NATO Forces Navigates Contested Waters in the Mediterranean
As anticipated by International Insider, NATO has launched Operation Sea Guardian in Central and Eastern Mediterranean to deter and counter-terrorism, project stability, and mitigate the risk of other threats to security in the area.
On May 28, 2020, naval units of the European Maritime Force (EUROMARFOR) joined NATO’s Operation Sea Guardian. Since 2002, this is the second time that EUROMARFOR, a non-standing multinational military force participated by France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, contributes to NATO’s Operation and the first time directly under NATO’s command.
EUROMARFOR deployed the French Frigate Courbet and the Italian Frigate Carabiniere, and NATO deployed an Italian submarine under its direct command. Also, the Standing NATO Maritime Group Two (SNMG2) and naval units from France and Turkey will support the Operation. According to NATO, Maritime Patrol Aircrafts (MPA) and Airborne Early Warning groups from member countries, including Denmark, France, Greece, Italy, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, will provide air support.
NATO’s direct intervention in the Libyan scenario starts two weeks after its Secretary-General Stoltenberg’s statement in support of the GNA government because it is “the only one recognized by the UN.” Indeed, NATO’s intervention will be a threat to Russian air support to General Haftar’s Libyan National Army, while it is losing territories against UN-recognized GNA forces. We expect that political realism will suggest Russia keep a low profile in the Libyan scenario, maybe shifting its interest toward a negotiated deal on the post-Assad Syrian medley.
Operation Sea Guardian will operate until Jun 16, 2020, in the same area of EU Operation IRINI, whose main task is to enforce the UN embargo on weapons to Libya. IRINI task force is composed of the French Frigate Jean Bart, an SW3 Merlin III deployed by Luxembourg, a Polish 28B1R Antonov, and a German PC3 Orion.
On May 28, 2020, the European Council appointed as IRINI’s EU Force Commander Rear Admiral Ettore Socci from Italy, who will hold the position from May 6, 2020, until Oct 18, 2020. Admiral Socci will be followed by Commodore Theodoros Mikropoulos from Greece from Oct 19, 2020, until Mar 31, 2021.
Rear Admiral Socci was the Force Commander of Operation SOPHIA since June 2019. He served as an operational officer on board several vessels of the Italian Navy.
Commodore Theodoros Mikropoulos has been the Commander of the Hellenic naval base in Souda Bay (Crete), earlier he held senior positions in the Hellenic Navy.