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 13 covers Russian geostrategy for the month of January 2024. The numbering and contents of the Outcomes, Goals and Objectives follows The Structure of Modern Russia’s Foreign Strategy framework.
Objective 1: Gaining and exercising influence over the Western elites
- A journalist investigation revealed that a Member of the European Parliament from Latvia, Tatjana Zdanoka, was “a trusted asset of Russian intelligence since at least 2005,” specifically an asset of the Russian FSB.
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
- On 8 January 2024 a new “left-wing conservative” political party was established in Germany. It is called Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW) and is led by a politician under the same name. Previously, on 21 April 2023, the Washington Post revealed that Russia had developed plans to help the creation of such a political organization designed to unite German far-left and far-right political forces.
Objective 5: Thwarting US Policies in the MENA region
- Starting from 12 January 2024 the Russian foreign ministry and its minister Lavrov personally issued a number of statements condemning the US and British air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen conducted in response to the Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. This series of condemnations included Lavrov calling the strikes “a direct, illegal aggression” on 24 January, and a visit of a Houthi delegation to Moscow on 25 January.
- On 16 January 2024 Israeli sources noted a Russian helicopter gathering intelligence for Iran and the Assad regime on the Israeli-Syrian border.
- On 24 January Lavrov accused the US of trying to “establish some quasi-state of the Kurds” in eastern Syria.”
Objective 7: Achieving instability in the Western Balkans
- A major Russian propagandist outlet, the RT, took an interview from the leader of Bosnia’s Republika Sprska Milorad Dodik, in which the latter expressed support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, wished Russia to achieve a great victory in the war, and pushed secessionist narrative against Bosnia and Herzegovina saying: “There is the right to unite for the Eastern and Western Germany because we are talking about the same people, but for some reason there is no such right for Republika Srpska and Serbia.”
- On 26 January 2024 Russian foreign ministry speaker Zakharova accused the Kosovan authorities of having launched an “ethnic cleansing” of the Serbs in Kosovo.
Objective 9: Achieving de-sovereignization of Ukraine
- On 17 January 2024 deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wrote that the very existence of Ukraine as an independent state was unacceptable. Medvedev specifically stressed that this concerned not just the current “political regime” in Ukraine but “any, absolutely any kind of Ukraine.” Medvedev referred to Ukraine as “historical Russian territories.”
- According to a “newly declassified US intelligence assessment” Russia’s “ultimate goal in Ukraine of conquering the country and subjugating its people remains unchanged.”
- In the Russo-Ukrainian War, during January 2024 Russians attacked along most of the frontline. They made only small advances, but managed to worsen the situation of the Ukrainian defenders of Avdiivka.
Objective 16: Entrenching Russian influence in sub-Saharan Africa
- In January 2024 Russia deployed a contingent of troops to Burkina Faso in support of the country’s ruling regime. According to Russian sources, the deployment counted 100 troops with 200 more set to arrive in the near future.
- A senior adviser to the president of the Central African Republic said that “the number of Russian military personnel in CAR has almost doubled to nearly 2,000 since September.”
- On 26 January Russian sources reported that Russian “media specialists” had started to work in Burkina Faso with the objective of “competing with the French media and forming a loyal informational field.”
- A material published by the Wilson Center on 22 January described Russian disinformation operations in West Africa that “have led to an unprecedented rise in popular support for Russia, citizen demands for Russian interventions, and, in some cases, new military partnerships between African countries and Russia.” The article concentrated on such Russian operations in Burkina Faso in particular.
- In January 2024 Russia gifted batches of grain or wheat to Mali, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic and Somalia, as well as a batch of fertilizer to Zimbabwe.
Objective 24: Developing partnerships with Middle Eastern regional powers
- On 23 January 2024 Russia and Egypt opened the construction of the fourth and final unit at Egypt’s Dabaa nuclear power plant by the Russian state corporation Rosatom.
Objective 26: Developing cooperation platforms with non-Western powers
- On 1 January 2024 Iran, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Ethiopia joined BRICS as its new members. Saudi Arabia left its status ambiguous for a while, but confirmed its membership of the group later in January. Argentina under the new administration of Javier Milei refused to join, reversing the country’s previous intention to do so.