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Russia’s Global Influence Strategy: The Case of Syria

November 29, 2021 |  12:25 – 1:40 pm  |  SRH 3.122, LBJ School

On November 29, the Strauss Center welcomed Dr. Anna Borshchevksaya, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute, for a discussion on “Russia’s Global Influence Strategy: The Case of Syria.” Dr. Borshchevksaya’s talk explored the permanence of Russian presence in the Middle East and how the intervention in the Syrian conflict was a reintroduction of Russia’s objective for great power competition in the region. In addition, Dr. Borshchevksaya emphasized how vast historical context and lessons learned from Afghanistan guide Putin’s current and long-term strategy for garnering influence and was the key to avoiding a “quagmire” in Syria. This talk was part of our Brumley Speaker Series

Dr. Borshchevksaya began her talk by discussing her motivation for researching this topic and noticed how minimal attention was given towards Russia’s relationship with the Middle East, as most analysis focuses on Russia’s interactions with Europe. She highlighted how the Russian state has always cared significantly about its relationship with the “South” – Central Asia, the Caucuses, the Middle East – since it is the area that is viewed as most vulnerable for security reasons.

This Middle East is also important for Russia’s foreign policy agenda, Dr. Borshchevskaya argues, for two reasons: 1) geopolitical position can provide access for key strategic interests like military and economic partnerships, and 2) Putin is fighting the Cold War with an alternate ending. The Syrian intervention provided the Russian state with success where the Soviet Union had failed, and Putin’s pragmatism towards relationships with allies and their opposition groups allow him to maintain a low-cost strategy for interference for the foreseeable future. Dr. Borshchevskaya concludes that whether or not the United States likes it, Russia is a reality that we have to deal with.


Anna Borshchevskaya is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on Russia’s policy toward the Middle East. In addition, she is a contributor to Oxford Analytica and a fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy. She was previously with the Atlantic Council and the Peterson Institute for International Economics. A former analyst for a U.S. military contractor in Afghanistan, she has also served as communications director at the American Islamic Congress. Her analysis is published widely in publications such as Foreign AffairsThe HillThe New Criterion, and Middle East Quarterly. She is the author of the upcoming book, Putin’s War in Syria: Russian Foreign Policy and the Price of America’s Absence (I.B. Tauris, November 2021, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing). Until recently, she conducted translation and analysis for the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office and its flagship publication, Operational Environment Watch, and wrote a foreign affairs column for Forbes. She is the author of the February 2016 Institute monograph, Russia in the Middle East. She holds a doctorate from George Mason University.

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