The Eastern Mediterranean Vortex
In important ways, the future of the international security order is being shaped in the Eastern Mediterranean. A marginal theater during the Cold War, today the Eastern Mediterranean has moved from the periphery to the very center of global concerns. The land and sea space spanning the Levant, the Aegean, Egypt, and onward to Libya, is set to be a zone of persistent chaos and conflict. NATO, the EU, and others, including Russia and China, are now compelled to address the challenges of strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean. In the midst of this pervasive tension, there are a few positive opportunities, including the potential for a Cyprus settlement, Turkish-Israeli reconciliation, and cooperation regarding the region’s energy resources.
The Levant and North Africa are principal theaters in the struggle to contain and roll back violent Islamist groups bent on the control of territory and the export of terrorism. The jihadist threat could also acquire a more significant maritime dimension. The maritime environment is a challenging one for terrorists who are used to operating ashore, but the threat from this quarter should not be exaggerated. Maritime security in the Mediterranean is among the most obvious areas for multilateral security cooperation led by NATO and the EU. Indeed, both are already engaged in this area, including NATO’s longstanding Operation Active Endeavour and the more recent deployment in support of refugee control in the Aegean.
The Eastern Mediterranean is the place where Europe’s post-enlargement external policy is being formed and tested. Migration will be a key factor in shaping the future of the European project, from the survival of the Schengen regime to foreign and security policy. The close connection to internal security and identity concerns within European societies gives the Mediterranean migration question a sharp edge in this time of populist politics and widespread disillusionment with elite projects and institutions.