BY: Danieal Ranjbar
PEJOURNAL – The Mediterranean Sea, one of the key strategic areas, has long played an important role in the greatest international developments, competitions and world wars. The proximity of the Mediterranean Sea to three continents and proximity to many countries has made this region one of the most important and strategic regions with a special geographical location for Russia.
The foreign policy of Yeltsin’s presidency was at odds with the aspirations of Russian nationalists who wanted to restore the world’s supreme power. The idea of Neo-Eurasianism and the reconstruction of the lost position in the areas of influence of the former Soviet Union led to the loss of convergent relations with the United States. The priority of regaining power in the geopolitics of the former Soviet Union led Russia to form regional and military alliances to achieve a balance of power and revive a multipolar system.
Neo-Eurasianism policies have accelerated the transition to a unipolar system at the beginning of the 21st century through a balance of military power and strategic partnerships. The tendency towards a favorable regional order was formed by the crisis in Russian-American relations in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea, which extended to the geopolitics of the eastern Mediterranean and the southern borders of NATO members.
The importance of achieving a balance of power for Russia in the new Cold War has pushed NATO’s southern foothills in the Mediterranean into a military confrontation between Russia and the United States. Russia’s comprehensive fight against terrorism is a trump card for military convergence and the formation of a new regional order against US hegemony and the expansion of geopolitical influence on the southern shores of the Mediterranean.
The Geopolitical Landscape of the Great Mediterranean
The Mediterranean place is taken as one that consists of the basins of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea as nicely as all different water communications of the geographical range.
The geopolitical panorama of the Great Mediterranean consists of: 1. Russia, 2. Turkey, 3. Georgia, 4. Ukraine, 5. Bulgaria, 6. Romania, 7. Moldova, 8. Greece, 9. the Republic of Cyprus, 10. the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, 11. Syria, 12. Lebanon, 13. Israel, 14. Egypt, 15. Libya, 16. Algeria, 17. Morocco, 18. Tunisia, 19. Spain, 20. Italy, 21. France, 22. Vatican City, 23. Croatia, 24. Albania, 25. Montenegro, 26. Bosnia and Herzegovina, 27. Slovenia, 28. South Ossetia, 29. Abkhazia, 30. the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic.
However, it is well worth taking into consideration the fact, that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized solely through Turkey, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have restrained global recognition, that is why the everyday wide variety of states of the Mediterranean vicinity is twenty-six.
In the terms of the frequent geography, the Mediterranean vicinity consists of Europe, North Africa, the Near and the Middle East. In the period of the Roman Empire the vicinity was once a unity, when in the modern-day world it was once Fernand Braudel, French historian, who counseled the thought of the unity of the Mediterranean world.
His concept suggested that the region should include not only the littoral states but also Germany, a wider part of Russia and some territories more or less connected via water routes with the Mediterranean and the Black Sea basin.
The operation mode of the Black Sea straits, the Suez Canal and the Gibraltar Strait are of principal importance for the improvement of the region. Within the scope of the 18th–20th centuries Great Britain and later the US have been the powers that had the key or giant influence upon these maritime routes; but time changed everything, different events and interests in this region, bringing back Russia as one of the key players in Mediterranean district to the game of influence.
Russia’s Geopolitical interests in the Mediterranean District
After the Crimean event, Moscow receives a possibility to bring returned to life the means of recognition of its countrywide pursuits in the Mediterranean region that were misplaced in the result of the USSR’s dissolution. In this regard, the Syrian crisis is a unique opportunity for geopolitical expansionism and advancement to former military bases in the eastern and southeastern Mediterranean countries to achieve a balance of power in the new Cold War.
Russia’s aggressive approach to defending Syria’s only traditional ally in the eastern Mediterranean is an important step in shifting the balance of power in favor of long-term strategic interests in the Mediterranean. Russia’s green light to Turkey to launch an operation against Kurdish militants in northern Syria has created a deep rift between the US-led coalition in the eastern Mediterranean.
Russia’s military hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean was gradually pursued by a strategy of joint participation with a balance of power in the region. Russia’s leap into North Africa’s geopolitics facilitated a successful achievement in the fight against terrorism in Syria and, in the first instance, led to a military alliance with Egypt over security concerns.
Gradually, the Egyptian-Russian strategic-military partnership realized Russia’s main goal, which was to have a strong presence at the former Soviet bases on the southern shores of the Mediterranean, which are clear fronts of Russia’s long-term expansionist neo-Eurasian policies. The developments of the so-called Arab Spring in the coastal countries of North Africa accelerated Russia’s entry into the game of power with the aim of restoring the lost position.
Egypt’s unique geopolitics in the southeastern Mediterranean connects the Middle East to the African continent and is at the forefront of organizing military movements and infiltrating the periphery of the southern Mediterranean.
The 2013 coup in Egypt, led by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, marked a turning point in foreign policy and military convergence with Russia to counter US unilateral ambitions. The policy, driven by a reduction in US financial and arms support to Egypt, paved the way for Russia’s geopolitical expansion in North Africa.
NATO invaded Libya in 2011 and ousted Muammar Gaddafi; Russia’s establishing the Benghazi naval base was delayed for some time. Unlike Egypt, Libya’s geopolitics, due to its proximity to NATO allies’ southern borders, serve as a strategic bulwark and support for Russia’s continued long-term presence in the eastern Mediterranean and at the forefront of countering NATO threats from the western Mediterranean.
Russia’s main goal is to fill the geopolitical vacuum in the post-Gaddafi period. Russia’s key strategy in Libya is to establish stability with a military-backed government.
At the moment the foremost Russia’s agenda in the Black Sea place is to prevent the enlargement of the non-regional electricity (the USA) or enlargement of the hostile navy and political bloc. Up to the moment the task is realized through the division of spheres of influence with the Republic of Turkey.
Due to the restricted resource, Russia’s up to date agenda in the Mediterranean vicinity is a great deal extra intricate and is primarily based upon the necessity to keep the have an effect on inherited from the USSR and to structure a truthful stability of power.
The today’s Russian financial model units a mission to manage Eurasian hydrocarbon manufacturing and transfer by Russian switch systems. So, the Great Mediterranean may also include the Caspian location as well, therefore forming the arc of the Mediterranean–Black Sea–Caspian region.
Russian Policy in Case of Libya
Libya is an important country in terms of geopolitical position in North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean and Southern Europe. On the other hand, Libya is a very rich country in terms of energy resources. For these reasons, regional and global powers want to be effective in continuing the power struggle in this country and have a say in shaping Libya’s future.
Russia is one of the most important of these countries. Until the revolution and the beginning of foreign intervention, especially the NATO invasion of Libya, which began with the waves of the Arab Spring in the country, Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and Russia was out of influence in Libya. While Russia has long watched the internal conflict in Libya, it finally reactivated in 2017, taking advantage of the power vacuum in the country.
As Moscow approached the rebel general Haftar, he moved to Libya, especially in the east, transferring its mercenary forces like Wagner, preferring to engage with countries such as the United Arab Emirates.
Russia’s arms support for the Eastern Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar, a senior officer of Muammar Gaddafi and trained by the Soviet Red Army, has intensified Russia’s neo-regionalist policies toward trans-regional rivals. General Khalifa Haftar will be the best guarantor of Russia’s geopolitical and strategic interests in North Africa.
In the strategic field, the depth of bilateral cooperation was revealed by concluding an agreement to build two military bases on the shores of Benghazi and Tobruk. This will enhance Russia’s logistical capabilities for military maneuvers in the Mediterranean, and will pose a major challenge to the appreciation of NATO members in the eastern and southern Mediterranean.
As Russia’s relations with Haftar deepened and the National Army advanced on the field in March 2019, about 300 Russian troops from the Wagner Group joined forces with Caliph Haftar in Benghazi to secure the ports of Tobruk and Derna for the Russian fleet. Russia’s deployment of the Haftar military base in eastern Libya in April 2019 and its reconnaissance mission on the air borders of Egypt, Jordan and the Israel indicate the expansion of Russian military hegemony across the eastern Mediterranean and intelligence support for military bases in the southern Mediterranean.
Today, Russia’s official policy in Libya is to bring the National Unity Government and the Libyan National Army to the negotiating table. Moscow, which seeks to portray itself as an “Impartial Arbiter”, intends to seek a political solution to the crisis. In addition, Moscow’s involvement in the Libyan civil war focuses on the country’s desire to achieve various political achievements that could further consolidate Moscow’s influence in the country.
Moscow, on the other hand, plans to expand its presence on the African continent, especially in the eastern Mediterranean region. Thus, energy-rich Libya, which has the longest Mediterranean coast in the region, is on Russia’s foreign policy agenda. Resolving the Libyan internal conflict, despite its economic importance, is not one of Moscow’s biggest problems. Nevertheless, Russia intends to show its influence on other actors in the region by participating in the Libyan crisis.
The idea of Neo-Eurasianism, in fact, sees its primary goal as restoring the greatness of Russia’s military and economic past, and on the other hand seeks to overcome the new and unilateral American order at the level of the international system. These policies manifested themselves in the form of regionalism after Putin took office.
The Crimean and Georgian events have in fact shown that Russian identity seeks to revitalize and re-establish itself in the world order. In order to achieve the goal of regaining world power and influencing the new international order, Russia challenged US hegemony and hegemony by presenting the idea of Neo-Eurasianism, and by creating various political and security zones, confronted US unilateralism with a major crisis.
Russia’s achievement of a balance of military power with the use of conventional and unconventional weapons and deterrent defense strategies marks the center of strength of NATO forces in the region. Which became the impetus for Russia’s strategic partnership with US allies.
Russia’s successful achievements in the fight against terrorism in Syria are the cornerstone of expanding cooperation with countries victims of terrorism in North Africa and regaining access to former military bases to play a key role in the unipolar system.
Russia’s entry into the game of power in North Africa is of great importance for the protection of its position in the eastern Mediterranean in order to dominate the southern waters of the Mediterranean. In other words, Russia’s foreign policy in the region should be flexible enough to avoid the scenario of the Treaty of Paris of 1856 when Russia was deprived of any military or political influence in the region by the Western alliance and Turkey.
Russia’s foreign policy strategy in the Great Mediterranean will be successful if some conditions are met: the country’s foreign policy is provided with resources, the modernization is real but not simulated, the economy is fully independent, and a competent future-oriented state ideology is present.