Far from the icy battlefields of Ukraine, Russia President Vladimir Putin is busily advancing Russia's footholds and influence in Africa and the Middle East. Military experts say Putin's growing ties in places such as Syria and Sudan cannot be ignored, and they present a long-term threat to security in Europe.
Russia's tactics in the Middle East and Africa are simple: It seeks out alliances with autocrats, coup leaders and others who have been spurned by the U.S. and Europe, and provides them military or mercenary forces to protect their regimes. In exchange, these regimes give Russia natural resources, influence in their affairs and staging grounds for Russian forces.
Kristina Kausch, a European security expert at the German Marshall Fund think-tank, said “It’s threatening NATO from below.” Kausch said, “The Russians have felt encircled by NATO, and now they want to encircle NATO.”