chapter  7
32 Pages

Soviet and Russian Strategy in the Mediterranean since 1945

Russia is a huge and resource-rich country, stretching over two continents and 11 time zones. Until 1991 the former USSR controlled about 20,000 miles of coastline. However, that geography dictated that the former Imperial Navy, the Soviet Navy and the Russian Navy today must be divided among four separate maritime theaters. Because of unfavorable geography and the distances involved, none of these fleets can expect the help of another in a war. This was one of the principal reasons why Russia was in the past and still remains essentially a land power. However, one of the constants of Russia’s rulers from the tsars to the commissars and beyond was to obtain secure and unhindered access to the warm waters of the ocean or to a large sea connected with an ocean. Therefore it is not surprising that the Mediterranean played a prominent place in Russia’s policy and strategy in the modern era. The Soviets used diverse political, economic, military and propagandist means to accomplish their strategic objectives in the area. Since 1945 Moscow has alternated between highly active and not so active pursuit of these objectives. The Soviets were more successful when their policy and strategy were backed by a strong show of force. Nevertheless, the Soviets were never able to accomplish their stated strategic objectives in the Mediterranean, owing to their inability to compete with the West, both economically and militarily. Perhaps the single biggest obstacle for both the Soviets and the Russians was the homeland’s highly unfavorable geo-strategic position to project power into the Mediterranean.