The Bear Learns to Swim: Russia's Re-emergence in the Mediterranean

Kappis, Vassilis (2017) The Bear Learns to Swim: Russia's Re-emergence in the Mediterranean. Eastern Mediterranean Geopolitical Review.

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Abstract

The article explores the recent surge of Russian military presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and evaluates the implications of Moscow’s decision to challenge the regional status quo. In November 2015, the downing of a Russian fighter jet over Syrian airspace turned analysts’ attention to the increasing involvement of Russia in the Syrian battlefield. Moscow’s entanglement in the Syrian civil war was only the latest episode in its historically persistent effort to establish a permanent presence in Mediterranean waters. Developments in recent years, however, point to a more ambitious approach. This article argues that Moscow’s unfolding strategy entails the gradual assertion of Russian air superiority over critical parts of the Eastern Mediterranean, a Russian aspiration that has been elusive even during the peak of the Cold War rivalry. Moscow’s grand strategy, in this regard, signals a renewed effort to disrupt NATO's south-eastern flank. Under this prism, the deployment of long-range S-400 and S-300 Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs), S-300 equipped ships and advanced fighter jets across regional flashpoints may prove to be a game changing initiative. The implications of Russia’s contemporary strategy could be important for the future of the Eastern Mediterranean, as Moscow’s approach appears to be upsetting the regional balance of power. Israel’s unchallenged dominance of the skies over Syria and Lebanon is compromised for the first time since 1970, when Russian air-defence forces were deployed to Egypt. The Turkish armed forces, moreover, will struggle to compensate for the Russian game plan, which complicates Ankara’s ability to project power over Syria, Iraq and the Aegean Sea. These dispersed airpower “webs” could, finally, restrict NATO’s capacity to deploy assets in the region and nullify the credibility of the alliance’s anti-ballistic shield. Overall, contemporary developments may enable Russia to challenge American control of a geopolitically vital area that has been in essence uncontested since the end of World War II.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Russia; Mediterranean; defence; security; NATO
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: School of Humanities > Economics and International Studies
Depositing User: Julian Richards
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2017 14:10
Last Modified: 15 Feb 2018 10:21
URI: http://bear.buckingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/179

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