On July 31, Vladimir Putin officially adopted a new maritime strategy in the form of a 55-page document made available to the public. The new doctrine is more aggressive than its 2015 predecessor, writes Daniel Rakov, and also gives considerably more attention to the Middle East:
Moscow wants to enhance its ties with Syria, where it has a naval base that ensures a permanent Russian military presence in the Mediterranean. Russia is planning to establish more techno-logistical outposts in the region. Russia has a political role in ensuring Middle Eastern regional stability.
Moreover, Moscow is eager to increase its collaboration with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Russia intends to keep a naval presence in the Persian Gulf “based on techno-logistical outposts in the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and to use the infrastructure of the countries of the region for Russian naval military activity.” Russian warships rarely visit the Gulf these days, and Russia lacks permanent bases in the area. It has been unable to persuade the Sudanese government to agree to the long-term lease of a portion of Port Sudan.
In developing its long-term strategy, Israel must consider Russia’s objectives to expand its military footprint and political activities in the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.
The extensive references to the Middle East in the doctrine are unparalleled in Russian national-security documents, [closing] the gap between the region’s fundamental importance to Moscow and its absence from policy texts over the previous ten years. [The document] regards the eastern Mediterranean (and thus the Middle East) as an “important area” and is willing to use force to safeguard its interests there.