Author: David Batashvili, Research Fellow at Rondeli Foundation
Russian Geostrategy Monitor, Issue 11: November 2023
The Rondeli Foundation’s Russian Geostrategy Monitor is a monthly brief that tracks Russian geostrategy worldwide employing the framework set in The Structure of Modern Russia’s Foreign Strategy. Russian geostrategic activities are also tracked on the regularly updated interactive Russian Geostrategy Map.
Issue 11 covers Russian geostrategy for the month of November 2023. The numbering and contents of the Outcomes, Goals and Objectives follows The Structure of Modern Russia’s Foreign Strategy framework.
Outcome 1: Replacement of the United States’ international preeminence with a ‘multipolar’ or ‘polycentric’ system, with Russia in the position of one of the principal ‘poles’
- On 27 November, Russian foreign minister Lavrov made a speech at an event dedicated to the memory of Yevgeny Primakov, foreign and prime minister of Russia under the Yeltsin administration. Lavrov once again reiterated Moscow’s fundamental determination to replace the US world leadership with a “multipolar” or “polycentric” system without a world leader power, and with regional powers dominating their neighborhoods.
Objective 1: Gaining and exercising influence over the Western elites
- A prominent German “Russia expert” and author Hubert Seipel was revealed to have received at least €600,000 from companies linked to an oligarch close to Vladimir Putin for two books “described by many as sympathetic to the Russian president.” The books were published in 2015 and 2021.
Objective 2: Strengthening the Western political forces considered by Moscow to be inimical to the Western-led international order, and the Kremlin’s relationships with such forces and Objective 3: Enhancing internal political instability and polarization within Western states
- On 28 November, Russia’s satellite regime in Niger overturned a 2015 law designed to prevent smuggling of migrants from Africa to Europe.
Objective 3: Enhancing internal political instability and polarization within Western states
- It was revealed that against the background of the Israel-Gaza War and tensions accompanying it Russian internet bots had promoted images of Stars of David in the Paris streets, spray-painted there in coordination with Russian agents. The French foreign ministry said in response: “This new operation of Russian digital interference against France testifies to the persistence of an opportunistic and irresponsible strategy aimed at exploiting international crises to sow confusion and create tensions in the public debate in France and in Europe.”
- On 14 November, the Finnish authorities said Russian authorities had begun to help illegal migrants from the Middle East cross into Finland’s territory. On 24 November, they stated that Russia was conducting a hybrid attack against Finland by sending large numbers of migrants across the border.
Objective 5: Thwarting US Policies in the MENA region
- During November 2023, Moscow continued to issue numerous statements demanding immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza War, including after conversations between Russian and Iranian officials.
Objective 5: Thwarting US Policies in the MENA region and Objective 21: Alignment with Iran
- On 20 November, Russia’s Secretary of the Security Council Patrushev, and on 21 November deputy foreign minister Bogdanov, held meetings in Moscow with Falih Al-Fayyadh – the leader of the Iranian regime’s Iraq-based armed groups called the Popular Mobilization Forces. The PMF had lately been engaged in frequent military attacks against the US bases in Iraq and Syria. According to the Russian foreign ministry, Bogdanov’s meeting with Al-Fayyadh included discussion of “unprecedented escalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the critical humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.”
Objective 7: Achieving instability in the Western Balkans
- On 20 November, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg said the Alliance was concerned by secessionist rhetoric and Russian interference in Bosnia.
Objective 8: Undermining US Foreign Policy in the Western Hemisphere
- On 7 November, the US authorities revealed that Russia had been conducting a Latin America-wide propaganda and disinformation campaign to boost anti-US and anti-NATO sentiments, and to decrease support for Ukraine. The countries reportedly included in the Russian effort were Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
Objective 9: Achieving de-sovereignization of Ukraine
- In the Russo-Ukrainian War, Russian forces attacked in the eastern and northeastern parts of the frontline, resulting in very intense fighting in many places, particularly near the town of Avdiivka. Mutual attacks without major changes continued in the southern part of the frontline.
Objective 11: Achieving decisive influence over Moldova
- Moldova’s security agency reported that pro-Russian politician Ilan Shor’s party had been receiving illegal funding from Russia.
- On 30 November, Russian foreign minister Lavrov made a threatening statement targeting Moldova saying: “Moldova is facing the fate of the next victim [after Ukraine] in the hybrid war against Russia started by the West.”
- Also on 30 November, Russia announced a ban on the import of Moldovan fruit and vegetables.
Objective 16: Entrenching Russian influence in sub-Saharan Africa
- Ukrainian sources reported on 15 November that Russia’s Wagner Group forces supporting the RSF rebels against the Sudan government had taken part in blowing up the Shambat Bridge across the Nile connecting the cities of Omdurman and Khartoum North.
- Russian sources reported that the Wagner Group’s forces had taken part in the Malian regime’s operation resulting in the capture of the town of Kidal from the Tuareg rebel fighters, and then securing control of the area around the town. The Russian foreign ministry’s statement from 15 November 2023 praised Kidal’s “liberation from Tuareg rebel groups” by “the friendly Republic of Mali.” The Malian regime also received congratulations from the fellow Russian satellite regimes ruling in Niger and Burkina Faso.
- Moscow signed an agreement with the regime in Mali to build a gold refinery in the country capable of processing 200 tonnes of gold annually.
- In the Central African Republic, Russian mercenaries were reported to be patrolling the streets of the CAR’s capital Bangui “to support public order, after a request from the police.”
Objective 21: Alignment with Iran
- Iran’s deputy defense minister stated that Moscow and Tehran had finalized the plans for Russia to supply Iran with Su-35 fighters, Mi-28 attack helicopters, and Yak-130 jet trainers.