'Both Russia and the USA seek New Delhi's friendship, because for both -- Russia and the USA -- India is a certain counterbalance to China.'
"The Russia-China strategic partnership is very close, but it is still very far from a military alliance. Both powers do not consider a military alliance as an optimal format of relations," says Dr Dmitri Novikov, associate professor and deputy head of the School of International Relations at the National Research University - Higher School of Economics, Moscow.
Dr Novikov's expertise covers Russian foreign policy, US-Russia relations, international security in Europe and Eurasia.
"The expansion of the West, Western institutions to this zone of Russian interest are the cause of Russian reaction. Probably over-reaction," Dr Novikov tells Rediff.com's Archana Masih in the concluding segment of a two-part interview.
Do you see Russia under President Putin aspiring to recreate the former USSR as many Western observers believe is his goal?
As I said before, it is not a goal of Russian policy. A couple of years ago, Putin quite directly answered a somewhat similar question.
He was asked: 'Do you want to make Russia a superpower?' He (I think honestly) answered: There is only one superpower in the world now -- the United States. Russia is not a superpower and will hardly become one. It is too expensive and not necessary.'
I believe he is right.
Despite Russian society having some signs of post-imperial syndrome, Russians paid a huge price for empire-building. Recreation of the Soviet Union is a madness.
What is true is Russia's concern for its national security. The post-Soviet space for Russia is a natural region of vital interests both in terms of security and economy.
From this perspective, the expansion of the West, Western institutions to this zone of Russian interest are the cause of Russian reaction. Probably overreaction.
We can question the very idea that the West poses a vital threat to Russia as well as Russia for the West. Maybe, we all could co-exist more peacefully? But that's a topic for a different discussion.
The point is that Russian policy in the post-Soviet space does not aim to recreate the Soviet Union. It is a reactive, defensive, policy, aiming to set up a security belt around Russian borders -- with no intention of taking control over neighbouring countries.
What do you think would be the major consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
The first and the most important consequence would be the even further decline of trust in relations between Russia and the West. The Russia-West confrontation took the form of Cold War II.
A lot of observers compare the recognition of East Ukrainian republics with the recognition of East Germany in 1949. It is a real problem, which might be solved only in the next generations.
Another important strategic consequence might be China's more proactive policies in the Asia-Pacific. Looking at how Russia skillfully plays with the West, Beijing could also try to be more aggressive in Asia.
Finally, both of these factors might strengthen the Russia-China partnership. Maybe even transform it into some kind of informal, but closer alliance.
Russia and China's friendship has been cemented in the present crisis. India also has had a longstanding special relationship with Russia and abstained from the vote on Ukraine in the UN Security Council.
How is the increasing closeness between Russia and China likely to impact India?
The Russia-China strategic partnership is very close, but it is still very far from a military alliance. Both powers do not consider a military alliance as an optimal format of relations.
China is much more concerned with Asian issues; Russia with Europe.
Of course, there is a huge space for strategic cooperation as both powers have a common opponent -- the USA.
However, development of Russia-China relations has another objective basis. They are simply close to each other in a geographical sense.
Russia-China trade has surpassed $100 billon and continues to rise.
However, it does not mean that China becomes an exclusive partner of Russia. Moscow has developed relations with Japan, Southeast Asia, Iran, many other Asian and Eurasian countries.
India is one of the key Russian partners in Eurasia. In 2016, the Russian president even proposed to create some kind of a broader continental cooperation framework -- a so-called Greater Eurasian partnership. It is a sign that Russia does not want to focus only on China, but tries to develop relations with everybody.
As the USA and Russia are locked in conflict, how will it impact India, which has historically been close to Russia and has built a strong relationship with the USA in recent years, especially on defence?
The importance of India increases in this strategic context. Both Russia and the USA seek New Delhi's friendship, because for both -- Russia and the USA -- India is a certain counterbalance to China.
For Washington, it is quite clear -- its policies in Asia are very China-centered. However, as I said before, Russia-China relations are also much more complex than just an anti-Western alliance.
Russia wants to develop relations with different Eurasian powers to make foreign policy ties more diversified. From this perspective, I see that the Russian interest in developing relations with India will increase in years.
However, I don't think that the US-Russia confrontation will influence India in a way it was influenced by the previous Cold War.
Russia is not a superpower anymore and would not try to 'squeeze out' the American influence from India. It will be a partnership of equals.
Imran Khan is the first Pakistan prime minister to visit Russia in many years. Russia has always kept Pakistan at a distance because of its friendship with India.
Is there a new nexus brewing against the backdrop of Afghanistan where Russia would like to play a bigger role and with Russia's proximity to China?
Russia is interested in good relations with all Eurasian countries, including Pakistan. For sure, the problems of Afghanistan make dialogue with all regional powers quite necessary.
Pakistan is a very important stakeholder of this story. However, it does not mean a drastic transformation of Russia-Pakistan relations.
Russia and Pakistan cooperated before on a bilateral basis, now we also have the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation format for multilateral dialogue. As soon as India is also a member of SCO, it could serve as a good format to discuss openly the emerging regional issues, first of all Afghanistan.
I think, that SCO role truly might increase.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com