FROM THE TRADITIONAL OPENING OF THE MEDITERRANEAN
TO ITS STRATEGIC EXPLOITATION IN THE WEST
A PLAY IN TWO ACTS BY VLADIMIR PUTIN
The Russian counter-offensive in the Mediterranean has gone so fast that the European chancelleries have been confused by their inability to anticipate the revival of a living power. The strategy of Vladimir Putin is nevertheless clear from a historical point of view: it is articulated into two acts.
The first corresponds to the traditional policy of Russia since the end of the eighteenth century. The aim is to contain the Ottoman Empire while agreeing with it. Thus, the reintegration of Crimea into Russia in February 2014 restores the strategic assets obtained at the peace of Jassy, signed on January 9, 1792.
The conservation of the Syrian regime, carried out in October 2015, can also be put into historical perspective: in 1774, by the Treaty of Kütchük-Kaynardja, Russia obtained from the Ottoman Empire the protection of the numerous Orthodox Christians of the Levant. On this occasion, Russia also obtained the opening of the straits for her navy.
The rapprochement between Turkey and Russia during the summer of 2016 thus allows the latter to regain the strategic position it had during the reign of Catherine II.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Russia played Egypt against Napoleonic France and then against the Ottoman Empire. At present, the Egyptian-Russian rapprochement is taking place to the detriment of Saudi Arabia. Thus, the triple point of support recently obtained by Vladimir Putin in Turkey, Syria and Egypt is consistent with the long term diplomacy of Russia in this area.
But the Russian president will not stop there: the act two of the play is currently being played on newer shores for Russia: in Libya where Putin has made contact with General Haftar and in Morocco, preferred to Algeria insofar as the old kingdom can lend its Atlantic coast to Russia.
Russia’s maritime advances in the Mediterranean would not be of great consequence if Russia were not allied with Iran. From a geopolitical point of view, Iran was powerful under the Achaemenid Empire, when it mastered the eastern Mediterranean thanks to peoples of navigators like the Omani, the Phoenicians or the Greeks. Confined from the sea by the British navy in the 19th century, Iran will see its power increase if it can rely on an open sea navy, like that of Russia, in its former zone of influence.
Some argue that the Russian advances are inversely proportional to the emptiness of Western diplomacy in the Mediterranean. Undoubtedly, however, on the day the Europeans emerge from the artificial coma in which permanent connection and the rejection of reading has plunged them, Russia will probably have solid points of support on its ultramarine borders.
Bernard Lugan and Thomas Flichy of La Neuville
Saint-Cyr’s military academy – France