Author: David Batashvili, Research Fellow at the 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 6 covers Russian geostrategy for the month of June 2023. The numbering and contents of the Outcomes, Goals and Objectives follows on 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’
- In an interview on 17 June, Russian foreign minister Lavrov stated: “The Ukrainian situation is only an episode. The main, serious, perhaps even decisive one, but still this is only a part of the process of the multipolar world formation.”
Objective 5: Thwarting US Policies in Syria
- New intelligence materials revealed a plan by Russia, Iran and the Assad regime to eliminate the US presence in Syria. According to a WP report from 1 June, “high-ranking Russian, Iranian and Syrian military and intelligence officials met in November 2022 and agreed on establishing a ‘coordination center’ for directing” attacks against Americans in eastern and northeastern Syria.
- On 12 June 2023, Yevgeny Prigozhin published his commentary regarding the Battle of Khasham in February 2018, when the US forces routed a coalition of Russian, Assad regime and Iran-controlled armed groups that attempted to attack the Kurdish and US positions in eastern Syria. The Wagner Group was a key participant of the affair. In his commentary, Prigozhin stated that among the Wagner’s objectives was to “prevent advance of the Kurdish formations, which were under control of the Americans, in the south of Syria.”
Objective 7: Achieving instability in the Western Balkans
- On 6, 9 and 15 June 2023, the Russian foreign ministry made a series of statements, saying that “the hope of fair long-term settlement” in Kosovo “is melting before our eyes,” that Kosovo’s authorities seek to turn it into an “ethnically clean territory,” and that it is “useless” to talk to them because “all their seemingly peaceful initiatives turn out fake.”
Objective 9: Achieving de-sovereignization of Ukraine
- In the Russo-Ukrainian War, starting on 4 June the Ukrainian forces launched the offensive on the southern frontline. By the end of the month, they achieved some progress in grinding down first lines of the Russian defense amid intense fighting.
Objective 10: Achieving decisive influence over Georgia
- On 26 June, Russian foreign minister Lavrov said that the West “dislikes” the current Georgian government, and derisively referred to the March 2023 Georgian protests against the attempted adoption of a Russian-style “foreign agents” law designed to suppress civil society as a “Georgian Maidan.”
Objective 11: Achieving decisive influence over Moldova
- New sanctions imposed by the US on 5 June pointed at the existence of a Russian intelligence-linked group participating in Moscow’s efforts to cause political destabilization in Moldova, particularly in early 2023.
- Following the ban of the pro-Russian Shor Party by a Moldovan court, on 26 June its leader Ilan Shor announced the establishment of another political force. Its name is “Chance, Responsibilities, Implementation” which as an acronym reads “Shor” in both Romanian and Russian languages.
- On 26 June, Russian foreign minister Lavrov called the democratically elected government of Moldova “a proxy government.”
Objective 12: Absorbing Belarus
- On 17 June, Putin said that the first batch of Russian tactical nuclear weapons had already been stationed in Belarus.
Objective 20: Alignment with China
- On 6 June, Russian and Chinese air forces conducted a joint patrol over the Sea of Japan and East China Sea. Japan and South Korea scrambled their fighters in response. During the patrol, Russian aircraft landed and took off from an airfield in China.
Objective 21: Alignment with Iran
- On 9 June, the US stated that Russia had received hundreds of attack drones from Iran, and that “Russia was receiving materials from Iran required to build a drone manufacturing plant that could be fully operational early next year.” The site of the plant named by Washington was the Alabuga Special Economic Zone, located near Yelabuga which had been reported to be the site back in February 2023. At the same time, “Russia has been offering Iran unprecedented defense cooperation, including on missiles, electronics, and air defense.” A British military intelligence update from 13 June stated that Russia had moved from importing small numbers of Iranian drones by aircraft to getting larger batches by ships via the Caspian Sea.
Objective 26: Developing cooperation platforms with non-Western powers
- During the BRICS member states foreign ministers’ meeting starting on 1 June, they re-stated the ambition to build up their world influence at the expense of the West.
- In an interview on 16 June, Lavrov said that BRICS would be joined by “representatives of a major civilization – the Arabic, wider Islamic civilization. This will benefit the strengthening of multipolar principles which we are discussing now and which are now being objectively established.”