The return of Russia as the main player of the Mediterranean is one of the most significant trends in the region in the last few years. This opinion is held by Dario Cristiani, whose article, originally published on the website of the Italian think tank Istituto Affari Internazionali, later reprinted the official portal of the German Marshall Fund.
According to the author, Moscow’s direct military intervention in the Syrian civil war changed the course of the conflict, decisively preventing the collapse of the local regime. At a time when other powers have allowed a strategic vacuum, Russia has managed to take a central position in the new equilibrium, despite its limited resources.
After Syria, Russia began to strengthen its role in another civil war on Mediterranean shores: Libya, where it has been on the side of Khalifa Haftar’s army since 2016. In addition to the hired, Russia used another important tool: it took up the issue of local money to meet the needs of the Allies.
Russia’s successes are particularly surprising when compared to its position in the early 2000s, and these victories were a direct result of greater assertiveness in foreign policy. Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008 was an important turning point, followed by actions in Crimea, Donbas, Syria and Libya, and further wider – throughout the Mediterranean region.
The weak reaction of NATO and the EU encouraged Russia. Moscow has become more assertive, seeking to regain the status and influence lost in the 1990s, the expert believes.
Exit to the “warm seas” is of fundamental importance for Russia, as well as the ability to keep potential adversaries away from its near abroad.
Given the strategic importance of the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, what does this activity of Russia mean for the interests of Rome? Historically, Italy’s relations with Russia are warm enough, despite the fact that Rome has been part of the Transatlantic Order since its founding. Since the Cold War, Italy has tried to mediate between Russia and the West
The publication notes.
As Russia becomes more visible in Mediterranean affairs, Moscow’s ability to influence Rome’s behavior is also growing. Although this is unlikely to lead to a shift in Italy’s foreign policy, it may significantly limit the freedom of maneuver on a number of issues, the author believes.