Crimean War Redux?
The Turkish state fights the Russian Federation in the Mediterranean through proxies, with Egypt, France, and Italy involved, as well as the Gulf States. We think we’ve seen this story before in a similar version. History sure does rhyme.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan fancies himself as the new Sultan, and is flexing his military muscles throughout the Med and the Balkans, reminiscent of the old Ottoman Empire.
Russian President Putin is also following an expansionist path, as he seeks to reclaim Russian influence and power in his ‘near abroad’. Many analysts have named Putin the new ‘Tsar’.
North Africa is currently the battleground, as regional powers seek to fill the vacuum created by the Obama administration’s incompetent ‘Arab Spring’ and the killing of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The failed state of Libya is currently enduring a civil war, with General Khalifa Haftar’s forces opposing the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli. Russia has joined Haftar’s side as it seeks more access to the warm water ports of the Mediterranean. France, Egypt, and the UAE are supporting Haftar as well.
The GNA was losing ground rapidly until military force arrived via Turkey and its proxy Syrian fighters, which pushed Haftar’s forces back. Russian Wagner Group mercenaries were forced to withdraw from the Libyan capital. Qatar and Italy have joined Ankara in their support for the GNA. The battle now rages at the coastal city of Sirte, locate between Tripoli and Benghazi.
Russia is doubling down on its efforts, reinforcing Haftar forces in the region.
U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) latest accusation against Russia on July 24 comes as Libya’s rival camps face off in a potentially bloody battle over the strategic central coastal city of Sirte. The Pentagon released photos it said showed Russia continues to provide supplies and equipment to the Vagner group, a Russian private military company. It said Russian military cargo aircraft are supplying Vagner fighters and their proxies with air-defense equipment, trucks, armored vehicles, and fighter jets, reported RFERL.
“The type and volume of equipment demonstrates an intent toward sustained offensive combat action capabilities, not humanitarian relief, and indicates the Russian Ministry of Defense is supporting these operations,” General Gregory Hadfield, AFRICOM deputy director of intelligence, said in a statement.
In a stunning development last week, Egypt’s parliament approved direct troop intervention into the war if Turkey uses aircraft to bomb opposing forces in Sirte and advance on the city.
The conflict has been agitated by the threat of Turkish drilling in Greek waters off the Balkans, a possibility condemned by the European Union and the United States.
Amid the ratcheting pressure on Ankara over alleged incursions into Greece and Cyprus’ economic zones coming from the European Union and United States, it appears Turkey has backed down for now, reported Zero Hedge.
Days ago France’s Emmanuel Macron even invoked the threat of EU sanctions, citing that it’s “not acceptable for the maritime space of a European Union member state to be violated or threatened.” Turkey has frequently been source of rifts among fellow NATO member states.
On Tuesday TRT World reports that “Turkey has said it could pause energy-exploration operations in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea for a while pending talks with Greece.”
This conflict is one to watch, as newly strengthened powers, with leaders who have something to prove, vie for influence and access to naval facilities.
The geopolitical ‘Great Game’ is not dead, much to the dismay of John Kerry who accused Russia of ‘nineteenth century behavior’ after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.