As if the tensions surrounding Ukraine between Russia and the US weren’t enough, the two great powers and their allies are also holding extensive military exercises. These take place in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
In addition to the rival troop surge between Russia and US-NATO forces in Eastern Europe over Ukraine, both sides will hold massive rival war drills farther south in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Though little reported given this week’s Ukraine headlines, the US Navy is currently conducting what may be the largest naval exercise in history. Believe it or not, 60 nations take part in a huge area. Bloomberg reported In detail earlier this week: “Through February 17, exercises will take place in the waters off the Middle East, Southwest Asia and East Africa. Known as both Cutlass Express 2022 and International Maritime Exercise 2022 — or IMX-CE22 — the war games will involve nearly 10,000 people, 50 warships and 80 unmanned systems.” The multinational exercises will also have an air component, the drones includes, while there will also be unmanned experimental vehicles on the ground and at sea.
It is clear that the huge exercises are centered on Iran at a time when the Islamic Republic has received more direct support from China and Russia, both of which have been joint exercises with Iran in Middle Eastern regional waters for the past two months have held east. “As Iran is emboldened by its growing ties with China and Russia, its aggression in the crowded waters of the Gulf and Indian Ocean is likely to increase,” wrote Bloomberg. “One goal of Cutlass Express is therefore to curb Iranian adventurism at sea.
Russia is also practicing off the Syrian coast
At the same time, Russia continued its engagement on Tuesday, this time in the Mediterranean Sea and Syria: “Russia has deployed MiG-31K fighter jets armed with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles and Tupolev Tu-22M long-range strategic bombers for naval exercises at its airbase in Syria, the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday, citing the Defense Ministry,” writes Reuters. “The planes, which were sent to Russia’s Hmeimim air base, will take part in exercises in the eastern Mediterranean as part of a surge in Russian military activity amid rows with the West over Ukraine and European security,” the report said. As part of the ongoing Russian “messaging” and “flexing,” none other than the head of the Russian armed forces, Defense Minister General Sergei Shoigu, was present off the Syrian coast to inspect preparations for Russian military exercises on Tuesday.
“Russian Defense Minister, Army General Sergei Shoigu, has inspected the exercises of the Russian Navy in the Eastern Mediterranean, which are being conducted as part of a series of naval exercises in operationally important areas of the World Ocean and in the waters of the seas bordering Russia,” the Defense Ministry said in a message quoted.
At the Russian Navy’s logistic service center in Tartus, Shoigu received a report from the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, on the conduct of joint combat exercises by Russian ships and aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces to combat groups of ships of an imaginary enemy and shelling from the sea – and aerial targeting with artillery and submarine weapons. Evmenov reported that more than 15 warships from the Pacific, Northern and Black Sea Fleets took part in the maneuvers in the Mediterranean, including the missile cruisers Varyag and Marshal Ustinov, the frigates Admiral Kasatonov and Admiral Grigorovich, and large anti-submarine ships like the Admiral Tributs , the Vice Admiral Kulakov and support ships. In addition, more than 30 aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces.
Despite their enormous costs, large military maneuvers serve primarily as an international performance show and, when military personnel from different countries are deployed, also to train cooperation for emergencies. In addition, these maneuvers are often political statements: When NATO exercises in Eastern Europe on the border with Russia, or when the Russians and Chinese practice in the East China Sea in the waters near Korea and Japan, these are primarily demonstrations of power towards potential adversaries.