By Dr. Theodore Karasik and Dr. Heinrich Matthee
Last month, the Russian Ministry of Defense held the important MICS 2014 conference to announce what seems to be a new defense and security doctrine. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russian Defense Ministry Chief of Staff General Valery Gerasimov gave significant speeches and important insight in to the Russian military elites’ thinking. So did other senior officials of the Russian General Staff and the Russian Academy of Military Affairs under General Makhmut Gareev.
The Russian security elites appear to be formulating a new Russian security and foreign policy doctrine. It is based on the need to identify and alert the world to the US and Atlantic civilization’s desire to upend the international order to their liking, in order to capture key states for geopolitical expansionism. The Russians, by announcing this new doctrine in such clear terms, are announcing their intent to counter this activity by conducting additional research and analysis, ultimately going forth with counter-policies.
Global Color Revolutions
The Russian perspective on colored revolutions focuses on the necessity for “the Russian/Eurasian civilization” to counteract “aggression from the Atlantic civilization led by the US”. There is now an onslaught of “global color revolutions”.
This concept is enshrined in geopolitical doctrine that treats the US as a dangerous country using information, intelligence, special operations, and private military security companies (PMSCs). The Russian point of view sees the US using a network struggle, also in extreme forms like as information-psychological warfare and netwars, to achieve its goals in international, regional and domestic politics and also to gain a geopolitical advantage. Russian representatives of this geopolitical school of thought on color revolutions are Igor Panarin (who predicts the collapse of America) and Aleksandr Dugin (author of the Fourth Political Theory which calls for the creation of an Eurasian identity which supersedes liberal democracy, Marxism, and fascism and adored by the European Far Right), academic teachers and mentors of peers of Russian geo-strategists and politicians.
Furthermore, geopolitics offers ideological grounds for these global battles. In opposition to the ideology of liberalism, it promotes a neo-conservative post-liberal power struggling for a just multi-polar world, which defends tradition, conservative values and true liberty. The Russian Eurasian civilization is contrasted with the Atlantic civilization led by the US, which allegedly intends to disassemble Russian statehood and gain global hegemony. Russia also sees itself as “the great Northern civilization” that hopes to garner support from many countries beyond its periphery. This concept is the main reason why Russia acts the way it does towards Syria, Iran, and Iraq, plus many other countries.
According to the Russian leadership of the Defense Ministry, the NGO actors, mainly defined as PMSCs, are part of a US force that is spreading alien ideas and imposing them on the will of the people to rise up against the state. These forms of subversion and aggression occur under the guise of democracy. This is seen now in Ukraine, Venezuela, and the countries of the Arab Spring, including Libya and now Mali. The US uses citizens in a state to rise up and create chaos in order to change the political order. If the colored revolutions’ attempt to replace leadership fails, chaos ensues, with long-term instability affecting other countries. The US’s mistakes are now resulting in West Africa fracturing and jihadists returning to Europe for a global campaign. Countries that support the US give an excuse to Washington and their Atlantic partners to interfere.
According to the Russian presentations at MICS 2014, the US searches for a pretext to launch a colored revolution in terms of a Traditional Approach. This approach is seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, and Haiti. Afghanistan is a major failure because of the “civil war within the state”- drugs and networks of terrorists and militants with no competent security structure in place. Now, according to Russian defense officials, there is a new US approach: The “Adaptive Use of Force” centers on the military training of rebels, the provision of supplies, and the use of foreign fighters. This approach allows the US and her Atlantic civilization partners to search for a pretext to launch a color revolution based on a humanitarian need or the supposed presence of WMD. The “Concealed Use of Force” includes special operation forces and PMSCs who work as “non-state actors” to disrupt, deny, and destroy economic means of production and life.
For Russian military theorists, color revolutions are ripe for US intervention because of four main reasons. First, UN actions have low efficiency in the prevention of military conflicts. Second, is the significance of armaments safety control. US actions force the government to lose control over military forces and arms depots that leads to weapons leakage and looting. Third, is the collapse of the international military activity control system where grey zones emerge in which militants and PMSCs thrive and fight each other. Finally, is the information confrontation during the color revolutions that lead to a rise in nationalism and xenophobia. Consequently, neo-Nazism rises in Ukraine and can likely occur in other parts of Europe.
Russian military theorists talk about another feature of the US and the Atlantic civilization that surrounds the notion of Aggression in the Form of Color Revolutions. The Aggression in the Form of Color Revolutions results in never-ending civil war and terror, decreased status of the country, partial loss of territory, a ruined economy, and a 15-20 year setback in development. This Aggression by the US and the Atlantic civilization tries to split an aggressor from the inside because of low cost, the adversary is not evident, there is no front or rear, and there is a split within the country that results in the states destruction. The features of this type of hostility is network hostilities, the total de-legitimacy of hostility, hostility in urban areas, criminalization of war on terrorism and the use of PMSCs. The next target country is always rich in minerals and the US and the Atlantic civilization want to “unhinge” the stability of their next target to ultimately access natural resources.
Russia is attempting to counter global color revolutions by forming alliances, participating in international organizations, regional military groups, and uniting joint air defense systems. The process of linking countries together in joint air defense is common now between Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Iran, and China.
Implications for Europe
The implications for Europe are significant. Moscow’s pivot to the East is a direct response to Western sanctions as well as NATO’s creep up to the Russia’s borders along with multiple NATO exercises being conducted this year. In turn, the Russian response “has given a new leash on life to NATO” according to former NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
However, the security establishments and the political constituencies of European countries show different views on Russia. According to European sources, the Russians are using social media and information warfare over the past months to try and marginalize potentially anti-Russian media commentators and to promote pro-Russian media commentators. In countries like Germany and France, also due to historical interactions and economic interests, sentiments are now effectively split.
The recent electoral success of Euroskeptic parties, some of whom have been actively courted by the Russians, might constrain the operating space of several ruling coalitions and governments. To date, there are clear limits to the political will in most EU member states to go all the way to impose their will on the situation. The common fear of miscalculation leading to something worse than the current situation will continue to play an important role in this regard.
Russian security officials estimate that Ukraine’s path forward will be chaotic. Ultimately, this situation will lead to a more through intervention by Moscow to protect the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and spreading forward towards Odessa and beyond to capture all of the Black Sea’s northern and western coastline. Putin is patient and waiting for the right opportunity to strike, using Russian military intelligence and information warfare to succeed. Some may argue that the Kremlin is using the same tactics as Russia claims of the US and Atlantic civilization, but to them their “holy mission” is the preservation of Russian culture and fighting the “moral decay” of their now Western enemies. The rise of fascism, from the Russian point of view, in Ukraine along with the emergence of right wing parties will perhaps reflect in clashes in European cities in the near future.
Implications for MENA
The MENA region will also be affected. The Kremlin is making gains in MENA at the expense of the West. Meanwhile, the United States seems unable to make a coherent policy to date despite the announcement of the Obama Doctrine earlier this month at Westpoint. Moscow is making inroads into Algeria, Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Specifically in the GCC, Rosoboronexport (the Russian State Export Company) is operating outside of Manama, giving instruction to the Bahraini Defense Force on how to use Russian special operations gear and riot control equipment.
The Kremlin is also making significant inroads into Egypt with the same type of activity as in Bahrain dating back to just after the beginning of rioting in the archipelago. In Saudi Arabia, Russia’s Lukoil is active again in the Eastern Province and there appears to be a warming in relations. In April 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated ”We are on very good terms with Saudi Arabia. We may, for example, differ in terms of our views on Syria, but we practically have identical positions on the development of the situation in Egypt. There are many other things where we see eye-to-eye. I have great respect for the custodian of the two Muslim shrines, the King of Saudi Arabia. He is a very clever and balanced man.” This statement by the Kremlin leader signaled a dramatic change in how Moscow views Riyadh and Egypt but also the Kingdom’s relationship with Russia. Importantly, there is now word of potential arms sales to Saudi Arabia’s allies again ever since “the retirement” of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who was despised in Moscow and seen “as an agent of the American-Atlantic community.”
More importantly though is that Russia new doctrine will be challenging to the MENA states regarding their relationships with the US and Atlantic civilization versus the Eurasian civilization. MENA states will probably be forced to choose one of the two civilizations and only more sophisticated states will be able to balance their choices and alliances. Overall, Russia seems to hope that the global color revolutions doctrine will sit well with MENA states who blame the US and the Atlantic civilizations for the broken states of the region—Syria, Iraq, and Egypt.
It is clear that Russian military strategists see a new world order emerging where an alternative and anti-thesis to the West is necessary. The use of networks and information is paramount in order to create this anti-thesis up to and including arms sales, alliance building, and the creation of an alternative economic system that decouples Russia’s allies from the Western capitalist system, which, is in sharp decline. This is being recognized in the Kremlin’s deal with the Chinese on supplying gas to China by 2017 at the cost of $400 billion. Sources in Moscow stated that there are six more deals in the works by the end of the year to bring the total to $1 trillion. In addition, Russia plans to create an alternative to the SWIFT banking system as well as new banking systems represented by credit and debit cards. Consequently, the Kremlin seeks to distance itself from the “chaotic and dangerous” West, giving rise to an increasingly bipolar world, not a multi-polar world, where a clash of civilizations may take on a new meaning. Again the question is raised: Who will be on the right side of history?
Dr. Theodore Karasik, Director of Research and Consultancy, INEGMA-Dubai
Dr. Heinrich Matthee, Director of Research and Consultancy, INEGMA-EU