Conflict, Migration, and Demography in Russia and Its Border Regions


Despite the absence of a clear definition of “ethnic group,” the term generally refers to people with a common history, culture, and ancestry. Russians are widely considered the largest ethnic group in Europe, and historically they have lived in a multiethnic state where they formed a majority of the population. Within the country’s vast territory, imperial Russia and later Soviet authorities often encouraged internal migration to help populate barren regions for economic exploitation, typically resulting in cooperation and assimilation between ethnic and social groups.

But cultural fusion has not always been possible nor desired, and conflicts and forced population transfers have occurred both internally and in Russia’s border regions for centuries. Since the Soviet collapse, the Kremlin has attempted to enforce a sense of patriotism among its diverse citizenry by synthesizing Russia’s ethnic and national identities, while weakening the links between the two in other post-Soviet states.

Early Russia to Tsardom

The Russian identity begins with the Slavs, a diverse collection of tribal societies with common linguistic, religious, and other cultural ties who settled across Eastern and southeast Europe in the 5th Century AD. The first Slavic-majority state was the Kievan Rus, declared in 882 and centered around Kyiv. Its Viking and Finnic minorities steadily Slavicized through intermarriage and cultural assimilation, and the Rus adopted Orthodox Christianity from the neighboring Byzantine Empire in 988. But the Slavic-majority state soon became weakened by internal political divisions and in 1240 was destroyed by the expanding Mongol Empire. This left Moscow, a small city on the Rus’ periphery, subservient to the Mongol yoke.

After the Grand Duchy of Moscow, or Muscovy, was established in 1263, the young Russian state, defined largely by its Eastern Slavic and Orthodox heritage, expanded across its sparsely populated territories in the west and north over the next two and a half centuries. It steadily absorbed other Slavic and Orthodox communities, as well as several others, into the developing Russian identity.

By the 15th century, expansion into what is now southern Russia and Ukraine brought the Duchy into significant contact with Cossacks. Typically a mix of runaway serfs, hunters, bandits, mercenaries, and fugitives from Eastern Europe, Cossacks lived in militarized yet lightly organized settlements across border regions in Russia’s south and east. Their diverse ethnic origins and semi-nomadic societies prevented Cossack groups from developing a strong national identity. Many, however, belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church and spoke “in dialects of Russian.”

Following the establishment of the Tsardom of Russia under Ivan the Terrible in 1533, Cossack groups became essential to wider Russian military campaigns against regional Tatar groupsWhile Tatar origins are often debated, they have generally been portrayed as descendants of Turkic nomadic tribes who invaded Eurasia with the Mongol Empire and remained there after the empire dissolved in 1368.

The Russian state also sought to reunify what it saw as “Russian lands,” namely the Orthodox and Eastern Slavic populations in modern-day Belarus and Ukraine, including the Cossacks living in these lands. In 1654, Russia signed the Pereiaslav Agreement, facilitating the absorption of parts of eastern Ukraine, and in 1686 it gained additional former territories of the Kievan Rus. Education, intermarriage, and government service also instigated the “Russification” of Ukrainian nobility. However, there was significant tension between the relatively autonomous Cossacks and the organized states that sought their assistance and incorporation, including Russia. Cossack groups launched several rebellions against Russia in the 1600s and 1700s, which often spurred Russian serfs and other minority groups to join. Cossack military campaigns against Russia, sometimes in coordination with other states, were also common.

But Russian authorities could offer Cossacks something other states could not—an open frontier. In return for military service, Cossacks enjoyed vastly reduced taxes, freedom of movement, and significant autonomy. Cossack groups steadily helped conquer smaller, often warring Finnic, Turkic, Ugric, and Tatar tribes across Siberia and into Alaska, establishing many settlements that later became major cities. Russian expansion was often brutal, but agreements with local elites permitted conquered communities to retain elements of their culture and assimilate into the empire by accepting Tsarist rule. Russians and Cossacks would also adapt to local cultures, and intermarriage between groups was common.

Russian Empire

Following the establishment of the Russian Empire in 1721, Cossack groups steadily became integrated into Russian military command and proved integral to Russian campaigns to expel local Muslim populations to Russia’s south and west. Between 1784 and 1790, 300,000 Crimean Tatars (out of a population of roughly 1 million) left or were forced to leave the peninsula. Hundreds of thousands of Circassians also left or were forced to leave the mountainous Caucasus region in the 1800s.

In both instances, most displaced Muslims settled in the nearby Ottoman Empire, paving the way for Russian settlers to move in. Yet population transfers in primarily Muslim lands were not universally carried out. In the Caucasus, Russian authorities created alliances with some local communities between the 16th and 18th centuries, who were wary of Ottoman and Persian influences in the region. Russian authorities also sought to use the empire’s Muslim minorities to expand into other Muslim regions. Tatar communities who accepted Tsarist rule, for example, were used as cultural emissaries in Central Asia, building relationships with the local populations as the Russian Empire spread further into this region in the 1700s and 1800s. Additionally, many “noble Russian families were of Tatar descent and there was frequent intermarriage between the Russians and Tatars.”

Lacking the population to hold territory as Russia’s empire continued to expand, Catherine the Great’s second manifesto in 1763 invited European settlers to Russia. Without requiring citizenship and enticed by tax breaks, loans, land grants, and religious freedom, hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Germany, the Balkans, and other parts of Europe moved to the sprawling empire and its new territories over the next few decades, often maintaining their distinct cultures.

However, the rise of nationalism in Europe in the 1800s began to threaten the loose national identity that Russian authorities had nurtured for centuries. Following the emancipation of Russian serfs in 1861, integration problems also arose as the Russian government began giving land only to citizens and began to more forcefully promote Russification. This included introducing conscription and other obligations for non-Russians, expanding the use of the Russian language among ethnic groups, and identifying “potential Russians” in the European part of the empire. Violence against the Jewish population meant that roughly 2 million Jews also left the empire between 1881 and 1914. But because the Russian Empire required a larger population to sustain industrialization and its enormous territory, a net migration of 4.5 million people arrived in Russia from 1860 to 1917. Immigration and territorial expansion meanwhile meant that ethnic Russians went from roughly 77 percent of the population at the time of the establishment of the Russian Empire to roughly 44 percent at the time of the 1897 census.

In addition, Russification policies caused tension with some minority communities and were one of the major causes of the Russian Revolution in 1905. Ethnic violence among minority groups also broke out across the empire, such as the Armenian-Tatar massacres from 1905 to 1907.

World Wars and the Soviet Union

Ethnic tensions persisted even after Russia became embroiled in World War I in 1914. Disputes between Russian authorities and local populations in Central Asia, including over the unfair distribution of land to Russians and Ukrainians, conscription in the Russian army, and other issues, resulted in the 1916 Central Asian Revolt. Thousands of Slavic settlers were killed, while reprisal attacks, famine, and disease saw 100,000 to 270,000 deaths of mostly Kazakhs and Kyrgyz afterward. Ethnic tensions persisted throughout the empire, and many countries and ethnic groups declared their independence from Russia after the Russian Revolution in 1917. The ensuing Russian civil war saw the establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), or Soviet Union, in 1922. Though Soviet forces were able to recapture much of the Russian Empire’s territories by the early 1920s, Finland, the Baltic states, and Poland gained their independence, while resistance to Soviet rule continued throughout the 1920s in Central Asia.

After consolidating power, Soviet authorities kickstarted a more calculated and ruthless management of the country’s sprawling, multiethnic society. Smaller clan and region-based identities were homogenized in accordance with Soviet nation-building policies, and “by the end of the 1920s people who had not really thought in national terms before the World War [I] found that they now had a national language, a national culture, national histories and national political structures—in short, they had become members of a nation.” Internal borders were established based on ethnic identity under a policy known as national delimitation, followed by Korenizatsiya, or “indigenization,” where minority nations and populations were given significant autonomy as well as power in the national government.

Eventually, 15 major Soviet republics emerged. The Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), the largest, was further divided into autonomous ethnic minority territories. Both inside the RSFSR and the Soviet Union, Russian cultural dominance was reduced considerably. However, in the 1930s, Soviet political leader Joseph Stalin reversed much of this process to harness Russian nationalism and consolidate power against separatist-inclined republics and regions. While the specter of “Great Russian chauvinism” was carefully repressed in the Soviet Union until its collapse, power began to be recentralized in Moscow and the “petty bourgeois nationalism” of smaller ethnic groups was also curtailed.

Beginning in the 1930s, Stalin also began large-scale forced population transfers of entire ethnic groups, which continued during World War II. Mass rail transit systems allowed Soviet authorities to deport more than 3 million people between 1936 and 1952 belonging to 20 social and ethnic groups. Several were largely removed from their “ancestral homelands,” including the Volga Germans, Kalmyks, Karachai, Balkars, Crimean Tatars, and Meskhetians. And whether true or not, many minority groups—among them Chechens, Ingush, and Cossacks—were accused of working with Nazi Germany during the war. Like others, they were sent to Siberia and Central Asia to labor camps or “special settlements,” where hundreds of thousands perished.

Slavic migration to Central Asia also increased during WWII, as populations sought to avoid the encroaching German army. Additionally, the redistribution of industrial capacity to Central Asia during WWII, as well as urbanization, further changed the ethnic layout of the Soviet Union.

Stalin’s death in 1953 largely ended massive, forced population transfers, and most groups were able to return to their ancestral homelands over the next few years. But Soviet authorities maintained the Stalin-era borders to divide and weaken ethnic groups. By avoiding the creation of homogenous republics, they could more easily suppress separatism and compel ethnic groups to require the assistance of the Kremlin to manage their territorial disputes. Soviet authorities also sought to continue redistributing the labor force, and in the years following WWII until the mid-1970s, 2.7 million Russians left the RSFSR to Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states, and Central Asia. However, by the 1970s this trend reversed, and 2.5 million Soviet citizens flocked to the RSFSR from 1975 to 1991.

While Russians (and their culture) enjoyed a privileged position of “first among equals” in the Soviet Union, overt Russification policies were mostly abandoned in favor of “Sovietization,” which instead promoted a non-ethnic national identity. By the 1960s, Soviet sociologists advocated for the existence of a Soviet people “with a shared identity based on common territory, state, economic system, culture, and the goal of building communism.” Yet despite a rise in interethnic marriages, traditional ethnic and cultural ties, as well as grievances, proved difficult to dislodge. Tied by a common east Slavic and Orthodox heritage, Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians dominated the Soviet Union’s political structures. Ethnic solidarity could also affect foreign policy—Central Asian soldiers, for example, were initially used during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, but due to fraternization with local Afghans, were largely replaced by Slavic troops in 1980.

The synchronization of Russian cultural identity with that of the Soviet one meant Soviet culture steadily lost its appeal among the non-Russian population, while many Russians also grew disenfranchised by the 1980s. And by 1989, the ethnic Russian majority of the Soviet Union had fallen to roughly 51 percent. Growing avenues for ethnic nationalism among minority groups as a result of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms, as well as ethnic Russian frustration with these policies, played an essential role in the Soviet collapse in 1991.

Russian Federation

In the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, the 15 republics became independent countries. Millions of ethnic Russians returned to the Russian Federation in the 1990s from across the former Soviet Union, in addition to non-Russians who sought to live and work in Russia. Initially from European former Soviet states, migrant groups have increasingly arrived from former Soviet states in the Caucasus region and Central Asia in recent years.

Government authority was decentralized away from Moscow to Russia’s other regions throughout the 1990s. And like other post-Soviet states, Russia was afflicted by demands for greater autonomy from ethnic and social groups, as well as outright secession movements. In Chechnya, Russian troops were forced to secede from the region in 1996 following their defeat in the first Chechen war.

Upon his rise to power in 1999 as acting President Vladimir Putin began reestablishing centralized, top-down rule over Russia. His path to the presidency coincided with the launch of the second Chechen war that brought the region back under Russian control in the 2000s. And while Cossack groups were permitted to reemerge as distinct cultural entities in the 1990s, Putin took more formal steps to reintegrate them into national military command, including using them in Chechen counterinsurgency operations.

Russian officials also became increasingly critical of Western-style multiculturalism. Though cultural and political rights were afforded to non-Russians and Putin warned against promoting Russian ethno-nationalism, the Kremlin has supported the need to build a patriotic identity within Russia through a civic identity of common values and traditions—notably the widespread adoption of the Russian language. Non-Russians would be welcomed in the Russian Federation, but it was ethnic Russians that would “cement this civilization.” The ethnic Russian population has declined slightly since 1989, the year of the last Soviet census. Ethnic Russians composed roughly 81.5 percent of Russia’s population in 1989, 79.8 percent in 2002, and 77.7 percent in 2010. The 2021 census showed a remarkable drop to 71.7 percent, though this can largely be explained by “the declining importance of ethnicity as an identifier in ethnically homogeneous areas, such as the predominantly ethnic Russian oblasts of central Russia”, and the rising number of ethnic Russians declining to declare their nationality.

To complement the country’s political and cultural restructuring, the Kremlin merged several territories in the 2000s, and with the addition of Crimea in 2014, Russia boasted 85 federal subjects. Forty-six are ethnic-Russian dominated oblasts, with 22 republics that are home to an ethnic minority. Additionally, there are four autonomous okrugs or districts (with significant ethnic minority populations), nine krais (similar to oblasts), three federal cities, and one Jewish autonomous oblast.

Ethnicity and 21st Century Post-Soviet Conflicts

Russia’s relatively successful efforts to foment patriotism among its multiethnic population and reforge a powerful, centralized state since 2000 contrasts to some other post-Soviet states. Ethnic rivalries within them have been exploited by the Kremlin to challenge their stability and sovereignty. Alongside using ethnic Russians living outside Russia to achieve these aims, Russia’s own ethnic and social minorities have been primary participants in various conflicts and disputes abroad.

From 1989 to the early 1990s, for example, two Georgian separatist territories populated by ethnic minorities, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, waged wars against Georgian forces. Russia provided Abkhazians and South Ossetians with considerable military and economic aid, which increased after Georgia began drifting toward the West following the 2003 Rose Revolution. As Abkhazia and South Ossetia gained increasing autonomy from Georgia, tensions culminated in the 2008 Russo-Georgia War. In addition to aiding the ethnic separatists, the Russian military employed Cossack and Chechen militant groups against the Georgian armed forces in 2008. In the aftermath, the remaining ethnic Georgian populations were largely expelled from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Both Cossacks and Chechens were also utilized by Russia during the 2014 annexation of Crimea and the launch of the proxy war in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine. Russian-speaking Ukrainians (including Ukrainian Cossacks), ethnic Russians in the south and east Ukraine, as well as those from across the former Soviet Union and beyond, filled the ranks of the pro-Russian separatist groups. These militants maintained a proxy conflict for Russia in Donetsk and Luhansk until the official Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, and continue to take part in Russia’s ongoing “special military operation.” Additionally, Russia has used non-ethnic Russian minorities within Russia to fight at the frontline of the conflict, and they are reportedly dying at higher rates in Ukraine than their Slavic counterparts.

After reigniting conflicts in Georgia and launching one in Ukraine, Russia has also taken steps to annex their separatist territories. In the years before Russia’s 2008 campaign in Georgia, the Kremlin steadily gave Russian passports to Abkhazians and South Ossetians, a tactic now known as passportization. The need to protect Russian citizens helped Russia justify the war and allowed it to more easily absorb these territories by granting them freedom of movement to Russia. Days after the war had concluded, the Kremlin recognized Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence in August 2008, and in 2022, South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov declared the region’s intention to join Russia, its “historical homeland.”

And following Ukraine’s lurch to the West in 2014, significant passportization took place in Ukraine. Days before the February 24, 2022, Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, likely in anticipation of future calls to join Russia. These two regions were annexed by Russia in September 2022, joining Russia as republics, while two oblasts (Kherson and Zaporozhye) were also annexed from Ukraine by Russia. Russian forces, however, have been unable to establish complete control over all of the claimed territories.

But the Kremlin also sees the Ukrainian war as an opportunity to “integrate” the country’s population with its own amid Russia’s declining population. For centuries, Russian strategists have believed that Ukrainians, viewed as a subcategory of the Russian ethnic identity, could help Russify parts of the country where ethnic Russians do not form a dominant majority. In 2014, more than 1 million Ukrainians fled the country’s southeast to Russia, mostly just across the border. However, in keeping with the Kremlin’s desire to populate other regions, Ukrainian refugees began moving to the Volga Basin, the Ural Mountains, the Far East, and other areas. Since the outbreak of full conflict in 2022, millions of Ukrainians have fled to Russia or been forcibly removed, and have been resettled across the country. Thus, while the war in Ukraine is central to Putin’s foreign policy ambitions, encouraging Ukrainian immigration to Russia is also an important domestic imperative.

Other regions across the former Soviet Union remain vulnerable to Russian attempts to use ethnicity to destabilize them. Since a 1992 ceasefire, Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, populated largely by Russians and Russian-speaking Ukrainians, has been under the control of separatist authorities. Additionally, the Soviet 14th Army, which was stationed in Transnistria, was inherited by Russia after the Soviet collapse. Today, its remnants form Russia’s part of the trilateral peacekeeping force (with Moldovan and Transnistrian soldiers) and the Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF), which guards old Soviet arms depots in the separatist region. Cultivating pro-Russian sentiment among Transnistria’s Slavic majority, could quickly reignite the conflict. Russian military figures stated in April 2022 that the “second phase” of Russia’s military campaign would annex enough of Ukraine to connect it to Transnistria, though this appears unfeasible for the foreseeable future.

After annexing Crimea in 2014, the Kremlin’s declaration that it would protect ethnic Russians everywhere resonated with many of the millions of Russians scattered mostly in former Soviet states. In Central Asia and the Baltic states, where they are most numerous, ethnic Russians have faced restrictions on the use of the Russian language and other forms of cultural expression since the Soviet collapse, making exploitation easier. Kazakhstan’s roughly 3.5 million Russians make up roughly 18 percent of the total population. Most ethnic Russians migrated primarily to northern Kazakhstan beginning in the 19th century and during the Soviet period, and have significant economic and political power. In Estonia and Latvia, ethnic Russians largely migrated during the Soviet period, and today form roughly 25 percent of the populations in both these countries. In addition to higher rates of unemploymenthundreds of thousands of Russians remain stateless persons in the Baltic states, as their citizenship (and those of their descendants) was denied after the Soviet collapse. Russia has leveraged these realities to help inflame social unrest, such as Estonia’s 2007 Bronze Night incident, as well as wield indirect political representation through Estonia’s Center party and Latvia’s Harmony partySignificant passportization among Russians in the Baltic states has also taken place in the last few years.

Millions of ethnic Russians living in former Soviet states left for Russia in the 1990s and 2000s, reducing the Kremlin’s influence over these countries. However, the Baltic states have seen more Russians immigrate than emigrate in recent years, while more than 200,000 Russians avoiding conscription during the ongoing war fled to Kazakhstan in September 2022. How the Kremlin exploits these changing circumstances remains to be seen. And as in Transnistria, Ukrainian and Belarusian communities in these countries also look to Russia for protection, particularly, in defending the use of the Russian language in their societies.


Russia’s ability to use ethnicity for domestic stability and as a foreign policy tool is not without risk. Nurturing ethnic Russian nationalism is unnerving to minority groups and has occasionally led to the eruption of ethnic violence, such as in the city of Kondopoga in 2006 and in Stavropol in 2007. Historical persecution has led to significant emigration even in modern times, which occurred among Russian Germans and Russian Jews in the 1990s. Giving minority groups greater rights could meanwhile instigate secession attempts, while failed attempts to merge additional federal subjects in 2020 demonstrate the limits of Russia’s federal authority.

Russia’s birth rate has rebounded from a record low of 1.25 children per woman in 2000 and was expected to reach 1.8 children per woman by 2020. But it is still below replacement level and there has been a significant population decline in Russia for years. While the population grew slightly during the 2010s, it is again shrinking. Minority groups often have higher birthrates than ethnic Russians, and though no ethnic minority groups equate to greater than 5 percent of Russia’s total population, its various Muslim minorities amount to 10 to 15 percent of the population. Radical Islam came to partly define the Chechen independence movement in the 1990s, and many volunteer Muslim-Russians from across the country arrived to fight against Russian forces. The Kremlin is fearful of a similar situation in the future with its growing Muslim population.

The Kremlin will also have to contend with managing the delicate alliances it has with its minority groups. Clashes were reported in Ukraine between Chechen soldiers and those belonging to the Buryat minority group in 2022, while tension between Cossack groups and Russian nationalists has been evident since 2014. Russia will also inherit ethnic disputes as it seeks to expand its territory. More than 260,000 Crimean Tatars returned to Crimea after the Soviet collapse, reviving historical animosity between them and local Cossack communities. Russia’s war in Ukraine also risks solidifying anti-Russian sentiment in much of Ukraine’s population.

Regardless of these threats, the Kremlin continues to push ahead with its vision to remake Russian society and disrupt its border regions. Russian officials increasingly define Russianness in cultural terms, inviting minority groups to be absorbed more effectively. Highlighting the importance of revered “Russian” leaders, such as Joseph Stalin (Georgian) and Catherine the Great (German) showcase the important leadership roles that non-Slavs have played in Russian history. Russia has also shown initiative in using other elements of minority cultures to expand its influence abroad. Russia has been an observer state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Countries (OIC) since 2005, and Putin has promoted the idea of the “similarity of the Russian and ‘Islamic’ approaches to many international issues.” Chechen military personnel have been used in Russia’s military campaign in Syria, while Tatar minorities are often responsible for Russian diplomatic and cultural outreach to Central Asia.

The Kremlin has, however, suppressed minority languages in Russia. This policy forms part of its efforts to promote Russian movies, television, social media, literature, and other media forms to Russify other countries. In 1939, for example, more than 80 percent of all Belarus inhabitants spoke Belarusian at home. By 1989, that had fallen to 65 percent, and by 2009, almost 70 percent of Belarusians spoke Russian at home. In 2017, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed open alarm over this linguistic evolution, declaring that “[i]f we lose our ability to speak Belarusian, we will cease to be a nation.” But Lukashenko’s need to defeat the widespread protests against him after the 2020 election only deepened his reliance on Russia. The use of Belarusian territory to assist in the invasion of Ukraine and Lukashenko’s cooperation with Putin will now completely isolate Belarus from the West, increasing its dependence on Russia further. The potential for even greater political, economic, and military integration between Russia and Belarus, formalized through the Union State, will only be further augmented by Belarus’ steady adoption of the Russian language.

But the Kremlin’s campaign in Ukraine will remain its most pressing imperative, and it has focused on efforts to alter and weaken Ukraine’s demographics. For example, the war has prompted millions of Ukrainian citizens to leave the country, and the longer they are away, the less likely they are to return. Reports on the forced transfer of Ukrainian minors from Ukraine to Russia have also been apparent since the beginning of the war, and roughly 20,000 Ukrainian children are estimated to have been sent to Russia, according to Ukrainian authorities. In March 2023, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for both Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian commissioner for children’s rights, in connection with the affair. It is unlikely that either of them will ever be prosecuted, while Russia has stated that the population transfers are part of a humanitarian response to young Ukrainians made orphans by the war. Reducing Ukraine’s population by creating refugees and bolstering Russia’s by transferring orphans further demonstrate the demographic aspect to the conflict.

With centuries of experience in using ethnicity and conflict to redraw borders, the Kremlin has aimed to reconceptualize Ukrainian statehood. Reinforcing the notion that Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians are “one people” may help Russia expand its territory through conflict, and reverse its declining population by assimilating millions of potential Russians into the country. Whether this will be worth the consequences of sanctions and isolation from the West for the Kremlin will remain up for debate for the foreseeable future. A clear Russian defeat, however, would have disastrous implications for Russia’s territorial integrity, and would likely inspire greater calls for separatism in Russia not only from ethnic minorities, but also ethnic Russian communities dissatisfied with living under Moscow’s thumb. Thus, like Ukraine, Russia’s fate will depend on the outcome of the war and its ability to consolidate its diverse population once hostilities decline.

Source: Globetrotter

The right of Ukraine to retaliate by attacking Moscow?

The recent drone attack on a target in Moscow on May 30, 2023, seemed to showcase Ukraine’s increasing ability to strike deep into enemy territory in Russia.

According to the Guardian, President Putin accused Ukraine of engaging in “terrorist activity to provoke a reciprocal response.” However, Moscow did not specify how it would respond.

This drone strike occurred alongside Russia’s fourth wave of aerial attacks on Kyiv in recent days, resulting in the death of at least one person, the hospitalization of others, and the evacuation of a high-rise building in Kyiv.

According to Kyiv, at 11:30 a.m. local time on May 30th, 11 ballistic and cruise missiles were launched, but all of them were successfully intercepted.

The UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, made comments while visiting his Estonian counterpart in Tallinn before the NATO meeting in Oslo, Norway. He stated that Ukraine has the legitimate right to defend itself and project force beyond its borders for self-defense. However, he refrained from speculating on the nature of the drone attack in Moscow, emphasizing that his remarks were more general and not specific to the incident.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky declared that Ukraine was pleased to witness the Moscow drone attacks but denied any involvement.

Amidst the ongoing war of words, heavy fighting continues in parts of Ukraine bordering Russia. As spring arrives and the rivers thaw, the conflict shows no signs of abating. The question of when it will end weighs heavily on the minds of people around the world. Some African nations, including South Africa, as well as the EU nation Belgium, have proposed mediation between Russia and Ukraine. It remains to be seen whether sanity will prevail.

Ukraine Intercepts Barrage of Hypersonic Missiles

As Russia’s troubled invasion of Ukraine limps on, and the weaknesses of Vladimir Putin’s military machine are exposed, there was one weapon in Moscow’s arsenal that was supposed to be utterly unstoppable, impervious to any and all air defenses, the pride of the Kremlin: its Kinzhal or Dagger hypersonic missiles, capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear payloads.

They travel at more than five times the speed of sound, and represent the pinnacle of Russian weapon engineering. It was allegedly impregnable, a bulletproof weapon costing $10 million a piece, this fearsome blade.

However, 6 of those same missiles, launched in a ferocious barrage at Kyiv last night, alongside six Shahed drones, three Orlan drones, nine Kalibr cruise missiles launched from the Black Sea, and three other ballistic missiles, were reportedly all successfully intercepted. In other words, the attack, lasting about 20 minutes and launched at just after 3 in the morning, was a spectacular failure.

The sustained barrage is estimated to have cost Russia some $120 million, at least. The Ukrainians called the attack “exceptional,” despite what they said was a perfect record of interceptions.

Indeed, it was a stunning demonstration of Ukraine’s vastly improved air defense systems, and underscores the challenges Russia faces, as Kyiv’s partners supply Ukraine with some of their most advanced military technologies.

In the past year, the government in Kyiv has received numerous Patriot air defense batteries from the United States, alongside a slew of other sophisticated systems donated from allied Western countries. Those defenses are increasingly frustrating Moscow’s attempts to terrify and intimidate the Ukrainian population, and were targeted last night in Russia’s failed bombardment.

One of those Patriot batteries reportedly suffered an indirect hit, but remains operational, according to Ukrainian air force spokesman Yuriy Ihnat. The vaunted American system is merely one of many layered air defense systems now operating around the Ukrainian capital; each Patriot battery costs $400 million, with $690 millon for the missiles, totaling more than a billion dollars apiece.

For those living in Kyiv, it’s surely worth every penny.

The limitations of domestic repression

In related news, three of Russia’s top weapons scientists have been arrested and charged with high treason, provoking a rare outcry from Russian academics, who published an open letter denouncing the arrests. The three men worked on issues relating to hypersonic missile technology in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, and were well regarded in Russia’s academic research community.

Valery Zvegintsev, Anatoly Maslov and Alexander Shiplyuk worked at the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, and are accused of passing classified secrets related to their research on hypersonic technology to China and Iran, apparently by publishing research in foreign publications.

Colleagues are adamant that the arrests were unjustified. Still, they’re neither the first nor the last Russians to be swept into Putin’s dragnet, as the Russian police state convulses in on itself, demanding victims.

In any case, they’re facing 20 years in a grim Russian prison colony, in an attempt to put the fear of god into scientists and officials working in Putin’s Russia, even as the CIA steps up its recruiting of Russian assets with a new video encouraging espionage, and a dark web address designed to mask the identities of spies and leakers.

The Kremlin has unleashed a wave of savage domestic repression since beginning its war in Ukraine, cracking down on what little remained of the free press and political dissent in authoritarian Russia, in moves that are reminiscent of Stalinist terror in the 1930s. At this point in Russia, you can be expected to be arrested for talking out of turn on social media, calling the war in Ukraine a war, or even mentioning the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the Soviet Union and the Nazis prior to World War II.

Nevertheless, domestic repression doesn’t win wars, and stifling Russia’s best scientists working within the military-industrial complex is hardly a winning strategy. As the Russian scientists themselves noted in their open letter to the Kremlin, these moves threaten to “collapse” weapons research in Russia, at a most inopportune moment.

A dark portent of things to come

As Ukraine gears up for its long-expected counteroffensive, and worsening fissures appear in the Russian leadership, it’s unclear how Russia might stanch the bleeding on or off the battlefield. The regime in Moscow increasingly appears to be in disarray, hamstrung and lacking initiative, and no amount of domestic repression is going to solve its problems.

Rather, it’s clear that Vladimir Putin has launched what appears to be a catastrophic and unwinnable war on Russia’s border, a merciless invasion that has claimed an estimated 200,000 casualties in the Russian military alone, and untold suffering across a battered but undefeated Ukraine. Of course, the war also remains a menacing peril for humanity at large, as the world’s largest nuclear superpower finds its conventional military options more limited by the day, even as Ukraine’s capabilities steadily improve.

Now, Moscow appears to be facing significant challenges to its wartime strategy of inflicting terror on Ukrainian civilians with long-range bombardments like the one stymied last night in Kyiv. It’s yet another grim setback for the Kremlin, in its war of imperial aggression, launched without provocation or reason. It’s unlikely to be the last, as the Ukrainian military prepares what it hopes will be a devastating counteroffensive, designed to push the Russians out of their country once and for all.

Fault Lines in the Russian Military Structure

The Ukraine will be an extremely painful problem. But we must realize that the feelings of the whole people are now at white heat.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

If Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn acted as Russia’s moral conscience during his own lifetime, crying out against the cruelty of the gulag in his literature, and shaking the rotten totalitarian system to its very core, he seems to have been something of a prophet regarding Ukraine. As a Russian nationalist, he had complicated feelings about what was for him “a painful subject.”

“Russia and the Ukraine are united in my blood, my heart, my thoughts.”

And yet he spent enough time in the godforsaken labor camps with enough Ukrainians to understand their unquenchable desire for freedom, for independence from Moscow’s suffocating authoritarian grip. It was clear to him that, “We must leave the decision to the Ukrainians themselves.”

If nothing else, Ukrainians have made their wishes abundantly clear in this war, after 15 months of brutal combat, fighting what was once considered the second most powerful army on earth to a standstill outside Kyiv, before retaking Kharkiv, Kherson, and Lyman, and finally settling in for the winter along a largely static 600-mile frontline.

Quickly dispensing with Russia’s muddling springtime offensive, Kyiv is preparing to go back on its own offensive, in a campaign fueled by sophisticated heavy weapons from the United States, Britain, Germany, France, and a host of other countries, in a push designed to throw the Russians onto their backs, and out of Ukraine for good.

The stakes are high.

However, Ukrainian forces have already begun making inroads on the outskirts of Bakhmut, the shattered city that’s taken on the mythical significance of Stalingrad, swallowing tens of thousands of soldiers into its fiery maw. These recent advances have caused significant anxiety among pro-war Russian bloggers, afraid they’re witnessing the beginning of Ukraine’s offensive, something Kyiv denies.

Meanwhile, the fractures in Vladimir Putin’s forces continue to widen.

The supply shortages and catastrophic troop losses continue to poison morale, as young Russian men continue to fight and die and kill for what seems to be an utterly lost cause. And yet, Putin clearly hasn’t relinquished his desire to subdue Ukraine, at nearly any insane cost, despite having suffered an estimated 200,000 casualties in his battered military machine, and inestimable damage to Russia’s global prestige.

Incredibly, drones recently appeared to bomb the Kremlin. Four Russian aircraft, two Mi-8 helicopters and two Sukhoi fighter jets, crashed and burned just inside of Ukrainian airspace in a single day near Bryansk. Putin’s mercenary chief is savagely belittling Russian generals, blaming the Ministry of Defense for the deaths of his soldiers, even as he’s consumed by his own treasonous intrigues, apparently offering to sell Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate information on Russian troop positions.

None of this bodes well for Putin.

Still, he seems to be tolerating Yevgeny Prigozhin’s outbursts for now, being unwilling or unable to do anything to silence the man fielding what is perhaps Russia’s most effective battlefield formation in the Wagner Group. However, the problems continue to pile up and fester, and a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive can be expected to further debilitate the battered Russian ranks.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky was on a whirlwind European tour last week, extracting promises of additional weapon systems and political support from governments in Berlin, Rome, London, and Paris. He finally secured critical long-range Storm Shadow missiles and drones from the British, armored vehicles and training from the French, and nearly three billion dollars in military aid from the Germans, a doubling of their commitment.

The Kremlin has already threatened “retaliation” for the long-range missiles, which are presumably causing significant anxiety in Moscow.

However, Zelensky continues to agitate for F-16 fighter jets from his most important backers in the Biden administration, who continue to resist sending them. Still, he’s gotten nearly everything else on his wish list, and analysts believe Ukraine is sufficiently armed to begin its next offensive.

“They all reek of expensive perfume”

Meanwhile, the world has been watching the war of words between Yevgeny Prigozhin and the upper echelons of Russia’s Ministry of Defense with a kind of horrified fascination. Prigozhin has posted scathing videos on social media, walking amid the bodies of his fallen fighters, calling out the Russian generals who “all reek of expensive perfume,” and who “think they will go down in history as victors while shaking their fat bellies.”

Rather, “They already went down in history as cowards,” according to him.

It’s the kind of fighting language usually reserved for one’s mortal enemies. However, as we’ve recently learned, Prigozhin has actually been consorting with Ukrainian military intelligence officers, meeting HUR agents in Africa, and offering to sell them Russian troop positions in exchange for a withdrawal from Bakhmut.

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed those allegations as a “hoax,” which surfaced in Air National Guard Jack Teixeira’s leaks of classified documents on Discord. Prigozhin called the Washington Post a prostitute, said the newspaper was trying to smear him, and suggested the information came from Russian elites attempting to sabotage him.

Nonetheless, there’s no denying his feud with Russia’s Ministry of Defense and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, which has become a fixture online, as new videos of Prigozhin hurling slurs at them and other Russian generals make the rounds on social media daily. However, the Discord documents also suggest there’s some validity to Prigozhin’s complaints about ammunition shortages, what he aptly calls “shell hunger,” as his fighters die by the thousands in Bakhmut.

At a bare minimum, all this noise is a humiliating distraction, particularly as Ukraine prepares to mount its next offensive operations. At worst, it’s the kind of growing political power struggle that could make one believe that Vladimir Putin is no longer capable of controlling his subordinates.

For his part, Putin’s stayed at a remove from the bickering between his military leaders, appearing to rise above the turmoil, projecting an air of calm confidence. As has been frequently noted, Putin allows factions underneath him to duke it out for political reasons, a tactic that’s worked well for him, keeping him at the apex of Russian power for decades.

But disunity of command is an entirely different animal on the battlefield, especially when the war is going so dismally, and factions are openly attacking each other. Still, all these theatrics may not matter as much as Putin’s ability to: field fresh troops, supply weapons and ammunition, and keep the Russian economy hobbling along.

At this point, it’s likely the Kremlin would merely like to maintain the status quo: a mostly static war of attrition, while awaiting a more favorable geopolitical situation , and a fracture in the Western alliance backing Kyiv. This requires time, something Putin believes is on his side, particularly with elections looming in the United States next year, a contest that could deliver the White House to a Republican Party skeptical of America’s commitment to Kyiv, and friendly to Moscow.

Still more important is the capacity of Ukraine to disrupt the Russian military on the battlefield, to demonstrate forward progress, and deny Putin a war of attrition. At this point, there’s every reason to believe that Kyiv’s coming offensive is going to cause significant problems for the Russians, both on the battlefield and back in the Kremlin.

Biden can be charming. But Beijing should be wary of sequels

President Vladimir Zelensky’s tour of Rome, Berlin and Paris has been a success, securing for Ukraine significant additional quantities of weaponry for the upcoming offensive against Russian forces. The high water mark was Germany’s announcement of a new package of military aid worth an estimated €2.7 billion, which will be the country’s largest delivery of arms to Ukraine. 

The German package includes 30 Leopard-1 A5 main battle tanks, four new IRIS-T SLM anti-aircraft rocket launchers, dozens of armoured personnel carriers and other combat vehicles, 18 self-propelled Howitzers and hundreds of unarmed recon drones. 

Zelensky said important decisions on “defending Ukrainian skies” were reached during talks in Italy on Saturday. In sum, Old Europe conveyed solidarity with Zelensky at a crucial juncture when all eyes are on the so-called Ukrainian offensive being the last throw of dice. 

Last week, Newsweek quoted Henry Kissinger predicting that he believes the Ukraine war is coming to a turning point and expects negotiations by the end of the year, thanks to recent efforts made by China. Kissinger said, “Now that China has entered the negotiation, it will come to a head, I think, by the end of the year. We will be talking about negotiating processes and even actual negotiations.”

Indeed, from all appearance, China has comprehensively outmanoeuvred the US over the Ukraine crisis. Last Friday, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson in Beijing announced that China’s special representative on Eurasian affairs, Li Hui, will visit Ukraine, Russia, Poland, France and Germany starting May 15 aimed at discussing a “political settlement” to the Ukraine crisis. Washington was not mentioned as part of Li’s itinerary, but Beijing instead prioritised the European capitals that have urged China to play a more active role in the Ukraine situation.

Meanwhile, by extending a warm welcome to Zelensky, Rome, Berlin and Paris have completely ignored the Top Secret US intelligence documents that have been recently leaked, which smeared the Ukrainian president as a maverick who says one thing publicly and an entirely different thing privately, who poses as moderate but in reality is an inveterate hawk escalating the war right into Russian territory, and so on. Apparently, European countries do not seem to go along with  Washington’s pressure tactic against Zelensky to escalate the war despite his grave reservations regarding Ukraine’s military preparedness.        

However, on a parallel track, there are also signs of Washington also reviewing its earlier rejection of Chinese mediation. David Ignatius at the Washington Post who has been plotting the shift, exudes optimism in his latest column  that the 10-hour long “intense meetings” spread over May 10-11 in Vienna between the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and China’s Politburo member Wang Yi “actually seemed to be creating a framework for constructive engagement.”

Ignatius estimates that “some shared space seems to have emerged during the long, detailed discussions between Sullivan and Wang… They appear to have found a language for superpower discussion, like what once existed between the United States and both Russia and China but has been lost.” 

On the other hand, Beijing has been betting that Germany, France and Italy who prioritise the recovery and growth prospects of their economies, hope to strengthen economic relations with China to bolster their economies — and are, therefore, inclined to pursue foreign policies that are different from the comparatively extreme policies of the US.

Indeed, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Friday that Chinese group XTC New Energy Materials will set up a joint venture with France’s Orano in the battery sector in the northern French port city of Dunkirk for an expected investment of $1.63 billion. The venture is expected to create around 1,700 jobs.

That said, Ignatius is an influential columnist with a long record of transmitting the US establishment’s diplomatic signalling. At its most obvious level, his column today highlights a high level of keenness on the part of the Biden administration to engage with China regarding Ukraine, which could have fallouts for the US-China relationship.  

Also, the Biden Administration seems to be pinning hopes that by engaging with China, it can create differences between Beijing and Moscow and drive a wedge into the Sino-Russian alliance. Ignatius claims that Moscow viewed with “dread” the Sullivan-Wang cogitations in Vienna. 

The Biden Administration’s revised hypothesis is that China’s objectives and priorities in the Ukraine situation are basically at variance with the Kremlin’s and, therefore,  the smart thing to do is to abandon Washington’s outright rejection of Xi Jinping’s peace initiative on Ukraine or berate China’s support to Russia but instead position the US as a cooperative interlocutor on peacemaking and nudge Beijing to put pressure on Moscow to compromise.

Fundamentally, the assumption here is that Russia can still be isolated on the geopolitical chessboard. 

But the big question remains: Is the Biden Administration in a position to overcome the influential body of opinion in the US who also happen to be in alliance with top officials in Ukraine’s corridors of power?

Ivo Daalder, former US ambassador to NATO (in the Obama administration) and currently the president of the influential Chicago Council on Global Affairs, wrote a hard-hitting opinion piece today in Politico after a visit to Kiev that “Putin’s strategic failure will only be complete if Moscow comes to understand that Ukraine is permanently lost — lost physically, economically, politically and strategically. And ensuring that failure should be the ultimate objective — not just for Ukraine but for the West too.”

His thesis is that the strategic case for including Ukraine in the West goes to the core of the current conflict and any alternative would only prolong the conflict and pose new security challenges for the western alliance system. Now, how is such an integration to be achieved?

Daalder proposes: “Even without a formal end to the war, let alone real peace, the US and other NATO countries need to make clear that they’re committed to Ukraine’s security and that they will explore interim arrangements — just as they did for Finland and Sweden — until it becomes a full member.” 

While the media attention is on the commencement of the so-called counteroffensive by Kiev, the locus of the Ukraine conflict is shifting to the NATO Summit on July 11-12 in Vilnius, Lithuania,  which is less than two months from now, to which Zelensky has been invited.

Zelensky’s current European tour — he has been to Finland and the Netherlands also in recent weeks — can be seen as the run-up to the Vilnius summit. Simply put, the foreplay has begun. It is not the Ukrainian counteroffensive, stupid! Russia — and China — should expect some nasty surprises. 

Navigating the Triangular Ties: India, China, and the United States


Despite the best efforts by the US to influence India to bring the country within its orbit of influence, it is unlikely that India will forsake its deep-rooted friendship with Russia. India is unlikely to forget repeated vetoes by the Soviet Union during the Bangladesh liberation war. The History of Indo-Russian Friendship is deep and spans many decades. Besides the basis of the relationship suits the strategic needs of both.


In a recent article in the Foreign Affairs magazine, Ashley Tellis( May 1 2023) pointed out that during the Bush and Obama administrations, U.S. ambitions centered largely on helping build India’s power in order to prevent China from dominating Asia. As U.S.-China relations steadily deteriorated during the Trump administration—when Sino-Indian relations hit rock bottom as well—Washington began to entertain the more expansive notion that its support for New Delhi would gradually induce India to play a greater military role in containing China’s growing power. There are reasons to believe it will not. One must also remember that during the UN-sponsored vote to criticize the Russian invasion of Ukraine India was one of the countries that abstained to criticize the Russian invasion. India took the position that the issue should be settled without further spilling of bloodshed.


BBC in its report of 3rd March 2022 stated that India had to walk a diplomatic tightrope over Ukraine as it tried to balance its ties with Moscow and the West. Delhi’s first statement in the UN Security Council (UNSC) did not name any country directly but it said it regretted that calls from the international community to give diplomacy and dialogue a chance had not been heeded.It, however, stopped short of criticizing Russia. And before the UNSC voted on a draft UN resolution to condemn the invasion, Delhi faced calls from Russia, the US, and Ukraine “to do the right thing”. Ukraine and Russia even issued public appeals for Delhi to take a clear stand. India chose to abstain from the vote but a careful reading of its statement suggests that it did go a step further and indirectly asked Moscow to respect international law. India talked about the importance of “the UN Charter, international law, and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states”, adding that “all member states need to honor these principles in finding a constructive way forward”. Reuter’s on September 28 2022 reported that India was articulating its position against the Ukraine war more robustly to counter criticism that it is soft on Russia, but it still has not held Moscow responsible for the invasion and will not alter its policy on importing cheap Russian oil and coal.

In their first in-person meeting since the Feb. 24 invasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told President Vladimir Putin that “today’s era is not an era of war ” – the clearest position New Delhi has taken on the conflict. India’s foreign minister followed up at the U.N. Security Council, describing the trajectory of the Ukraine war as “very concerning” and the risk of a nuclear escalation as of “particular anxiety”.New Delhi’s shift, even though nuanced, reflected concern about the growing economic costs of the conflict and how it would affect India. Russia’s first mobilization of troops since World War Two marks a major escalation of the conflict that has thrown markets into turmoil and threatens a global recession. Moreover, India is worried the war is pushing Russia closer to China, which has fraught relations with New Delhi.   India also hopes its more robust approach would help it meet criticism by Western allies that it is too close to Moscow.

US National Security Advisor and European Commission On Trade Relations With China 

Washington Post(05-01-23)  reported that the US National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan acknowledged the fact that, despite the growing tensions and confrontation with China, trade between the two countries remains robust and reached record levels last year. And he echoed the rhetoric of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who has spoken of “de-risking” Europe’s supply chains from overexposure to China rather than fully “decoupling” from what, by some indicators, is already the world’s largest economy. The United States’ moves to curb trade with China in goods that could boost Beijing’s artificial intelligence and tech prowess are, in Sullivan’s framing, an exception rather than the norm. The world has to be aware of the Sino-Russian entente versus democracy practised mostly by the Western powers and also by emerging powers like India. The Sino-Russian compact would like to demonstrate that an illiberal system can deliver essential goods to the needy far more quickly than liberal democracies can. China has attracted many developing countries through its Road and Bridge Initiative.

Xi-Jinping and The Belt & Road Initiative Of China

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, known within China as the One Belt One Road or OBOR for short)is a global infrastructure development strategy adopted by the Chinese government in 2013 to invest in more than 150 countries and international organizations. It is considered a centerpiece of the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s foreign policy.  The BRI forms a central component of Xi’s “Major Country Diplomacy” strategy, which calls for China to assume a greater leadership role in global affairs in accordance with its rising power and status. It has been compared to the American Marshall Plan. As of January 2023, 151 countries were listed as having signed up to the BRI. The participating countries include almost 75% of the world’s population and account for more than half of the world’s GDP. The Chinese government calls the initiative “a bid to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future.”The project has a target completion date of 2049, which will coincide with the centennial of the People’s Republic of China (PRC)’s founding. According to British consultants,  BRI is likely to increase the world GDP by $7.1 trillion per annum by 2040, and that benefits will be “widespread” as improved infrastructure reduces “frictions that hold back world trade”.

Supporters praise the BRI for its potential to boost the global GDP, particularly in developing countries. However, there has also been criticism over human rights violations and environmental impact, as well as concerns about debt-trap diplomacy. The Belt and Road Initiative addresses an “infrastructure gap” and thus has the potential to accelerate economic growth across the Asia Pacific, Africa, and Central and Eastern Europe. A report from the World Pension Council estimates that Asia, excluding China, requires up to US$900 billion of infrastructure investments per year over the next decade, mostly in debt instruments, 50% above current infrastructure spending rates. 

The gaping need for long-term capital explains why many Asian and Eastern European heads of state “gladly expressed their interest to join this new international financial institution focusing solely on ‘real assets’ and infrastructure-driven economic growth”.(WIKIPEDIA).  Already, some estimates list the Belt and Road Initiative as one of the largest infrastructures and investment projects in history, covering more than 68 countries, including 65% of the world’s population and 40% of the global gross domestic product as of 2017.  Development of the Renminbi as a currency of international transactions, development of the infrastructures of Asian countries, strengthening diplomatic relations whilst reducing dependency on the US and creating new markets for Chinese products, exporting surplus industrial capacity, and integrating commodities-rich countries more closely into the Chinese economy are all objectives of the BRI.While some countries, especially the United States, view the project critically because of possible Chinese influence, others point to the creation of a new global growth engine by connecting and moving Asia, Europe, and Africa closer together.

In the maritime silk road, which is already the route for more than half of all containers in the world, Deepwater ports are being expanded, logistical hubs are being built and new traffic routes are being created in the hinterland. The maritime silk road runs with its connections from the Chinese coast to the south, linking Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta.  All in all, the ship connections for container transports between Asia and Europe will be reorganized. Experts have compared the initiative to the post-World War II Marshall Plan.

Despite the apprehension expressed by e.g. Donald Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence warning developing countries of the debt trap by China many of these countries have embraced Chinese offer mainly because they lack funds for infrastructural development which they need badly. In short, the fear of a debt trap or not many developing countries are expected to sign up with China for the immediate gain they will receive through this alliance. 

Genuine multilateralism and diplomacy vs the “rules-based order”


As is traditional, the month of May in Russia is marked by the broad celebrations commemorating the anniversary of the Great Victory. The defeat of Nazi Germany – an achievement to which our country made a decisive contribution, with the support from our Allies – paved the way for the post-war international order, with the UN Charter as its legal framework. The United Nations Organisation, an embodiment of true multilateralism, took on a central coordinating role in global politics.

For almost 80 years since its inception, the UN has carried out the most important mission entrusted to it by its founders. The shared understanding among the five permanent members of the Security Council regarding the supremacy of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter has guaranteed global security for decades, thus creating the necessary conditions for truly multilateral cooperation, which are regulated by universally recognised norms of international law.

Now the UN-centric system is undergoing a deep crisis, the root cause of which was brought on by the decision of certain UN members to replace international law and the UN Charter with some “rules-based international order”. These mysterious “rules” have never been the subject of transparent international consultations, nor have they been laid out for everybody’s attention. It is obvious that they are being made up on the move and used to counteract the natural processes of the formation and strengthening of new independent centres of development, which are an actual manifestation of multilateralism.

Moreover, we are seeing attempts to contain the new world centres by means of illegitimate unilateral measures, such as blocking access to modern technologies and financial services, forcing out of supply chains, confiscating property, destroying competitors’ critical infrastructure, and manipulating universally agreed norms and procedures. These actions have led to the fragmentation of global trade and the collapse of market mechanisms. They have paralysed the WTO and finally transformed the IMF, without a hint of disguise, into a tool for achieving the goals of the United States and its allies, including military goals. In a desperate attempt to assert its dominance by punishing anyone who disobeys, the United States tried to derail globalisation – a process that had been extolled as the highest virtue for humanity, serving the multilateral global economic system for years.

Washington and other Western capitals subordinate to the US are applying their “rules” whenever they need to justify their illegitimate steps against countries that draft their policies in accordance with international law and refuse to service the selfish interests of the “golden billion.” They blacklist any dissenters, deeming whoever is not with them as acting against them.

Our Western colleagues have long since become uncomfortable with holding talks in universal formats, such as the UN. To provide an ideological basis for their policy of undermining multilateralism, the theme of united “democracies” countering “autocracies” has been put into circulation. In addition to “summits for democracy”, the members of which are designated by the self-proclaimed hegemon, other “clubs of the chosen ones” are being created that operate in circumvention of the UN.

Summits for Democracy, the Alliance for Multilateralism, the Global Partnership for Artificial Intelligence, the Global Media Freedom Coalition and the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace – these and other non-inclusive projects have been designed to undermine talks held under the auspices of the UN on relevant issues, and to impose non-consensual concepts and decisions that benefit the collective West.  First, they agree on something secretly as a small group and then present their agreements as “the position of the international community.” Let’s face it: no one entrusted the Western minority to speak on behalf of all humankind. They must behave decently and respect all international community members without exception.

By imposing a “rules-based order,” its masterminds haughtily reject the key principle underlying the UN Charter, which is the sovereign equality of states. The “proud” statement by the head of the EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, that Europe is a “garden” and the rest of the world is a “jungle” personifies their worldview of being exceptional. I will also quote the NATO-EU Joint Statement of January 10, 2023 which states: “The united West will use all the economic, financial, political, and military tools available to NATO and the EU to ensure the interests of our one billion.”

The collective West has set out to reshape the processes of multilateralism at the regional level to suit its needs. Recently, the United States called for reviving the Monroe Doctrine and wanted Latin American countries to scale back their ties with the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. However, this faced pushback from the countries of this region, which instead resolved to strengthen their own multilateral structures, primarily the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), while upholding their legitimate right to establish themselves as a pillar of the multipolar world. Russia fully supports just aspirations of this kind.

The United States and its allies have deployed significant forces to undermine multilateralism in the Asia-Pacific Region where an ASEAN-centred, successful, and open economic and security cooperation system has been taking shape for decades. This system helped them develop consensus approaches that suited the 10 ASEAN members and their dialogue partners, including Russia, China, the United States, India, Japan, Australia, and the Republic of Korea, thus ensuring genuine inclusive multilateralism. Washington then advanced its Indo-Pacific Strategy in an effort to break up this established architecture.

At last year’s summit in Madrid, NATO, which never tires of convincing everyone of its “love of peace” and the exclusively defensive nature of its defence programmes, put out a statement about its global responsibility and indivisible security in the Euro-Atlantic region, as well as in the so-called Indo-Pacific region. This means NATO’s boundaries as a defensive organisation are being moved towards the western coastal regions of the Pacific. This bloc-oriented policy, which is eroding ASEAN-centred multilateralism, manifests itself in the creation of the AUKUS military alliance, with Tokyo, Seoul, and several ASEAN countries being drawn into it. The United States is leading the effort to develop mechanisms to interfere in maritime security in a move to ensure the unilateral interests of the West in the South China Sea region. Josep Borrell, whom I referred to earlier, promised to send EU naval forces to that region. No one is hiding the fact that this Indo-Pacific strategy seeks to contain China and to isolate Russia. This is how our Western colleagues interpret the concept of “effective multilateralism” in the Asia-Pacific Region.

As soon as the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was dissolved and the Soviet Union vanished from the political arena, many entertained the hope that the principle of genuine multilateralism, void of dividing lines across the Euro-Atlantic area, could be brought to life. However, instead of tapping the OSCE’s potential on an equal, collective basis, Western countries not only preserved NATO but, despite their firm pledges to the contrary, also pursued a brazen policy of bringing neighbouring areas under their control, including those that have always been and will be of vital interest to Russia. As then US Secretary of State James Baker said while talking to President George H.W. Bush: the OSCE is the main threat to NATO. One is left with the impression that today both the UN and the provisions of the UN Charter pose a threat to Washington’s global ambitions.

Russia patiently tried to reach mutually-beneficial multilateral agreements based on the principle of indivisible security, which was solemnly declared at the highest level, that is, in the documents of OSCE summits in 1999 and 2010. They are formulated in the clearest possible terms – openly and unambiguously – that no nation shall strengthen its security at the expense of the security of others and that no country, or group of countries, or organisation shall be vested with the pre-eminent responsibility of maintaining peace in an OSCE region, or treat any part of an OSCE region as its sphere of influence.

NATO cared little about the commitments that were assumed by the presidents and prime ministers of its member countries and started to act precisely in contradiction with its promises by announcing its “right” to behave in any matter it saw fit. The most glaring example of this was the illegitimate bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, including with depleted uranium shells, which later led to a surge of patients with oncological conditions, both among Serbs and NATO service members. Joe Biden was a senator at the time and went on record as saying, with some pride, that he had personally insisted on bombing Belgrade and destroying all bridges across the Drina River. Today, US Ambassador to Serbia Christopher Hill has used mass media to call on the Serbs to turn the page and suppress their pain.

As for “suppressing their pain”, the United States has vast experience under its belt. Japan has long since been ashamedly reticent about who in fact bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  School textbooks make no mention of it. Speaking at a recent G7 meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken demonstratively grieved over the suffering of the victims of those bombings, however, he kept silent about who was behind them.

Such are the “rules”. And nobody is allowed to argue with them.

Since World War II, Washington has pulled off dozens of reckless criminal military operations without even trying to secure multilateral legitimacy. Why bother when your “rules” are unbeknownst to everyone.

The disgraceful invasion of Iraq by the US-led coalition in 2003 was carried out in violation of the UN Charter, just like the aggression against Libya in 2011. Both led to the destruction of each country’s statehood, hundreds of thousands of lost lives, and rampant terrorism.

The US’s intervention in the domestic affairs of post-Soviet countries is nothing short of a flagrant violation of the UN Charter. “Colour revolutions” were concocted in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, and a bloody coup was staged in Kiev in February 2014. Attempts to seize power by force in Belarus in 2020 were part and parcel of this approach.

The Anglo-Saxons at the helm of the West not only justify these lawless adventures, but also parade them as a policy for “promoting democracy,” while also doing so according to their own set of rules, such as how they recognised Kosovo’s independence without a referendum, but still refused to recognise Crimea’s independence, even though a referendum there was in fact held.  According to British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, the Falklands/Malvinas are not an issue because a referendum was held there. That’s amusing.

In order to avoid double standards, we call on everyone to follow the consensus agreements that were reached as part of the 1970 UN Declaration on Principles of International Law, which remains in force today. It clearly declares the need to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states that conduct “themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples as described above and thus possessed of a government representing the whole people belonging to the territory.” Any unbiased observer can clearly see that the Nazi Kiev regime can in no way be considered a government representing the residents of the territories who refused to accept the results of the bloody February 2014 coup, against whom the putschists unleashed their war. It is just as clear that Pristina cannot claim to represent the interests of the Kosovo Serbs, to whom the EU promised autonomy, in the same manner as Berlin and Paris promised a special status for Donbass. We are well aware of how these promises played out in the end.

In his message to the second Summit for Democracy on March 29, 2023, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the following: “Democracy flows from the United Nations Charter. Its opening invocation of ‘We, the Peoples’ reflects the fundamental source of legitimate authority: the consent of the governed.” I will emphasise the word “consent” once again.

Multilateral efforts were made to stop the outbreak of war in the east of Ukraine as a result of the government coup. These efforts towards peaceful settlement were embodied in UN Security Council Resolution 2202 that unanimously approved the Minsk agreements. Kiev and its Western handlers trampled all over these agreements. They even cynically admitted with a tinge of pride that they had never planned to fulfil them, but rather merely wanted to gain time to flood Ukraine with weapons to use against Russia. In doing so, they publicly announced the violation of a multilateral commitment by UN members as per the UN Charter, which requires all member countries to comply with Security Council resolutions.

Our consistent efforts to prevent this confrontation, including proposals made by President Vladimir Putin in December 2021 to reach agreement on multilateral mutual security guarantees, were haughtily rejected. We were told that nobody can prevent NATO from “embracing” Ukraine.

In the years following the coup, and despite our strong demands, nobody from among Kiev’s Western overseers reined in Petr Poroshenko, Vladimir Zelensky, or Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada when the Russian language, education, media and, in general, Russian cultural and religious traditions were being consistently destroyed by legislation. This was done in direct violation of the Constitution of Ukraine and universal conventions on the rights of ethnic minorities. In parallel, the Kiev regime was introducing the theory and practice of Nazism in everyday life and adopting related laws. The Kiev regime shamelessly staged flashy torchlight processions under the banners of SS divisions in the centre of the capital and other cities. The West kept silent and rubbed its hands with satisfaction. These developments fully fit into the US plans to put to use Kiev’s openly racist regime, which Washington had created in the hope of weakening Russia across the board. It was part of the US’s strategic course towards removing its rivals and undermining any scenario that implied the assertion of fair multilateralism in global affairs.

Everyone is aware of it, even though not everyone is talking about it openly: the real issue is not about Ukraine, but rather about the future of international relations. Will they be forged on a sustainable consensus, one based on the balance of interests? Or will they be reduced to an aggressive and explosive advancement of hegemony? The Ukraine issue cannot be considered outside its geopolitical context. To reiterate, multilateralism implies respect for the UN Charter and all of its interconnected principles. Russia has clearly elaborated the goals of its special military operation, which are to remove threats to its security that have been instigated by NATO for a number of years and right on Russia’s borders, and to protect the people who were stripped of their rights set forth in multilateral conventions. Russia wants to protect them from Kiev’s public and outright threats to annihilate and banish them from the land where their ancestors had lived for centuries. We have been forthright about what and for whom we are fighting.

Amid the US- and EU-fuelled hysteria, I am tempted to ask them in retort: What did Washington and NATO do in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya? Were there any threats to their security, culture, religion, or languages? What multilateral regulations were they guided by when they declared Kosovo’s independence in violation of OCSE principles or when they were destroying stable and economically wealthy Iraq and Libya, countries located 10,000 miles away from US coasts?

Western countries’ brazen attempts to bring the Secretariats of the UN and other international organisations under their control are a threat to the multilateral system. The West has always enjoyed a quantitative advantage in terms of personnel, but until recently the Secretariat tried to remain neutral. Today, this imbalance has become chronic while Secretariat employees increasingly allow themselves politically-driven behaviour that is unbecoming of international office holders. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres must ensure that his staff meets impartiality standards in keeping with Article 100 of the UN Charter. We also call on the Secretariat’s senior officials to be guided by the need to help member countries find ways to reach consensus and a balance of interests, rather than playing into the hands of neoliberal concepts. Otherwise, instead of a multilateral agenda, we will see a widening gap between the “golden billion” countries and the Global Majority.

Speaking of multilateralism, we cannot limit ourselves to the international context. By the same token, we cannot ignore the international context when we speak about democracy. There should be no double standards. Multilateralism and democracy should enjoy respect both within the member countries and in their relations with one another. Everyone is aware that while imposing its understanding of democracy on other nations, the West opposes the democratisation of international relations based on respect for the sovereign equality of states. Today, along with its efforts to promote its “rules” in the international arena, the West is also putting a choke hold on multilateralism and democracy at home as it uses increasingly repressive tools to crack down on dissent, much the same way as the criminal Kiev regime is doing with the support of its teachers – the United States and its allies.

Just like in the Cold War years, humanity has approached a once-dangerous, and perhaps an even more dangerous line in the sand. The situation is further aggravated by loss of faith in multilateralism, all the while the financial and economic aggression of the West is destroying the benefits of globalisation and Washington and its allies drop diplomacy and demand that things be sorted out “on the battlefield”. All of this is taking place within the walls of the UN, a body that was created to prevent the horrors of war. The voices of responsible and sensible forces, and calls to show political wisdom and revive the culture of dialogue, are drowned out by those who set out to undermine the fundamental principles of communication between countries. We must all return to our roots and comply with the UN Charter’s purposes and principles in all their diversity and interconnectedness.

At this juncture, genuine multilateralism requires that the UN adapt to objective developments in the process of forming a multipolar architecture of international relations. It is imperative to expedite Security Council reform by expanding the representation of countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The inordinate over-representation of the West in the UN’s main body undermines the principle of multilateralism.

Venezuela spearheaded the creation of the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations. We call on all countries that respect the Charter to join. It is also important to use the constructive potential provided by BRICS and the SCO. The EAEU, the CIS, and the CSTO are all willing to contribute. We stand for using the potential of the regional associations of the Global South. The G20 can also be instrumental in maintaining multilateralism if its Western participants stop distracting their colleagues from priority items on its agenda in the hope of downplaying their responsibility for the pile-up of crises in the global economy.

It is our common duty to preserve the United Nations as the hard-won epitome of multilateralism and coordination of international politics. The key to success lies in working together, renouncing claims on exceptionalism and – I reiterate – showing respect for the sovereign equality of states. This is what we all signed up for when we ratified the UN Charter.

In 2021, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested convening a summit of the UN Security Council permanent members. The leaders of China and France supported this initiative, but, unfortunately, it has not been brought to fruition. This issue is directly related to multilateralism – not because the five powers have certain privileges over the rest, but precisely because of their special responsibility under the UN Charter to preserve international peace and security. This is exactly what the imperatives of the UN-centric system, which is crumbling before our eyes as a result of the actions of the West, call for.

Concern about this situation can be increasingly heard in multiple initiatives and ideas from the Global South countries, ranging from East and Southeast Asia, the Arab and the Muslim world in its entirety, all the way to Africa and Latin America. We appreciate their sincere desire to ensure the settlement of current problems through honest collective work aimed at agreeing on a balance of interests based on the sovereign equality of states and indivisible security. We will continue to forge productive cooperation with them in the name of improving the international situation, while advancing communication between countries based on the principles of true multilateralism, international law, truth, and justice.

China, Russia circle wagons in Asia-Pacific


The official visit by Chinese State Councilor and Defence Minister General Li Shangfu to Russia on April 16-19 prima facie underscored the two countries’ emergent need to deepen their military trust and close coordination against the backdrop of worsening geopolitical tensions and the imperative to maintain the global strategic balance. 

The visit carries forward the pivotal decisions taken at the intensive one-on-one talks  between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow through March 20-21. In a break with protocol, Gen. Li’s 4-day visit was front-loaded with a “working meeting” with Putin — to quote Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. (here and here)

Li is no stranger to Moscow, having previously held charge of Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission who was sanctioned by the US in 2018 for purchasing Russian weapons, including Su-35 combat aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missile systems.

Song Zhongping, prominent Chinese military expert and TV commentator, forecast that Li’s trip would signal the high level of bilateral military ties with Russia, and lead to “more mutually beneficial exchanges in many fields, including defence technologies and military exercises.” 

Last Wednesday, US Commerce Department announced the imposition of export controls on a dozen Chinese companies for “supporting Russia’s military and defence industries.” The Global Times hit back defiantly that “as China is an independent major power, so is Russia. It’s our right to decide with whom we will carry out normal economic and trade cooperation. We cannot accept the US’ finger-pointing or even economic coercion.” 

Putin said at the meeting with Li on Easter Sunday that military cooperation plays an important role in Russia-China relations. Chinese analysts said Li’s visit is also a signal jointly sent by China and Russia that their military cooperation will not be impacted by the US pressure. 

Putin had disclosed in October 2019 that Russia was helping China to create an early missile warning system that would drastically enhance the defensive capacity of China. Chinese observers noted that Russia was more experienced in developing and operating such a system, which is capable of identifying and sending warnings immediately after intercontinental ballistic missiles are launched. 

Such cooperation demonstrate a high level of trust and require a possible integration of Russian and Chinese systems. The system integration will be mutually beneficial; stations located in the North and West of Russia could provide China with warning data and, in turn, China could provide Russia with data collected at their Eastern and Southern stations. That is to say, the two countries could create their own global missile defence network.

These systems are among the most sophisticated and sensitive areas of defence technology. The US and Russia are the only countries which have been able to develop, build and maintain such systems. Certainly, close coordination and cooperation between Russia and China, two nuclear-armed powers, will profoundly contribute to world peace in the present circumstances by containing and deterring US hegemony. 

It cannot be a coincidence that Moscow ordered a sudden check of the forces of its Pacific Fleet on April 14-18, which overlapped Li’s visit. The inspection took place against the background of the aggravation of the situation around Taiwan.

Indeed, in early April, it became known that the American aircraft carrier USS Nimitz approached Taiwan; on April 11, the US began a 17-day military exercise in the Philippines involving over 12000 troops; on April 17, news appeared about the dispatch of 200 American military advisers to Taiwan. 

The US Global Thunder 23 strategic exercises at Minot Air Base in North Dakota, (which is the US Air Force Global Strikes Command) began last week where a training was conducted to load cruise missiles with nuclear warhead on bombers. The images showed B-52H Stratofortress strategic bombers being equipped by the flight technical personnel of the base with AGM-86B cruise missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads on the underwing pylons!

Again, exercises of US aviation and fleet forces have been increasingly noticed in the immediate vicinity of Russian borders or in regions where Russia has geopolitical interests. On April 5, B-52 Stratofortress circled over the Korean Peninsula allegedly “in response to nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.” At the same time, South Korea, the US and Japan conducted trilateral naval exercises in the waters of the Sea of Japan with the participation of aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.  

Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev recently drew attention to Japan’s growing capability to conduct offensive operations, which, he said, constituted “a gross violation of one of the most important outcomes of the Second World War.” Japan plans to purchase around 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the US, which can directly threaten most of the territory of the Russian Far East. The Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is working on developing Type 12 land-based anti-ship missiles “in order to protect the remote islands of Japan.”

Japan is also developing hypersonic weapons designed to conduct combat operations “on remote islands,” which Russians see as options for Japan’s possible seizure of the Southern Kuriles. In 2023, Japan will have a military budget exceeding $51 billion (on par with Russia’s), which is slated to increase to $73 billion. 

Actually, during the latest surprise inspection, the ships and submarines of Russia’s Pacific Fleet made the transition from their bases to the Japanese, Okhotsk and Bering Seas. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, “in practice, it is necessary to work out ways to prevent the deployment of enemy forces to the operationally important area of the Pacific Ocean – the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk and to repel its landing on the Southern Kuril Islands and Sakhalin Island.”

‘Loudly on the quiet…

Surveying the regional alignments, Yuri Lyamin, Russian military expert and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, a leading think tank of the military-industrial complex, told Izvestia newspaper:

“Considering that we have not settled the territorial issue, Japan lays claim to our South Kuriles. In this regard, checks are very necessary. It is necessary to increase the readiness of our forces in the Far East…

“In the context of the current situation, we need to further strengthen defence cooperation with China. In fact, an axis is being formed against Russia, North Korea and China: the USA, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and then it goes to Australia. Great Britain is also actively trying to participate… All this must be taken into account and cooperation should be established with China and North Korea, which are, one might say, our natural allies.”

In highly significant remarks at a Kremlin meeting with Shoigu on April 17 — while Li was in Moscow — Putin noted that the current priorities of Russia’s armed forces are “primarily focusing on the Ukrainian track… (but) the Pacific theatre of operations remains relevant” and it must be borne in mind that “the forces of the (Pacific) fleet in its individual components can certainly be used in conflicts in any direction.” 

The next day, Shoigu told Gen. Li, “In the spirit of unbreakable friendship between the nations, peoples, and the armed forces of China and Russia, I look forward to the closest and most successful cooperation with you…” The Russian MOD readout said :

“Sergei Shoigu stressed that Russia and China could stabilise the global situation and lessen the potential for conflict by coordinating their actions on the global stage. ‘It is important that our countries share the same view on the ongoing transformation of the global geopolitical landscape… The meeting we have today will, in my opinion, help to further solidify the Russia-China strategic partnership in the defence sphere and enable an open discussion of regional and global security issues.” 

Beijing and Moscow visualise that the US, having failed to “erase” Russia, is turning attention to the Asia-Pacific theatre. Suffice to say, Li’s visit shows that the reality of Russia–China defence cooperation is complicated. Russia–China military-technical cooperation has always been rather secretive, and the level of secrecy has increased as both countries engage in more direct confrontation with the US.

The political meaning of Putin’s 2019 statement on jointly developing a ballistic missile early warning system extended far beyond its technical and military significance. It demonstrated to the world that Russia and China were on the brink of a formal military alliance, which could be triggered if US pressure went too far.

In October 2020, Putin suggested the possibility of a military alliance with China. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ reaction was positive, although Beijing refrained from using the word “alliance”.

A working and  effective military alliance can be formed quickly if the need arises but their respective foreign policy strategies rendered such a move unlikely. However, real and imminent danger of military conflict with the US can trigger a paradigm shift.

Iran proposes lessening West’s dominance in global economy


A top Iranian security official said on Sunday that reducing the U.S. dollar’s influence on regional and international trade will minimize the West’s domination over the global economy.

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani made the remarks in a meeting with the Russian president’s aide Igor Levitin in Iranian capital Tehran, according to SNSC-affiliated Nour News.

During the meeting, Shamkhani said the process to reduce the dollar’s clout on regional and international transactions has already started, noting that many countries are joining the path.

He described the initiatives finalized between Iran and Russia in the area of monetary and banking transactions as an “effective” method for “dooming the illegal Western sanctions to failure.”

Shamkhani expressed satisfaction with the improved level of economic cooperation between Iran and Russia over the past months, highlighting the need to accelerate the joint economic projects’ implementation.

He said completing the International North-South Transport Corridor and expansion of the transportation sector cooperation between the two countries constitute an important part of the joint projects.

For his part, Levitin said Moscow is ready to make investments in different Iranian economic sectors, including those pertaining to the steel, oil and petrochemical industries.

Commenting on the numerous bilateral visits by the two countries’ economic and banking officials over the past months, he said favorable ground has been prepared for signing multilateral economic deals and attracting other countries to participate in the lucrative economic projects.

Levitin arrived in Tehran on Friday night for talks with senior Iranian officials, including Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber and Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mehrdad Bazrpash.

Iran and Russia, both under sanctions imposed by the United States, have been expanding their political and economic relations to counter the U.S. moves. 

Unmasking Western Hypocrisy: A Candid Interview with Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka



by Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor

Recently, Our Diplomatic Affairs Editor had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with the Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Levan S. Dzhagaryan, at the Russian Embassy in Colombo. The interview covered a range of topics including the longstanding relationship between Sri Lanka and Russia, the current state of bilateral relations, the de-dollarization campaign of Global South, and the Ambassador’s message to foreign diplomats.

Ambassador Dzhagaryan shared his thoughts and insights on these important issues, providing valuable perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing Sri Lanka and the wider international community. The interview provided a unique opportunity to gain deeper insights into the perspectives of one of the most senior Russian diplomats in the region, and sheds light on the current state of relations between Sri Lanka and Russia, as well as the broader geopolitical dynamics shaping the world today.

Levan S. Dzhagaryan has an extensive diplomatic career that includes working in various regions around the world, including the Middle East. He has served as a diplomat for over three decades, beginning his career in 1987. He has worked in Iran, Afghanistan, and other countries in the region, gaining invaluable experience in dealing with complex political and diplomatic situations.

In the late 1980s, Dzhagaryan served as a diplomat in Afghanistan during the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan, a period of intense conflict and political turmoil. This experience provided him with a unique perspective on international relations, conflict resolution, and the importance of dialogue and cooperation between nations.

Read the excerpts from the interview; 

Question: Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much for accepting our request. Let’s start this interview with your assessment of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. How is the situation there now?

Answer: This is not a conflict between Ukraine and Russia, but rather a conflict between Russia and Western countries, particularly the United States of America. What we are expecting is for Ukraine to announce that it is a NATO country. Then they can officially deploy their forces, which they are currently doing unofficially, near the Russian border by forcing a direct threat.

Imagine if Russia deployed our missiles close to the United States, as happened in Cuba in 1962, and everyone knows what happened. Now the same thing is being done by the United States in our border countries. How on earth can that be justified? When they do it, it is justifiable, but when others do it to ensure their borders, it is not acceptable and is called an “unprovoked war” or “invasion.” This is nothing but a double standard.

Question: You are pointing at the West, but the more the crisis drags on, the more people suffer. Responsible parties must take immediate steps to solve this problem. Do you have anything in mind in terms of conflict resolution?

Answer: To resolve this crisis, China is playing a significant and remarkable role. To cease the ongoing violence and find a lasting solution, China last month proposed a 12-point peace plan. Some provisions of this plan that may lay a foundation for peace negotiations, but Ukraine is continuing to play a hoodwink as they cannot decide by themselves. Ukraine is obviously a puppet government. They are under American and certain European countries’ control. Ukrainians are not decision-makers. Everything they do depends on Washington. Therefore, they are afraid of a ceasefire, as a ceasefire would benefit unarmed civilians. What they want is more suffering for civilians and for the war to continue. These manipulators don’t want peace, and if they continue like this, we have no alternative but to continue the war and upgrade it into a full-scale war.

Question: If you can talk about the geopolitical landscape in this crisis, what is the biggest threat to Russia at the moment?

Answer: The current geopolitical scenario is a threat to our sovereignty and independence. Russia is an independent country, and the US does not like independent countries. That is why they are trying to undermine China. The new world order is giving us an opportunity to understand who we are and how the West has bullied us. The threat Russia is facing is not an isolated threat. This is exactly what the Global South is facing at this moment. That is why the Global South is coming together.

Question: You have repeatedly stated that Russia is unfairly targeted by the West. Can you explain your perspective on this issue?

Answer: Indeed, we firmly believe that Russia is unfairly targeted by the West. We have always been willing to cooperate with any country on an equal footing. In the past, we have had strong relationships with charismatic political leaders in the West who understood Russia’s integrity. We worked together while protecting mutual respect and sensitivity. One example is Germany, where Russia helped to prosper its economy. However, some countries have recently blown up energy pipelines, attempting to blame Russia, but their efforts have been unsuccessful. We have urged the UN Security Council to set up a working group to investigate this crime, but it is being refused. Everyone knows who is behind this attack, and it was not simply a group in Ukraine, but a sophisticated attack. Therefore, after the incident, President Biden, Under Secretary Nuland, and others shared their joys. It is evident that Americans were using trade with European countries to promote their trade, and this is precisely what has happened. As a result, Europeans are now forced to purchase expensive LNG, and they will soon realize who their true enemy is.

Question: Many countries abstained from voting on the Russian resolution at the UN Security Council on Nord Stream Sabotage. Can you comment on this?

Answer: Yes, only three countries stood in favor of our resolution. Other countries refrained from voting due to enormous pressure from the United States and its allies. We have to ask, if these countries had nothing to do with this international terror act of sabotaging the pipeline, why are they afraid of conducting an impartial investigation? Why won’t they allow Russians to be a part of this investigation?

Question: The West has responded to your allegations by saying that they are unproven. How do you react to this?

Answer: If our allegations are unproven, then we are willing to participate and cooperate in an investigation. However, they have continued to deny our demands for an impartial investigation. This attack is an act of state terrorism and shameful inhumanity. They have no right to blame other countries. The country that created ISIS has no right whatsoever to criticize other countries. President Trump even publicly told Hilary Clinton, when she was Secretary of State, “You should be rewarded by ISIS because you have created them.”

Levan S. Dzhagaryan as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Sri Lanka talking to Sri Lanka Guardian [ Photo: Laknath Seneviratne]

Question: Let’s talk about your role as a Russian diplomat. You served as the Russian Ambassador to Iran before your assignment here in Colombo. What do you see as the biggest threat Iran is facing today, and how can Russia help address it?

Answer: Iran is a beautiful and rich country with friendly people. However, since 1979, Iran has been suffering from unfairly targeted sanctions imposed by the US and EU. Despite this, Iran has managed to create a strong economy. I particularly saw that Iranian youth are true patriots and are well-versed in mathematics and sciences, which is a huge national potential. But the US is always poking Iran and trying their best to destabilize the country using different tools. Certain media outfits and social groups funded by the West situated abroad are trying to defame Iran and topple the government. The West can’t tolerate when there is an independent country. As a true friend with historic roots, Russia maintains a strong relationship with Iran, and we have mutual respect for each other. China’s move to normalize relationships with other Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, is significant, and I hope we can work towards strong relationships with other Arab countries, particularly Turkey and Syria.

Question: The interesting point is the US doesn’t have a physical mission in Iran, but during the Obama administration, they started nuclear negotiations. How do you see this?

Answer: Switzerland is keeping a special unit to maintain the Iran-US relationship, and there are a few other Western missions operating in Tehran. At the time, they were very cooperative, which ultimately resulted in a good deal. But later, it turned into a blunt attempt to interfere with Iran’s internal affairs.

Question: The Iraq intervention is now 20 years old, and the crisis in the Middle East continues. Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel in the region?

Answer: Many issues need to be solved, and as a diplomat, I’m optimistic about it. However, the Iraq intervention by the US and its allies, like in many other countries, is a gross violation of international laws and conventions, as well as the United Nations Charter. Just like how they destroyed Iraq, Americans are destroying Syria. The presence of American troops in Syria is not only unnecessary but also a gross violation of the country’s sovereignty. Who invited them to Syria? Nobody. They are just there to loot, yes; loot the natural resources from Syria. Our demand is to withdraw the American troops from Syria quickly and start a dialogue with the government headed by President Asad. As far as I understand, the President is ready for a dialogue with opposition groups. I think all parties should come to a compromise to end this brutal crisis instigated by the West.

Question: But at the same time, those regimes, be it Syria, Iraq, Libya, or elsewhere, are blamed for serious violations of human rights?

Answer: What are human rights? It is a well-formulated tool for double standards. Americans have a lot of problems inside their country; if they are concerned about human rights, they should solve their issues at home first before dictating to other countries on how to protect human rights. They turn a blind eye to certain countries of their choice but attack other independent countries for not bowing down to their dictations. Look at Latvia and Estonia; many Russians are there without identities. Does the West talk about that? No, because they maintain friendship with them. What about the killing of Darya Dugina by Ukrainian assassins? Do any “human rights nations” or any human rights protection and promotion organizations talk about it? Not at all. Their hypocrisy is crystal clear. Those who deny the actions of the Ukrainian government are not persecuted, and those who speak against it are. In my opinion, whenever the Western allegations on human rights come up, first see their ulterior motives and track records, then you can see the double standards and hypocrisy there. What you have to be careful of is not allowing those hypocrites to interfere in your internal affairs.

Question: Do you think, in this situation, the Global South moving forward to establish a multipolar world is a realistic dream?

Answer: It is indeed realistic, and more and more countries in the Global South are coming together after centuries of bullying and undermining. The West has deceived us with their lies right from the beginning; how can we trust them? The United Nations itself rules out that Americans violated international laws and conventions. If they start bragging about human rights protection and promotion, my message is very clear: please stand up and see yourself in the mirror. In Syria, my message is even clearer: “Yankees, go home!”

Question: Well, give us your take on the recent visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Answer: We are very happy about this significant move. We are not a military alliance. We don’t force threats to anyone else, but we stand for securing our borders and sovereignty. We are focused on the humanitarian field, more importantly, the economy of each other.

Question: However, the US Dollar is still dominating the global economy.

Answer: We must work towards getting rid of the US dollar as the dominant currency. Our priorities are to establish an undisrupted supply chain, prevent external meddling in internal affairs, and achieve independent economic sustainability. The de-dollarization campaign is gaining momentum and trades between countries using local currencies are increasing. Russia, China, Iran, India, and Saudi Arabia have all seen success in these trades. The era of US dollar dominance is coming to an end, and these are positive signs. I hope the Global South will become even more united and strong to face future challenges.

Question: But whenever this discourse on de-dollarization comes to light, there will be a Western-sponsored war that breaks out. For instance, when Saddam Hussein started selling oil to Europe using European currencies, the United States bombed Iraq. When Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya started selling oil for gold, the United States bombed Libya. I’m afraid the same scenario might be repeated soon to divert attention from the deepening financial crisis in the West.

Answer: It is indeed possible. As you correctly point out, Western powers may create a tipping point to divert attention from their domestic issues and focus on external enemies. It is ironic that most of the time, the “external enemy” is also created by them. For instance, in the case of Libya, it was a transit point connecting the West and Africa. Muammar al-Qaddafi was a nice man to the West and bribed many Western political leaders. Ultimately, he paid the price, but at what cost?

Levan S. Dzhagaryan as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Sri Lanka talking to Sri Lanka Guardian [ Photo: Laknath Seneviratne]

Question: With complex and interconnected challenges, how can a country like Sri Lanka work together with Russia and other like-minded countries? You know Sri Lanka is under many obligations over its current financial predicament.

Answer: I understand that the situation in Sri Lanka is crucial and serious. We are pursuing a very balanced position on Sri Lanka, in terms of our bilateral relationships and other international issues, including the Ukraine crisis. We hope Sri Lanka will be able to settle its domestic problems soon. As the Russian ambassador, I would like to reaffirm that we do not interfere in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka. Our message is that Sri Lanka is rising by itself and overcoming challenges, and I don’t think anyone has the right to lecture Sri Lanka on what to do.

I may sound like I’m extremely anti-American, but I am not. American people are a grateful people, and they have created a very strong nation with many talented people in many subjects. We respect the American people, but we cannot agree with the aggressive and provocative actions of the United States government, including the Congress.

Question: Sri Lanka and Russia have maintained longstanding relationships since the USSR era. How do you plan to strengthen our bilateral relationship during your time as the Russian ambassador to Sri Lanka?

Answer: As a new ambassador to South Asia, I have proposed several projects to the Sri Lankan government that can take our relationship to the next level. Although our focus is currently on Ukraine and defeating its puppet regime, we are also looking to expand our agricultural and trade ties while encouraging more Russian tourists to visit Sri Lanka.

Question: Finally, as a senior Russian diplomat, what message do you have for foreign diplomats?

Answer: My message is simple: Learn, learn, and learn. Try to study the true history of the country you are working on and be modest. Be open to dialogue and listen to each other. While dedicating yourself to your motherland, also try to love and respect the country you are working in. Arrogance or the desire to interfere in the internal affairs of a country will only complicate the situation and lead you nowhere.

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