Russia in the Middle East

Tuesday, July 31, 2018
9:30 A.M.4:00 P.M.

Root Room (Second Floor)
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036-2109




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 July 31, 2018, from 9:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., as our experts discuss these developments, analyze Russia’s activity in the Middle East, and consider what the U.S. strategy and reaction should be to Russia’s provocative behavior. This conference is the culmination of the Russia in the Middle East research project that Jamestown has carried out over the past year.  Panelists will discuss some of the most pressing aspects of Russian activity in the Middle East that were identified over the course of the project, providing additional context and insight to the research presented in the project papers.





9:30 A.M.–10:00 A.M.

*       *       *

10:00 A.M.–10:05 A.M.

Glen E. Howard
President, The Jamestown Foundation

*       *       *

Panel One:

The Russia, Israel and Iran Triangle 
10:05 A.M.–11:15 A.M.

“Russia’s Strategic Perception of the Levant Between Iran and Israel”
Stephen Blank
Senior Fellow, American Foreign Policy Council

“Israel’s Strategic Perception of the Levant Between Iran and Russia”
Michael Eisenstadt
Kahn Fellow and Director, Military & Security Studies Program,
Washington Institute for Near East Policy

“Iran’s Strategic Perception of the Levant Between Israel and Russia”
Nader Uskowi
Nonresident Senior Fellow,
Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, Atlantic Council


Michael W. S. Ryan
Senior Fellow, The Jamestown Foundation

*       *       *

Coffee Break
11:15 A.M.–11:30 A.M.

*       *       *

Panel Two:

Energy Gambits and the Qatar Crisis:
 Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
11:30 A.M. – 12:30 P.M.

“Gulf Financial Investment Patterns in Russia: Implications for the United States”
Theodore Karasik
Senior Advisor, Gulf State Analytics

“The Russia-Gulf Energy Nexus: Russia, OPEC and the Future”
Rauf Mammadov
Senior Fellow for Energy Policy, The Middle East Institute

Moderator/ Commentator:

Mark Katz
Professor of Government and Politics, George Mason University

*       *       *

12:30 P.M.–1:00 P.M.

*       *       *


1:00 P.M.–1:45 P.M.

“The Challenge of Russian Airpower in Syria”
General Frank Gorenc, USAF (Ret.)

*       *       *

Panel Three:

The Role of Russian Private Military Companies (PMCs)
in Syria and Beyond
1:45 P.M. – 2:45 P.M.

“Russia’s PMCs: Concept and Practice in Ukraine”
Sergey Sukhankin
Fellow, The Jamestown Foundation

“Russia’s PMC’s Outside Syria: Africa and Latin America”
Stephen Blank
Senior Fellow, American Foreign Policy Council

“PMC Evolution: The Nexus Between PMCs From the Gulf and Applications to Russia”
Theodore Karasik
Senior Advisor, Gulf State Analytics

Moderator/ Commentator:

Ilan Berman
Senior Vice President, American Foreign Policy Council

*       *       *

Coffee Break
2:45 P.M.–3:00 P.M.

*       *       *

Panel Four:

Russia, Turkey and the Role of S-400s in Regional Middle East Politics**
3:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.

Colonel Richard H. M. Outzen
Senior U.S. Army Advisor, U.S. Department of State

David Des Roche
Associate Professor, Near East South Asia Center for Security Studies,
National Defense University

Moderator/ Commentator:

Theodore Karasik
Senior Advisor, Gulf State Analytics

** Please note that Panel Four is an off-the-record discussion

*       *       *

Concluding Remarks

4:00 P.M.

*       *       *



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.



Ilan Berman

Ilan Berman is Senior Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC. An expert on regional security in the Middle East, Central Asia, and the Russian Federation, he has consulted for both the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Department of Defense, and provided assistance on foreign policy and national security issues to a range of governmental agencies and congressional offices. He has been called one of America’s “leading experts on the Middle East and Iran” by CNN.

Mr. Berman is a member of the Associated Faculty at Missouri State University’s Department of Defense and Strategic Studies. A frequent writer and commentator, he has written for the Wall Street JournalForeign Affairs, the New York TimesForeign Policy, the Washington Post and USA Today, among many other publications.

Mr. Berman is the editor of four books – Dismantling Tyranny: Transitioning Beyond Totalitarian Regimes (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), co-edited with J. Michael Waller Taking on Tehran: Strategies for Confronting the Islamic Republic (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), and Iran’s Strategic Penetration of Latin America (Lexington Books, 2015), co-edited with Joseph Humire, and most recently,  The Logic of Irregular War: Asymmetry and America’s Adversaries (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017) – and the author of four others: Tehran Rising: Iran’s Challenge to the United States (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), Winning the Long War: Retaking the Offensive Against Radical Islam (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009), Implosion: The End of Russia and What It Means for America (Regnery Publishing, 2013), and Iran’s Deadly Ambition: The Islamic Republic’s Quest for Global Power (Encounter Books, 2015).


David Des Roches

David Des Roches is an Associate Professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Security Studies. Prior to this, he was the director responsible for defense policy concerning Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. Prior to this assignment, he has served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as the DoD Liaison to the Department of Homeland Security, as the senior country director for Pakistan, as the NATO operations director, and as the deputy director for peacekeeping. His first job in government was as a special assistant for strategy and later as the international law enforcement analyst in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.

A British Marshall Scholar, he has also attended the Federal Executive Institute, the German Staff College’s Higher Officer Seminar, the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School and the US Army Command and General Staff College.

An Airborne Ranger in the Army Reserve, he was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Afghanistan. He has commanded conventional and special operations parachute units and has served on the US Special Operations Command staff as well as on the Joint Staff.


Michael Eisenstadt

Michael Eisenstadt is the Kahn Fellow and director of The Washington Institute’s Military and Security Studies Program. A specialist in Persian Gulf and Arab-Israeli security affairs, he has published widely on irregular and conventional warfare, and nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East.

Prior to joining the Institute in 1989, Mr. Eisenstadt worked as a military analyst with the U.S. government.


Mr. Eisenstadt served for twenty-six years as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve before retiring in 2010. His military service included active-duty stints in Iraq with the United States Forces-Iraq headquarters (2010) and the Human Terrain System Assessment Team (2008); in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan with the U.S. Security Coordinator (USSC) for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (2008-2009); at U.S. Central Command headquarters and on the Joint Staff during Operation Enduring Freedom and the planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom (2001-2002); and in Turkey and Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort (1991).

He has also served in a civilian capacity on the Multinational Force-Iraq/U.S. Embassy Baghdad Joint Campaign Plan Assessment Team (2009) and as a consultant or advisor to the congressionally mandated Iraq Study Group (2006), the Multinational Corps-Iraq Information Operations Task Force (2005-2006), and the State Department’s Future of Iraq defense policy working group (2002-2003). In 1992, he took a leave of absence from the Institute to work on the U.S. Air Force Gulf War Air Power Survey.


General Frank Gorenc, USAF (Ret.) 

General Frank Gorenc USAF (Ret.) is the former commander of US Air Forces in Europe, US Air Forces Africa, and NATO Allied Air Command. He was also director of the Joint Air Power Competence Centre in Kalkar, Germany. His responsibilities included managing Air Force activities across 104 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, as well as the Arctic, Atlantic and Indian oceans. Born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Gen. Gorenc became a command pilot, flying over 4,500 hours. Among other certifications, he earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the US Air Force Academy, an M.S. in Aeronautical Science from Embry-Riddle, and an M.S. in National Security Strategy from the National War College. The general has commanded the Air Force District Washington and a component Numbered Air Force, in addition to a fighter squadron, an operations group, and two wings. After fulfilling a variety of roles at Air Combat Command, Air and Joint Staff, and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Gen. Gorenc became the assistant vice chief of staff and director of air staff, Headquarters, US Air Force in Washington DC, before assuming his current position. Gen. Gorenc has also received numerous major awards and decorations.


Mark N. Katz

Dr. Mark N. Katz (Ph.D., MIT) is a professor of government and politics at the George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government.  He has written primarily about Moscow’s relations with the Middle East (especially the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula) for over 35 years.  During 2017, he was a visiting scholar first at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (January-March), and then at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki (April-September).  During 2018, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London (January-March 2018), and then the 2018 Sir William Luce Fellow at Durham University in the UK (April-June 2018).


Rauf Mammadov

Rauf Mammadov is senior fellow for 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.


Colonel Richard Outzen

Colonel Rich H. M. Outzen joined the Department of State’s Policy Planning Staff in July 2016. He was a member of the NDU and INSS faculty from July 2013 through June 2016. He served as the U.S. Defense Attaché in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2014-2015, on temporary duty from NDU. He previously served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Training and Development for the U.S. Security Coordinator in Jerusalem. He has researched and published extensively on matters of policy and strategy, with a focus on the greater Middle East and Central Asia.  A U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer, he has served in a variety of staff, command, and policy support assignments in Washington, D.C. and overseas. He has helped shape interagency discussion and national policy options for transitions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.  His areas of expertise include Defense Policy and Strategy, Strategic Culture, the Middle East, NATO/Europe, and Central Asia.

Colonel Outzen graduated cum laude with a B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1989, and holds an M.A. in National Strategic Affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School as well as an M.S. in National Security Resourcing from the Eisenhower School.  He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School, and a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He has published over a dozen articles on language, culture, strategy, and Middle Eastern affairs. Colonel Outzen is a qualified military linguist in Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, and German, and has spent over a decade serving in U.S. military and diplomatic missions overseas. He has participated in military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. His military service has also included tours in the office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff, and service as military attaché in Afghanistan and Israel.


Michael W. S. Ryan

Dr. Michael W. S. Ryan is a Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation in Washington, D.C. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President at The Middle East Institute (2008-2009). The White House appointed him as Vice President in The Millennium Challenge Corporation (2006-2008).  Dr. Ryan also held senior positions in the Departments of State, Defense, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after joining the U.S. federal government in 1979 as a Middle East/North Africa analyst for the Department of Defense. He is author of Decoding Al-Qaeda’s Strategy: The Deep Battle Against America.


Sergey Sukhankin

Dr. Sergey Sukhankin is a Fellow at the Jamestown Foundation and an Associate Expert at the International Center for Policy Studies (Kyiv). He received his PhD in Contemporary Political and Social History from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB), with his thesis discussing the transformation of Kaliningrad Oblast after the collapse of the USSR. His areas of scientific interest primarily concern Kaliningrad and the Baltic Sea region, Russian information and cyber security, A2/AD and its interpretation in Russia, as well as the development of Russia Private Military Companies (PMC) after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war. Dr. Sukhankin’s academic articles, expert opinions and commentaries, as well as policy-oriented analyses have appeared in leading international think tanks and research institutions, including The Jamestown Foundation, ECFR, CIDOB, Diplomaatia, RIAC, New Eastern Europe, Kyiv Post, The New Republic, Business Insider, Rzeczpospolita, El Mundo, El Periodico and El Confidencial. He was a Visiting Fellow (2016–2017) and subsequently taught a course entitled “Foreign and Security Policy of the Russian Federation” at The Institute Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (IBEI).


Nader Uskowi

Nader Uskowi is a nonresident fellow with the Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

Nader is the president of Sagewood Consulting LLC, a consulting firm specializing on Iran, Middle East, and Central Asia. His book, Temperature Rising: Iran Revolutionary Guards and Wars in the Middle East, will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in November 2018.

Before joining the Atlantic Council, Nader was a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. From 2013 to 2017, Nader worked at the Pentagon serving as the senior policy advisor to the US Central Command (CENTCOM), focusing on geopolitical developments in the Middle East. From 2009 to 2012, he was deployed to Afghanistan, serving as the senior political advisor to the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s task force for stability operations.

Nader frequently speaks and writes on national security and foreign policy issues. He has testified before the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence on state sponsors of terrorism. His views have appeared in the BBC World Service’s The Inquiry, BBC Persian, Sky News Arabia, Orient News, Alhurra, Iran International TV, The Hill, and Independent Journal Review, among other media outlets. From 2007 to 2015, Nader edited Uskowi on Iran. He began his professional life as a journalist in Iran, and in 1978 became the country’s youngest editor of a major daily newspaper, Neday-e Azadi.

Nader holds a BA in international relations at the University of Southern California, and an MA from George Washington University. He lives with his wife, Patti, in Reston, Virginia. He has native fluency in Farsi and Dari.