The Pentagon has studied Russian strategic intentions

Why the Pentagon needs Russia

Experts propose to contain the expansion of the Kremlin, but not to provoke it

Russia continues to wage a “hybrid war” and expand its influence around the world. Western countries led by the United States must develop a comprehensive strategy to resist Russian influence, according to the authors of the report “Russian Strategic Intentions”, prepared for the US Department of Defense..

The 137-page document was prepared by over two dozen experts from many US think tanks. The report was handed over to the Pentagon in May, but its content became known to the public quite recently – the Politico edition drew attention to the large expert work..

Rear Admiral and Deputy Director for Global Operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff Jeffrey Cherevko (Jeffrey J. Czerewko) notes in the introduction to the report that in the coming era of rivalry between major powers – such as the United States, Russia and China – clashes between the parties will increasingly occur “below the level of armed conflict” with the increasing use of unconventional military tactics. Russia will try to continue to sow instability using various methods of influence – geopolitical, economic and military, and sometimes a mixture of all of them..

In Moscow’s understanding, as some of the authors of the report believe, international relations, including Russian-American relations, are a “zero-sum game” in which only one side can win. In addition, as the authors note, the Kremlin believes that the United States is using the principles of democracy to change political regimes, including in the former Soviet republics, which, as Moscow believes, should remain in its sphere of influence..

At the same time, some authors defend the idea of ​​a delineated “gray zone” – a set of spheres of activity in which Moscow does not run the risk of provoking a direct armed conflict with Western countries. Other experts say that there is no “gray zone” as such, and the Russian leadership already sees itself as waging a war with the West – it’s just a “cold war” waged by modern means.

The Kremlin’s actions in Europe – how the West should respond

The authors of the report note that Europe remains one of the main regions for the dissemination of propaganda, conducting cyber wars and covert operations, buying political influence, interfering in political processes, using economic, energy leverage, and sometimes using paramilitary methods. Eastern European countries are particularly susceptible to Kremlin actions.

“Russia is making it clear that it is not going to retreat in those regions that were once part of its sphere of influence,” the authors of the report write, recalling the annexation of Crimea by Russia, support for pro-Russian forces in Donbass, influence on the Russian-speaking population in the Baltic and other European countries, as well as the preservation of “frozen” conflicts in the post-Soviet space.

The countries of Western Europe, as the authors of the report note, are a target for the Kremlin, both in order to reduce their influence on Eastern Europe, and in Moscow’s desire as a whole to disrupt the world order based on Western liberal values..

“Western Europe is the closest US ally in protecting and spreading liberal values. Without Europe, the United States may remain the last powerful supporter of liberalism, “the authors of the report note..

As noted in the commentary to the Russian Service of the Voice of America Richard Weitz (Richard Weitz), Director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, it was the growing influence of Moscow in Europe, especially against the background of Russia’s occupation of Crimea, that became one of the reasons why the Pentagon was interested in obtaining an assessment of Russia’s actions by a wide expert group.

Richard Weitz talks about the Kremlin’s media tactics and its “agents of influence”: “The Kremlin’s means of influence include measures to use media – either explicitly controlled by the Kremlin, such as RT, or by gaining control over other media that position themselves as independent but are actually under the control of Moscow. These can be alliances with political parties or influential people in foreign governments, as well as with experts in various research institutions who, sometimes being politicians in the past, begin to defend Russia’s position. “.

As the expert notes, from his point of view, the Kremlin’s goals to increase its influence are not new – in contrast to the tactics, which, although similar to the Soviet “active measures”, is brought to a new level today thanks to modern technologies.

To counter the spread of Russian influence in Europe, the authors of the report note, the United States must continue to strengthen its ties with European countries, supporting political liberalism and democratic institutions. Special attention should be paid to Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine.

The authors also note that the Western approach should focus on containing Russia, but provoking it should be avoided. Thus, a number of authors believe that NATO should not admit new members, for example, Ukraine, into its ranks in the near future, or increase its influence in such neutral countries as Finland..

Experts advise strengthening cooperation with countries that are not members of the North Atlantic Alliance through partnership programs similar to the European Neighborhood Policy of the European Union. At the same time, NATO must strengthen military capabilities on its eastern border..

Regarding the Baltic States, which are the only former Soviet republics to become members of NATO and the European Union, Jeremy Lamoreau (Jeremy W. Lamoreaux), one of the authors of the report and a professor at Brigham Young University in Idaho, notes that the United States should influence these countries to reduce the harshness of their statements about Russia.

“We need a strong NATO bloc, but without its members provoking Russia,” writes Jeremy Lamoreau. Also, as the expert notes, the Baltic countries should integrate the local Russian-speaking population on an equal basis, which will limit the influence of Russia..

Africa – a zone of growing influence of Russia

In Africa, the report says, Russian mercenaries from private military companies (with ties to the Russian Ministry of Defense) are playing an increasing role in several African countries, notably Libya and the Central African Republic (CAR). This influence became noticeable after the Russian and Western media last year paid serious attention to the activity of mercenaries and Russian diplomats on the continent..

The Pentagon has studied Russian strategic intentions

Moscow, according to the report, is supplying weapons and sending instructors to support government forces in existing conflicts, and is also trying to secure for its shadow representatives the role of mediators between various warring groups..

By supplying weapons to African countries, Moscow is strengthening its own leverage in conflicts and limiting the influence of Western players, but ultimately cannot – and hardly wants – to ensure a genuine resolution of the conflict. In fact, creating dependence on the Kremlin and managing conflicts, rather than achieving genuine resolution, is probably Putin’s ultimate goal.,

Moscow’s ties with Africa have grown significantly over the past 5 years: the report cites data that since 2014 Moscow has signed 19 agreements on military cooperation with sub-Saharan African countries, including Ethiopia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, according to foreign ministries and defense, as well as the state media of these countries. The role of Russia in the CAR was separately noted – the document informs about the creation of a team of 5 representatives of Russia, influencing the defense structures of this country.

In Zimbabwe, Moscow agreed to invest in the diamond industry. In Zambia and Rwanda, the Russian state corporation Rosatom is working on nuclear projects, while the Russian energy companies Rosneft and Lukoil are developing oil and gas fields throughout the African continent, with a focus on Mozambique, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Egypt and Algeria.

Sometimes Russia chooses a strong side in the conflicts in Africa, and strengthens it even more, helping with security, selective technology and military instructors.

Expert at the Washington Institute for Middle East Policy Anna Borshchevskaya, who took part in the preparation of a part of the report on Russian activity in Africa, in an interview with the Russian service of the Voice of America expresses the opinion that Russia’s turn to Africa was influenced by the fact that the West sharply reduced its interaction with Moscow after its aggression in Ukraine, but not only this : “After the successful actions of the Kremlin in Syria to preserve the Assad regime, Putin began to gain a role of“ peacemaker ”in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Success in Syria enabled Russia to move forward. Putin is realizing his understanding of politics as a zero-sum game, and is seeking his gain and, accordingly, the loss of the West – and the United States in particular – in Africa. This should concern the United States and its allies. “.

Anna Borshchevskaya says that “in principle, it is beneficial for Putin that the level of democracy in Africa decreases and the number of authoritarian regimes grows, because it is easier for him to find a common language with their leaders, and their stability will guarantee the advancement of the Kremlin’s interests, including economic ones, in these countries “.

“So far, what Russia has already achieved in Africa does not yet pose an immediate threat to Western countries, but we need to remember how gradually Putin did what I already said – strengthened his positions in the Middle East. And the difficulty is this: despite the fact that the United States has already called Russia and China adversaries in its conceptual documents, the West has yet to develop a coherent policy and strategy towards Russia, regardless of the region where it operates. I don’t see such a strategy yet, ”says Anna Borshchevskaya.

Richard Weitz says that “the Kremlin’s actions to exploit the weaknesses of democratic societies have been very effective.” The expert believes that it is not easy for democratic Western countries to resist the tactics of Russia and similar actions of China and Iran, since the West cannot resort to the same methods..

However, Richard Weitz disagrees with the conclusions of some experts in the report that the United States and Europe underestimate the Kremlin’s actions and do not take retaliatory steps: “I think that democratic countries have begun to better understand the Kremlin’s tactics, and are already taking advisory measures.”.

  • Valeria Jegisman

    Journalist «Voices of America». Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics

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  • Danila Galperovich

    Reporter for the Russian Service «Voices of America» in Moscow. Collaborates with «Voice of America» since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and presenter of programs in the Russian service of the BBC and «Radio Liberty». Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.

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