What to expect from Putin’s new term : The Tribune India

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What to expect from Putin’s new term

President to redraw energy markets as oil, gas remain key sources of prosperity for Russia

What to expect from Putin’s new term

Split wide open: Vladimir Putin’s re-election as Russian President has evoked a mixed reaction. Reuters



KP Nayar

Strategic Analyst

FOR a week now, since Vladimir Putin’s re-election as Russia’s President, the world has been divided — although not equally — in congratulating him or deriding his re-election. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was swift in messaging his “warm congratulations” and “looking forward to working together... in the years to come.” Two days later, as soon as a phone call could be scheduled, Modi had an extended conversation with Putin.

For the sake of its energy security, India must choose where it fits into the scheme of things.

Equally swiftly, European Union foreign ministers said the Russian presidential election was a fraud — just as Western countries prematurely wrote Putin’s political obituary in June 2023 after segments of the Wagner militia organisation revolted against the Russian army’s hierarchy! Or like two years ago when the US, in particular, fantasised that Russia would be crippled by its illegal sanctions, which do not have United Nations’ approval.

The normally cautious and reticent Kremlin Press Office has made an intriguing announcement that Modi-Putin “meetings will take place in the first half of this year, we hope, in a multilateral format, and there will also be bilateral talks on the margins.” Realising that he had revealed too much, and, perhaps, out of turn, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov hastened to tamp down speculation about a Modi visit soon after the new government is formed in India. “This has yet to be agreed through diplomatic channels,” Peskov added as a rider. Clearly wishing to understate his own curious statement, the spokesperson added: “Of course, the Prime Minister of India has an open invitation to visit our country.”

The next summit of the plurilateral BRICS group, hosted by Russia, is not scheduled to take place in Kazan until October when the Tatarstan capital will have its most salubrious weather. So, clearly, there is much that is going on behind the scenes. Adding to the intrigue is the sudden speculation that Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba will visit India this week. New Delhi’s grapevine began buzzing about Kuleba’s visit as soon as Modi put his phone down after a surprise call to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday. If Kuleba’s visit takes place, he will be the highest-ranking Ukrainian minister to travel to New Delhi since the conflict with Russia began. Ukraine’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova was in New Delhi last April, but she had clearly invited herself to India with help from her spiritual connections in this country, according to resourceful grapevine. Dzhaparova did not get much access to Raisina Hill, the seat of power in the national capital, during her visit.

To presume that Putin’s new presidential term will maintain the status quo, merely because his victory was widely anticipated, is to misread Russian politics. Since oil and gas will continue to be the main sources of prosperity for Russia in the medium-term future, Putin’s focus in his next six years as President will be to redraw its energy markets. He will no longer trust Europe to buy Russian oil and gas as it did before the Ukraine conflict — and Europe would not trust him. Turkey and China will be critical to these diversification efforts through gas hubs and pipelines while prioritising collaboration with the Gulf states, both in production stability and infrastructure-building for an Arctic energy corridor. India, for its own energy security, must choose where it fits into this scheme of things. Modi and Putin have signed on to bright ideas previously — such as the Vladivostok-Chennai Eastern Maritime Corridor. But like many Indian projects, such as the decades-old, slow-paced Chabahar port project in Iran, the corridor has remained in limbo. The Vladivostok-Chennai link was conceived to bring coal, oil, liquefied natural gas, fertilisers and so on from the fabulously resource-rich Russian east, which is Asian, to meet India’s growth needs.

Unlike in the US, there has been no discussion in Russia — even in private — about its ageing President. Donald Trump is 77, and Putin will be of the same age when his new six-year term in office ends. Joe Biden, too, was 77 when he moved into the White House. There is no obvious successor to Putin and all his trusted top aides are older than him, even if slightly. Putin is likely to induct next-generation leaders into his administration as his next term gets underway. He will only bring in new faces he implicitly trusts, in view of the pervasive culture of absolute loyalty in the Kremlin. Putin is said to be grooming his former bodyguard Alexei Dyumin — in his early 50s — who is gaining experience on the ground as an incumbent provincial Governor. Russia’s notoriously inefficient state industrial sector needs modernisation. Russian media has reported that family friend Boris Kovalchuk — in his mid-40s — who has considerable experience in business and modern management techniques, has been tapped for induction into the new presidential team. There may be more such entrants.

Kremlinologists in Modi’s team are not letting any grass grow under their feet. Just a day after Putin’s re-election, India named a new Ambassador to Russia, Vinay Kumar, who has vast experience of Russian, East European and former Soviet republics’ affairs. India did not wish to keep the Moscow post vacant after Ambassador Pavan Kapoor, another Moscow veteran, moved to the headquarters as a secretary. In a significant contrast, the Ambassador’s post in Washington has been vacant for two months.

The Modi-Putin and Modi-Zelenskyy conversations have triggered speculation in domestic and international media about a peace offensive. Both Putin and Zelenskyy have outlined peace plans, but there is absolutely no meeting ground between those divergent offers. Besides, the US and the EU are unlikely to let such plans make any headway. The West still seems to be under the illusion that Russia can be defeated on the ground. But it lacks both the commitment and the resources to make such plans work. Meanwhile, Yulia Navalnaya, widow of the late Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, continues to be a puzzle. Like the hundreds of prominent dissidents in the Soviet era, Navalnaya, who has a personality much more charismatic than her late husband, appears to have decided to fight her battles against Putin outside Russia, on welcoming foreign soil, mostly Western. It appears to be an enterprise that is doomed from the start. 

#Narendra Modi #Russia #Vladimir Putin


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