Mare Nostrum Strategy: Russian Military Activity in the Black Sea

Mare Nostrum Strategy: Russian Military Activity in the Black Sea

Written on 03/21/2019

Owing to its geographic location, Russia’s prerequisite to acquire and maintain the status of a superpower has long been to seize and retain control over two maritime “windows to the world.” This strategy was first mapped out by Peter the Great and led to multiple wars in the Baltic and Black Seas.

  • Russia has in the past focused on intensifying its activities in the south, as exemplified by the conflict with Ukraine and Moscow’s armed intervention in the Syrian civil war. Symbolically, this is illustrated by making the Black Sea city of Sochi Russia’s “summer capital” and a place where Vladimir Putin hosts world leaders and Kremlin officials.
  • The Black Sea is to become a platform from where Russia is able to exert influence on neighboring regions, including the Middle East, the Balkans and the Mediterranean countries. The Kremlin’s accomplishments in the Black Sea region and friendly ties with the Turkish authorities successfully obstructed shipping Caspian hydrocarbon supplies to Europe.
  • Thanks to the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and increased combat capabilities in the immediate vicinity of the peninsula, Russia finally managed to regain dominance across the Black Sea it had lost in 1991. For Russia, it is vital to exert full control over Crimea as it will permit the Kremlin to hold Kiev in check while extending field reconnaissance activities and firing capabilities to the vast area of the Black Sea.
  • Following Moscow’s capture of Crimea, Russia felt free to use the Black Sea Fleet as a tool for extending the Kremlin’s sphere of influence across the region. Once developed, the Fleet will need to safeguard the Black Sea, preventing all enemy forces from launching an attack on Russian territory, including the Crimean Peninsula. Furthermore, the Fleet serves an essential function in carrying out offensive operations whereas its permanent operational formation performs in the eastern Mediterranean all necessary activities to expand Russia’s combat readiness in the Middle East.
  • Also, Russia’s expansion in the Black Sea is nurtured by vulnerable NATO’s flank located nearby. Bulgaria’s unclear policy hinders strengthening of the Alliance’s defensive capabilities, a phenomenon which is particularly noticeable at most crucial moments. Formally a NATO member state, Turkey is committed to carrying out a policy that remains in line with its own interests. Romania is now the Alliance’s most reliable member in the Black Sea region, posing the last major hindrance to the Kremlin’s further expansion. Nonetheless, the country’s opportunities are quite faint if to take into account limited access to the sea, the powerful Black Sea Fleet nearby and the closeness of the Crimean Peninsula occupied by Russian servicemen.

Photo source: MIL.RU

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