Russian ships in the Med are rising in number and adopting an increasingly aggressive posture “that was not usual in the Mediterranean.” Speaking at the Defence Commission of Parliament’s Lower House, the Navy’s Chief of Staff Enrico Credendino warned of a “high risk of incident.”
- The knock-on effects of the war in Ukraine are reverberating on the sea, he said, noting “the impressive increase in the numbers of the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea – to a level not even seen in the days of the Cold War.”
- Although the high number of ships does not represent a direct threat to Italy’s national territory, Admiral Credendino warned MPs that Russia’s bolstering of forces and assertiveness “increase the tension so much.”
There is an “unstable balance” due to the presence of four allied aircraft carrier groups in the Med – a never-seen-before scenario, composed of the Italian, French, American and Spanish ships – and a Russian naval group with three modern ships posturing in the Ionian Sea, near Italian waters, warned the Navy’s Chief of Staff.
- “The most modern ship is […] currently in South Africa and has embarked the hypersonic missiles: we don’t know whether they are effective or not, we will see, but the ship will enter the Mediterranean,” said Admiral Credendino, stressing that the situation “is complex and turbulent.”
The expert’s take. The presence of Russian ships is nothing new, and according to Admiral Ferdinando Sanfelice di Monteforte, a military expert and lecturer in strategic studies, “they will remain in the Mediterranean for quite a long time” with at least two different configurations. “those that seek to intimidate European countries in the Mediterranean, and those following the allied carrier groups in a function of counter-deterrence.”
- While it’s reminiscent of the Cold War days, this situation entails a new threat: “the risk of a limited use of force by the Russians, with attacks on gas pipelines or submarine telecommunications cables” that crisscross the Med.
- This novel tactic is a consequence of Russia being “in greater difficulty than in the Soviet Union era.”
- Meanwhile, this scenario does not facilitate relations between the Northern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean basin. The Southern countries, explained Admiral Sanfelice di Monteforte, are worried “by the noise of sabre rattling” heard over the waters.
Upping the (cyber-)game. Given the political will to increase defence spending to 2% of GDP, the Navy official urged MPs to bridge the Italian Navy’s capability gaps. He also said that the month-long, all-fleet exercise in April would feature “a major cybersecurity training” to test the crew’s response time and the ships’ overall cyber resilience.