War in Europe
Roundtable on Russia´s strategy in the Med
A day before the historic NATO summit in Madrid, FNF Madrid hosted a round-table debate on Russia´s strategy in the Mediterranean with well-respected experts from the military, think tanks, government institutions and civil society.
The participants agreed early on that to talk about a “Southern” and an “Eastern flank” of NATO wouldn’t do justice to the challenges at hand. Russia wouldn’t perceive its strategy in this kind of way, hence NATO shouldn’t either. The participants laid out how Russia achieved more influence over the Levante and Northern and sub-Sahel Africa in the last decade. Other than the growing Chinese influence in the region the Kremlin would seek to upset and disturb the existing order, with the goal to exploit weaknesses in the region. Given the unstable general situation in many African countries, partly due to the vacuum that former colonial powers such as France in Mali left, security threats, relevant for both, the countries themselves and Europe, such as state failure are always looming. The environmental threat due to climate change and, connected to that, the challenges of migration, are at the root of other failures that could occur in the region.
It was pointed out that many African countries are not eager to accept Western involvement, be it by NATO or the European Union. Their experiences in the past led to vital scepticism and an openness to accept Russia and China rather than Western influence over their countries. Any engagement of the West in Northern Africa and beyond therefore would have to come from a perspective of partnership, on equal eye hight, to not alienate the potential partners in Africa again. From NATO’s perspective Africa might be a periphery, for the African countries however, their location forms the centre of their world.
It was laid out that NATO and the European Union both play in Northern Arica. There should be, as it was pointed out, a separation of labour, between the two. At the same time, NATO itself has been in the last decades in a sort of seoul search after the collapse of the Sowjet Union, taking on new tasks that were not originally connected to the threat that the USSR posed. In this sense one might also interpret the Southern NATO members efforts to include what they perceive as new threats to the next strategic outlook he alliance is defining in Madrid. There was no disagreement that NATO should name refugees and environmental threats challenges that the alliance has to tackle in the years to come. Especially because its opponent in the Kremlin does not shy away to instrumentalist famine and refugees for his dark goals.