US warns of Russian buildup threatening Eastern Mediterranean and Europe via Libya

Haftar visits the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov off the coast of Libya on 11 January (Twitter @Chief_MarshallR)

Russian buildup is turning the eastern Mediterranean Sea into one of the world’s most militarized zones, the U.S. Navy’s top admiral in Europe has said, warning that Moscow could cement its dominance in the region if it’s allowed to gain a foothold in Libya.

“The eastern Mediterranean is becoming one of the most kinetic areas in the world,” Adm. James Foggo, head of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa, said Thursday in a virtual seminar hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

“The Russians are deploying quiet, modern diesel submarines capable of launching Kalibr cruise missiles. A Kilo-class submarine can go anywhere in European waters and strike any European or North African capital from under the waves,” he said from Naples, Italy, where NAVEUR has its headquarters. “This highlights the need to maintain a vigilant, highly capable naval presence throughout European waterways.”

Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and a base in the coastal Syrian city of Tartus, have become air defense and maritime hubs for Russia, Foggo said, warning that Libya could be next.

Last month, U.S. Africa Command called out Russia for sending mercenaries and more than a dozen fighter planes into the north African country. The presence of the aircraft, which have since become operational, could be a prelude to a larger Russian presence, US military officials have said.

“Now, think about what Russia is doing in Crimea and Tartus, and what threat they could pose by gaining a stronghold in Libya,” Foggo said.

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