“Seapower in the Eastern Mediterranean”
The Kiel International Seapower Symposium 2017 discussed maritime security challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean. It aimed to shed light on current political and military developments in the region as well as their broader geopolitical implications. Consequently, the conference has discussed to what degree both regional and non-regional actors utilize seapower in order to secure their interests in this part of the world. Thereby a multitude of aspects need to be considered. These range from sea control, power projection capabilities, and the control of straits, to the security of SLOCs, maritime and economic infrastructure, anti-access/area denial networks, and littoral warfare – all of which have significant bearing on the future developments in the region and beyond.
Keynote and Setting the Scene
The opening Keynote was held by U.S. Ambassador (ret.) Robert Ford, Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C.
Panel 1: Cradle of Civilization and Critical Junction
Panel 1 provided a comprehensive picture of the economic and strategic value of the Eastern Mediterranean region, setting the scene for further discussion.
As the cradle of Western civilization, the Eastern Mediterranean has been an arena of peaceful cooperation as well as great conflict. Up to this day, the vast natural resources and unique geography of the region and its adjacent waters have provided actors both economic and strategic opportunities to secure. Consequently, a renewed contest for influence and control within this part of the global maritime system could heighten tensions in the region and beyond. This panel outlined the economic and strategic relevance of the Eastern Mediterranean, underscoring its status as a critical juncture in the global maritime system.
Panel 2: Great Powers – Great Stakes
Panel 2 highlighted the contemporary maritime security challenges among the major players in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In a region rife with security challenges, states must carefully weigh the costs and benefits of their involvement and actions. Although recent economic processes have called the relevance of the Greater Middle East into question, ongoing conflict, political instability, and mass migration will result in continued American, European, and Russian involvement, intensifying interstate competition for resources and geostrategic advantage. This panel has addressed maritime security challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean from the perspective of the United States, NATO, the European Union, and Russia – with a particular view to the role of seapower in addressing those challenges.
Panel 3: Regional Stakeholders – Competing Interests
Panel 3 focused on regional powers, addressing the sources and nature of their competition at sea.
The Eastern Mediterranean is beset by a myriad of opposing interests. Yet, all regional actors view the surrounding waters as essential to their prosperity and security. For that reason, states such as Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Israel, and others are competing politically and militarily to safeguard their interests at sea. Meanwhile, non-state actors are also seeking to utilize the sea to promote their agendas and thereby pose an asymmetric threat to naval forces. In addition, cultural upheavals, armed conflict, and the proliferation of advanced weapons over the past decades have affected power dynamics within the region, further complicating the traditional application of seapower.
Panel 4: The Long View – Prospects for the Region
Panel 4 discussed how great powers are likely to apply seapower in the Eastern Mediterranean as we move forward.
The U.S., NATO, and European naval forces are facing a broad range of challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean – tactical, operational, and strategic. The evolving relationship between Turkey and its neighbors, Russia’s growing military footprint, and naval modernization across the region all pose challenges to an only recently-established Post-Cold War order at sea. This panel has discussed the future trajectory of the regional security environment, outlining likely changes to the maritime strategies and naval capabilities employed by the U.S., NATO, and Russia.
Wrap Up & Closing of the Conference
Eric V. Thompson, Ph.D. (Vice president and director of CNA Strategic Studies), Dr. Sarah Kirchberger (Head of the Center for Asia-Pacific Strategy and Security at ISPK), Dr. Sebastian Bruns (Head of the Center for Maritime Strategy and Security at ISPK) and Dr. Jonathan Eyal (International director at the Royal United Services Institute) were wrapping up the conference.