The return of Crimea has given Russia a strategic foothold in the Mediterranean. But the ultimate prize is an Atlantic port
Crimea's reunification with Russia was not just a serious blow to NATO's attempt at encirclement; now that its Mediterranean fleet has a permanent home (i.e., not just "leasing"), Russia can project its own political and military influence in the region.
Moscow has already beefed up its naval base in Tartus, Syria, and has even made political inroads with Trukey, despite NATO's best efforts to sabotage relations between the two nations. And let's not forget that Cyprus now allows Russian naval vessels to use its ports.
As a result, Russia is now an uncontested power in the Mediterranean.
Russia is now poised to break out of the Mediterranean. Moscow's ultimate goal is direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, most likely with a port in Morocco. It's not as crazy as it sounds:
Russian President Vladimir Putin had several stages in his strategy. It all started with Russia's reunification with the Crimea. Having returned the Crimea, Vladimir Putin laid the foundation for Russia's "new Mediterranean policy." The Europeans have not understood the magnitude and importance of the move due to their historical illiteracy and ideological analytical errors, the author of the article said. The return of the Crimea to Russia and the transformation of Sevastopol into a fortress was only a preparation for Putin's "Mediterranean Action Plan," Liberté Politique wrote. Afterwards, Russia proceeded to strengthen its military bases in Tartus and Latakia and restore relations with Turkey. Afterwards, Russian strategists developed an "Algerian option" with a base at Mers-el-Kebir, the article says. The last stage was Morocco: "Supporting Morocco in the question of Western Sahara, Putin readies to reach the Atlantic Ocean," the article concludes.
Russia is already cooperating with Egypt in Syria, and has made it clear that it wants to participate, in some capacity, in stabilizing Libya. If Russia has set its sights on Morocco as a key political and military partner, the wheels are already in motion.
And although it has historic ties to the United States, Morocco is looking increasingly to the East:
Morocco, however, seems to have found new heavyweight partners such as China, which has been competing with the United States to be Morocco’s third-largest external supplier. In May 2016, Morocco’s king visited Beijing to meet with President Xi Jinping and sign a strategic partnership to develop bilateral ties.
“Morocco has already begun courting China, with talks of a Chinese-built industrial city in Morocco and greater trade connections between the countries. Morocco's foreign policy is being guided by the vision that all options must remain open, and if that means courting China, it will do so,” Errazzouki said.
Spain remains Morocco’s largest trade partner, followed by France. Both European countries have supported Morocco’s controversial claim on the Western Sahara in the UN Security Council for more than 40 years.
Morocco has also sought closer relations with Russia. Moroccan King Mohammed VI paid a state visit to Moscow in March 2016 to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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