Russia uses a wide spectrum of hybrid threat tools in the Middle East and North Africa, ranging from the domains of culture and diplomacy to intelligence, information and the military. Russia is most active in Libya and Syria. According to the new Hybrid CoE Research Report, Russia’s hybrid threat activities in the MENA region promote its wider strategic goal of gaining a global superpower status, and may be increased due to the war in Ukraine.
“With Russia currently being isolated by the West, an increase in military, diplomatic and information operations in Syria could again be anticipated,” says Jarno Välimäki, Analyst in the Research and Analysis function at Hybrid CoE and one of the writers of the report.
So far, Russia’s escalating hybrid threat activity in the Syrian civil war has been largely successful, as Russia has become an indispensable player in Syria and, by extension, a major player in the region in general.
“For example, Russia could begin to challenge US air access and block its convoys in Syria. We are also already witnessing Russia trying to pressure the West in the Middle East over the war in Ukraine, as Moscow is threatening to derail the Iran nuclear deal talks due to new sanctions against Russia,” Välimäki says.
Russia’s involvement in post-2011 Libya highlights four main domains of hybrid threat activity: economic, military, political, and diplomatic. Russian activity in Libya has often been opportunistic, taking advantage of dissonant policies by the West.
“Russia’s focus on becoming indispensable, rather than exerting hegemonic control over a single partner, is a cardinal feature of Moscow’s hybrid warfare strategy in Africa,” writes Samuel Ramani in his chapter on Russia’s involvement in Libya.
In this Hybrid CoE Research Report, five writers analyze Russia’s hybrid threat actions through five case studies. The analysis includes the infrastructure, economy, culture, legal, intelligence, diplomacy, political, information, and military domains. In addition to Russia’s actions in Syria and Libya, the other case studies include:
- China’s longstanding political and economic ties with Algeria;
- Iran’s actions in Lebanon to gain access to the Mediterranean; and
- ISIS’s activity in Iraq and Syria and its increased presence in North Africa.