Russia’s nuclear weapons are not enough to prevent its influence on the global stage from waning, India’s top soldier has said in a surprising assessment of Moscow by the military head of one of its key allies.
India’s chief of defense staff, General Anil Chauhan, said that the mutiny by the Wagner Group of mercenaries in June against President Vladimir Putin’s authority had shown Russia’s “internal weakness” as he predicted a more assertive China.
His comments at the 14th Chief Marshal L.M. Katre Memorial Lecture organized by the Air Force Association in Bengaluru sparked a reaction within the media in India. The country has increased its trade ties with Russia since the start of Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Putin has portrayed the war he started as a proxy fight with the West and as it reeled from sanctions, Moscow offered favorable trade terms for its exports, in particular energy for countries it deemed “friendly,” such as India.
Chauhan said that the world is “in a state of flux” and is “transiting between two orders,” a sentiment that Putin would be likely to agree with.
However, Chauhan went on to say: “The geopolitical importance of Russia will go down in times to come[…]in spite of it being a major nuclear power. The Wagner rebellion indicates the internal weakness and is indicative of what may lie in store for the future as far as Russia is concerned.”
In June, Wagner mercenaries led by Yevgeny Prigozhin seized military facilities in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and marched on Moscow before the mutiny was called off. Prigozhin died in a plane crash two months later.
“China presently occupies an important place in the geo-economic world order,” Chauhan said on October 14. “We will see a more assertive China in the times to come.”
He said that there will be a convergence of interest between Moscow and Beijing in which “North Korea and Iran may join the bandwagon,” adding that “India will emerge as the global leader of the south and the successful conduct of G20 is an indication in that direction.”
Some questioned whether Chauhan was speaking out of turn about an important ally. Indian military analyst Pravin Sawhney accused Chauhan of “peddling U.S. propaganda” in an X, formerly Twitter, post in which he noted how Russia had a “huge space capability” and an “exceptional defense industrial complex.”
Meanwhile, Indian news outlet The Wire reported that Chauhan’s public assessment of the provider of 45 percent of India’s defense equipment and more than 40 percent of its oil imports had been “unfavorably received in official and diplomatic circles.”
However, the publication did report that the views were “prevalent within domestic military circles regarding Russia’s declining power status and influence.”
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