Blog: What can Putin’s calls tell us about Russia’s diplomatic relations?



Kremlin data published earlier this week has given an insight into the political relationships of Russian Vladimir Putin by listing every world leader contacted by the head-of-state in 2014. The list gives an interesting look into Putin’s attitude towards many heads of state and other leaders and may help indicate several trends in Russia’s ever changing political situation.

But what can we learn from this list? In this blog post CEN Editor Tom Ana runs you through the complete list and talks about what Putin’s calls mean for the world of international diplomacy.


Angela Merkel, German Chancellor (35 calls)

Topping the list is German head-of-state Angela Merkel, who was contacted a total of 35 times. Merkel is widely considered as one of the most powerful politician within the EU, as head of the richest and arguably most influential country. Putin speaks fluent German following his time in the KGB, much of which was spent in East Germany. It is likely that he uses Merkel as a third-party to discuss many issues related to the EU. Germany, like most EU states has complicated and less-than-friendly diplomatic relations with Russia.

Francois Hollande, President of France (16 calls)

Also one of the EU’s most powerful politicians. France is a big player in the EU, and relations between them and Russia are likely important to Russia. French attitudes towards Russia are low, in 2013 the BBC World Service reported that 63% of French people viewed Russia negatively, while only 10% of Russians felt the same way about France.

France and Russia have previously worked together in military operations in the Middle East and in Iranian nuclear talks, but France stands against Russia on their recent actions in Ukraine.

putinBarrack Obama, President of the United States of America (10 calls)

Relations between Russia and America are said to currently be at levels matching that of the cold-war era. America has raised several concerns over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, which included a phone call between Obama and Putin last month in which Obama was reported to have demanded immediate action from Putin. As the leaders of two of the world’s most powerful nations many would expect the amount of phone calls between the leaders to be higher.

Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan (9 calls)

Former-Soviet Kazakhstan is a close trade partner of Russia, and one of the current members of Eurasian Union that Russia plans to implement in 2015. If successful the union will see a single economic market between its member states akin to the EU’s Eurozone. Russia and Khazakhstan are also both members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation. Although Kazakhstan cooperates often with NATO and the US it is traditionally seen as a close ally of Russia and has backed Russia in many international events.

Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus (8 calls)

Belarus is the second country confirmed to be joining Russia’s Eurasian Union. Belarus relies heavily on Russia for trade, especially oil and gas, and is politically very close to the Russian government. Autocratic Belarus also shares a similar position on the EU with Russia, who both stand against the EU’s sanctions on both countries.

One point of contention between the two nations has been their stance on Georgian politics. Russia has been accused of trying to bribe Belarusian officials into recognising the independence of South Ossettia and Abkhazia, though Belarus has stated that their citizens should abide by ‘Georgian law’ when travelling through the two regions.

Petro Porosehnko, Current Preisdent of Ukraine (8 calls)

The relationship between Putin and Porosehnko is understandably tense following Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea, and it’s continued military presence in the country. Porosehnko has accused Russia of attempting to invade the country, where as Russia claims that their military actions are to support stability in the region.

The most recent call on the list was made by Putin to Porosehnko to discuss possible ceasefires within Ukraine. It is likely as the situation in Ukraine continues that more calls will be made between the two leaders as more demands and negotiations are made.

Jose Manuel Barrosa, President of the European Commission and former Prime Minister of Portugal (4 calls)

Putin’s small number of calls to the EU leader possibly indicate increasingly poor relations between Russia and European policy makers following recent military involvement in Ukraine. A handful of meetings and very few personal calls with EU leaders are all indications of the growing disparity between Russia and the EU.

Ban Ki-Moon, General Secretary of The United Nations (3 calls)

ban ki moon putin

The UN have previously spoken out against Russia’s involvement in Ukraine and have expressed concerns over military presence in the country. If the military situation escalates into full-scale war it is likely that UN troops may become involved.

As a powerful member of the UN many would expect Russia to have closer relations with the organisation, but the small amount of calls made between the two and Russia’s refusal to follow UN demands indicates a growing tension between Russia and other world powers that is reflected in its changing diplomatic relations with the EU and UN.

Sauli Niinistö, President of Finland (3 calls)

Finland imports large amount of goods and fuel from Russia, but relations between the two nations are poor. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea concerns were voiced over possible military action in Finland. Mixed and unconfirmed reports later claimed that Russia was moving troops close to Finnish territory, indicating a possible invasion of Finland. As of yet no military escalation in the area has occurred and an invasion is highly unlikely, although some skeptics remain suspicious of Russia’s actions.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey (7 calls)

The relationship between Turkey and Russia has been extremely fraught in the past but has slowly improved following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Relationships between the two nations remained poor after several historical tensions, including disputes during the Soviet-Era in regards to land distribution and borders within the Caucasus but began to improve following the 1992 Russian-Turkish treaty.

Currently the two nations remain somewhat negative towards each other, but still continue to cooperate in several areas.

Turkey also has poor relations with Armenia, who rely on Russia politically and economically. A large point of contention between Turkey and Russia has been the Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts, which Turkey partly blames on Russia’s border assignments following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Turkey also sides with Azerbaijan in the conflict.

Russia also recognises the 1915 Armenian Genocide and is skeptical of Turkey’s admission into the European Union.

Despite low political agreement Turkey and Russia remain strong trade partners. In 2012 Turkey began to increase trade and economic cooperation with Russia, which included the Russian investment of Turkey’s nuclear power infrastructure as part of a joint nuclear energy deal.

95EF90D1-0FE4-4A2E-A07C-2905570EB410_w640_r1_s_cx0_cy6_cw0Serzh Sargsyan, President of Armenia (2 calls)

Armenian President Sargsyan was summoned to join talks between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia following recent escalations of conflict in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia is Armenia’s most important ally and the South Caucasian republic relies heavily on Russia in several areas.

Russian military are very present in Armenia and help man several key areas of conflict. Russian military cooperation has allowed Armenia to continue its control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Armenia also relies on Russia for the vast majority of its oil and gas and has expressed a desire to increase trade with Russia and to join the upcoming Eurasian Economic Union.

Many anti-Putin Armenians see Russia’s influence on Russia as a negative force. The Russian support Armenia has received has allowed Armenia to continue its presence in Nagorno-Karabakh and has also kept the Armenian economy from completely collapsing.

Armenia is a nation with very few allies and it is likely that Armenia would be unable to survive without the help of Russia and many skeptics claim that Armenia is completely in the pocket of Russia.

Ilham Aliyev, President of Azerbaijan (1 call)

Aliyev was summoned alongside Armenian Preisdent Serzh Sargsyan by President Putin to discuss peace talks in the conflicted Nagorno-Karabakh region. Putin called for peace between the two nations and led talks that led to a ceasefire following recent escalations of violence in the region.

Azerbaijan has diplomatically been distant to Russia in recent years. In 2008 Azerbaijani media accused Russia of supplying weapons to Armenian forces and many Azerbaijanis view Russia as taking the side of Armenia. The two countries however have cooperated in both their economy and military under the rule of Vladimir Putin.

Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran (3 calls)

Russian relations with Iran are poor, though marginally better than those seen between Iran and many other nations. Russia is one of the world powers involved in continuing nuclear talks between Iran and foreign nations.

It was recently revealed that Russia had considered lifting its sanctions on Iran following its own sanctions implemented by the EU and other Western Nations in reaction to recent events in Ukraine.

Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of The Netherlands (6 calls)

The Netherlands cooperate economically with Russia, but like most members of the EU stand against Russia on several political points. Relations between the two nations also suffered a huge blow after the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 from Amsterdam was shot down over Ukraine by suspected pro-Russian seperatists killing 295 on board, including many Dutch citizens.

Banjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel (5 calls)

Russia and Israel have very close relationships when compared to many countries in the region. Israeli and Russia share a visa-free agreement and stand together on several political issues. It is likely that many of the calls made to Israel were in regards to the economy of the two nations. Russia is Israel’s biggest supplier of oil and gas and Israel has also expressed a desire to increase trade with Russia and to set up a free-trade agreement with the Eurasian Union.

Mahmoud Abbas, President of Palestine (1 call)

Russia, unlike most European and Western nations, recognises Palestine as a nation. Russia has close relations with Israel but is also a key player in the Middle-Eastern peace process.

Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister of India (2 calls)

Putin contact Singh in his former capacity as Prime Minister of India. In March 2014, while Singh was still in office, Vladimir Putin called the Indian Prime Minister following the annexation of Crimea to thank India for their support of Russia.

India and Russia cooperate closely in several areas, including trade, energy, science and research and even shared space operations.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina (1 call)

Putin called the office of the President of Argentina earlier this year to discuss Argentina’s stance on recognising Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation. Argentina is a big player in South America, both politically and economically and is also the only country in the region whose leader was contacted directly by Putin. Argentina has recently bettered their economic relations with Russia after a European food ban saw a large increase in exports from Argentina.

Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia (1 call)

In a possible attempt to save diplomatic relations between the two nations Putin called the Prime Minister of Malaysia to offer his condolences following the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, which was shot down by possible pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine. Putin labelled the incident a ‘disaster’ but tried to distance himself from the event, accepting no responsibility for what had happened. Opinion polls in the area suggested that the view of Russia took a strong negative turn following the deaths of the almost 300 people on-board.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President of Egypt (2 calls)

Russian business has large investments in Egypt, even following the collapse of their previous regime. In 2008 Russia agreed to cooperate with Egypt on a civillian nuclear plan to would provide a hugely improved energy infrastructure for the north African state.

As a strong business partner Russia has supported both the current and past Egyptian regimes. Many rumours have also circulated of large-scale arms deals between Russia and the current Egyptian government.

Putin with former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak

Putin with former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak

Viktor Yanukovych, Former President of Ukraine (1 call)

The former Ukrainian politician was contacted in his capacity as President of Ukraine before Russia’s annexation of the Crimea earlier this year.

George Bush Sr, Former President of the United States (1 call)

Putin’s relationship with the former head-of-state shows a surprising closeness to one part of American politics. Putin personally called the former President earlier this year to wish him a happy 90th birthday. The Russian President also commissioned a special portrait of Bush as a young man in his naval days.

Nouri al-Maliki, Former Prime Minister of Iraq (1 call)

Putin called the then-leader of Iraq in June of this year to discuss Islamic State militants that began to take control of parts of Northern Iraq earlier this year. Putin has stated that he fully supports Iraq’s efforts to liberate itself of extremist militants. The two nations have also previously cooperated in military activities in Syria.

Giorgi Margvelashvili, President of Georgia (No calls)

One name that didn’t make the list was that of Georgian Preisdent Giorgi Margvelashvili. Georgia and Russia have had incredibly poor relations ever since the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia. Since then Russia has continued to support the independence efforts of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossettia, leading many to believe that Russia is attempting to de-stabilise Georiga. The complete lack of diplomatic outreach from Putin likely indicates the worrying level of relations between the bordering states.

Also featured on the list were:

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK (6 calls)

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia (3 calls)

Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy and President of the Council of the European Union (3 calls)

Didier Burkhalter, President of Switzerland (2 calls)

Narendra Modi, recently elected Prime Minister of India (1 call)

Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa (1 call)

Xi Jinping, President of China (1 call)

Juan Carlos I of Spain, Former King of Spain who abducated earlier this year (1 call)

Herman Van Rompuy, President of European Council and former Prime Minister of Belgium (1 call)


Tom Ana is a British-born activist, blogger and NGO worker currently living in Yerevan, Armenia. He is the editor-in-chief of Caucasus Equality News. He has yet to be called by Vladimir Putin.


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