Helms School of Government


Master of Arts in Public Policy (MAPP)


David Holt


Russia, Paramilitaries, Mercenaries, Ukraine, NATO, Orthodox Church


Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


Russia currently supports various paramilitaries around the world whether in the guise of separatists, mercenaries, or irregular armies. Using their own military and intelligence operatives and different tactical and religious-ideological means of asserting control over these paramilitaries and the territories they inhabit, Russia seeks to expand the scope of its global dominance and regional influence. Consistent with its long-term goal of weakening NATO and the EU, Russian strategy under Putin has sought to exploit Russian Orthodoxy and the Russian culture as instruments of solidarity binding many of these paramilitaries to Russia in a kind of pan-Slavic religious-nationalist mission. No passive bystander in Putin’s hegemonic designs, the Orthodox Church has allowed if not encouraged the Russian leader to better fund, recruit, control, and influence the paramilitaries for his own nationalist purposes. While security analysts disagree about the overall influence paramilitaries can have on the strategic map of Europe, most agree that under deteriorating economic conditions in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine in particular, especially if undeterred by local or Western efforts, they may have a destabilizing effect upon pro-Western governments otherwise seeking shelter under the alliance umbrella of NATO and the EU protection.