Russia as the ‘Pre-eminent Naval Power’ in the Mediterranean

By Andrew Rettman

Russia is the dominant power in the Mediterranean Sea. Turkey is a rising one, and the West’s “golden days” in the region are long gone, according to Italy’s former military chief. 

“Russia is the pre-eminent naval power in the Mediterranean … [and] it has earned this role in the field,” admiral (retired) Luigi Binelli Mantelli, who was head of Italy’s armed forces from 2013 to 2015, told EUobserver in an interview. 

Russian conventional firepower included two modern frigates, two submarines, and a destroyer, most of them with land-attack missile systems, permanently stationed in the western Mediterranean, he said. 

It was seeking a naval base in Libya and had an “advanced” one in Syria, he added. 

It can link its Mediterranean fleet with Black and Caspian Seas units, he noted. 

And it can back its fleet with air power from Russia or “forward-deployed aircraft in other countries, such as Syria,” Binelli Mantelli said.

The Kremlin also had the political edge, he said.

“In recent years, Russia has displayed a level of assertiveness that recalls the US during the golden days,” Binelli Mantelli said, referring to the end of the Cold War, some 30 years ago.

“[Russian president Vladimir] Putin’s decisiveness is evident, in terms of both freedom of action at the political and military level, and his ability to create relationships … with countries in the area,” Binelli Mantelli, who was speaking in a purely personal capacity, said. 

One of these countries was Turkey, with which Russia is carving up the South Caucasus. 

Turkey was also a rising Mediterranean force, the Italian admiral noted. 

For the rest of the interview, see the following: