In the wake of the so called Arab Spring the geopolitical order of the entire Mediterranean area has deeply changed both because old regimes have collapsed (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt) and because the US has embarked on a strategy of military and political retreat from the region. This process spurred several international actors to take action, mainly in Syria, and to try setting their own political agenda. In this framework Russia has been able to gain a key military, political and diplomatic position. The paper will seek to evaluate the new Russian position in the Mediterranean area looking at two different dimensions. First of all, from a geopolitical point of view the Russian involvement in Syria is both a continuation of an old geopolitical Russian problem, i.e. the need for a warm sea, and just an element of a more complex and structured geopolitical approach that includes Russian involvement in Libya and Egypt. As a consequence, Russia has been able to strengthen its position in the Mediterranean area in a way not seen since the end of the Cold War. Second, the paper takes critically into account the notion of “hybrid warfare” showing how it is a misleading concept, it is not useful to understand Russian military strategy and has several commonalities with Western military strategy.
In summary Russia seems to have followed a balanced, practical, and pragmatic approach in the Mediterranean region, working with all players and treating them as equal competitors. This is true in Libya where Moscow despite its support to Haftar has never sidelined Sarraj and in Syria where Russia has established contacts with the different groups of the Syrian opposition.