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Interview

Russian envoy to US blasts 'unproductive' coalition against China

Antonov calls Quad's Indo-Pacific strategy opaque and touts India ties

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam prepares to come alongside the Indian oiler INS Shakti during an underway replenishment exercise during the Malabar exercise in June 2018. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy)

WASHINGTON -- American efforts to build a multinational coalition to restrain China are "counterproductive" and threaten global security and stability, Anatoly Antonov, Russia's ambassador to the U.S., told Nikkei.

"Russia, for its part, will never participate in coalitions against third countries, including China," the ambassador said in a written interview.

The remarks come as the U.S., Japan, India and Australia increase security cooperation under an informal strategic forum known as the Quad, which has inspired sweeping naval exercises.

"Unfortunately, Washington promotes anti-Chinese sentiments and its relations with regional countries are based on their support to such an approach," the ambassador said.

Asked about the "free and open Indo-Pacific" strategy pursued by the Quad, Antonov argued that contrary to its name, the project is "nontransparent and noninclusive," calling it "closed to a lot of countries and even whole regions if we talk about the Indian Ocean countries."

Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, speaks at a 2015 news conference as deputy defense minister.   © Reuters

Antonov, a former deputy defense minister and deputy foreign minister who has served in his current post since 2017, took aim at the "rules-based order" promoted by Washington under this strategy. "What are those rules, who created them and who agreed to them -- all this remains unclear," he said.

With American and European sanctions weighing heavily on its economy, Russia has sought closer relationships with Asian countries as a counterweight to the U.S.-led economic order. Moscow and Beijing have slashed their use of the dollar in bilateral trade in recent years, a trend some analysts view as a step toward a financial alliance.

Antonov touted Russia's relationship with India, a country with which it has historically been close and that Washington also seeks to woo to its side. "Russia is strengthening its ties with India in the areas which the U.S. and other Western countries have closed for cooperation with New Delhi," he said.

The ambassador mentioned energy and "military-technical cooperation" as areas where the partnership is gaining momentum, without going into further detail. India's planned acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defense system is opposed by the U.S., which has threatened to restrict exports of advanced American weaponry to India if it is deployed. Moscow sees this possibility as an opportunity to expand its arms deal with New Delhi.

"We are certain that the government of Narendra Modi will continue to pursue a harmonious multidimensional policy, develop predictable and mutually beneficial relations with all countries, including Russia (it is also our goal) as well as the U.S.," Antonov said.

"We are convinced that the last thing India needs when building up its armed forces and defense capabilities is prompting from the outside," he said in an apparent jab at Washington.

The ambassador opposed Washington pressuring Beijing to join negotiations toward a new multilateral arms control agreement with Russia, citing "the common understanding that forcing anyone to participate in such discussions is a counterproductive approach."

Asked about the potential deployment of intermediate- and short-range missiles in Asia -- touched on by the top U.S. arms control envoy in a Nikkei interview last month -- Antonov criticized Washington's withdrawal last year from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

"The possible deployment of U.S. intermediate-range ground-based missiles in Asia will not only upset the military-political balance in the region and global strategic stability, but will also directly affect Russia's national security interests," he said.

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