Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukašenko and his “big brother” Vladimir Putin are ready to launch the long-awaited union between Russia and Belarus. The agreements will permit the formation of a single gas and fuel market. Belarus (a buffer country between Russia and Western Europe, close to the Baltic States) has always purchased Russian oil and fuels at a low price, without export taxes, importing about 23 million tons of fuels each year.
Russia and Belarus kickstarted massive joint military drills on the EU’s border, closely monitored by NATO as tensions between Belarus and its western neighbors rise. The drills come a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin and his increasingly isolated Belarusian ally Alexander Lukashenko said they agreed to deepen the integration of their ex-Soviet countries, including in areas of defense.
President Vladimir Putin said unprecedented plans were underway to exempt businesses and entrepreneurs that move to the islands, to attract investment on the Pacific Ocean archipelago. Tokyo has warned that the plan risks worsening a diplomatic spat between the two countries that has kept the two nations technically in a state of war since the 1940s. Russia considers the islands its sovereign territory, and constitutional reforms passed last year prevent the Kremlin from negotiating away any part of the nation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said relations between Ukraine and Russia should be restored as soon as possible. The preparations for a meeting between President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian leader Vladimir Putin are proceeding “at the highest level.”
Russia Must Urgently Prioritize Formulating An Official Indo-Pacific Policy
11 AUGUST 2021
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.
Russia is ready to help Tajikistan against the Afghan Taliban, Russian President Vladimir Putin said. The Kremlin offered its support in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), which in addition to the Russian Federation includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan itself.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin promised to help President Alexander Lukashenko overcome the economic problems caused by European Union sanctions against Belarus. Last week, the EU imposed restrictions on Belarus’ trade in petroleum derivatives, among others.
Putin Wants Peace & Prosperity For Europe, Not Pandemonium & Problems
28 JUNE 2021
President Putin’s article for German media that was published on the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union debunks the Mainstream Media’s lies that the Russian leader wants pandemonium and problems for Europe since he very convincingly proved that all he’s interested in is peace and prosperity.
President Putin has been maliciously misportrayed by the Western Mainstream Media as an evil genius who’s obsessed with sowing pandemonium and problems across the world, especially in Europe. The truth, as could be expected, is the exact opposite. The Russian leader is simply a pragmatic moderate who harbors no “revolutionary” designs for better or for worse, and simply believes in adhering to the traditional vision of International Relations articulated by the UN Charter. It’s very rare that he’s able to speak directly to those who’ve been misled by the Mainstream Media into believing all sorts of fake news about him and his country’s alleged intentions, but that’s precisely what he did earlier this week in an article for German media.
Published on the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, his piece about “Being Open, Despite The Past” deserves to be read by all because it debunks the misperceptions that have been propagated about Russia and especially its leader in recent years. President Putin very convincingly wrote about his desire to restore his country’s comprehensive partnership with Europe for the betterment of both of their people. He paid special attention to how the historic Russian-German reconciliation after World War II and subsequent energy cooperation during the height of the Old Cold War in 1970 helped lay the political basis for modern-day Europe.
He also wrote quite positively about what he sconsiders their shared vision of a Europe stretching from Lisbon to Vladivostok and reaffirmed Russia’s civilizational and historical ties to it. In essence, he was reiterating his vision for a Greater Eurasian Partnership though with particular emphasis paid to the European dimension due to his target audience in the bloc’s de facto leader. The only two obstacles in the way of achieving this mutually beneficial dream are NATO’s aggressive military expansion towards Russia’s borders and the artificial zero-sum choice that was forced upon some countries like Ukraine to choose between Europe and Russia. If Russia-NATO ties de-escalate and the EU behaves more pragmatically towards third countries, a breakthrough might happen.
That, however, clearly requires considerable political will but thankfully the latest developments indicate that it’s finally present on part of the European side. French President Macron and German Chancellor Merkel want to invite President Putin to attend a summit of European leaders later this summer, though some countries like Poland fiercely oppose this proposal. If it happens, though, then it might end up being one of the first major outcomes of last week’s Geneva Summit which sought to de-escalate Russian-US tensions. It’s also interesting that this was reported the day after President Putin’s article that he wrote for the European audience, which suggests a sequence of events connecting Geneva, his article, and the Franco-German summit proposal.
Nobody should be under any illusions though that progress would happen at the expense of Russian-Chinese relations. There is no credible scenario wherein these two Great Powers would revert to the fierce competition that characterized their ties for many years during the Old Cold War. Neither regards International Relations as being a zero-sum game but a win-win one. Improved Russian-EU relations would actually benefit China too by making the Eurasian Land Bridge more viable than it presently is considering the ongoing sanctions regime against Moscow. That outcome would advance China’s vision for a Community of Common Destiny between itself, Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union, and the EU, thereby greatly stabilizing the supercontinent.
Europeans, both average folks and political officials alike, should therefore seriously contemplate the proposals contained in President Putin’s latest article for German media. They should realize that he’s being totally sincere and doing his utmost to articulate his country’s grand strategic vision. This doesn’t concern sowing pandemonium and problems across Europe like the Mainstream Media falsely claimed for years, but is all about ensuring peace and prosperity for their people. That mutually beneficial outcome can only occur if the EU finally musters the political will to move past it’s presently difficult era of relations with Russia and restore their comprehensive partnership in order to establish a Greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
Russian President Vladimir Putin affirmed that Russia will continue to support Syria in its war against terrorism. He also affirmed Russia’s keenness on improving its relations with neighboring countries to achieve security.
Russian-AmericanRelations: Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way
17 JUNE 2021
The highly anticipated Putin-Biden Summit resulted in very few tangible outcomes, but obsessing over that fact misses the most important point, which is that their leaders confirmed that there’s a mutual will to improve their relations.
Presidents Putin and Biden went into Wednesday’s summit with the intention of rescuing their bilateral relations from their lowest level since the end of the Old Cold War, and while their efforts resulted in few tangible outcomes, they nevertheless succeed in confirming that they both have the will to improve their ties. The only visible successes were the decision to return their ambassadors and set up a variety of working groups, with the most important one focusing on strategic security issues. They also revealed that they discussed the Arctic, cybersecurity, and regional conflicts like Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine, as well as Iran’s nuclear program. Both leaders also expressed a desire to improve trade in the future too.
Differences still persist, however, especially over issues that the US describes as “democracy” and “human rights”. Nevertheless, these aren’t serious enough to impede the improvement of their relations. They simply agreed to disagree and that’s that. It’s much more important for both leaders to resolve their strategic security problems first and foremost, especially by negotiating a successor to the recently extended New START upon its expiry. They also needed to discuss the “rules of the road”, as President Biden put it, when it comes to their overall competition with one another. Both leaders confirmed that the talks were held in a positive atmosphere free from threats, which further confirms their desire to resolve whatever issues they realistically can.
Since not a lot of specific details were disclosed, it’s difficult to predict exactly what form their possible cooperation could take on the wide range of issues that they discussed. Even so, what’s most important is that they talked about those topics and sought to find a convergence of interests between them. This further speaks to their positive intentions in responsibly regulating their comprehensive competition with one another, the end effect of which could be a reduction of tensions in Europe. That in turn could free up the US to more aggressively “contain” China on the other side of Eurasia, but nobody should expect an intensification of such efforts anytime soon since it’ll still take some time to make progress on the Russian front, if it happens at all.
The reason for such caution is that there are still some rabidly anti-Russian members of the US’ permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies (“deep state”) who could try to sabotage their incipient rapprochement. They already tried doing so by provoking this April’s tensions in Ukraine as well as setting President Biden up during an interview around that time to agree with his interlocutor that his Russian counterpart is a so-called “killer”. Those efforts failed to derail what the world now knows was their behind-the-scenes talks this entire time which helped pave the way for Wednesday’s summit.
That being said, the anti-Russian faction of the American “deep state” might still not given up on trying to ruin bilateral relations. Even in the event that they stage another provocation, however, it’s unclear whether Russia would react to it or even whether those closest to Biden who were responsible for organizing Wednesday’s summit would fall for it. President Putin sincerely seems to believe that his American counterpart wants to improve relations, and even though neither leader trusts the other, they appear to understand that this vision is in their mutual interests. For that reason, the anti-Russian faction of the “deep state” might not succeed.
Speculation aside, there’s no question that Wednesday’s summit was a positive development for both countries. Their leaders finally had the chance to talk face-to-face and sort out as many of their problems as possible. It’ll now be up to those below them to see to it that tangible progress is achieved on everything that they discussed. The world might have to wait some time before seeing the visible fruits of their efforts, but they should expect that they’ll eventually see something, even if only in the sphere of strategic security. That would make Wednesday’s summit a success even if nothing else improves, whether in general or right away.