Pootie-poot on the move

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP It’s been a busy week for Russian diplomats. First, Russia has taken a further step in repairing its troubled relations with Georgia. Russia’s ambassador to Georgia, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, has just returned to his post in Tblisi after a disagreement over the deportation of Russian soldiers accused of spying led Russia to recall him. ...

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604571_putin_india_05.jpg

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP

ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP

It’s been a busy week for Russian diplomats. First, Russia has taken a further step in repairing its troubled relations with Georgia. Russia’s ambassador to Georgia, Vyacheslav Kovalenko, has just returned to his post in Tblisi after a disagreement over the deportation of Russian soldiers accused of spying led Russia to recall him. Kovalenko is optimistic, but no doubt tensions will remain high as recent flare-ups over gas prices and South Ossetia remain fresh in the memory.

Second, for the first time in four years, top Russian and Japanese foreign ministers are meeting in Moscow this week for the first round of a new “strategic dialogue” between the two countries. Russo-Japanese relations have historically been strained due to an intractable territorial conflict over four islands in the north Pacific controlled by Russia, which are also claimed by Japan. Hostilities between the states rose again last month after Russia’s state-owned Gazprom recently acquired a majority share stake in the $20 billion Sakhalin-2 liquefied natural gas project, halving the stakes of Japan’s Mitsui and Mistubishi conglomerates in the project. Nonetheless, Tokyo has a keen economic interest in improving its relations with Russia as it seeks to reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern oil, and Russia clearly has a lot to gain from any deal to supply its oil and gas to Japan.

Energy is also at the top of the agenda as Russian President Vladamir Putin visits India this week. The trip has already produced an agreement whereby Russia will to build four nuclear power reactors in India, and the two countries will also work together in developing aircraft and fighter plane engines.

Prerna Mankad is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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