Tag Archives: russia

Stratfor: a Grand Bargain remains elusive in Ukraine

Summary: Stratfor provides a status report on the Ukraine civil war, a festering boil in the heart of Europe and spark that hawks on both sides are using to restart the cold war. These conflicts usually end in diplomacy; that point seems far away.


For Ukraine, a Grand Bargain Is Still Elusive
Stratfor, 14 October 2015


  • Because of political considerations, Kiev will not fully submit to separatist and Russian demands for amnesty and “special status” powers in eastern Ukraine.
  • Europe will encourage the Ukrainian government to be accommodating, but the United States will push for a hard-line approach.
  • Russia will keep its options open and will not abandon the possibility of ramping up militant activity if Kiev and the West are uncooperative.


After a year of slow-burning conflict in eastern Ukraine, the relationship between Kiev and Moscow seems to finally be improving. Fighting on the ground has dissipated, there have been positive developments in talks over the past few weeks and both sides began to pull heavy weaponry back from the line of contact in early October. Moreover, Russia and Ukraine have agreed on a temporary natural gas deal and will begin direct negotiations on Kiev’s terms of repayment for a bond that matures in December. And in a major concession to Kiev and its Western backers, the separatist territories of Donetsk and Luhansk announced Oct. 6 that they would postpone local elections.

These developments signal progress toward ending the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine. However, a broader settlement will still be difficult to achieve and is unlikely to be reached before the end of the year.

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Stratfor: The Loyalist Offensive Begins in Syria, with Russia’s help

Summary: As regional and global powers search for a solution to the Syrian civil war, fighting on the ground appears to be on the verge of worsening. Both loyalist and rebel forces are preparing for two new offensives within the coming months that will greatly influence the trajectory of the conflict ahead. This report by Strafor looks at the combined Russia – Syrian government offensive.

Russia’s military deployment to Syria was carried out with the permission of Damascus, and is “completely legal and legitimate under international law.” “The difference with Russian presence and presence of all these special forces that are now operating in Syria is that the US was not asked by the legitimate Syrian government to interfere and they were in breach of Syrian sovereignty.”

— Dirk Adriaensens (actiist, bio here).


In Syria, the Loyalist Offensive Begin

Stratfor, 8 October 2015

The Syrian government’s long-expected offensive against the country’s rebel forces has begun. On Oct. 7, loyalist troops advanced against rebel-held positions in northern Hama with the support of numerous Russian airstrikes as well as both rocket and tube artillery fire. Initial reports from the battlefield suggest that the rebels, primarily the Free Syrian Army, are putting up an effective defense in spite of heavy shelling. The rebels’ liberal use of improvised explosive devices and anti-tank guided missiles has taken a heavy toll on loyalist armor; several reports say rebels destroyed 17 armored fighting vehicles on the first day of the fight, and combat footage has confirmed the destruction of at least nine vehicles.

Despite the initial setback, the loyalists’ Russian-backed offensive has only just begun. Already there have been heavy airstrikes in the Al-Ghab plain, signaling the spread of the offensive to other areas of Hama. Loyalists are also preparing to assault the northern Homs pocket and to push toward the Kweiris air base, where several allied groups are still engaged in fighting with Islamic State forces.

Russian airstrikes in Syria

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Stratfor shows that the Russians Are Coming – to Syria

Summary: The United States has almost 800 bases in 70 nations around the world, so it’s natural that Russia building a base in Syria would spark hysteria among Americans. So rather than pay attention to our special operations units, active in 135 nations this past year, let’s focus on the Russians in Syria. Stratfor provides the satellite photos and analysis that tell you what you need to know. Use the knowledge wisely.


Explaining Russia’s True Presence in Syria

Stratfor, 25 September 2015

Stratfor has been closely tracking the Russian buildup of military power at Bassel al Assad air base in Syria, charting the uptick of forces throughout September. Aside from the air assets and defensive ground capacity identified at the air base, reports indicate potential Russian activity at several other locations across the Syrian coastal region.

Widely circulated satellite photography dated Sept. 13 revealed construction at the Istamo weapons storage facility and the appearance of tents at the al-Sanobar military facility south of Latakia. Though this led to conclusions of a possible Russian military presence at those facilities, more recent and detailed imagery provided by our partners at AllSource Analysis seems to contradict this assertion.

Satellite imagery of the al-Sanobar military complex from Sept. 23 does not show any sign of a notable Russian military presence. The tent camp that was present in the Sept. 13 imagery is nowhere to be seen. Also, no particular Russian military equipment or vehicles can be identified.

Russian forces likely move through the area frequently because of their continued activity at the port of Latakia, the activity at the nearby Bassel al Assad air base, and the transit of Russia advisers and trainers to the Syrian front lines, where they are embedded with military units. Because of this, it is possible that the Sept. 13 imagery caught a temporary encampment of Russian forces operating in the Syrian coastal area, as opposed to a more sustained deployment of combat forces to the al-Sanobar complex.

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Russia’s Propaganda Trolls become a power in cyberspace

Summary: Cyberspace is not just a means to steal information and wreck systems, but also a means to touch people’s minds and change how they see the world. The tech is new, but the methods are old. Russia has a long history of playing this game well. Here Emilio Iasiello explains how they have aggressively exploited this new medium.

Soviet propaganda


Russia’s Propaganda Trolls
Make an Impact in Cyberspace

By Emilio Iasiello, 27 August 2015
From DarkMatters: superior attack intelligence

Posted with their gracious permission.


Russia’s propaganda machine in action

Recent reporting reveals that the Russian government may be using online propagandists in order to project a positive Russian image to the global community, while attacking those perceived to be a threat to Russian government interests.

Two individuals that used to work for an organization called the “Internet Research Agency” exposed the propaganda machine whose objective was to influence public opinion, and in some instances, discredit specific targets.

The Internet Research Agency is an organization that employees hundreds of online “trolls” – individuals whose job it is to create online discontent.

Located in four floors of a building in St. Petersburg, these trolls logged twelve-hour days supporting the Russian government while attacking perceived enemies – the United States, political oppositionists, for example – on social networks, blogs, and comment areas for social media sites (“One Professional Russian Troll Tells All“).

These online operators created personas and blogs in order to disseminate propaganda to the wider Internet audience. Techniques ranged from blatant attacking content to leveraging more subtle techniques in attempt to discredit the West. According to one former “troll,” the operations were tightly controlled and closely supervised. Assignments were handed out to the propagandists, each focusing on a theme and a list of key words to be used in online content. (“My life as a pro-Putin propagandist in Russia’s secret ‘troll factory’“.)

Some of the more prevalent topics included the situation in Ukraine, the Syrian conflict, and stories related to U.S. President Barak Obama. For this they received a monthly salary of approximately $750 (“Woman who sued pro-Putin Russian ‘troll factory’ gets one rouble in damages“).

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Stratfor Confirms Russia’s Expanded Presence in Syria

Summary: The rumors have proven correct. Russia is building a base in Syria. Fourteen years of aggressive US moves in the Middle East and Eastern Europe have left the former in flames and the latter unstable. Now comes the inevitable next step, as a great power rival escalates by positioning itself to respond strongly. I doubt we’ll enjoy what comes next. We can hardly complain when others follow our example.

Stratfor on Syria

Confirming Russia’s Expanded Presence in Syria
Stratfor, 10 September 2015


The projection of Russian forces into Syria could be an attempt to bolster the government of President Bashar al Assad or a means to exert pressure during a time of sensitive negotiations. Either way, it will be increasingly difficult for the Russians to avoid mission creep as they magnify support for their favored faction in the Syrian conflict.


Satellite imagery of the Bassel al Assad International Airport in Latakia, Syria, confirms reports of sustained Russian military transport flights to the Syrian airfield, where the Russians appear to be establishing a base of operations. The satellite imagery, captured Sept. 4, shows a recently constructed air traffic control station in the vicinity of newly laid asphalt surfaces, alongside shipping container-sized structures believed to be mobile housing units. Construction is underway throughout the airport; surfaces are being leveled and new structures are being erected. Earthworks are visible along the entire length of the easternmost runway, likely part of improvements to the airfield to allow the ingress of heavier transport aircraft.

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Stratfor describes the growing Russia-China alliance, allies against us

Summary: Hegemons push rival great nations into alliances against them, just as Russia and China are moving together. They’re developing deeper commercial ties, and perhaps even strategic relationships. It’s inevitable given our aggressive foreign policy, putting pressure on China and Russia. Here Stratfor explains their early steps to what might become one of the core alliances of the 21st century.

Putin In Beijing

New B.F.F. — Putin shakes hands with Xi Jinping. Photo by Greg Baker – AFP/Getty Image.

Russia’s Relationship With China Grows Slowly

Stratfor, 3 September 2015


  • Russia and China will sign 20-30 large deals worth tens of billions of dollars this week, but the two countries will continue to disagree on many issues, such as the natural gas supply deal. Therefore, substantial deals of the magnitude seen last May are not likely.
  • With Russia and China both experiencing economic slowdowns, China will continue to stall on financing many of these large projects until it can get more favorable terms.
  • In the long term, China will become one of Russia’s major partners, but not as quickly or on as large a scale as Moscow would like.


Russia has been touting its “pivot to the east” since the West’s efforts to isolate Moscow in the wake of the government change in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sept. 1 that Russia and China were making consistent progress toward the creation of a strategic alliance that will play a significant role in international economic relations. Putin is in China from Sept. 2 to Sept. 3 for the country’s commemorations of the end of World War II — a reciprocal visit after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Russia for its celebrations in May. During Putin’s visit, China and Russia are expected to sign some 20-30 so-called mega-deals, agreements with either high price tags or great strategic importance to either country.

Russia’s turn toward China has been evident in recent years; Chinese foreign direct investment {FDI} into Russia nearly tripled in 2014 from the previous year, to $1.27 billion, making China the second-largest foreign investor in Russia (behind France). This may seem like a small amount, but with FDI into Russia falling to $21 billion in 2014 from nearly $70 billion the previous year, Russia is looking for investment from anywhere.

Moreover, according to the Russian central bank, China was the second-largest source of foreign financing for the non-financial sectors in Russia’s economy in 2014. Chinese lenders let Russians and Russian businesses borrow $13.6 billion. The only country that provided more financing was Cyprus, where Russian-affiliated parties likely provided the loans.

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Stratfor sees good news in Syria: a possible win for Russia’s diplomats

Summary: This analysis by Stratfor shows the complexity of the situation in Syria. While we seek to influence events with bombs and proxy armies (two of America’s trinity of COIN), Russia uses diplomacy. So far our efforts have failed. There are signs Russia’s diplomats might be succeeding.  {1st of 2 posts today.}


Opportunities for Change in Syria

Stratfor, 19 August 2015

Stratfor receives insight from many sources around the world, along with reports not available for public consumption. It is important to caveat that many reports are unconfirmed or speculative in nature, though they provide valuable context. Interpreting information and compiling multiple data points to build a picture is part of intelligence analysis. Any and all reporting is carefully filtered before being disseminated by Stratfor, yet some insight is worth sharing on its own merits, such as this account from Syria, below.

Russia is heavily invested in the Syrian conflict and has a significant stake in shaping any enduring peace. Stratfor sources indicate that Moscow may have finally been able to get Damascus and the mainstream rebel opposition to broadly agree on elements of a political transition of power in Syria. Russia has long insisted that present Syrian President Bashar al Assad must remain in power during any transition. This is a sticking point for many of the rebel groups, but Moscow appears to have been able to negotiate a middle ground. As Stratfor previously noted Aug. 7…

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