Russia in the Middle East: Tactics, Instruments, Strategy and Goals

Tuesday, April 17, 2018
2:30 P.M.5:00 P.M.

Longworth House Office Building
Room 1539
9 Independence Avenue, S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20515

Full Event Video Below




About the Event:

There is an outpouring of reporting on Russian activities in Syria, and to a lesser degree other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Until now, however, there has been no single effort to analyze the totality of Russian objectives, as well as its instruments of power, tactics and strategy, in the greater Middle East or their implications for U.S. foreign policy.

Please join The Jamestown Foundation, on April 17, 2018, from 2:30 P.M. to 5:00 P.M., as our panel of experts discusses these developments, analyzes Russia’s activity in the Middle East, and considers what the U.S. strategy and reaction should be to Russia’s provocative behavior.



2:30 P.M.–2:35 P.M.

Glen Howard
President, The Jamestown Foundation

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Opening Remarks
2:35 P.M.–3:00 P.M.

Michael Vickers
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence

Michael Carpenter
Senior Director, Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement;
and former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense

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Panel One:

Economics, Energy and Russian Policies Toward
the Middle East and North Africa

3:00 P.M.–4:00 P.M.

“Russia’s Energy and Economic Strategies in the Gulf and North Africa”

Theodore Karasik
Senior Advisor, Gulf State Analytics

“Jordanian-Russian Policy Coordination on the Syrian Civil War”

Shehab al-Makahleh
Executive Director, Geostrategic Media Center

 “Russia’s Complex Relations With Iran and Turkey”

Rauf Mammadov
Resident Scholar for Energy Policy, The Middle East Institute


Stephen Blank
Senior Fellow, American Foreign Policy Council

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Coffee Break

4:00 P.M.–4:05 P.M.

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Panel Two:

Russian Defense Policies and Goals in the Middle East

4:05 – 5:00 P.M.

“Russian Military Strategy, Objectives and Lessons Learned in Syria”

Stephen Blank
Senior Fellow, American Foreign Policy Council

 “Russia’s Arms Sales in the Region and Their Implications”

Anna Borschevskaya
Ira Weiner Fellow, The Washington Institute
for Near East Policy


Theodore Karasik
Senior Advisor, Gulf State Analytics

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Concluding Remarks

5:00 P.M.

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Participant Biographies

Lead Project Investigators:

Stephen Blank

Dr. Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow and resident foreign policy expert at the American Foreign Policy Council.

Stephen Blank is a Senior Fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington. From 1989–2013 he was a Professor of Russian National Security Studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania. Dr. Blank has been Professor of National Security Affairs at the Strategic Studies Institute since 1989. In 1998–2001, he was Douglas MacArthur Professor of Research at the War College.

He has published over 900 articles and monographs on Soviet/Russian, U.S., Asian, and European military and foreign policies, testified frequently before Congress on Russia, China, and Central Asia, consulted for the CIA, major think tanks and foundations, chaired major international conferences in the USA and abroad In Florence, Prague, and London, and has been a commentator on foreign affairs in the media in the United States and abroad. He has also advised major corporations on investing in Russia and is a consultant for the Gerson Lehrmann Group.

He has published or edited 15 books focusing on Russian foreign, energy, and military policies and on International Security in Eurasia. His most recent book is Russo-Chinese Energy Relations: Politics in Command, London: Global Markets Briefing, 2006. He has also published Natural Allies? Regional Security in Asia and Prospects for Indo-American Strategic Cooperation, Carlisle Barracks, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, 2005.

Dr. Blank is also the author of a study of the Soviet Commissariat of Nationalities, The Sorcerer as Apprentice: Stalin’s Commissariat of Nationalities, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994 and the co-editor of The Soviet Military and the Future, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1992.

Prior to this appointment Dr. Blank was Associate Professor for Soviet Studies at the Center for Aerospace Doctrine, Research, and Education of Air University at Maxwell AFB. He also held the position of 1980–86: Assistant Professor of Russian History, University of Texas, San Antonio, 1980–86, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Russian history, University of California, Riverside, 1979–80.

Dr. Blank’s M.A. and Ph.D. are in Russian History from the University of Chicago. His B.A is in History from the University of Pennsylvania.


Theodore Karasik

Dr. Theodore Karasik is currently a Senior Advisor to Gulf State Analytics and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Lexington Institute, both located in Washington, DC. Dr. Karasik spent 2004 through 2016 in the GCC, the Middle East and Russia. For the past 30 years, Karasik worked for a number of US agencies involved in researching and analyzing defense acquisition, the use of military power, and religious-political issues across MENA and Eurasia, including the evolution of violent extremism and its financing.

Dr. Karasik was an Adjunct Lecturer at the Dubai School of Government, where he taught graduate-level international relations, and also an Adjunct Lecturer at University Wollongong Dubai, where he taught labor and migration. Karasik was a Senior Political Scientist in the International Policy and Security Group at RAND Corporation. From 2002 to 2003, he served as Director of Research for the RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy. He is a specialist in geopolitics and geo-economics for the MENA and Eurasia regions and frequently conducts studies and assessments of future security trajectories and military requirements.

Dr. Karasik received his PhD in History from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in four fields: Russia, Middle East, Caucasus and an outside field in cultural anthropology, focusing on tribes and clans from Central Asia to East Africa. He also holds a CPhil and MA in History and International Relations from UCLA and Monterey Institute of International Studies, respectively. He wrote his PhD dissertation on military and humanitarian operations in the northern port city of Arkhangel’sk and their impact on political institutions during the Russian civil war.



Shehab al-Makahleh

Shehab Al-Makahleh is a senior media and policy adviser in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. He has been working for a number of media outlets as media consultant. He is president of the Jordan-based Political Studies of the Middle East Center and the executive director of Geostrategic and Media Center. Al-Makahleh has been working for several Middle Eastern countries as a political, military and security expert. He has been working as a media advisor for notable personalities in the Middle East. As an anchor journalist and columnist at various media outlets and think tanks, al-Makahleh has published many academic and political books. He has taken part in many international conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Norway, Russia, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, the UAE, Bahrain, Iraq, Switzerland, Austria and Sweden. He has chronicled the modern history of his country in Jordan’s Spiritual Leader: King Hussein’s Charismatic Qualities and His Majesty King Abdullah II’s Traits: Leader and Teacher. Al-Makahleh has obtained unprecedented access to extremists who traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight and are now serving time in prison, which helped him finish his book: Into the Terrorist Minds: Through Their Own Eyes.Al-Makahleh holds a PhD in politics, first Master’s Degree in Media, second Master’s degree in international politics, a BA in Media and a BA in Economics and Statistics from the University of Jordan.


Anna Borshchevskaya

Anna Borshchevskaya is the Ira Weiner Fellow at The Washington Institute, focusing on Russia’s policy toward the Middle East.  In addition, she is a fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy and was previously with the Peterson Institute for International Economics and the Atlantic Council. A former analyst for a US military contractor in Afghanistan, she has also served as communications director at the American Islamic Congress. Her analysis is published widely in journals such as The New Criterion, Turkish Policy Quarterly, and the Middle East Quarterly, and she also conducts translation and analysis for the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office and its flagship publication, Operational Environment Watch, and writes a foreign affairs column for Forbes.


Originally from Moscow, Ms. Borshchevskaya came to the United States as a refugee in 1993 and has since received an MA in international relations from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a BA in political science and international relations from the State University of New York at Geneseo.


Michael Carpenter

Dr. Michael Carpenter is Senior Director of the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement and a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.  He is also a member of the Jamestown Foundation board of directors.  Dr. Carpenter previously served in the Pentagon as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, the Balkans, and Conventional Arms Control.  He also served in the White House as a foreign policy advisor to Vice President Joe Biden as well as on the National Security Council as Director for Russia.  Previously, Dr. Carpenter was a career Foreign Service Officer with the State Department.  He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. in International Relations from Stanford University.  Dr. Carpenter has appeared regularly on MSNBC, CNN, ABC News, Bloomberg News, Voice of America, and has been frequently cited or published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, McClatchy, Foreign Policy, Atlantic, Politico, Buzzfeed, The Hill, and Defense One.


Rauf Mammadov

Rauf Mammadov is resident scholar on energy policy at The Middle East Institute. He focuses on issues of energy security, global energy industry trends, as well as energy relations between the Middle East, Central Asia and South Caucasus. He has a particular emphasis on the post-Soviet countries of Eurasia. Prior to joining MEI, Mammadov held top administrative positions for the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) from 2006 and 2016. In 2012, he founded and managed the United States Representative Office of SOCAR in Washington D.C.


Michael Vickers

Dr. Michael Vickers is widely recognized as one of the nation’s top national security professionals, with unprecedented senior tenure across Republican and Democratic administrations.  He was a key operational strategist for the two great wars of our time: the operation in the 1980s to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan that helped bring an end to the Cold War — the largest and most successful covert action program in the history of the CIA — and the ongoing war with al-Qaeda.  He played a major policy and planning role in the operation that killed Osama bin Ladin.

From January 2011 to May 2015, Vickers served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, the Chief Executive Officer of the Defense Intelligence Enterprise, an $80 billion, 180,000-person, global operation that includes the National Security Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, Defense Security Service, and the intelligence components of the Military Services and Combatant Commands.   As the USD(I), he conceived and led a comprehensive transformation of defense intelligence capabilities.

From 2007 to 2011, he served as the first and only Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, Low-Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities.  As the ASD SO/LIC&IC, Vickers served as the “Service” Secretary for all Special Operations Forces – a 70,000-person, $10 billion enterprise with personnel deployed in 90 countries – and had policy oversight of all of DoD’s core operational capabilities – strategic forces (nuclear forces, missile defense, space, cyber), conventional forces (air, ground and maritime), and Special Operations Forces.  He conceived and led the largest expansion of Special Operations Forces in our nation’s history.

Earlier, during the nearly decade and a half that spanned the operational phase of his career, he served as a Special Forces Non-Commissioned Officer, Special Forces Officer and CIA Operations Officer, and had operational and combat experience in Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and South and Central Asia.  As the principal strategist for the multi-billion dollar effort that defeated the Red Army in Afghanistan, Vickers oversaw the policy, operations, training, and logistics of a covert enterprise that spanned several continents.

Dr. Vickers has received the nation’s highest awards in the fields of intelligence and defense, including the Presidential National Security Medal.  He holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins, an MBA from the Wharton School, and a B.A. from the University of Alabama.

He is currently working on a memoir of his career, to be published by Knopf in 2018.  He is an executive vice president with In-Q-Tel, the Intelligence Community’s strategic investment arm, a senior advisor to the Boston Consulting Group, and a principal with the Telemus Group.  He also serves on several corporate, government and non-profit boards.