Author: David Batashvili, Research Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation
Russian Geostrategy Monitor, Issue 5: May 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 5 covers Russian geostrategy for the month of May 2023. The numbering and contents of the Outcomes, Goals and Objectives follows on The Structure of Modern Russia’s Foreign Strategy framework.
Objective 5: Thwarting US Policies in Syria
- On 10 May, during the talks with the foreign ministers of Iran, Turkey, and the Assad regime, Russian foreign minister Lavrov said:“… the US are no longer satisfied with supporting the self-proclaimed Kurdish authorities east of Euphrates and arming the illegal armed formations they had created. According to our information, around Syrian Raqqa, the Americans have started to create an “Army of Free Syria” with the participation of local Arab tribes, militants of ISIL and other terrorist organizations.” Lavrov accused the US of intending “to use these militants against legal authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic for the destabilization of situation in the country.”
Objective 7: Achieving instability in the Western Balkans
- On 23 May, Putin received in Moscow the leader of Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik. Putin welcomed “successful development” of relations between Russia and Bosnia’s autonomous entity including increased trade. He also thanked Dodik for his “neutral position on the events in Ukraine.”
- On 27 May, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova made a statement on the Serbian-Kosovan tensions, accusing the Kosovan authorities of “clearly aiming at continuation of the anti-Serb ethnic cleansings.”
Objective 9: Achieving de-sovereignization of Ukraine
- In the Russo-Ukrainian War, Russians took last remaining parts of Bakhmut on 20 May, thus concluding their attack on the city that had been going on since August 2022. At the same time, from around 8 May, Ukrainians launched attacks on the Russian positions north and south of Bakhmut, achieving some advance. From 22 May, anti-Kremlin regime Russian military forces allied with Ukraine began attacks across the Ukrainian-Russian border within Russia’s Belgorod Oblast.
Objective 10: Achieving decisive influence over Georgia
- On 10 May, Putin issued decrees restoring direct flights between Russia and Georgia, and introducing a visa free regime for the Georgian citizens. The Georgian authorities welcomed the development, responding defiantly to the resulting criticism from the US, EU and Ukraine, and dispersing Georgian protesters who rallied against the first flight incoming from Russia.
Objective 11: Achieving decisive influence over Moldova
- The pro-Russian Shor Party continued holding protest rallies against Moldovan authorities in May 2023.
- Shor Party member Yevgenia Gutsul won the gubernatorial election in Moldova’s autonomous region of Gagauzia on 14 May. The next day, Gutsul stated she would seek closer ties with Russia, also saying she wanted to open a Gagauz liaison office in Moscow.
Objective 13: Institutional consolidation of the Russian sphere of influence
- On 25 May, during a meeting with other heads of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) member states at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, Putin called the EAEU “one of the independent and self-sufficient centers of the forming multipolar world.”
Objective 16: Entrenching Russian influence in sub-Saharan Africa
- On 25 May, the US Treasury Department said that Russia’s Wagner Group was supplying the Rapid Support Forces rebels, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and fighting an internal war against the government of Sudan, with surface-to-air missiles. On 11 May, Yasser Al-Atta, one of the Sudanese regime leaders, stated that the Wagner Group members were present “in the gold-mining areas in Sudan, on the borders with Libya and Central Africa,” and suggested some of them could be taking part in the fighting on Dagalo’s side.
- The leader of Burkina Faso’s ruling regime, Ibrahim Traore, said Russia had become a strategic ally of his country and a major supplier of military equipment. At the same time, Traore continued to ignore EU’s offer of security support.
- Russia transferred to Zumbabwe a batch of 18 Ansat type helicopters. The reported purpose of the aircraft is medical aid.
- On 29 May, Lavrov arrived in Kenya for a visit. Along with more general statements on cooperation with this country, Lavrov announced that in a few days a cargo of 30 thousand tonnes of Russian fertilizer, free of charge, would arrive in a Kenyan port.
- President of Eritrea arrived in Moscow and met Putin on 31 May, calling on Russia to perform its “historical responsibility” of promoting global peace and justice, and criticizing “the unipolar world order” dominated by the US.
Objective 17: Entrenching Russian influence in the Western hemisphere
- Russia and Cuba signed a package of deals aiming at reviving the Cuban economy, and at assuring the wheat and oil supplies to Cuba.
Objective 20: Alignment with China
- On 20 May, in another effort to push for the alignment with China against the West, Russian foreign minister Lavrov accused the G7 of engaging in “double containment” of Russia and China.
Objective 21: Alignment with Iran
- On 15 May, the US stated that Russia and Iran were expanding their military cooperation, particularly highlighting Iranian drones being supplied to Russia for the war against Ukraine.
- On 17 May, Putin and Iranian president Raisi took part by video conference in the signing ceremony for the agreement on construction of the Rasht-Astara railway in Iran. The railway is to serve development of the North–South Transport Corridor.
Objective 26: Developing cooperation platforms with non-Western powers
- On 10 May, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the Assad regime held foreign ministers-level talks in Moscow, within their common negotiations platform regarding the future of Syria.