilize the situation in Afghanistan. Its continued militant resistance to the Taliban (no matter how futile it may ultimately be) might be enough to provoke the country’s de facto leaders into reciprocally (if not disproportionately) responding which could then result in potentially uncontrollable grassroots furor in Tajikistan itself. The US might hope that this catalyzes a self-sustaining cycle of destabilization whereby that neighboring country’s citizens volunteer to fight for their co-ethnics in Afghanistan and thus provoke border clashes with the Taliban.

The Worst-Case Scenario

Russia would have no choice but to protect its CSTO mutual defense ally’s borders in order to “save face” before the world and not be seen as abandoning the country that it previously swore to protect in such a scenario regardless of whoever really provoked it. That could then immediately ruin Moscow’s pragmatic political ties with the Taliban, thus sabotaging the Eurasian Great Power’s diplomatic balancing act and consequently creating a dangerous situation whereby the group no longer has any significant external incentive to behave responsibly like the international community expects.

If the Taliban returns to its old ways by inertia due to another round of civil war, it’ll remain isolated and the US will therefore succeed in indefinitely postponing seemingly inevitable Eurasian multipolar integration processes such as PAKAFUZ as well as the expansion of Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) into Afghanistan. Put another way, all that the US has to do is indirectly shape the preexisting conflict dynamics in Afghanistan in such a way as to prevent the “Panjshir Resistance’s” collapse long enough to inspire Tajik citizens to volunteer to fight for their co-ethnics there in order to possibly set into motion this self-sustaining Hybrid War scheme as its “Plan C”.

Concluding Thoughts

It’s for this reason why it’s incumbent on Russia to use all realistic means at its disposal to urgently convince the “Panjshir Resistance” to negotiate with the Taliban, ensure that the Taliban offers its opponents a fair deal with respect to the inclusive government that it’s promised to create, and prevent any Tajik civilians from crossing over the border to fight for their co-ethnics (and in the process potentially provoke Taliban-Tajik clashes that could automatically involve Russia through the CSTO). The outcome of Russia’s efforts will shape the future of the broader region for years to come, which is why all responsible stakeholders sincerely hope that it succeeds.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Afghanistan, Russia, Taliban, Panjshir Resistance, US, ISIS-K, Hybrid War, PAKAFUZ, Balancing.


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Russia Must Urgently Prioritize Formulating An Official Indo-Pacific Policy

Russia Must Urgently Prioritize Formulating An Official Indo-Pacific Policy

11 AUGUST 2021

Russia Must Urgently Prioritize Formulating An Official Indo-Pacific Policy

The Indo-Pacific is rapidly becoming the convergence point of many of the world’s geostrategic processes, but Russia has yet to formulate an official policy towards this vast space, which places it at a disadvantage vis-a-vis its Great Power peers.

The Indo-Pacific is among the top buzzwords in the foreign policy community nowadays because this vast region is rapidly becoming the convergence point of many of the world’s geostrategic processes. The New Cold War between the American and Chinese superpowers is unfolding in these two oceans and their hinterlands, which is prompting more Great Powers to pay greater attention to them. The majority of global trade traverses through these waters and the coastal countries have some of the fastest-growing economies anywhere on the planet. Nevertheless, some of them are also inherently unstable due to preexisting identity and territorial conflicts that are at times externally exploited, which thus makes the Indo-Pacific an emerging hotspot too.

It therefore wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that all relevant players in the international system should have a policy in place towards the Indo-Pacific. Russia has yet to formulate an official one, however, which places it at a disadvantage vis-a-vis its Great Power peers. All that it has are separate policies that haven’t been integrated into a singular one apart from perhaps there being some regional visions that still aren’t considered part of a cohesive Indo-Pacific whole. Bilateral engagements with China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, India, and South Africa form the basis for Russia’s policies towards Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa respectively though there’s also sometimes multilateral engagements with ASEAN, BRICS, and RIC too.

Without connecting these disparate parts into a comprehensive policy, Russia’s approach towards the Indo-Pacific will always remain complete. It must realize that these separate policies complement one another, but this awareness can only be brought about through a change in perspective from its academic, expert, and foreign policy communities. Thus far, Russia’s official approach towards the Indo-Pacific is reactionary, with Foreign Minister Lavrov at times warning about the US’ intentions to contain China there. This, however, hasn’t led to any proactive engagement with the countries and organizations of this region with the intent of crafting an official Indo-Pacific policy. That lack of vision is resulting in Russia lagging behind its peers once again.

Any comprehensive policy towards the Indo-Pacific must include components of Russia’s existing policies towards Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. The geographic extent of this space can more accurately be described as the Afro-Pacific considering the rising importance of East and Southern African countries in this strategic context. Regardless of whatever Russian decision makers decide to call it, their policy will also have to incorporate multilateral engagement with relevant economic and political structures such as ASEAN, the East African Community (EAC), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), among many others.

Furthermore, it must have diplomatic, economic, and military dimensions too. On the diplomatic front, Russia should try to position itself as the supreme balancing force in Afro-Eurasia through a blend of “classical diplomacy”, “economic diplomacy”, and “military diplomacy”, though this vision is only credible if Moscow has the appropriate tools to leverage to this end. Next, Russia will ideally aim to have its Greater Eurasian Partnership (GEP) balance between China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and the joint Indo-Japanese Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) in order to avoid disproportionate dependence on either economic network. And militarily, it mustn’t inadvertently provoke any security dilemmas, especially with China and India.

These are very ambitious and admittedly challenging goals, which is why the first step must be carried out within Russia’s own expert community. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MID per its Russian abbreviation) should begin reaching out to regional (Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, etc.) and subject (economic, diplomatic, military) experts with a view towards eventually bringing them together into a larger working group focused on formulating a comprehensive policy towards the Indo-Pacific. As is presumably the case with practically every Great Power’s diplomatic bureaucracy, it’s unlikely that Russia’s specialized experts ever engaged much with many of their differently specialized peers, yet this is arguably the need of the hour.

Economic experts must meaningfully interact with those who generally specialize in East African political affairs as well as their peers who focus on the military situation in South Asia for example. Basically, the existing nodes within Russia’s MID whose areas or subjects of responsibility fall within the vast geographic domain of the Indo-Pacific must form a new network aimed at achieving effective results. Russia has to organize their interactions in such a way that the eventual outcome is the most accurate assessment possible of the overall strategic situation in the Indo-Pacific space. Only with this insight can Russia confidently craft a comprehensive policy in this respect, but it’ll still likely take some time before it gets to that point.

Along the way, it might be helpful if Russia organized a high-profile conference in order to accelerate progress in this direction and greatly assist with brainstorming, or it could organize the same upon the final formulation of its Indo-Pacific policy in order to serve as the means through which it formally announces it to the world as an outcome of that event. Either way, this proposal could be advanced through the leading role of Russia’s MID, the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN per its Russian abbreviation), the Moscow State Institute of International Relations(MGIMO, which is run by MID), the Diplomatic Academy, the Higher School of Economics, and the prestigious Valdai Club and Russia International Affairs Council (RIAC) think tanks.

Better yet, that proposed event within Russia’s expert community could then become the first in a yearly tradition that could subsequently be expanded to include the participation of prominent experts from the many countries in the Indo-Pacific that Moscow would more actively engage with as part of its official policy towards that geostrategic space. This could prospectively result in a globally prominent platform with time that serves the important function of bringing together this megaregion’s many stakeholders to discuss the most pressing issues of pertinence during that year. Such a vision would also reinforce the growing perception of Russia as a neutral, balancing force within the Indo-Pacific focused solely on peace, stability, and development.

Russia is redirecting its grand strategic focus towards the Indian Ocean as evidenced by its recent endorsement of Central Asia-South Asia connectivity through the planned Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (PAKAFUZ) railway and President Putin’s interest in cooperating with India to ensure maritime security presumably also within his ally’s eponymous ocean, so it’s incumbent on the Kremlin to prioritize crafting a comprehensive Indo-Pacific policy as soon as possible. Russia’s rapid return to South Asia this year gives it tangibly emerging stakes in this megaregion and should hopefully inspire MID to do what’s needed in order to bring this about per the practical proposals shared in this analysis.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Indo-Pacific, Balancing, New Cold War, China, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, India, South Africa, Pakistan, Putin, Lavrov, PAKAFUZ.


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Russian Scholar Karaganov Articulated Russia’s Balancing Act With China

Russian Scholar Karaganov Articulated Russia’s Balancing Act With China

6 AUGUST 2021

Russian Scholar Karaganov Articulated Russia

Influential Russian Scholar Sergey Karaganov’s recent interview about the strategic dynamics of the New Cold War dedicates a lot of attention to articulating Russia’s balancing act with China and is therefore a must-read for all those who are interested in learning more about the Kremlin’s calculations in this respect.

Few would contest the claim that the world is in the midst of a New Cold War, but even fewer are able to articulate its strategic dynamics, let alone from a position of authority. Influential Russian scholar Sergey Karaganov, who recently gave an interview about this subject to the Argumenty I Fakty newspaper, is one of those experts whose assessments carry a lot of weight and are worthy of reviewing. RT‘s summary of his insight informed their non-Russian audience about his esteemed credentials: “Karaganov has been one of Russia’s top foreign-policy theorists for decades, and has also advised President Vladimir Putin in the past. He is currently the head of the World Economy and International Affairs faculty at the Higher School of Economics (HSE), a prestigious university in Moscow.” Due to its scope, however, it didn’t focus much on what he said about China.

The present piece therefore aims to raise greater awareness of Mr. Karaganov’s interpretation of Russian-Chinese relations, which he implies are actually characterized by a very sensitive balancing act. This aligns with what I’ve previously written on the subject, the following five pieces of which are my most prominent:

* 7 May 2018: “Russia’s Grand Strategy In Afro-Eurasia (And What Could Go Wrong)

* 18 May 2020: “The Prospects Of Russia And India Jointly Leading A New Non-Aligned Movement

* 3 June 2020: “Pakistan’s Role In Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership

* 17 February 2021: “Why Structural Realists Are Wrong To Predict That Russia Will Help The US Against China

* 11 June 2021: “Towards Increasingly Complex Multipolarity: Scenarios For The Future

My arguments, observations, and conclusions contradict the prevailing narrative that Russian-Chinese relations are either characterized by an eternal alliance or an inevitable clash. Since Mr. Karaganov’s insight closely aligns with my own, however, his professional authority might inspire some folks to reconsider their views about this.

Per Google Translate, these are the points that he made about China in the order that they were shared:

* “If we fought the last Cold War on two fronts, now China is on our side, it is our gigantic strategic resource. It draws on itself most of the military and political power of the West.”

* “If China, the main player in this cold war, wins, and it starts to feel dizzy with success, then we will not balance in its direction. If, on the contrary, China starts to lose, then we will have to go for a much closer alliance with it in order to prevent the West from gaining.”

* “Today’s relations between Russia and the PRC are an outstanding achievement of our and Chinese policy. And one of the biggest geostrategic failures of the West, which not only allowed us to get closer, but also reduced us to the state of a real semi-union.”

* “With a careful analysis of China’s policy and its military preparations, you come to the conclusion: in the foreseeable future, the Chinese are not going to threaten us. Otherwise, why would they so powerfully rebuild their military strategy and military construction from land to sea, investing most of their resources in space, in the navy, but not in ground forces? They are not going to fight for the expansion of territories, they are going to defend their southeastern and eastern borders. But what will happen in 10-15 years, we do not know. I admit that the Chinese elite will make a strategic mistake and follow one of the traditional Chinese paths – the construction of the Middle Empire surrounded by vassal states. Then China will have gigantic problems, and not only with Russia. Neither India, nor Iran, nor Turkey, not to mention Japan – all the great powers of Eurasia will not tolerate this. But if the Chinese act wisely, the prospects for our relationship will be simply wonderful.”

* “Having a friendly superpower is a tremendous boon. And I hope that we will not repeat the mistakes of the Europeans, who hid behind the back of the United States and sold them their sovereignty, and are now paying dearly for it. Knowing Russian history, the psychology of our people and the political class, I think that we will not sell our sovereignty to anyone. I also hope for the wisdom of the Chinese political class. If I were Chinese, I would never have done anything directed against Russia. And so far they have been doing so.”

The strategic pertinence of his points can be summarized as follows in the order that they were shared above:

* The indefinite perpetuation of American-Chinese tensions in the New Cold War serves the Kremlin’s grand strategic interests by comparatively reducing its chief rival’s comprehensive pressure campaign against Russia.

* Russia should actively recalibrate its balancing act between China and the US in order to prevent either of them from coming out on top and placing Russia in position of disproportionate strategic dependence on them.

* The comprehensive improvement of Russian-Chinese relations in recent years is mutually beneficial because it enables both Great Powers to pool their potential in jointly pushing back against Western hegemony.

* Russia has nothing to fear from China in the next 10-15 years, but if it emerges victorious in the New Cold War, then Russia and all relevant Eurasian Great Powers will unite to contain China if it becomes hegemonic.

* In the run-up to the scenario of a Chinese victory and especially afterwards, the Russian elite mustn’t sell out their state’s sovereignty and submit to Chinese hegemony, nor should China accept this even if it’s offered.

With this insight in mind, Mr. Karagonov’s vision for Russian-Chinese relations becomes much clearer. He’s in support of Russia retaining strategic ties with China but also pragmatically recalibrating them as needed in order to retain the balance of power between America and the People’s Republic. The ultimate goal is to indefinitely perpetuate the New Cold War so that no one emerges victorious and risks placing Russia in a position of disproportionate strategic dependence. He hints that China might win though, in which case he warns against it behaving hegemonically by treating other countries as “vassal states” lest it risk provoking Russia into assembling a Eurasian-wide Great Power coalition to contain it. He’s also worried that the Russian elite might sell their country out to China though assesses the chances of that scenario as being very low.

The key takeaway from the Chinese dimension of Mr. Karaganov’s interview is that bilateral relations with Russia are unprecedentedly excellent but the Kremlin mustn’t be oblivious to the unlikely but nevertheless still possible scenario that the People’s Republic might behave hegemonically in the event that it wins its New Cold War with the US. The most effective way to avert that dark scenario is for Russia to continue actively balancing between those two superpowers and thus indefinitely perpetuating their rivalry. At all costs, an American victory must be prevented while a Chinese one is comparatively much more manageable, though only if Russia makes it clear that it won’t tolerate any hegemonic intentions from its neighbor. This insight from such a well-respected and highly influential Russian foreign policy expert is intriguing and deserves to be reflected upon.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, China, US, EU, Balancing, New Cold War.


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The Extended Troika Is Incomplete Without India & Iran But It’ll Still Manage

The Extended Troika Is Incomplete Without India & Iran But It’ll Still Manage

5 AUGUST 2021

India’s and Iran’s refusal to participate in the Extended Troika on Afghanistan alongside Russia, Pakistan, China, and the US due to New Delhi’s reluctance to publicly talk to the Taliban and Tehran’s disagreements with Washington means that this peacemaking structure will always remain incomplete even though it’ll still likely manage to accomplish most of its goals without them.

The Extended Troika comprised of RussiaPakistanChina, and the US is arguably the world’s most important peacemaking structure at the moment considering the pivotal role that it’s playing in shaping the future of Eurasia upon the US’ military withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of August. These four countries are coordinating their efforts to facilitate a political solution to the ongoing Afghan Civil War even if their interactions are imperfect and a tangible outcome has yet to be achieved. All four of them are finally on the same page with respect to their shared geo-economic vision for post-war Afghanistan related to the landlocked country functioning as the irreplaceable transit state for advancing Central Asia-South Asia connectivity.

Russia hoped that India and Iran would also join this structure due to the stakes that they have in Afghanistan’s future, but this has yet to happen due to New Delhi’s reluctance to publicly talk to the Taliban (which is a precondition for participation) and Tehran’s disagreements with Washington. This means that the Extended Troika will always remain incomplete. India will consequently have difficulty ensuring and expanding its entrenched economic interests in Afghanistan just like Iran will struggle to do the same as well as defend its security interests there too. By voluntarily declining to take a seat at the table where all relevant stakeholders are determining this interconnected region’s future, India and Iran are depriving themselves of opportunities.

In their leaderships’ minds, they’re apparently prioritizing optics over substance after calculating – whether rightly or wrongly – that it’s better to maintain their images than risk the potential soft power consequences connected with backtracking on their present policies of pertinence. To explain, India wants to show the world that it’s consistently opposed to the Taliban, which its Hindu nationalist government insists its an irredeemable terrorist group. Iran, meanwhile, doesn’t want to discuss anything with the US even in a multilateral framework until bilateral ties first improve since it’s concerned that doing otherwise might project an image of weakness when it comes to the nuclear talks and other seemingly more pressing issues for it such as Gulf security.

The emerging situation is such that India’s and Iran’s voluntary decisions to remain outside the Extended Troika place them in a position to act as spoilers to the Afghan peace process. Nevertheless, the likelihood of them successfully perpetuating the ongoing civil war there for any significant length of time is low. That’s because the Taliban controls a sizeable length of the country’s borders, Iran’s new principalist (“conservative”) government might also understandably feel uncomfortable facilitating the Indian Air Force’s overflights through its airspace to continually resupply US-backed Kabul, and New Delhi might rightly wager that the expected costs of such a campaign far outweigh the expected benefits. Even so, this is a scenario that shouldn’t be totally dismissed.

Part of the reason why Russia presumably wanted both of them to participate in the Extended Troika was to reduce the chances of this happening. If India and Iran felt empowered by this peacemaking structure and were confident that it could most effectively ensure their respective interests, then they’d be less likely to speculatively contemplate various ways to unilaterally (or perhaps even jointly with one another) promote their goals at others’ possible expense. Regrettably, neither of their leaderships want to risk the potential soft power consequences connected with backtracking on their present policies of pertinence. So long as they don’t meddle in Afghanistan, though, then none of the Extended Troika’s members have much to worry about.

In the event that one or both of them end up doing something disruptive, then they might worsen their ties with all four of that peacemaking structure’s members. The US might not be too concerned for the short term, especially if India’s responsible for stirring up trouble, since such a development would temporarily offset its Russian and Chinese rivals’ connectivity plans though as at the expense of America’s own. Be that as it may, the US can strategically afford to delay the Central Asia-South Asia integration process for the time being since the interim period of uncertainty would be more counterproductive to those two’s interests than its own, but this destabilizing scenario would still stand no choice of materializing if India and Iran joined the Extended Troika.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Pakistan, China, US, India, Iran, Afghanistan, Taliban, Balancing, PAKAFUZ.


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Is Russia Recalibrating Its De Facto Alliance With Israel In Syria?

Is Russia Recalibrating Its De Facto Alliance With Israel In Syria?

2 AUGUST 2021

Is Russia Recalibrating Its De Facto Alliance With Israel In Syria?

Last month’s revelation by a representative of the Russian Armed Forces that the Syrian-manned anti-air systems that his country dispatched to the Arab Republic successfully downed most “Israeli” missiles during a recent strike suggest that the Eurasian Great Power might be recalibrating its de facto alliance with the self-professed “Jewish State”.

Russia and “Israel” have been de facto allies in Syria for over the past half-decade as I argued at length over the years, especially in my top four analyses on the subject herehere (which lists 15 other pertinent ones), here, and here. To summarize, Russia sought to actively “balance” Iranian influence in Syria which it regards as regionally destabilizing due to its reported role in organizing attacks against the self-professed “Jewish State” from the Arab Republic’s territory. Moscow was motivated by the desire to comprehensively expand its ties with Tel Aviv, which it also expected would improve its geostrategic positioning vis-a-vis Washington by gradually becoming “Israel’s” most significant regional security partner.

It advanced this aim by “passively facilitating” literally hundreds of “Israeli” strikes against the IRGC and Hezbollah there, which importantly were never thwarted by Syria’s Russian-supplied S-300s from a few years back due to what some believe is the Kremlin’s continued refusal to transfer full operational control over these systems to Damascus. The thinking goes that if Syria succeeded in downing any more “Israeli” jets in self-defense, then Tel Aviv would be triggered into launching a disproportionate response against its neighbor that could completely cripple its military and therefore inadvertently reverse Russia’s recent anti-terrorist gains in the country. The Kremlin calculated that it’s better to give “Israel” freedom of the skies than risk that scenario.

This strategy seems to be changing though as evidenced by a Russian Armed Forces representative revealing late last month that the Syrian-manned anti-air systems that his country dispatched to the Arab Republic successfully downed most “Israeli” missiles during a recent strike. This suggests that the Eurasian Great Power might be recalibrating its de facto alliance with the self-professed “Jewish State”. It’s unclear exactly what Moscow’s motivations may be, but some educated hypotheses might suffice for pointing sincere observers in the right direction. These are the recent removal of President Putin’s close friend Netanyahu from power; the ongoing efforts to clinch a “New Detente” with the US; and restoring regional geostrategic balance.

In the order that they were mentioned, the first development might have resulted in the coming to power of influential forces that don’t share Netanyahu’s vision of a de facto Russian-”Israeli” alliance. Those individuals can speculatively be described as more pro-American than pro-”Israeli” in the sense that they’d prefer to put their traditional patron’s interests before their own polity’s. To explain, regardless of however one feels about Netanyahu’s legacy, he was nevertheless very successful in comprehensively improving relations with Russia, which in turn made “Israel” less dependent on the US’ regional security services for defending his polity’s interests. His successor and that man’s team might feel more comfortable returning under the US umbrella.

The second point is pertinent insofar as it’s increasingly clear that the US and Russia are attempting to negotiate a series of “mutual compromises” across a wide array of spheres following June’s Biden-Putin Summit in Geneva. Russia wants to relieve American pressure along its western flank in order to focus more on its “Ummah Pivot” for reducing potentially disproportionate dependence on China in the future while the US wants to refocus the bulk of its strategic efforts on more aggressively “containing” China in the “Indo-Pacific”. “Israel”, which is important to both of their interests, might have come to be treated as little more than a piece to be traded by Russia on this “Great Power Chessboard” in exchange for US “compromises” elsewhere.

Finally, this might simply be due to Russia realizing that “Israel” is now far too strong and must therefore be “gently” balanced through increased military (and specifically anti-air) assistance to Syria. After all, one of the primary reasons why Russia de facto allied with “Israel” in the first place is because Iran was becoming too strong in the region and thus had to be balanced according to the Kremlin’s geostrategic calculations. It would therefore be natural for Russia to temporarily recalibrate its balancing strategy in light of succeeding so well with its earlier motivation. This suggests that Russia might eventually oscillate back towards “Israel” if/once Iran regains its momentum, and so on and so forth in accordance with the Kremlin’s Eurasian balancing strategy.

While a lot still remains unclear at the moment, all that can be known for sure is that Russia wanted the world to know that it credibly bolstered Syria’s air defense capabilities, which certainly hints that it’s actively recalibrating its balancing act and in particular the “Israeli” dimension thereof. It’s unknown exactly how far it’ll go and whether it’ll ever cross the Rubicon that many Non-Russian Pro-Russians (NRPRs) have been practically begging for with respect to letting Syria finally use the S-300s to shoot down attacking “Israeli” jets, but it’s obvious that something has changed even though the reasons for this perceptible shift are debatable and could even potentially be a combination of each of the three earlier described hypotheses.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, Israel, Syria, US, Iran, New Cold War, New Detente, Balancing.


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Franco-Russo Competition In The Central African Republic Doesn’t Have To Be Zero-Sum

Franco-Russo Competition In The Central African Republic Doesn’t Have To Be Zero-Sum

23 JUNE 2021

Franco-Russo Competition In The Central African Republic Doesn

France seems to regard its competition with Russia in the Central African Republic as a zero-sum game, but it doesn’t have to be like that since both Great Powers can contribute in their own way to that country’s development.

The French Foreign Minister dramatically claimed last week that “In the Central African Republic, there is a form of a seizure of power, and in particular of military power, by Russian mercenaries.” This came shortly after Paris suspended military and budgetary support to Bangui in response to accusations that the Central African Republic’s (CAR) government was complicit in an information warfare campaign against France that allegedly also involves Russia. That decision was preceded by French President Macron provocatively describing his CAR counterpart as a so-called “hostage” of Russian private military contractors (PMCs). These developments strongly suggest that France views its competition with Russia there as a zero-sum game, but it doesn’t have to be like that since both Great Powers can contribute in their own way to that country’s development.

For those readers who haven’t closely followed events in the CAR over the past few years, Russia has recently emerged as a major force there after providing military assistance to Bangui in full compliance with relevant UNSC Resolutions on the matter. I hyperlinked to 18 of my prior pieces over the years about this dimension of Moscow’s geostrategic “balancing” act in my article two months ago asking “Is Khodorkovsky Behind The Claims Of Russian Death Squads In The Central African Republic?” The one from June 2019 about how “Russia’s ‘Pivot To Africa’ Encroaches On France’s Traditional ‘Sphere Of Influence’” is the most topical to this particular analysis. It described how Russia’s “military diplomacy” through arms sales and PMC deployments in the name of “Democratic Security” (counter-Hybrid War tactics and strategies) is increasing its appeal throughout Africa.

This model was first practiced in the CAR where it’s currently being perfected. France practically abandoned its resource-rich but chronically impoverished former colony due to its seemingly intractable civil war, which created the opportunity for Russia to come to its assistance a couple of years ago and surprisingly make progress on stabilizing parts of the country. France fears the growing attractiveness of Russia’s “Democratic Security” model in its African “sphere of influence” since Moscow has proven that it’s more than capable of replacing some of the security assistance that Paris used to provide to its partners. The crucial difference between the two, however, is that Russia doesn’t make political demands of those countries. Nevertheless, there do seem to be some quid pro quos involved such as obtaining preferential access to certain resources.

Even so, Russia’s “Democratic Security” model is very flexible and tailored to meet the needs of its many partners across the continent. Moscow also has an interest in comprehensively strengthening ties with those countries too beyond the military and resource spheres in order to cultivate reliable allies. This is evidenced by its investments in the CAR’s social sphere and the emphasis on improving people-to-people ties. Russia knows that it can’t rely on inter-elite relationships indefinitely if it seriously aspires to become a meaningful geopolitical “balancing” force in Africa, hence its focus on improving the lives of its partners’ people for soft power’s sake. France has mostly neglected to do this since it took its partners for granted by doing for decades exactly what it dishonestly accuses Russia of nowadays, which is simply relying on elite patronage networks.

This explains why France is so furious with Russia’s strategic inroads in the CAR. The Eurasian Great Power is handling its African outreaches a lot better than the Western European one which has a centuries-long “sphere of influence” there stretching back to the colonial era. France will have to step its game up if it doesn’t want to lose more hearts and minds to Russia’s much more pragmatic approach across this strategic space. Alas, instead of learning these long-overdue lessons, France decided to punish the CAR by suspending military and budgetary assistance, which is speculated to have prompted a change in government there after the Prime Minister was replaced with someone who media reports claim is more acceptable to Paris. This observation can be seen as a pragmatic move on Bangui’s part since it doesn’t consider Franco-Russo competition to be a zero-sum game.

Ideally, France and Russia would contribute in their own way to developing and stabilizing their shared partner. For instance, France is still an impressive economic force to be reckoned with there, while Russia is the country’s newest and most reliable security provider. The legacy of French influence won’t be erased anytime soon so it’s fitting for the two countries to repair their relations, though not at the expense of Russian-CAR relations like some in Paris might hope. Russia doesn’t impose any ultimatums on its partners nor does it ever pressure them to reduce their ties with others so France should hopefully learn from this pragmatic policy if it truly aspires to retain and even expand its influence there. Punishing the CAR is counterproductive and confirms that Paris is behaving in a very condescending manner which implies a hierarchy between the two.

France will inevitably have to incorporate Russia into its newfound “Lead From Behind” stratagem across its “sphere of influence” that I wrote about last week when describing the evolution of its Operation Barkhane in the Sahel. The Western European Great Power’s prior model of hegemonic dominance over its partners is coming to an end as the world transitions to multipolarity. The ongoing New Cold War between the US and China is compelling the Global South countries in which they compete to actively search for third-party “balancing” forces like Russia. Their traditional partners, in this case France, don’t sufficiently meet their increasingly independent strategic needs. France still has a chance to retain its “sphere of influence”, but it must lean to “share” it with others like Russia otherwise it’ll lose its influence a lot faster than if it doesn’t.

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By Andrew Korybko

American political analyst

Tags: Russia, France, Central African Republic, Democratic Security, Balancing, Lead From Behind, New Cold War.


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