Merkley said both India and South Africa, along with the Asean nations, with whom the U.S. is having difficulty in getting to take a strong stand against Russia.
“I think it particularly bothers me with democracy in South Africa as democracies,” he said.
“With regard to South Africa and India, as you know, these countries have long-standing historic intertwining with Russia,” Nuland answered.
“We have been making the case regularly with them that these dependencies that they’ve created make them more vulnerable and we will continue to do that. In the case of the oil price cap, as you know, which India was quite sceptical of, they’re now major beneficiaries because the oil that they’re buying from Russia is so much cheaper,” she said.
“We are now working with them on ways to diversify away from Russian weapons. I’ll be in India next week talking about that among other things. The South African situation is complex and is also tied to some of the politics inside South Africa,” Nuland said.
In October 2018, India signed a USD 5 billion deal with Russia to buy five units of the S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems to ramp up its air defence, despite a warning from the then Trump administration that going ahead with the contract may invite U.S. sanctions.
Despite strong objections from the U.S. and the threat of sanctions from the Biden administration, India has refused to make any changes in its decision and is going ahead with the purchase of the missile defence system.
India pursues an independent foreign policy and its defence acquisitions are guided by its national security interests, the Ministry of External Affairs said in November 2021.
India’s appetite for Russian oil has swelled ever since it started trading on discount as the West shunned it to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.
The Indian government has been vehemently defending its oil trade with Russia, saying it has to source oil from where it is the cheapest.
Russia has for the second month in a row remained India’s top oil supplier in November, surpassing traditional sellers Iraq and Saudi Arabia, according to data from energy cargo tracker Vortexa.
Russia, which made up for just 0.2 per cent of all oil imported by India in the year to March 31, 2022, supplied 9,09,403 barrels per day of crude oil to India in November.