Is Putin Turning the Mediterranean Into a Russian Lake?

Michael Peck

Key point: The Mediterranean has long been a strategic area for military and commercial maritime traffic. Although NATO has a presence there, so too does Russia- and Moscow is ramping it up.

Is the Mediterranean the new playground for the Russian Navy?

Russia is expanding its naval presence in the Eastern Mediterranean because it’s easier than trying to, compete with the United States on the world’s oceans, according to Dmitry Gorenburg, an expert on the Russian military, in an analysis for the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies.

“Maintaining naval presence in the Mediterranean is a far more effective strategy for the Russian Navy than pursuing a globally active blue-water navy because Russia has neither the resources nor the global ambitions to challenge U.S. naval supremacy around the world,” writes Gorenburg. “Moscow’s focus on developing and augmenting the Mediterranean squadron is thus a far more achievable limited objective that is well-aligned with Russia’s foreign policy objectives in the region.”

During the Cold War, Soviet warships were a familiar sight in the Mediterranean. The Fifth Eskadra, the Soviet Mediterranean squadron established in 1967, would tail U.S. aircraft carriers, ready to strike them with missiles, torpedoes and even nuclear weapons in the event of war. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the squadron was disbanded in 1992.

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