Ominous Russian Army Strikes Spark Fears Over NATO’s Southern Flank

Russia is diverting extra sources to its latest Mediterranean hub as Moscow seeks to develop its affect and outcompete Western rivals in conflict-ravaged components of North and West Africa, experiences say.

The unbiased Russian web site Verstka, the All Eyes on Wagner undertaking and the U.S.-funded media outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have reported that at the least 1,800 Russian troopers and mercenaries have been deployed to Libya in current weeks, seemingly increasing a undertaking years within the making.

The burgeoning Russian outpost may show a menace to “Europe’s comfortable underbelly,” which is already proving weak to persistent migration flows. Moscow’s affect is perhaps sharpened if it could possibly safe the use everlasting naval amenities alongside the Libyan shoreline. The Kremlin is reportedly eyeing the port of Tobruk, which is already serving as an necessary hub for its energy projection throughout Africa.

“The Mediterranean is essentially the most essential frontier within the protection of ‘Atlanticism,'” Alp Sevimlisoy—a millennium fellow on the Atlantic Council and regional geopolitical analyst—informed Newsweek, referring to the ideology that sits on the coronary heart of NATO’s North American-European collaboration.

A French service member sitting in a French navy plane on the Souda NATO navy air base in Crete, Greece, on April 20, 2022. NATO is more and more cautious of Russian affect within the Mediterranean area.
A French service member sitting in a French navy plane on the Souda NATO navy air base in Crete, Greece, on April 20, 2022. NATO is more and more cautious of Russian affect within the Mediterranean area.
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP through Getty Photos

“Russia, no matter its intent to arrange this port or whether or not it is truly going to have the operational functionality to take action, is placing increasingly more sources into Libya,” he continued.

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Overseas Ministry for remark by e-mail.

Russia’s Africa Hub

Moscow has been constructing affect in Libya because the NATO-facilitated overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, after which the nation cut up into a number of warring factions. The North African nation of about 7 million individuals is now largely cut up between the Authorities of Nationwide Stability led by Osama Hamada within the east and the United Nations–backed Authorities of Nationwide Unity led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh within the west.

The previous is supported by the Libyan Nationwide Military—headed by Khalifa Haftar, who successfully holds sway over all of japanese Libya. Current years have seen Haftar draw nearer to the Kremlin, with the 80-year-old visiting Moscow for the primary time in 2023 to satisfy with President Vladimir Putin.

The Wagner Group—now within the means of being introduced solely beneath Kremlin management following former chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s abortive coup—has been energetic in Libya in assist of Haftar’s forces since 2019. Beneath a brand new chief, Russian intelligence veteran Andrey Averyanov, Wagner—now renamed the Africa Corps—has been rising its exercise in Libya.

“That uptick within the official engagements with Haftar has been very notable,” mentioned Tim Eaton, a senior analysis fellow within the Center East and North Africa program on the British assume tank Chatham Home.

He informed Newsweek, “And I believe what individuals who observe the problems round Wagner—and now Africa Corps—appear to be hypothesizing is that what was a extra mercenary-based cost association for Russian assist is changing into extra institutionalized and extra formalized engagement between the japanese Libyan forces beneath Haftar and the Russian authorities.”

Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s japanese navy chief, waving after a speech within the japanese metropolis of Benghazi on December 24, 2022. Haftar’s forces have been constructing shut ties with Moscow lately.
Khalifa Haftar, Libya’s japanese navy chief, waving after a speech within the japanese metropolis of Benghazi on December 24, 2022. Haftar’s forces have been constructing shut ties with Moscow lately.
ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP through Getty Photos

Libya provides Moscow each a foothold within the Mediterranean and a means into what is typically referred to as the “Coup Belt” of unstable Sahel nations, the place current political turmoil has seen governments flip to Russia in a bid to eject French and American affect.

“It is what Libya offers them when it comes to potential entry to different areas of Africa, and significantly within the Sahel,” Eaton mentioned. “Libya appears to supply a land bridge for these pursuits.”

The Mediterranean Entrance

Russia’s warfare on Ukraine has coloured Moscow’s contest with the U.S. worldwide. Within the Mediterranean and North Africa, Libya seems to signify a weak spot for the Western allies.

“It is clear that the Individuals worry the institution of a Russian base on the Mediterranean,” Eaton mentioned. “In fact, there’s already important Russian presence in Syria. Certainly, the latest inflow of arms has come through Syria.”

Sevimlisoy instructed that NATO ought to shortly meet the evolving problem with decisive motion. “We have to urgently transfer towards making a MEDCOM, which might be a stand-alone NATO navy command that will govern the Mediterranean for all intents and functions,” he mentioned.

He added, “Now we have to begin placing boots on the bottom, and we’ve got to make it a NATO effort.” Sevimlisoy additionally proposed an growth of nuclear weapon sharing within the Mediterranean area past Italy and Turkey, who host such arms, and farther afield.

“If you wish to counter Russia within the Mediterranean, you achieve this by countering them within the Mediterranean but additionally countering them within the Baltics so that they are already stored busy on that entrance,” Sevimlisoy mentioned.

A nuclear growth, he continued, may embody the deployment of U.S. Ohio-class submarines to the Mediterranean—because the U.S. did briefly after Hamas’ October 7 assault in opposition to Israel—and even a rollout of hypersonic expertise, as soon as accessible.

“Ultimately, we’ll have the ability to place tactical nuclear energy onto hypersonic missiles, and at that time, we can have revived a degree of nuclear deterrence unseen because the onset of the Chilly Struggle,” Sevimlisoy mentioned.

NATO, he added, must also contemplate new “keep behind” organizations throughout Europe akin to these put in place throughout the Chilly Struggle in case of a Soviet advance.

Sevimlisoy framed a extra muscular NATO presence within the Mediterranean as crucial to discourage not solely Moscow but additionally Beijing.

“A few years in the past, we had Chinese language warships passing via the Mediterranean,” he mentioned. “In the present day, they’re passing via. Tomorrow, these are direct battle traces.”

The Italian frigate Carabiniere underway throughout a submarine searching coaching train at an undisclosed location within the Mediterranean Sea on February 24, 2022. Expanded Russian affect within the southern Mediterranean might necessitate a NATO response.
The Italian frigate Carabiniere underway throughout a submarine searching coaching train at an undisclosed location within the Mediterranean Sea on February 24, 2022. Expanded Russian affect within the southern Mediterranean might necessitate a NATO response.
Fabrizio Villa/Getty Photos

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Newsweek is dedicated to difficult typical knowledge and discovering connections within the seek for widespread floor.

Newsweek is dedicated to difficult typical knowledge and discovering connections within the seek for widespread floor.

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