ABSTRACT

During the 1970s, the Mediterranean was a major subject of discussion mainly because of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Soviet penetration into the Middle East, and the political uncertainty on NATO’s southern flank. Today, the area seems more inconspicuous. Attention has turned toward the northern flank, with the debate aroused by the Maritime Strategy and the deployment of aircraft carriers into the Norwegian Sea, or towards the Pacific. But the increasing importance of these “new” sectors does not lead, as in a zero-sum game, to the decline of traditional theaters of operation. The Soviet presence in the Mediterranean, through its eskadra, has become so routine that it no longer attracts much attention. Nonetheless, this presence reflects the continuity of a policy that long pre-dates the Soviets: The first Russian squadron appeared in the Mediterranean in 1769 and won renown for its victory against the Turks at Tchesme the following year. Since the Treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji in 1774, Russia constantly attempted to break the barrier of the Turkish straits and would have probably succeeded in the absence of British intervention, which has always been aimed at keeping Russia enclosed in the Black Sea, even at the price of a full-fledged war. Russian activity in the Mediterranean dates back more than two centuries. And while there have been interruptions in this activity, they have never been long-lasting ones. The unique feature of the current effort is that it has obtained greater results than any previous ones since the first of the nineteenth century.