As NATO and the United States deprioritize a former strategic center of gravity, Russia eagerly moves in to fill the void.
Amidst the flurry of diplomatic and political activity accompanying the Syrian crisis, the Russian Navy made a series of pronouncements, declaring on consecutive days that at least four warships, a spy ship, and a repair ship located at Tartus, Syria, would join other units of Russia’s new permanent Mediterranean Task Force. While these sorties were of little strategic significance, alert naval strategists may have noticed their “back-to-the-future” quality. As the U.S. military “rebalances” to the Asia-Pacific theater, the Russian Navy is pivoting back into the same European waters it became very familiar with during the Cold War. Russia apparently is deploying, and intends to continue to deploy, its navy into the vacuum created by the United States’ absence in the Mediterranean Sea. America should respond by adding various ships—an afloat forward-staging base (AFSB) and several littoral combat ships (LCS)—to the guided-missile destroyers (DDGs) we plan to home-port in the European theater in 2014 and 2015.