On October 8, 2021, it emerged that the Russian Federation's (RF) Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) would establish a new department to help oversee the Rossotrudnichestvo, otherwise known as the Federal Agency for the Commonwealth of Independent States Affairs, Compatriots Living Abroad, and International Humanitarian Cooperation. The 43rd Department, as it is now known, will guide the soft power policies of the agency and refine influence operations at the behest of policymakers in Moscow.
The Rossotrudnichestvo, which was established in 2008, supervises and funds the Russian Federation's overseas diplomacy projects and maintains contact with loyal citizens in former Soviet states. Furthermore, all international aid, which was previously managed by the Finance Ministry, is now routed through the agency. According to the Atlantic Council, the organization operates nearly 60 Centers of Science and Culture and 25 General Offices in Russian embassies and consulates worldwide, all while employing less than 600 people.
Under its current leadership, the Rossotrudnichestvo has preformed with a varying degree of success. On the homefront, it has developed strong partnerships with the Russian National Guard, Army, Air Force, and Navy. The results of these partnerships are evident in academic institutions in eastern Europe and during the Olympic Games.
Overseas, the Rossotrudnichestvo has gone to great lengths to develop better relationships with citizens in foreign countries, while simultaneously connecting Russians with one another. The Rossotrudnichestvo also recognizes education as a strong soft power instrument, and recently began offering free training to reporters and journalists in developing states, with classes being instructed by older Russian journalists and producers.
The 43rd Department
According to Russia's MFA, the 43rd Department is not intended to encroach on the authority of the Agency. Instead, the department is meant to devise policy and strategy in order to enhance its soft power capabilities. Previously, the Rossotrudnichestvo maintained control of all strategic planning and analysis responsibilities.
Although the MFA has gone to great lengths to make clear the 43rd and Rossotrudnichestvo will work together, it is hard to imagine that the Department will not overlap or diminish the Agency in some areas. The Intelligence Ledger has noticed what Evgeni Primakov Jr, the head of the Rossotrudnichestvo, has probably observed: that the 43rd Department's founding charter directs that it, "propose unified cultural and humanitarian cooperation policy, promote the Russian language, and academic and sporting cooperation as well as developing government programs." These main areas of concern seem to overlap directly with the founding charter of the Rossotrudnichestvo. Thus, it is difficult to see a future in which bureaucratic in-fighting does not diminish the overall soft power capabilities of the Russian Federation.