Article by: Kseniya Kirillova, journalist
The Minsk Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies has published a report on a new geopolitical strategy of Russia. According to Belarusian experts, the strategy includes six different elements.
First, Russia carries a line of defence to the outer boundary of neighbouring countries (Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and so on). Next (and most important) the Belarusian analysts distinguish the Kremlin’s plans to provoke instability in the countries along the perimeter of the strategic line as an instrument for reducing the influence and presence of other world and regional powers in these regions.
Furthermore, experts note that Russia will seek to heighten tensions in the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, helping it rise conflict dynamics, which may result in higher energy prices on world markets. A separate area will become a new geostrategy undermining the unity of the Euro-Atlantic region, disintegration of the EU and NATO and increased tension in the relationship between other world powers and regional states (primarily between the United States and China, Iran and the US).
“The new Russian geostrategy is extremely pragmatic and focused on achieving very specific effects on the time line of 1 to 4 years. If it is successfully implemented, the “new Cold War”, multi-polar in nature, will be the basic institutional framework of international security in the foreseeable future,”analysts warn.
The report notes that in the period from 2009 to 2013, the Kremlin has put an emphasis on the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union as an independent centre of attraction by which Moscow could build an equal dialogue with Brussels and Beijing. However, by the end of 2013, the economic failure of the project became apparent, and against the background the Kremlin once again confronted the problems of Ukraine’s European integration. Moscow, using the only method available to it, moved to destabilize Ukraine. The analysts point out that direct intervention from Moscow in the Ukrainian crisis was not carried out on February 21, 2014 (the day of the flight of Viktor Yanukovych from Kyiv), but much earlier, at least since the autumn of 2013.
Russia’s strategy in the Middle East, experts say, is already determined by the “oil” imperative “. The Russian economy is totally dependent on oil exports, gas and other raw materials … Moscow is forced to use its resources to promote the emergence and intensification of regional conflicts. This is due to the fact that only the scenario of a major war in the Middle East provides the needs for Russia to rise in oil prices,” the text said.
According to experts, for the spring-summer 2015, the Russian Federation has built and strengthened relationships with supporters of a military solution to conflicts in the region, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran. Also, Moscow has done everything possible to delay the conclusion of a strategic deal on the Iranian nuclear dossier and thus complicate its entry into force.
Separately, analysts note the absence of the Russian side in the fight against the Islamic state – especially in Central Asia.
“In the Middle East, helping the government of Bashar al-Assad which apparently lost the support of even their own supporters, Moscow is stepping up its regional role, creating an alternative to the Iranian military presence and at the same time avoiding decisive steps to support real military action against ISIS. The involvement of the Russian side in talks with the US on the subject of joint action against ISIS in this context it is also called, rather, to increase the critical weight of Russia in regional affairs, rather than to help the United States in achieving the goals and objectives of the anti-terrorist coalition,” experts believe.
In their opinion, with a military and political presence in the Middle East, Russia aims to have a crucial impact on the dynamics of regional conflicts and crises, which means including the promotion of the preservation or enhancement of the conflict dynamics.
In the western sector, Russia is interested in undermining the institutional unity of NATO and the European Union as well as the destruction of the Euro-Atlantic unity – especially between the United States and its European allies (primarily France and Germany). This work is carried out under the slogan of “protecting the interests of Europe,” which Washington supposedly leads to the “unfavourable” aspect of its “anti-Russian policy,” experts say.
In doing so, Russia’s strong declaration of a “turn to the East” makes analysts sceptical.
“In the medium and even short term, the Russian Federation is unable to counter growing Chinese influence in Central Asia, and any serious economic initiatives of their own … So Moscow will be forced to use in Central Asia the same strategy that it has applied to the west flank of the former Soviet Union: destabilization in order to prevent the growth of foreign influence,” the report says.
In addition, experts point out that this could provoke the destabilization of China on a more active presence in Central Asia, including – in the military-political sphere, which could cause a sharp deterioration in US-Chinese relations, which is a strategic priority for Moscow. This toolkit, implementing Russian geostrategy in Central Asia, involves, they say, a direct effect on the law enforcement agencies of the region (primarily the Ministry of State Security), and the extensive influence of Russian security services in the Islamist underground.
“Moscow has been and remains the largest recruitment centre for radical Islamic organizations, using the plight of Central Asian migrants in the Russian Federation. A significant part of Central Asian recruits for the Islamic state and the Syrian radical opposition fall into areas of warfare through Moscow. Active recruitment is carried out in other major cities of Russia,” the report says. At the same time, analysts worry that the aggressive ambitions of Russia may coincide with the goals of individual radical supporters of the “party of war” in the United States.
The Experts recommend the need to maintain the US-China Strategic Partnership and Euro-Atlantic unity, including NATO’s unity and the unity of the European Union; continued normalization of US-Iranian relations and the continued support for Ukraine by the US and the EU.