Disrupt and Distract: Russia’s Methodology of Dealing with the West
Author: David Batashvili, International Relations Analyst
Those of Russia’s neighbors who have no wish to find ourselves one day within its zone of influence are in a very difficult position. We face sustained Russian subversion, the ugly routine of the continuing occupation of our territories, hostile diplomacy, and, on occasion, military attacks, in the Georgian case accompanied by ethnic cleansing. Under the circumstances, it is fully understandable why we want to see the West stand up to Russia more than it does. Indeed, it should.
And yet, it is also true that, in fact, the West does stand up to Moscow’s imperial ambitions, however imperfectly. The best testimony to this being the case is Russia’s present aggressive effort to damage the Western interests wherever it can.
Political systems of the Western nations, geopolitics of the Middle East, ethnic tensions in the Balkans, war in Afghanistan – Moscow exploits all of these venues, diverse as they are, to disrupt and distract the West, seeking to undermine its capability and will to confront Russia’s aggression against its neighbors.
Moscow’s purpose is to change the global balance of power in its own favor. Given the deep structural weaknesses of the modern Russia, it can hardly hope to achieve such outcome solely through internal development, and the present Kremlin regime is incapable of the necessary reform in any case. The solution, in the eyes of the Russian leadership, lies in resurrecting, in some new form, the geopolitical structure that in the past was manifested first as the Russian Empire and later as the Soviet Union.
Basically, the Russians seek to overcome “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” as Vladimir Putin called the breakup of the Soviet Union back in 2005. Perhaps Moscow does not intend formal abolition of its former colonies’ independence, but it definitely wants to damage their sovereignty, and ultimately to control their fate, one way or another.
In this endeavor, the West is an obstacle for Russia. Understandably, the Western nations do not want Russia to subjugate its neighbors and resurrect its empire, upending the existing international order in the process. And the West will act accordingly, as the Russians ascertained after their attack on Ukraine. The Western sanctions, diplomatic involvement and limited military support of Ukraine might not be enough in the eyes of Russia’s neighbors who stand against its imperialism, but in the eyes of Moscow they are not welcome. Worse, they show the potential for even more robust responses to Russia’s aggressive moves in the future.
It appears that the method Moscow has come up with to defeat this Western opposition to its expansionism is to exacerbate all kinds of problems that the West is facing. If the U.S. and the EU have to deal with a set of critical problems at home and globally, they might not be able to stop Russia’s geopolitical resurgence. At least, this appears to be the bet that the Kremlin is willing to make.
The most dangerous weapon, directed at the very heart of the Western nations and the international order they have built, is the latest resurgence of the radical forces within their own political systems. These forces feed on the public concerns regarding economy and immigration, but their crucial features are narrow nationalism and opposition to the ties that bind the nations of the West to each other and to the rest of the world.
Where such political forces to become powerful enough, they could allow the said international order to lapse, freeing the hands of Russia, among this order’s other opponents, to act at will towards its neighbors and beyond.
Moscow does whatever it can to cultivate the Western radicals. It engages with its arsenal of active measures, including the never-ending disinformation campaign, evolving relationship with the European far-right extremist groups, armies of internet trolls, covert cyber operations, as well as a direct political and financial support of this political rebellion within the West.
In the Western Balkans, the Russian policy is directed against the EU. Moscow has developed close ties with the Bosnian Serb Republic president Milorad Dodik, who harbors secessionist ambitions that are unacceptable to the country’s Bosniak majority. In Macedonia, Russia is inflaming dangerous ethnic tensions between the Macedonians and the Albanians.
If conflicts in the Western Balkans were to reignite, the headache for the EU would be immense. The Albanians of Macedonia and the Bosniaks are both Muslim. The global jihadist movement would be certain to exploit such an opportunity for its propaganda. The jihadists in Europe would be encouraged to act even more aggressively than presently. More European Muslims would get radicalized. Additional jihadists would arrive to Europe from other parts of the world.
Such developments would provide a new boost to the Western far-right, giving credence to their war of civilizations narrative in the eyes of the voters. The EU and the mainstream European political elites would be further undermined. Russia would portray itself as the best hope and protector of the Western civilization. More people would believe it than do at present.
In the Middle East, Russia has helped the expansion of the Iranian sphere of influence, which is now about to constitute a geographically contiguous area between Afghanistan and the Mediterranean coast. Prevention of Iran’s regional dominance is, of course, a key goal of the American foreign policy. With the fall of the Daesh quasi-state, containing Iran is becoming the chief U.S. objective in the Middle East.
Russia’s actions in Syria have guaranteed that the U.S. will have its hands full dealing with Iran, limiting the attention and resources America will be able to commit elsewhere. Aggravating this problem is the fact that Iran’s empowerment in Syria has considerably increased the chances of a large and destructive war between Israel on one side, and the Iranian military proxies in Lebanon and Syria on another.
In sum, Russia’s policy in the Middle East, and particularly its involvement in Syria, has complicated America’s strategic position in that region. In the months and years ahead, this will contribute to distracting the U.S. from Russia’s actions against its neighbors.
Moscow’s policy in Afghanistan serves exactly the same purpose. Despite the fact that fundamentally the Taliban is no ally of Russia, Moscow is now supporting it in order to force the Americans to dedicate more resources to salvaging the embattled Afghan government.
The Sunni and the Shi’a, the Western Islamophobes and the radical Islamists – all are useful instruments in the Kremlin’s eyes. Their particular and often contradictory agendas do not matter, as long as they are helping Russia’s strategy directed against the West. The purpose of this strategy is to disrupt the Western nations’ political systems and global interests, and to distract both the United States and Europe from the imperial project Moscow is presently seeking to implement. It would be wise of the American and European political elites to recognize this unifying principle that ties together Russia’s diverse geostrategic activities.
- War in Ukraine and Russia’s declining role in the Karabakh peace process
- What issues were discussed at the Putin-Erdogan meeting?
- The Russian Exclave of Kaliningrad and the Lithuanian "Sting"
- Seventh Package of Sanctions and Embargo on Russian Gold
- What could be the cost of “Putin’s face-saving” for European relations
- In line for the candidate status, Georgia will get a European perspective. What are we worried about?
- Failed Tskhinvali Referendum
- The War and Georgia
- "Autocratic Peace"
- “Rural Orbanism”- Polarization as a determinant for Hungary's political future
- Illegal Presidential Elections in the Tskhinvali Region: Why Bibilov Lost and What to Anticipate in Future
- How to Respond to Russian Ultra-Orthodox-Historic-Hegemonism?
- The War in Ukraine and the UK’s New Role in Eastern Europe
- What Will the Abolition of the OSCE Minsk Group Bring to the South Caucasus?
- Why Has the Abkhaz Side Become More Active on Social Networks?
- Why a Neutral Ukraine Is Not on Putin’s Mind (Ukraine’s Neutral Status Is Getting Closer, but What Does It Mean to Putin?)
- Europe's energy future - challenges and opportunities
- Uncontrolled Mass Immigration and the Position of the Georgian Government
- Changes in Putin's propaganda narratives since the Russian invasion of Ukraine
- Ukraine will soon embark on a path of practical integration into the European Union. What about Georgia?
- Positions and Actions of Turkey in the Russo-Ukrainian War
- NATO’s possible expansion in Northern Europe and its significance for Georgia and Ukraine
- Political Winter Olympics in Beijing
- What Is behind Putin’s Sudden Gambit in Ukraine?
- Abkhazia in 2021: Energy Crisis, New “Minister” and Political Controversy
- L'Europe pourra-t-elle éviter le “déjà vu” ? (France, President of the Council of the European Union, and the Tensions in Eastern Europe)
- US-Russia Relations and the Issue of Ukraine
- The New Targets of Ramzan Kadyrov’s Regime
- What are the Prospects of the Eastern Partnership Summit Set on 15 December?
- What Will the Post-Merkel Era Mean for the EU’s Russia and Eastern Neighbourhood Policy?
- What Lies Behind the Growing Cooperation of the Georgian and Hungarian Governments
- “Doberman” as a Minister: Inal Ardzinba’s Prospects and Challenges
- The Belarus Crisis: How to Enhance Our Resilience Against the Russian Strategy for Its Near-Neighborhood
- Moldova’s Gas Crisis Has Been Russia’s Yet Another Political Blackmailing
- Belarus One Year On: An Insecure Regime Under Russian “Protection”
- Russia’s Parliamentary Elections - What Can Be Said About the Regime’s Stability
- Vaccination: “To Be, or not to Be”…
- Can Georgia use China to balance Russia?
- Belarus’ exit from the Eastern Partnership and what to expect next
- Pacta Sunt Servanda: Agreements must be kept
- The West vs Russia: The Reset once again?!
- Associated Trio, What is Next?
- Formation of a New “Political Elite” in Abkhazia - Who Will Replace the Old “Elite?”
- The Cyber-Dimension of the Geneva Summit
- Securitization of the Arctic: A Looming Threat of Melting Ice
- Europe in Anticipation of the Results of a “Harmful Deal”
- What Should Georgia Expect from the NATO Summit
- The Issue of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region in the Context of NATO and European Union Membership
- (Re)Mapping the EU’s Relations with Russia: Time for Change?
- USA, Liberal International Order, Challenges of 2021, and Georgia
- The Political Crisis in Moldova: A Deadlock without the Way Out?
- Russia's Testing or Bullying?
- Georgia's transit opportunities, novelties and challenges against the backdrop of the pandemic
- ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’: A New Opportunity for Global Authoritarian Influence?
- Georgia’s Application for European Union Membership
- A New Dawn for Transatlantic Relations under Biden’s Presidency: What Are the Hopes for Georgia?
- The End of the Russian Natural Gas Monopoly in Balkans
- Who did the judge sentence: Navalny, Putin or Russia?
- 2020 Developments in Abkhazia: “Elections,” the Pandemic and Deeper Integration with Russia
- Could Belarus Become a Prelude to the Great Polish-Swedish War 400 Years Ago?
- Vladimir Putin's Annual Grand Press Conference - Notable Elements and Messages
- COVID 19 Pandemic Economic Crisis and Reducing the Instability of Georgia’s National Currency
- Russia’s Energy Policy in the Tskhinvali Region
- Who Won and Who Lost with the War in Karabakh?
- What Russia has Gained in Karabakh
- What Armenia Did and Did not Lose as a Result of the Ceasefire Declaration in Karabakh
- Escalation of the Karabakh Conflict: Threats and Challenges for Georgia
- Protests in Belarus, Lukashenko and the Russian Federation
- Some Thoughts on the Use of the Term „Post-Soviet Space“
- Georgia’s European Way During the Period of Pandemic Deglobalization
- Khabarovsk Krai Protests as an Indicator of the Russian Federation’s Stability
- The Pragmatism and Idealism of the Georgian-American Partnership
- Independence of Georgia and the Historic Responsibility of Our Generation
- Trio Pandemic Propaganda: How China, Russia and Iran Are Targeting the West
- Complications Caused by the Coronavirus in Turkey and Their Influence on Georgia
- From Russia with… a Canny Plan
- “Elections” in Abkhazia: New “President’s” Revanche and Challenges
- Consumer Crisis in the Tskhinvali Region: Food for Thought
- Georgians Fighting the Same Battle 99 Years Later
- Georgian Defense – Political Paradox and the Vicious Circle of Not Having a System
- Confrontation between Russia and Turkey in Syria
- Why It Matters: Georgia’s 'Troll Scandal' Explained
- Political Crisis in Occupied Abkhazia
- What is the Significance of Killing General Qasem Soleimani?
- What Will the New Dialogue Format with Russia Bring for Georgia?
- On the “Russian Culture Center” in Georgia
- Whither Economic Policy?
- Main Messages of Russian Propaganda
- Massive Cyberattacks On Georgia Calls For Defense And Resilience
- What do we know about the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation and Georgia?
- What is the Connection between NATO and Reclaiming Abkhazia?
- New Focuses of the Anti-Occupation Policy
- Georgia's Problems are not Addressed at G7 Meetings: Who is to Blame?
- Vladimir Putin’s Main Messages in his Interview with the Financial Times
- Georgia and Russia’s Post-modern Fascism
- Dugin has Come Out as a Supporter of Georgia – How Did This Happen?
- The Outcome of the European Parliament Elections - What Does it Mean for Georgia?
- Deterring Russia
- On NATO, Russia and Pat Buchanan
- Why Local Elections of March 31, 2019 in Turkey are Important?
- Does the Principle of Strategic Partnership Work in Ukraine-Georgia Relations?
- A New Chance for Circular Labor Migration between Georgia and the EU
- Modern Russia’s Own Wars of Religion
- Georgia’s Trade with Electricity: The Influence of Bitcoin
- Bolton’s visit to Moscow– what to expect in U.S-Russia relations?
- Georgia’s External Trade: How to Strengthen Positive Trends
- The Risk of the Renewal of the Karabakh Conflict after the Velvet Revolution in Armenia
- The Situation in Syria’s Idlib Province, Interests of the Parties and Threats
- The Helsinki Summit and its General Results
- Why It Is Necessary to Know the Day the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 Started
- Georgia’s Position in the Westernization Index 2018
- Why Did the Results of the G7 Summit in Charlevoix not Meet Our Expectations?
- How to Win Cold War 2.0
- The Ben Hodges Model – a Real Way for Georgia’s Membership in NATO
- The Russian “Ambassador’s” Rotation in Abkhazia
- Why did the Foreign Ministers of G7 not remember Georgia during their 23 April 2018 Toronto Meeting?
- Georgia and the American Strategy
- Putin’s Pre-Election Economic Promises: Myth and Reality
- Trade of Electricity: Successes of 2016, Reality of 2017 and Future Prospects– the Impact of Bitcoin (Part Two)
- Let Geneva Stay the Way it is
- Trade of Electricity: Successes of 2016, Reality of 2017 and Future Prospects – the Impact of Bitcoin (Part One)
- Turkey’s Military Operation in Afrin – a New Phase in the Syrian Conflict
- Kremlin New Appointments and the Occupied Regions of Georgia
- Geopolitical Vision of the Russian Opposition
- Dangers Originating from Russia and Georgia’s Security System
- Eurasian Custom Union and problems of Russian – Georgian FTA
- Is Georgia’s Export Growth Sustainable?
- The 2017 Eastern Partnership Summit and its Results
- Russia’s Influence over the Field of Security in Tskhinvali Region is Growing: Support for Full Integration
- What Awaits the People of Gali?
- Growth of Military Spending and Relations with Russia: Azerbaijan trying to Gain Advantage over Armenia
- Trojan Horse Model IL- 76 or Why Would Russia Want to Fight Georgia’s Forest Fires
- Russian Diplomats in Georgia – who are they, how many of them are there and what are they up to
- Putin’s Visit to the Occupied Abkhazia: Was our Reaction Actually Adequate?
- Pence’s Visit to Georgia: Several Lessons and What We Should be Expecting
- Is it Acceptable for Georgia to Declare Neutrality?
- Georgia’s European Perspective in the Context of EU’s Future Evolution
- Brexit Negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom have been re-launched: What will be their Influence on Georgia?
- How to Stop the “Creeping Occupation”
- Kremlin’s Policy in the Occupied Regions of Georgia Moves to a New Stage
- Syrian Civil War in the Context of Regional Security
- The Winnable Second Round of Russia’s Neighbors’ Struggle against Its Imperialism
- Turkey’s Domestic and Foreign Policy in the Context of Regional Security
- Post-Soviet States – Struggle for the Legitimation of Power
- Parliamentary Elections in Armenia – The Triumph of the Governing Party
- Current Foreign Policy of Georgia: How Effective is it in Dealing with the Existing Challenges?
- Parliamentary Elections in Armenia: Sagsyan’s post-elections plans
- Military Resilience - a Needed Factor for NATO-Partners
- US Foreign Policy: The Law of the Pendulum
- Observations on the Agreement Reached with Gazprom
- New Russian Weaponry in the Caucasus and Its Impact on Georgia’s NATO Aspiration