NIAS Europe Studies

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NIAS Europe Studies
Expert Interview: Russia in the International Order

  Padmashree Anandhan, Femy Francis, Rohini Reenum, Akriti Sharma, Akhil Ajith, Shamini Velayutham and Anu Maria Joseph

In an interview to the NIAS Europe Studies team at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Ambassador DB Venkatesh Varma provided an overview of Russia as one of the old great powers of the world to its course of dramatic changes. According to Varma Russia today is more multinational, and multicultural compared to the Soviet period with strong minorities, Muslim minorities, Buddhist minorities, and Asiatic people from Siberia. He spoke about the complicated history of Russia in trying to be part of the European family and being subject to attacks by Napolean, Nazi Germany and its civil war (intervened by 10 countries) between 1917 and 1924. Citing this Ambassador Varma stated how Russia compares the same to the present in Ukraine’s case where it views the West as a problem creator in its periphery. Giving a gist about Ukraine, he highlighted how it is one of the most important ex-soviet republics, yet not entirely under Russia’s sphere of influence and how its population had differing orientations by western Ukraine, considered pro-European and eastern Ukraine, seen as pro-Russian. 

According to Ambassador Varma, the trigger to the conflict in eastern Europe was due to the sharp swing of Ukraine’s foreign policy towards the EU and NATO where the population remained divided. The real trouble began when Viktor Yanukovych, former Ukraine’s President (Considered pro-Russian) was ousted in 2014. Following an insurrection of a pro-west government, the failure of the Minsk agreement to maintain the Donbass area with constitutional autonomy sparked a war in February 2022. On the war in Ukraine, he said that it was not in favour of Russia in the first year but it turned so in the second year, with no longer being a war for territory but of attrition. According to him, as compared to Europe, 
the US and the NATO’s military and

financial assistance to Ukraine the prolonged war was turning in favour of Russia. This was due to the population support of, Russia’s President Putin and Russia’s advantage in material resources. He indicated the setting in of fatigue across Europe and the domestic divisions in US in continuing its aid to Ukraine in the long term whereas Russia's concerns over the impact of sanctions in the long term have diverted it towards the East. Denial from the European markets for its energy has pushed it to look at China and India and he said: “Now Russia is more self-contained in a civilizational sense.” In terms of economy, despite strong sanctions, Russia has bounced back and continues its energy exports although the middle class is seen to be sceptical about the war. Finally, he ended his initial note concluding that Russia would insist on retaining a portion of Donbas after war consultations. Excerpts:

Padmashree Anandhan: If there is a peace process between Ukraine and Russia what would be the negotiating point?  

Ambassador Varma: With regards to the peace process, there were some attempts in March and April of 2022 to get Russia and Ukraine together to see if there can be a compromise. Both on cessation of hostilities and also about the future of Ukraine. Turkey played a major role in that. There were several meetings in Belarus and Istanbul. There are reports that they were almost close to an agreement. Which is to say that Russia would withdraw to the February 2022 borders. There would be limits on future Ukrainian armed forces. Ukraine would accept neutrality which means a commitment not to join NATO in the future. Both Russia and Ukraine were agreeable to these terms. However, the Ukrainian side came under a lot of pressure from the US and the United Kingdom not to accept this peace deal and the peace deal fell through. Subsequently, Russia has made some military gains. Not as much as it would like. But Russia's position has changed subsequently. Because obviously, it is doing better than before on the battlefield. And occupies more territory than it occupied now at the beginning of the war. 

Subsequently, Russia has also incorporated four provinces into the Russian Federation by a change in their constitution. Now therefore Russia has very clearly said that it is ready for peace talks. But not with the condition that Russia will return the territory. Because those territories that it has already incorporated into Russia are not for negotiation at the table. Now that will not happen because when Ukraine had a chance to accept those terms. Ukraine turned its back on that. Now Ukraine also has a law which says that there will be negotiations with Russia but not until President Putin is in power. So, the Ukrainian government is limited by its law not to negotiate with Russia. 

However, I think the situation is changing. There is considerable pressure from the international community. There have been a number of peace plans. The Chinese provided one. The African Union provided one. There was also a peace plan from Indonesia. Prime Minister Modi said this is not an era of war. If there is any interest in India playing a role, we would do that. We have not offered any particular peace plan. But we have offered our services should it be required from us. Now it is unlikely that a peace settlement will return to the status quo. Because for a status quo to come about and on the negotiating table you need to have a status quo that is an equal status quo between the two combatant powers on the battlefield. Which is not the case. It is now moving more and more in favour of Russia. So, depending on how far it goes. There is also less support for the war assistance to Ukraine from the European countries. And in the US Congress is unable to give a further tranche of support for Ukraine because of their internal divisions and difficulties.

Padmashree Anandhan: Two years into the war, can highlight a few measures taken by Russia against the sanctions imposed by the West? How will this turn out in the long term?

Ambassador Varma: Now in terms of the economic situation in Russia, Russia managed the sanctions pretty well through some tight monetary measures and social security measures for the vulnerable population. Inflation has risen but it is under control. Manufacturing has been boosted because a lot of money is going into the manufacturing sector which also includes the defence sector. Unemployment is low because the economy is now running at full speed to support the war effort. Because it might create a problem of inflation later. But presently inflation is being taken into account. Now whether economic instability will provoke political instability was the intention and the purpose of the sanctions. So in that particular respect sanctions have not succeeded in fulfilling the primary objective for which they were imposed. Now if they have not succeeded the only resulting aspect of the sanctions is their continuation which are aimed at restricting Russia's growth in the medium term. And of course, in the medium term, Russia's economy will be affected. But Russia is confident that it will be able to handle this by engaging with the rest of the world. And they are doing a large measure of de-dollarization. 

Now the trade between Russia and China is almost entirely in non-dollar denominations. They are also stressing with India greater trade in national currencies. They are finding alternative routes for their energy resources. Oil, gas, LNG, coking coal and other commodities. And it has engaged with their Central Asian neighbours, with Turkey, with the Trans Caucasus countries, with the Middle East, with India, with China, with South East Asia. It has stepped up its activities in Africa. So, Russia is trying to prove that it is not isolated. Isolation is more on the western side rather than the rest of the world. But this is a process that will continue to play out as we see the war progressing into the third year.

Padmashree Anandhan: What will be the state of the Wagner mercenary group post a failed rebellion?

Ambassador Varma: The mercenaries, the Wagner group. So, this notion of paramilitary groups which are notionally independent and run by private companies but reporting to the state is not a new phenomenon. The Russians have had it. The Americans also had it in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are a lot of such western supported groups in Africa fighting on various sides. But the Wagner group gained public attention and notoriety in a sense because of their excessive political ambition. Or trying to dictate their vision of how the war should be conducted and what should be taken forward in terms of decision-making in Moscow, particularly of the Russian Ministry of Defence. Now President Putin and the government authorities in Moscow allowed this to happen for about four to five months until there was almost open rebellion. And that open rebellion was in a sense closed down and stopped and finally crushed leading to the death of the leader of the Wagner group. And that problem has now been in a sense rectified by making it compulsory for all servicemen fighting in Ukraine to register themselves and sign a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defence. But that has not eliminated the problem and the problem is not confined only to Russian paramilitaries in Ukraine. 

There are a lot of Russian paramilitaries and other countries' paramilitaries and other hotspots of the world. So, this is a phenomenon that will not go away. Private armies have the advantage of deniability but have the disadvantage of the risk of going out of control. And we saw that in good measure when the Wagner rebellion took 
place in the summer of last year.

Femy Francis: You talked about Russia's pivot to the east, what would the Eastern countries be getting back by collaborating with Russia? So, can these countries in the East afford to accept this pivot and will it even if it does not mean that it will make Superpowers very unhappy? 

Ambassador Varma: Well, that's an interesting question and there is no single answer for all countries. A lot of countries are from Russia's point of vitally important to pivot to the East to find new partners and new markets. It is clear that Russia has lost the European and American markets for the foreseeable future. So, in terms of markets China and India are very important. But for the countries concerned also are aware that Russia requires these markets and therefore is willing to provide certain discounts, especially in the supply of crude oil. And that we have seen is the reason why there has been a dramatic rise in India's oil imports from Russia almost to USD 50 billion and Russia is now the largest oil supplier to India. It is also a major oil and gas supplier to China. There are other commodities also that Russia is very important for commodities such as fertilizers, wheat, maize and cooking coal. In many of these aspects, India is also interested in enhancing its cooperation. Of course, this raises the problem concerning the application of US and EU sanctions. 

Sanctions are direct sanctions and secondary sanctions. Now these apply both in terms of sectors and these also apply in terms of the banking system. Presently there are no sanctions on Russian origin diamonds but these might become stricter by the end of the year. Russian oil you can buy below USD 60 a barrel if you want to use western shipping and insurance companies. However some countries have been able to circumvent this by finding non-western shipping routes, shipping companies and non-western insurance. The third difficulty is the currency of payment. Of course, it is not possible today to do major currency transfers concerning dollars. It used to be the original currency in which crude was traded. So now there has been a variety of solutions to this partly using the Dirham through the UAE, the use of Yuan through China, use of national currencies sometimes in Indian rupees. So, this is a case-by-case thing. Sanctions are also not static. Sanctions are changing. They are expanding. And until now US has not imposed any secondary sanctions on any individual Indian company.

This may be more political than legal because if the US were to decide to impose sanctions, secondary sanctions on Indian companies it can do so. But essentially sanctions regime on the part of the US is entirely unilateral. They can decide what they want to do. Now the reason why the US has not imposed sanctions on India even though we are importing a lot of Russian oil is that some of the Russian oil is processed, refined and re-exported back into the international market, particularly for transfers to Europe. There are presently no sanctions on oil products that are refined from Russian origin crude. Only Russian origin crude is there. So firstly, it is an explicit gap. Secondly, there are some loopholes. Thirdly there are some grey areas. But all these three are shifting constantly. So, you cannot be sure whether if there will be no sanctions today, there will be no sanctions tomorrow. 

Similarly, Russia is also watching this game very carefully. But largely as of now, and it is not a final judgment, the American effort to impose crippling sanctions on Russia has largely failed. It has not stopped the war. It has not changed the Russian war calculus. It has not led to a collapse of the Russian economy. There are still international buyers going on for India for this trade. And it has brought Russia closer to China which is not the original intention of the US. And India which the Americans wanted to shift to the US side of the conflict has in a sense stayed in the middle. It is dealing with both Russia and with the US. So of course, it doesn't mean that it has had no impact on Russia. The Russian economy has been affected but in the medium term we will see signs of the effects of long-term sanctions. But everybody is hoping that at least European countries are hoping that once there is a peace settlement many of the companies will return to Russia. In fact, a number of Western companies in Russia, some have completely exited. Some have retained their stores and still staying on. Some have sold their franchises to their Russian partners. Some have just changed the name and continued to operate. So, it is not that American sanctions have worked, have not worked only on India. They have also not worked on their European partners. Because Europe is already unhappy with the fact that their energy prices have become three or four times more when Russian energy has not come into Europe. So, the Americans are a little reluctant to tighten the screws on Europeans because that will further affect the economy. So, this is a very dynamic process and it is worth your further study.

Rohini Reenum: Even before Russia annexed Crimea, it had warned the West that any further expansion of NATO and it will not be tolerable. Why do you think NATO kept pushing for an expansion without realising Russia’s reaction? What do you think NATO's end game is?

Ambassador Varma: Yeah, that's a very good question and it is a lesson on the nature of international politics. The fundamental core of international politics is countries will push you if you allow them to push you. Because that is the nature of the power differential. Big countries and stronger countries tend to push around weaker countries. That's a given. It happens every day. Countries recalibrate and recalculate if there is a counter-pushback. Now, how did NATO succeed in expanding against Russia? There are three, or four factors. Russia raised the issue of NATO expansion even when, at the time of the end of the Cold War. Even at the time of the reunification of Germany. At that time, NATO and the Americans gave a commitment which turned out to be hollow. So, James Baker who was the Secretary of State told Gorbachev who was the President of the Soviet Union that NATO would not expand one inch eastwards. Not one inch eastwards. 

Then the first wave of NATO expansion took place. When it took place, the Russians protested. President Clinton said, ‘no, no, it's nothing against Russia. You are our friends. We have domestic compulsions. We have a coalition. So, don't worry. In 1997, the Americans proposed a Russia-NATO council. Again, they cheated the Russians. They said, no, no, we are partners now. We created a Russia-NATO council. Don't worry.’ But nothing, we are friends now. It was 1997 that took place. They also created what is called the Russia-NATO Founding Act. It says that they are now partners and we will not create trouble for each other, equality, partnership. When President Putin came to power in 2000, he said, we will go by wanting to join NATO ourselves. Just two months ago, he said, it was a very naive statement on my part. We believe the… So, the two expansions had taken place already by that time. The third, fourth and fifth expansions took place. At every stage, the Russians said no. The Americans disregarded them. Why did they disregard them? Because you can disregard them. If countries can push you, they will push you. Right? So, in 2007, President Putin's speech at the Munich Security Conference. I mean, it is a very illuminating speech where he explained why he wants a partnership with NATO. 

But NATO expansion is not the answer and NATO expansion is a red line for him in 2007. Whereas in 2008, there was the Russia-Georgia war which was provoked by the Georgians. Then you have 2014 which is the Maidan events in Kyiv where one government was overthrown and another put in place . NATO expansion into the Baltics, they tolerated. Russia could not do anything. They were too weak. Poland, they were not too concerned because there were still barriers between Poland and Russia. Romania, Czech Republic, Macedonia, you know, there is still some distance away from the Russian border. Ukraine joining NATO is on the Russian border. The flight time of a missile that is based in Ukraine, the flight time to Moscow is less than five minutes. So, NATO had finally come to the doorstep of Russia the NATO countries, the US pushed Russia like a spring down below when it could no longer push it further. And what happens to the spring once you put it down? It re-bounces back. That is what happened. The Russians tried to see if they could have a via mediation. They were not interested in territorial acquisition in Ukraine but they were interested in wanting to have a neutral Ukraine. And in December of 2022, while the war had not started, they submitted a proposal for a new security architecture in Europe that would ensure that… and as I said, even after the war started in March and April, they were ready for even that which is a future. Now, the Russians are convinced that Ukraine will join NATO, 100%. There is no way of stopping it. So, therefore, if Ukraine is going to join NATO, they might as well occupy some buffer land that will keep NATO forces away from the Russian border. So, if you see the Donbas area, it is now a new military buffer zone that they have created for themselves. It is an imperfect answer as far as the Russians are concerned but it is much better than the whole of Ukraine going in. 

Now, what does it tell you about international politics? International politics tells you that weakness will be exploited. If you are weak, countries will exploit you. There is no doubt about that. If you are naive, countries will exploit you. And the Russians were naive, you know, they were fooled three to four times. Third, having a problem on your neighbourhood is not a sign of your strength. If we have problems in our neighbourhood, in Nepal, Bhutan or Sri Lanka, you are not respected. Russia had problems in the neighbourhood. And if you have problems in the neighbourhood, countries will tend to exploit it. So, that is what happened. The Russians are trying to correct it over a three-decade-long era of weakness is now being, trying to be corrected through a process of war. And process of war is always not the best way of correcting a weakness. Many of them are handling it differently. So, there are different lessons to be learnt from different perspectives in the Russia-Ukraine war. 

Akriti Sharma: Can you give your comments on India and Russia and second how it would be with India looking toward western countries such as France and the US for defence cooperation?

Ambassador Varma: India-Russia relations have a long history. Largely because we have never had a very direct conflict with each other. The fact that we don't have a common border I think helps in such situations. But more than that I think there has also been a convergence, a strategic convergence of our interests which have been maintained and cultivated by successive leaders both in Russia and in India. And there is also a popular sentiment amongst the people about each other which I think has created a positive context in which the relations have progressed. Of course, relations cannot remain stagnant forever. In each era, each time the relations have to be reinvented and restructured. I think the time has come for the restructuring to take place. But the restructuring elements will remain the same. We have a very strong defence relationship with Russia and it is for that reason that we made our defence purchases from Russia. Because Russia was the only country that was willing to give us advanced technology, very advanced systems at prices that we could afford. And on terms of conditions that were not very intrusive. And there was also technology transfer and aspects like that. And a basic element of trust. Russians have supplied very little arms to Pakistan over a period of time. So, that is a plus point for us. Now, going forward will the Russia-China relationship be a factor for India? As long as the Russia-China relationship is not a military alliance and is directed against other countries including the US or US partners, it will not be a direct problem for our relationship. Because Russia does want a multipolar world but also wants a multipolar Asia. It does not want China to dominate the Asian continent. So, in that sense, India is very important to them. Now, in terms of diversification of our arms imports, I think that is an ongoing process. I think it is a valid process. 

There is merit in it. But I think the diversification should take place not in terms of political alignments of countries but in terms of specific weapons systems and the conditions for which they are being purchased. Whether they fit into our doctrine, whether there is a strong Make in India component, whether there is a technology transfer. And if the Americans give us good equipment, so be it. I think we will buy it from them. Or it comes from the French. Or if there is good equipment available from Russia, we will continue to take it from them. Presently, there are three big arms projects which are still ongoing. One is the S-400 supply. The second is the supply of the 1135.6 frigates. Four frigates of them. Two will be constructed in India. And the third is the joint manufacture of the AK-203 assault weapon which will be supplied to the Indian Armed Forces. 

There will be other future projects in the future. So, India's policy should have no exclusivity to any one part. We will pick and choose and that ability to pick and choose according to our interest is the essence of strategic autonomy. And I think our strategic autonomy… But Russia is also a high standard. If the Americans and the French also learn from India's experience with Russia and they give us equally good equipment and equally sophisticated equipment, I think we should take it from them. But no country should feel that they enjoy an exclusive market in India. And India's priorities are at the forefront. And I am confident that after this initial phase where Russia is committed to… the Russian defence industry is committed to Ukraine, they have… presently they have some difficulties. But in a couple of years, I think these difficulties will be sorted out. And we will return to normal relations … However, the Indian market will not remain the same. Today we have a very strong make-in-India component, the Atma Nirbhar component. Many of our private defence industry players are active. India's defence needs are also of a higher quality. And I am sure Russians also feel it is in their continuing interest to support India as India's defence partner. And in the Russia-India relationship, the traditions, friendship are so strong. It will not be very difficult for us to reinvent the relationship. So, I think the key word is reinvention. It cannot be business as in the past. But the future should be addressed with the strengths of the past. But also addressed to the needs of the future.

Akhil Ajith: How do you see the role of BRICS and its emergence, the expansion of BRICS as a key factor in the changing world order? Can you also comment on Russia's energy resources and its economic problems? 

Ambassador Varma: About BRICS, Russia places a lot of importance on BRICS. Also because it is now presently holding the presidency of the BRICS and will be hosting the Kazan summit later this year. Of course, BRICS is an old institution but it has got a new relevance today for a couple of factors. First of course it allows Russia to break out of the isolation that the West is trying to impose on Russia and it has turned to the BRICS in a big way. This has coincided parallelly with a renewed interest in BRICS from many countries across the world. More than 20 countries have expressed interest, and more than 30 countries have expressed general interest because of the ethic of multi-polarity that is now widely prevalent in different regions of the world. 

Many countries do wish to have an alternative international forum that deals with global issues which is apart from the regional forums or the United Nations, something in between. And that has led to a strong demand for the expansion of BRICS membership and six more countries were added at the last BRICS summit. Of course, it may in hindsight look like a mistake that it was done in haste because Argentina has now in a sense stepped back and will not be joining BRICS. So multi-polarity itself is now a dynamic process. There will be an ebb and flow of multi-polarity which will also be reflected in BRICS. The Russian priority in BRICS appears to be the BRICS payment mechanism. It is not a BRICS currency, it is not to be confused with a BRICS currency but a payment mechanism amongst the BRICS states which will also be available to the international community to de emphasize the primacy and the monopoly of the dollar payment system. To what extent they can, this will involve also greater use of national currencies. To what extent they succeed we will wait and see but this is the direction in which it is going. 

Concerning energy resources, this again is a fluid and dynamic situation. Energy is not a freestanding issue. Its connection with climate change is not a freestanding issue. Finally, it has to be sustainable not only in terms of climate change but sustainable in terms of political economy. If it leads to recession, high inflation, unemployment and closing down of industries no energy formula will work in the long term. In fact there will be a backlash. Russia has been thrown out in a sense practically from the European market. But Russia is waiting for the backlash to take place in the political economy of Europe. And some signs of it we already see because of the right-wing governments that have come up and in the right-wing movements in different parts of the country which may want to rethink the energy choices of Europe to make it more sustainable and to restore economic growth. There is no substitute for cheap energy for restoring economic growth in Europe.  Europe will find it very difficult to restore economic growth if the high cost of energy continues well into the future. And the ready available economic growth energy option that is available is again restoring the ties with Russia. And of the four North Stream pipelines one is still operational. One is still intact. It is not been broken up. 

Anu Maria: On the Russia-Africa relations, has Russia found its alternative in Africa and Africa has found its alternative in Russia. And the problem is the west and west has the problem in there. As a scholar, should I look at Russia as a problem in Africa? 

Ambassador Varma: So about Africa, Russia ignored Africa for the first two decades after the end of the Cold War.  Even though it had a lot of sentimental support in Africa because Russia, the Soviet Union was a great supporter of the National Liberation Movements. But I think in the last four years Russia has paid more attention to Africa because there is an interest among some of the African countries to get to Russia because they are disappointed with dealing with the Western powers and also disappointed with dealing with China. All these countries have gone through a cycle of experience with China and they feel that they are trying to see if there is someone alternative to China. So, it's wrong to think that Russia's motives for getting into Africa are only anti-Western. It is indirectly also undercuts, Chinese influence in the instruments of Russian influence in Africa are limited. Military aid, energy resources, nuclear energy in Africa and some bilateral trade. So Russia does not operate across the spectrum. They don't give much financial aid though they have written off a lot of old debt of the African countries. But they are focused on a few countries. Fewer countries than the US or the EU or China. And they are also focused on a few areas. But those areas are geopolitically very important. The Sahel is one such example. And it is also to create bilateral leverages but also multilateral leverages against the big powers. Like other big-power countries, Russia has also started the practice of hosting Russia-Africa summits. Like China, like the US, like the EU and India. Now the question is whether we can cooperate with Russia in specific fields. The answer is yes. A lot of African countries are interested in affordable defence equipment. A lot of the defence equipment that is produced in India with Russian collaboration can be re-exported to African countries. We can also cooperate in nuclear energy. We can also cooperate in nuclear medicine and agriculture. Will that involve conflict with other countries? Yes, but we can pick and choose which country which partner and which area. We should cooperate with Russia.

Shamini Velayutham: Ever since the Russia-Ukraine war began, there seems to be a weakening of support from Russia towards the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Do you think Russia will be able to gain space back post-war in the Southern Caucasus region?

Ambassador Varma: Let's start with the Caucasus and Russia's relations with Armenia and the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Now, Russia has had traditionally very strong relations with Armenia. And Russia has tried to play a mediating role between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. Armenian position itself has undergone change in the last two years. Everybody agrees that Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. And Armenia would have to cede control over Nagorno-Karabakh. The issue was in what conditions and for their people and under what humanitarian conditions it would take place. Russia also deployed a peacekeeping force in the region. It is the change in the Armenian position that it would no longer need Russia to mediate and it would seek the support of France and the US in settling the Azeri-Armenian conflict. It led to a situation where Russia said, okay if that is so, then good luck. Which led to Azerbaijan sending troops to occupy, retake and control Nagorno-Karabakh and its capital Stepanakert. This has been deeply unpopular within Armenia and Russia has not been a steadfast supporter of Armenia in its fight against Azerbaijan. From the Russian point of view, their priority is today the conflict in Ukraine. Russia thought that if it intervened more actively in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute, which in any case Armenia was losing interest in, it would get overextended and in a sense to avoid that overextension and avoid a trap for its interest in the Trans Caucasus, it kept away. 

So tactically it might seem Russian weakness is apparent in the Trans Caucasus. That is partly true. But Russia is confident that in the long term, countries like Armenia cannot do without restoring good relations with Russia because of the economic connections, the social connections, the number of Armenians staying in Russia, number of Russians now staying in Armenia. Armenia is in a fairly hostile environment. It has troubles with Azerbaijan but it is also an area where Turkey has expanded its influence. Russia is also cooperating with Iran to maintain its links with Armenia because, in the transport corridors, there is a concern that these transport corridors might become a conduit for the western deployment of arms in Armenia.


About the Authors
Padmashree Anandhan is a Project Associate (NIAS Europe Studies) at NIAS, Bangalore. Anu Maria is a Research Associate at NIAS, Femy Francis, Dhriti Mukherjee, Shamini Velayutham and Akhil Ajith are Research Assistants at NIAS. Akriti Sharma and Rohini Reenum are Doctoral scholars at NIAS. 

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