Author: David Batashvili, Research Fellow at Rondeli Foundation
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 10 covers Russian geostrategy for the month of October 2023. The numbering and contents of the Outcomes, Goals and Objectives follows The Structure of Modern Russia’s Foreign Strategy framework.
Objective 5: Thwarting US Policies in the MENA region
A note for readers:
In a first change in The Structure of Modern Russia’s Foreign Strategy framework since its publication in June 2023, Objective 5 in this Monitor and on the Russian Geostrategy Map is now entitled “Thwarting US Policies in the MENA region” instead of “Thwarting US Policies in Syria.”
- In the period since the start of the Israel-Gaza War following the Hamas attack against Israel on 7 October 2023, Moscow made numerous statements demanding immediate ceasefire. Several of these statements were issued after meetings between the Russian and Iranian representatives, including during Lavrov’s visit to Iran. Moscow also criticized American “involvement” in the war in the form of the US aircraft carriers and other forces being sent to the Middle East. On 28 October, Moscow issued a statement directed against the start of Israel’s ground operation in Gaza. On 13 October, Russia issued a joint statement calling for immediate ceasefire together with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan at a CIS meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Objective 7: Achieving instability in the Western Balkans
- In a briefing on 4 October, Russian foreign ministry speaker Zakharova referred to an “anti-Serb ethnic cleansing” that she said was “unfolding” in Kosovo.
Objective 9: Achieving de-sovereignization of Ukraine
- On 4 October, Russian foreign ministry speaker Zakharova made a statement dedicated to the anniversary of Moscow’s decision in 1653 to annex Ukrainian lands. Delivering a historical narrative infused with political propaganda directed against Ukraine’s historical identity, Zakharova repeatedly referred to the 17th century Ukraine as “South-Western Rus,” said that currently the anniversary had “a special symbolical meaning,” and glorified in this context Moscow’s 2022 announcement of the annexation of territories in the east and south of Ukraine.
- In the Russo-Ukrainian War, Russians attacked at numerous spots in the eastern part of the frontline, particularly heavily in the area of Avdiivka. Ukrainians widened their bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson region. Heavy fighting with mutual attacks but without major changes continued on the southern front north of Tokmak.
Objective 10: Achieving decisive influence over Georgia
- On 5 October, the head of Moscow’s proxy regime in Georgia’s Russian-occupied Abkhazia region revealed Russia’s plan to establish its naval station at the port town of Ochamchire.
- On 23 October, Russian foreign minister Lavrov expressed support for the Georgian Dream government in Tbilisi saying “the current Georgian authorities under all circumstances, in all their actions, operate on the basis of the fundamental national interests, as they have repeatedly proven.”
Objective 11: Achieving decisive influence over Moldova
- President of Moldova Maia Sandu stated that Russia’s Wagner Group had attempted to stage a coup d’etat to overthrow her in early 2023, and that Moscow was using financial means to try interfering in the future Moldovan elections.
Objective 16: Entrenching Russian influence in sub-Saharan Africa
- A WP material from 21 October revealed details of Russian subversive operations in the African countries of the Sahel region, with massive disinformation campaigns supporting coups in these countries, and their geopolitical realignment in favor of Moscow along with eviction of the French troops that used to be stationed there.
- The Wagner Group forces were reportedly participating in the Malian regime’s offensive operations against the Tuaregs as of early October.
- Russia signed a deal with the regime in Burkina Faso to build a nuclear power plant in the country.
Objective 20: Alignment with China
- On 26 October, at a conference held in Minsk, Belarus and dedicated to “Eurasian security,” Russian foreign minister Lavrov accused “Washington and its allies” of attempting to “create a long-term source of tension in the Asia-Pacific region,” and “deliberately escalating situation around Taiwan.” Lavrov called AUKUS “a narrow format for military preparations by the Anglo-Saxons and their obedient fellow travelers” which, along with their “Indo-Pacific strategies,” he said was designed to contain China.
Objective 25: Developing partnerships with regional powers in the Southern Hemisphere
- In an article addressing the Brazilian public, Russian foreign minister Lavrov wrote that Russia and Brazil were united by a “common desire to create a more equitable polycentric world order.”
Objective 26: Developing cooperation platforms with non-Western powers
- In a 12 October article addressing the Brazilian public, Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s view of BRICS as “one of the pillars of multipolar architecture” of the world.
- On 23 October, the second meeting of the 3+3 regional platform (established in 2021) was held in Teheran, Iran with participation of the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia. The ministers’ statement once again extended their invitation to Georgia to also join the platform.
Objective 20: Alignment with China and Objective 26: Developing cooperation platforms with non-Western powers
- During the visit of the Russian leadership to China, on 18 October, the Kremlin reiterated its vision of the Greater Eurasian Partnership as a combination of Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union with China’s Belt and Road Initiative and with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.