Russia in the Mediterranean: Strategies and Aspirations

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Expert workshop on geopolitical shifts and Russia's strategic role and aspirations in the Mediterranean

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Russia in the Mediterranean

Participants of the workshop

The regional balance in the Mediterranean has been changing over the last years, with uncertainty regarding US involvement, the role of regional actors and increasingly also Russia’s presence in the region.

In order to contribute to the debate over Russian aspirations in the Mediterranean region and the geopolitical implications of its engagement, the KAS Regional Program South Mediterranean invited experts to a closed-door workshop in Tunis from 25-26 September under the title of “Russia in the Mediterranean: Strategies and Aspirations”.

The speakers highlighted the changing security environment in the European Neighborhood, with conflict lines such as the relationship between Islamists and non-Islamists shaping the region, as well as the deepening security concerns and emerging security architectures in the Sahel. Presentations discussed continuities and evolutions between the historical and recent Russian strategic discourse and actions in the Mediterranean and how these decisively influence the scope for action of other countries and the stability of the region. As evident manifestation of deepened Russian presence in the region, the involvement of Russia in the conflicts in Syria and Libya was discussed, with speakers highlighting the current US vacuum as having provided a welcome opportunity for this involvement. The central role these conflicts play for Russia’s aspirations in the region was emphasized. Furthermore, the discussions covered the role of other actors and alliances in the current geopolitical context of diminishing US engagement and increasing Russian presence. Speakers pointed among others to the Iran-Russia alliance and discussed whether the alliance can be seen as sustainable partnership or rather short-lived strategic cooperation. Additionally, the tendency towards volatile and issue-based coalitions in the Mediterranean was stressed as important factor in shaping its geopolitical context.

While underlying strategic motivations and aspirations might not be completely understood yet, discussions clearly showed that the deepened Russian engagement has already decisively influenced the balance of power in the Mediterranean region and has established itself as one of the central actors for the future of the region. From all we can see now, Russian presence in the Mediterranean is here to stay.

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Tunisia, October 10, 2017