Welcome to another in depth geopolitics post, this time focusing on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea for the coming 15 years. Along with the East and South China Seas this is probably the region of the oceans which is likely to cause the most trouble from a security point of view. This follows major discoveries of gas deposits in the region, particularly around the island of Cyprus. This has drawn interest from all the countries of the region (Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel) in an attempt to create new economic development. It has also drawn interest from one of the major global powers in particular, Russia, which is looking for ways to continue to control the supply to Europe to continue to reap profits and have a degree of power over European affairs. In my opinion at least, this is perhaps the most important region of the planet for Russia over the next 15 years more so than Ukraine, the Caucasus, or even the Arctic Ocean, with European states trying to diversify away from Russia via new pipeline projects through Turkey or even an underwater pipeline from Israel to Greece, Russia appears to be trying to bring it's companies into the region to buy up or control major sections of this new Levant gas field, which is believed to be one of the largest in the world. Hopefully, this doesn't turn the region into another Middle East where The West, Russia, and to a much lesser degree China constantly use ruthless geopolitics and meddling to direct the region's affairs each for their own gain, though so far neither The West (America in particular), nor China has shown much interest in this area. America in particular has already said it is trying to pivot away from the Middle East and Europe towards the Pacific Ocean and Russia may be seeing an opportunity to become a power broker in this new energy field before America ever has the chance too.
Russia must also be seeing lots of ability to grow it's power quite significantly in the region, as many of the countries are unstable and could use outside support. Syria which is currently host as we all know to the world's most violent conflict at this time has depended on Russian assistance to beat back the rebels, Syria in turn has given Russian companies exclusive rights to all energy deposits in it's Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) and Assad may be looking to Russia as investing in his regime, Russia in turn probably sees more reason to support Assad. Syria is also host to Russia's only military base outside the ex-Soviet sphere, and if Russia is going to make a big play in the region this base may be more important to Russia than previously thought, especially since Russia can not move it's fleet easily from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean as Turkey controls the straights that would allow it to do so. Going forward, these interests will probably assure that Russia will continue to support Assad with even more direct support, and regardless of peace talks Russia has no interest in seeing any change from the current government.
Greece and Cyprus two other major players in the region have been experiencing major economic crises in their countries and their governments are currently looking for ways to boost economic growth. The draconian measures by the troika in Greece and the ECB in Cyprus have probably not won The West any friends, which has also opened up the opportunity for Russia to step in and try to build influence. Russia has given money to Cyprus to help it after it's banking system all but collapsed last year, and Russian companies have already been major depositors to Cyprus. Russia has a lot of room here to try to build influence and win gas contracts for it's companies around the island, which Cyprus will also welcome to try to create jobs. Turkey however will have none of this, as it contests Northern Cyprus and will claim any drilling can not be done without it sharing the benefits. But more on this later when we talk about Turkey.
Greece on the other hand has been trying to make itself out to be a gas producer as well although the jury is still out as to what gas potential there is under its waters. Greece has also suggested to Cyprus and Israel of creating an undersea pipeline to ship energy to Europe. Russia has probably noted this and therefore will want to assure that any pipeline will be supplied by Russian gas producers. Other than that Russia really has not actually spent much time, from what I can see at least, trying to increase influence in Greece especially since the local population is very disenchanted with their current political system, and to a bit lesser degree the West in general. I would think that since both share much in common, such as orthodox faiths Russia could make a big political coup d'état against Western countries here, I even think Russia could potentially take Greece which has a large army out of NATO if it played its cards very well over the next years, and Greece could help it solve a problem it has. (Though no evidence of Russia trying to do this yet, but more on this later.)
Israel is perhaps currently the farthest along in starting drilling within its EEZ much to the ire of Turkey, as Israel has had much of it's energy supplies from Egypt cut off since the revolution in 2011, and thus must froth at the idea of energy independence. Israel has been very active in trying to build an alliance with Cyprus and Greece to drill, and in fact Russia and Israel save a few minor spats have actually had fairly good business together and Russia could potentially see it's company win gas contracts in Israel, in fact Russia-Israel relations could grow warmer especially as Israel-America relations chill, this is especially true since Israel probably feels annoyed by the American rapprochement with Iran. Lebanon, however disputes some of Israel's EEZ and protests drilling which could potentially lead to maritime clashes, which Israel will certainly win.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly we have Turkey. Turkey poses a major thorn in the side to almost every other country in the region, and in turn Russia. Turkey disputes drilling around Cyprus and has threatened to take military action to make its point heard. Turkey is actively trying to undermine the al-Assad regime in Syria threatening Russian gas contracts and making the possibility of a hostile Islamist state likely which would pose a serious challenge to Israel. Greece and Turkey have never had good relations and the Americans narrowly stopped a conflict between the two in 1996, nationalist tendencies between the two are strong and there is a long history of bad blood even if the two are NATO allies. Russia does not have free access between the Black and Mediterranean seas as Turkey controls the straights, yet it would not risk attacking Turkey (directly anyways) it has a large and capable army, and it would certainly drag in the United States and the rest of NATO in a very ugly confrontation. Turkey in turn sees large swaths of the gas field as its jurisdiction alone much to the ire of Russia and other countries. Perhaps the only good news for Russia at least here is that the current government has become incredibly unpopular and tangled in a corruption probe which could destabilize it allowing Russia much more leeway, though there is no guarantee any new government would be any more receptive to Russia or any of its neighbors.
SO WHERE IS THIS GOING?
Looking at this from Moscow, Russia must have major headaches about Turkey when trying to expand its influence in this region and while Russia could be satisfied with getting Cyprus, Israel, and Syria on board with it, it could make a certain monopoly on this region of energy to Europe if it wants to take some big risks, mainly involving Greece and Turkey.
Depending on how much Russia values it's energy hegemony in Europe (probably a lot as we can see with its tactics in Ukraine) Russia could make a play to control the majority of the Eastern Mediterranean energy while giving itself new geographical advantages when it comes to asserting its power southward. The key to most of this would likely be a Russian strategy in Greece to encourage anti-Western parties to replace the current government (in particular Golden Dawn comes to mind and the Russian security services may actually be able to infiltrate this organization, and perhaps more radical elements of the Greek military to try to get influence in the country), if it fails to do so through election interference which it could possibly do, Greece will probably be a volatile tinderbox by the end of this decade and Russia could perhaps cause a coup d'état or civil war in the country which could get it tossed out of NATO. This depends of course on allied countries not intervening in Greece, which would be a big if, yet there is not a lot of sympathy for Greece in many Western countries within Europe at the moment, and it is unclear if America especially in this war weary era would be particularly quick to get involved with Greece - personally I think the Americans probably could justify a Greek intervention by saying it isn't a Muslim country and they won't face some entrenched insurgency - if they don't then Russia could gain a major power with a strong military to help it carry out its agenda with Turkey.
Russia most certainly will be wanting to weaken Turkey as it goes forward, with the attempted peace treaty with the PKK the tools Moscow has at its disposal to try to destabilize Turkey are few. Being in control of an anti-Turkish Greece though would be a big way to advance Moscow's agenda in the region. Anything to spread out Turkey's forces would allow Russia to have more say in the Mediterranean although it would need to build up it's naval presence in Syria to be effective at asserting power in the region, and it would also need a permanent and large naval force stationed there as they still will not have access from the Black Sea.
Now Russia probably wouldn't want a newly allied Greece to full on attack Turkey, as this absolutely 100% would draw NATO into a major military confrontation in the region, though if Russia really wanted to start a WWIII scenario it would just have to say it would retaliate to any invasion of Greece, and all bets would be off as I highly doubt even this threat would stop America from invading anyways. Although I'm sure in this situation if Russia could find away to get Greece and Turkey to fight and Greece could capture at least everything up to the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, Russia could then have ready access to the Mediterranean which would increase it's power immensely. Though this is 100% unacceptable to the West and they would certainly intervene here. However, this scenario outline above is perhaps, while not likely, a plausible path in this region of the coming 15 years.
What do you guys think about this region. Is this extreme speculation unlikely or possible? What do you think Russia's geopolitical position in the region will be in the coming years? Could this be the new Middle East?