18 Nov 2022

Power in evidence: The international maritime rivalry in the Red Sea

Dr. Stephen Blank


Since antiquity, the Middle East and its waterways, including the Red Sea, have been an object of keen international competition. What distinguishes the current form of this rivalry in the Red Sea is the sheer multiplicity of contestants: China, Russia, Iran, Israel, the U.S., international pirates, and terrorists. This Strategic Insight aims to present the motives of the major state actors in this area, and some, if not all, of the potential consequences of their presence. Beyond the external rivals, local governments, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia also contend among themselves to defend their interests, project power, and thereby create a favorable environment for themselves and/or their partners and allies. But they also seek to induce the great powers to act with them or on their behalf in securing this waterway. Indeed, a major motive for the extension of the U.S. Navy’s presence in the Red Sea is to join with its allies and partners, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, to resist Iranian as well as other threats.[1] In this case, the desire of Middle East countries – not only littoral ones like Saudi Arabia – constitute one motive for inducing the U.S. and Israeli navies to enhance coordination and conduct joint exercises against Iran here and in the Mediterranean. Since Israel is now included within the auspices of the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), its miliary now functions in tandem with that command and even other Middle Eastern states.[2]

This simultaneous “entanglement” of regional and great power naval forces in this relatively small but vitally strategic waterway highlights the uniquely complex strategic nature of the rivalries here.  Foreign navies are projecting power here partly due to the wide range and diversity of threats, the huge size of the commercial stakes in this strategic waterway, and because of either their innate ambition to project power abroad or their perceived necessity of doing so to defend their commercial and/or strategic interests.

Commercial interests

One powerful set of motives for Russian-involved and other great-power rivalry in this arena is tied to globalization and the growing role of the Indian Ocean and Middle East in international maritime trade. The huge amounts of energy exports from the Middle East and Arabian Gulf to China, India, Japan, etc. heighten the international significance of the Indian Ocean, along with China’s “string of pearls” strategy of building naval bases throughout that ocean. As a recent Euromesco paper observes, owing to these trends, “ensuring control over the means of transporting goods and information has become as important as territorial control, if not more so.”[3]

Therefore – and quite apart from the existing and ongoing terrorist and piracy threats – the Horn of Africa, and thus the Red Sea, have become “securitized” because of their proximity to key nodal points in global maritime trade. Given the current upheavals in international supply chains and the lucrative prospects connected with control of trade through critical maritime and land routes, control of real and virtual infrastructures has become a vital resource for those seeking power in the region, as we have seen in Libya’s civil war. Furthermore, in recent years, “the interconnections between the Maghreb and the Sahel and the whole idea of the existence of a Red Sea region that includes part of the Middle East and the Horn of Africa is changing the way in which many aspects are being discussed. Infrastructures [e.g., ports] are one of the clearest examples and at the same time a key driver of this trend.”[4]

Concurrently, there has been an enormous increase in what had been the traditional strategic importance of the Mediterranean, also of Asian entrepôts connecting to it through the Suez Canal. The Mediterranean now bears 20 percent of global shipping, and no other alternative route from Asia to Europe is remotely competitive with it – regardless of the hype about the Arctic, which pertains to over-inflated expectations despite evidence of shippers’ unwillingness to prioritize the Northern Sea Route over the routes through the Suez Canal due to environmental concerns.[5] Indeed, from 1995 to 2018, the amount of cargo handled in Mediterranean ports rose by 47 percent. This growth of trade and investments in the Mediterranean has enhanced greatly the importance of that sea, and the Middle East has become a logistics platform of utmost importance for Europe and for overall East-West trade.[6] Consequently, control of the Red Sea confers immense commercial and strategic benefits upon states or movements who can sustain that control. Obviously, these trends also encompass developments in the Indian Ocean and nearby waterways such as the Arabian Gulf. Therefore, it is not surprising that synergies between the civilian and military maritime infrastructures and the parallel weaponization of the entire digital space are salient issues here.[7]

Equally unsurprising is the growing and critical importance of the key maritime choke points along these routes – notably, the Suez Canal, Bab el Mandeb, and Strait of Hormuz. The Bab el Mandeb, for example, is the crucial choke point for navigation into and through the Suez Canal, and thus is of great significance to the global economy and East-West trade. One recent account highlights the strategic implications of the capacity to threaten that choke point through the presence of local maritime military power. The 30-kilometer-wide strait of the Bab el Mandeb is located in the Red Sea and represents the shortest route connecting the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. Divided by the Perim Island into two channels, it has been an active trade route for centuries. Bab el Mandeb increased in relevance after the construction of the Suez Canal and further with the export of oil from the Arabian Peninsula and Arabian Gulf. In 2018, an estimated 6.2 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through this strait in both directions, toward Europe, the U.S., and Asia. It also handles most of the EU trade with China, Japan, and Asia en route through Suez. Ships carrying oil from the Arabian Gulf to Europe and North America can avoid the Bab el Mandeb by travelling around the southern tip of Africa, but the increased distances would add to shipping and fuel costs and disrupt supplies.[8] Thus, about 10 percent of the global petroleum trade, including one-fifth of the global LNG trade, goes through it.[9]

Given the importance of control of this strait and of the Strait of Hormuz to the global energy and overall economies, it is readily apparent why control of, or at least leverage over, these waterways is so important from a strategic standpoint. Russia, for instance, is not content merely to have acquired a naval base in Sudan, and has spent over a decade seeking naval bases elsewhere around the Red Sea, Mediterranean, and Horn of Africa.[10] Its new naval doctrine now proclaims the Indian Ocean as a strategic priority.[11] Thus, despite the navy’s likely straitened future circumstances, we are likely to see Russian attempts to build on efforts already undertaken to gain bases in and around the Indian Ocean, including the Red Sea.[12] Undoubtedly, Moscow will want air bases in these waters too. Such bases will enable Russia to exercise much greater leverage – over all shipping, not just energy-related trade – in the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean, and to project firepower deep into the Middle East and even the Mediterranean. But beyond these motives, it is clear that another reason for Russia’s power projection dreams is the lure of exploiting (and that is too anodyne a word) the immense natural resources of this region. To this end, Russia has smuggled billions of dollars of Sudan’s gold out of the country in 16 flights since February to enrich its elites, strengthen its economy, and continue to pay for its aggression against Ukraine. It is doing so in collusion with Sudan’s “beleaguered military leadership” to accomplish this mission and thereby create an enduring leverage in Sudan replete with efforts to gain a naval base there. In return Moscow provides arms, military training, and diverse forms of political support for the military regime.[13] Obviously, naval presence, with all that such presence connotes in the way of supporting infrastructure in and around the Horn of Africa, is essential to this and other previous similar operations.

As Candace Rondeaux points out: “The Russian naval hub will likely be a critical node for Sudanese gold exports, which have proven a boon not only for several mining companies linked to [Yevgeny] Prigozhin [leader of the Russian Vagner PMC private military firm] but this time for Russian state coffers. Russia has invested heavily in building up its gold reserves to help stabilize the rouble and futureproof its economy against harsher Western sanctions.”[14]  Moreover, Russia’s Vagner PMC, ostensibly a proxy force but actually an extension of the Kremlin, is not above using force to obtain control over these resources, e.g., attacking artisanal mines in the lawless border zones between Sudan and the Central African Republic.[15]

Meanwhile, in return for the base, should it materialize, Sudan will receive arms – which is clearly its main objective. However, while Sudan will not receive any rent for the base, Sudanese companies received contracts and jobs for protecting the base and gained the experience of working with Russians. These terms reveal the interpenetration of economic motives, covert influence, and information operations – often conducted by the same people and organizations – to achieve military and strategic goals.[16] Consequently, as Rondeaux observes, “one of the most important takeaways is that Russia appears to have built a durable method for conducting war on the cheap in a strategically significant part of North Africa.”[17] But this entire process of arms sales, large-scale corruption of elites, and colonialist exploitation is also a mechanism for conducting a contemporary version of old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy with the objective of permanently projecting power, e.g., through naval and arms bases.

This opening of a country or region to large-scale economic-political penetration through foreign naval presence is a hallmark of classic gunboat diplomacy and a particularly naked colonialism, which arguably is precisely what we are seeing here and what gives the lie to Moscow’s pretensions that it has no colonialist history in general or in Africa.[18] Neither will Russia’s activities in this region change when the war ends, assuming no change in the present governmental structure, for corruption is arguably one of the powerful adhesive factors that holds this regime together, especially in view of the inveterate rapacity of the Russian elite as described by Russian writers.[19]

Economic motives and infrastructural projects

Both local and external actors value their naval presence in the Red Sea because their ambitious infrastructure programs are also tied to the commercial gains they or their allies and partners hope to make through their economic and naval presence there, as noted above. This is particularly true for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and China. For example, “Chinese diplomats see [Israel] as a significant node within the BRI architecture.”[20] Both the Israeli and Chinese governments have previously indicated their readiness for advancing major cooperative projects within the framework of the BRI and China’s Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) to include Red Sea projects within the framework of the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI). China has also been actively investing in Israeli ports and associated infrastructure. At least some of these investment projects coincide with Israel’s own vision of its potential future role in the Red Sea basin. Jerusalem could be an essential stop on the MSRI, connecting the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea through the Gulf of Aqaba and the Suez Canal – through, for instance, the Peace railway or the Eilat-Ashdod Port rail, if implemented.[21] The Israeli government is also still promoting a controversial large-scale program to bring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea through a canal to counter the Dead Sea’s mounting water deficit due to droughts, dams upstream on the Jordan River, and pollution.[22]

At the same time, a high-speed data cable is being laid under the waters of the Red Sea, which will connect, for the first time, Israel to Saudi Arabia. “The new link, which is part of two longer submarine cables running all the way from France to India, promises not only to improve the speed and lower the cost at which information can whizz between Europe and Asia,” but also to knit together “a new regional alliance between Israel and countries in the Gulf that once regarded it as an enemy.”[23]

Thus, Israel’s projects, not to mention China’s BRI and associated initiatives like the MSRI, embody clear and strong links to vital security interests. The same could be said about other littoral states like Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea project. An advertising brochure for this project states: “The Red Sea Project is the world’s most ambitious regenerative tourism project, offering an exclusive experience of unparalleled diversity for discerning global travelers. The site encompasses an archipelago of more than 90 pristine islands, miles of sweeping desert and dramatic mountain landscapes.”[24] The scale of this project gives off a sense of its immensity: “It is a series of premium, eco-friendly tourist destinations now under construction. It will comprise a chain of luxury villa developments along 22 Red Sea islands, beachfront resorts, a yacht marina, two inland retreats, 5-star hotels (48) with 8,000 rooms, a new airport, 75km of new roads, bridges, utilities and infrastructure with phase one set to be completed by 2022 and the final phase by 2030. Each year, it will host 300,000 Saudi, Gulf, and international visitors.”[25] And this project apparently disregards the fact that Saudi energy infrastructures are vulnerable to sea-based strikes – for example, cruise missiles and drones, as has already occurred.[26]

China’s presence here visibly conjoins the interest in large-scale projects, based originally upon its energy imports from this region and large-scale investment in Africa, to a developing perspective that clearly includes substantial maritime power projection. Chinese Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe told Caribbean and South Pacific defense officials that China stood ready to deepen military cooperation with them “under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.”[27] Other observers have also noted the military-strategic connotations of the BRI.

All of China’s growing points of access and bases across southern Eurasia in the Indian Ocean (e.g., Sri Lanka and Pakistan), the Middle East, and into Europe in the Mediterranean, will be used for classic great-power nationalist geopolitical and military purposes, including political influence and a wide range of military objectives such as Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR); Command and Control (C2) of military forces in exercises in shows of force to deter U.S., European, and Gulf military action, and, in the event of crisis and conflict, to target U.S., Gulf, and European forces.[28]

Adding to the melding of civilian-military functions in Chinese investments in ports and infrastructure from Europe to Asia, including its port and base structures at Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, is the fact that acquisition of foreign ports represents a leadership preference for leveraging China’s growing foreign commercial presence. Indeed, that fusion process is also now law since Chinese-made civilian infrastructure projects, including foreign ones, must fulfill military specifications.[29]

In the Red Sea zone, the base in Djibouti already has the capacity to host aircraft carriers, indicating its existing potential.[30] China has also carried out joint naval exercises with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.[31] It is also exporting missiles and has carved out a niche for itself as an exporter of UAVs to the region.[32] But the big potential change in China’s local position can be seen in the terms of its 2021 agreement with Iran. U.S. officials have claimed to observe a pattern whereby China invests heavily in a state’s critical infrastructure and then acquires valuable waterfront real estate through a Chinese company, ostensibly solely for commercial activity. Eventually, the site becomes part of the larger strategic and geopolitical network of China. This pattern apparently occurred in Ream in Cambodia and could easily be happening in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.[33] And it certainly appears to be underway in Iran if these Sino-Iranian agreements go into effect. The Pentagon has also reported that Moscow and Beijing are now ready to sell Iran fighter jets, main battle tanks, helicopters, and modern naval capabilities.[34] In China’s case, that has not yet materialized but undoubtedly Iran continues to seek them.[35]

There are thus two sets of potential threats beyond existing Iranian threats (discussed below). One is that China will build upon its investments and growing economic-political leverage to seek and even obtain military bases. Since joining the UN-led consortium against international piracy in 2007, it has steadily expanded its military footprint around the Red Sea, and the treaty with Iran could presage further expansion of its regional military presence.[36] The 2019 Chinese White Paper on defense instructed the PLA to seek new international logistical nodes.[37] China is already building a new base in Cambodia and sought one in the UAE and the Gulf of Guinea.[38] Thus, U.S. Africa Command (Africom) analysts argue that an African base is a question of when, and not if.[39]

Immediate threats

Nevertheless, China, despite its large-scale economic-political presence in Africa – and more recently in the Horn of Africa – does not constitute an immediate threat of violence there. Iran and Russia, on the other hand, do pose such threats. Iran is a long-standing purveyor of threats and its modus operandi increasingly appears to resemble that described by Raffaello Pantucci in which terrorism fuses with major or great power warfare.[40] Iran’s sponsorship of Hezbollah, the Houthi in Yemen, Hamas, and other terrorist groups, has long since been established. However, it clearly is also adding and trying to acquire both conventional and nuclear means of long-range strike, e.g., missiles and evidently even nuclear submarines. Those weapons would fit nicely with Iran’s openly expressed interest in naval bases in 2016-17 in Syria and Yemen, from which it could supply its terrorist clients – Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis – and expand its influence through the Red Sea into Africa.[41] It had already announced in 2019 that it would expand naval operations in the Red Sea.[42]

Moreover, the submarines are overtly articulated as providing not just a second-strike capability but also a long-range one, indicating the vulnerability of the Red Sea to long-range strikes.[43] That vulnerability is only heightened because of Iran’s drone capability. Iran has moved missiles and drones to Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq for its proxies, inter alia. In Iran’s labyrinthine domestic politics, the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps) wants to establish its primacy by building a military-industrial capacity with a redoubtable export capability for drones among other systems.  “This will inevitably mean more power for the Iranian Quds force and therefore more irregular and asymmetric exports and threats to the region.”[44]

Iran’s satellite capability likewise signifies its naval, terrestrial, and space ambitions.[45] Earlier Iranian efforts to smuggle missiles to the Houthi terrorists in Yemen show how Iran can meld these disparate forms of warfare, missiles and terrorism together. And if it had usable long-range nuclear and/or conventional missiles with satellite guidance, the opportunities for long-range strikes in the Red Sea become apparent.[46] Similarly, by 2020, it had established ties with the Al-Shabab terrorists to run weapons into pro-Western African countries, attack U.S. forces, generate insurgencies and terrorism, run weapons to existing insurgencies like that in Yemen, and make Africa too hot for the West, while also gaining new footholds for future operations in and around the Red Sea.[47] The existence of a truce at this time in Yemen’s civil war may have reduced the incidence of violence but as the recent U.S.-Israeli exercises – clearly backed by other signatories of the Abraham Accords – show, nobody anticipates peace in the Red Sea. Indeed, one outcome of the Abraham Accords between Israel, UAE, Sudan, Morocco, and Bahrain, applies particularly strongly to the Red Sea. The accord between Israel and the UAE:

Facilitates domination by the U.S. coalition of critically important maritime routes that make up the three sides of what Islamabad-based journalist and Pakistan affairs analyst Tom Hussain refers to: as a “strategic triangle in the Middle East: the [Arabian] Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz; the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden; and the Red Sea and Suez Canal. In addition to being a vital maritime route for global trade, one leg of this triangle also sits on the shipping lanes through which China—now the Middle East’s largest oil consumer—receives the majority of its oil. Another [one] sits on the maritime route proposed in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, China’s global infrastructure development scheme, while the third dominates both China’s sole regional miliary facility in Djibouti and Russia’s proposed naval base in Sudan. Should tensions continue to rise between the United States and China or Russia, Washington’s views its ability to control these waterways via its regional partners as a strategic advantage.[48]

The threats posed by Russia also include multiple forms of so called “hybrid” or asymmetric warfare, ranging up to large-scale conventional and even potentially nuclear warfare. Russian activities here do run the spectrum of conflict. We have already alluded to its small-scale conflicts in Sudan’s vicinity to lay its hands on gold and other materials.[49] Likewise, it is trying to establish ties with every state in the Horn of Africa, as well as the Middle East, to obtain naval bases. It has sought bases in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Sudan, and Yemen, thus the setback that apparently is occurring in Sudan will not stop Moscow from so doing, especially as its new naval doctrine builds on past experience to prioritize the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean as potential base sites for the Russian navy.[50]

Russia’s quest for bases, wealth, power and leverage in the vicinity of the Black Sea combines psychological, pecuniary, and strategic motives into one ongoing strategy. Psychologically, Moscow – as the war in Ukraine shows – remains obsessed with perceiving itself and being accepted by everyone else as a great global power, and even an empire. Thus, it regards its strategic borders as those of the USSR and in the Red Sea zone pursues the same objectives as did the Brezhnev regime that attained the heights of Soviet global power projection. Russian writers and spokesmen routinely announce that Russia borders on the Middle East, and that by virtue of its large numbers of Muslims, cannot remain indifferent to events there. Therefore, it cannot “withdraw” from the Middle East for to do so would nullify its accomplishments there over the past decade.[51] This argument resembles China’s claim to be a “near Arctic” power and has as much validity as that claim, given that Russia’s borders are 1000 miles back from the USSR’s borders. Nevertheless, this argument testifies to the strength of this obsession among the elite, and clearly drives a great deal of Russian foreign policy.

However, this obsession with global status and prestige is inextricable from a sharp desire for elite profits as we have seen in Sudan. A key element of Russia’s military and thus intelligence presence here also pertains to tactics aimed at obtaining the oil price it wants since that is the foundation of its economy, the basis of its foreign influence, and the source of funding for its other operations abroad. For example, in 2008, when OPEC seemingly wanted to lower the price of oil, Moscow apparently exploited the connections made by its naval Spetsnaz forces with Somali pirates to hijack a very large Saudi-owned cruise carrier 450 nautical miles off Kenya’s coast, a feat normally beyond the pirates’ capabilities and one that requires sophisticated foreign-provided ‘real time intelligence’, such as Russia possesses.[52] This may not have been the only case of Russian collusion with pirates and terrorists in Somalia.[53]

But beyond seeking naval bases as points of access for forces like Vagner PMC to support pro-Moscow forces and be ready to conduct small-scale operations to gain wealth and leverage, Moscow also seeks bases for purposes of much larger-scale conflicts. If we examine the totality of Russian deployments and ambitions for bases in the Middle East, it becomes clear that Moscow aims to concentrate meaningful airpower throughout the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle East, including the Indian Ocean and the Sahel. Defense correspondent Pavel Felgenhauer writes that these naval bases not only support the operations of naval vessels, but also provide the means of deploying ground-based area-denial capabilities in the form of antiaircraft and antiship missiles. Felgenhauer believes that Russia’s current activities in Syria are oriented toward more traditional strategic concerns and force projection. If Felgenhauer’s theories are correct, it would suggest that Russian efforts to secure extraterritorial naval bases in Crimea, Syria, and Sudan represent parts of a broader Russian strategy of globally integrated operations.[54] And the tip-off as to what that could mean lies in the agreements that Moscow secured at both its bases in Syria and in Sudan, which allow the berthing of nuclear-powered ships, suggesting that Moscow ultimately may intend them to become nuclear, not merely general, logistics hubs for its submarines.[55]

Thus, Moscow’s search for bases in the Horn of Africa represents a discernible part of a military strategy aimed at securing multiple bases abroad. Indeed, many Russian writers, including propagandists, frankly express what they expect from the base in Sudan, as the following quote shows:

If the Russian Federation provides assistance to Sudan, it will get a new ally in the region, thereby increasing the weight it carries in the Middle East. Gaining an outlet to the Red Sea, Russia will significantly expand the capabilities its navy has, and will be able to hold an even more confident dialogue with the United States and its allies—and they, in turn, will be forced to listen to Moscow’s words more often. The international balance of power in the Middle East could change dramatically. First, Moscow’s additional outpost places serious restrictions on the capabilities of the United States and its allies in this region. Second, other countries could follow the example set by the Sudanese, and also express the desire to have Russia on their list of friends. If this happens, then the Russian Federation will be able to start playing one of the main roles in the Middle East’s political arena in the foreseeable future.[56]

Given the pattern of Russian deployments and procurements, and the facts cited above, it also becomes clear that a key motive for Russia is not just influencing local governments, replaying classic gunboat diplomacy scenarios, but also obtaining the means for executing long-range strikes against U.S./NATO forces. Thus, ultimately, the Sudan base, along with any future bases in or around the Red Sea, could provide lodgments from which Russian vessels could launch long-range strikes into the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean, North and sub-Saharan Africa, the Arabian  Gulf, and the Indian Ocean, to prevent U.S. and allied ships stationed in any of these waters from launching precision and long-range missile strikes on Russian territory and assets. It is already the case that Russian naval deployments in and around the Eastern Mediterranean possess strike capabilities that have deterred Western navies from seeking entry into the Black Sea. This kind of deployment comprises not only deterrence of such strikes but, given Russian doctrine and strategy, the real possibility of large-scale missile and even nuclear maritime strikes in the waters around the Red Sea.[57]


The nature of threats, or of actual and potential conflict scenarios imaginable in the Red Sea zone, span the entire spectrum of conflict, ranging from piracy and state failure as in Yemen, and coup-prone African states, all the way up to long-range conventional or even nuclear missile strikes.  We also see how local crises in Yemen or in Northern and Eastern Africa provide opportunities or threats that then drive great power intervention into the Red Sea zone and adjacent areas. Or else local actors summon in the great powers or else they act on their own to protect their interests here. Given the deep structural bases for turmoil in many Middle Eastern and African states and the interactive, tense, great power rivalries playing out now on a global scale, it would be naive to hope that this area and/or adjacent land or maritime zones could be kept peaceful or exempt from foreign intervention in the immediate future. However, the Abraham Accords and Washington’s renewed involvement in the Middle East and its allies’ readiness to participate in local security patrols display the dynamic evolution of regional politics. Turbulence, therefore, is not necessarily the only trend at work here. And that is reason for optimism, however cautious it might be.[58]


[1] Arie Egozi, “Israel, US Navies Set Up New Coordination Efforts on Iran: Sources,” Breaking Defense, October 13, 2021, https://breakingdefense.com/2021/10/israel-us-navies-set-up-new-coordination-efforts-on-iran-sources/; Emanuel Fabian, “US, Israeli Navies Start 4-day Exercise in Red Sea,” Times of Israel, August 1, 2022 https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/us-israeli-navies-start-4-day-exercise-in-red-sea/.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Silva Columbo and Eduard Soler i Lecha, “Why Infrastructures Matter and How They Reflect Global and Regional Geopolitical Shifts in the Mediterranean and the Middle East and North Africa,” in Infrastructures and Power in the Middle East and North Africa, eds. Silva Columbo and Eduard Soler i Lecha, Euromesco Joint Policy Study 17 (Barcelona: European Institute of the Mediterranean, 2020): p. 8, https://www.iemed.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/JPS_17-Infrastructures-and-power-in-the-MENA.pdf.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mike Shuler,” MSC Warns Against Arctic Shipping Amid Debate Over Suez Canal’s Closure,” GCaptain, April 1, 2021, https://gcaptain.com/msc-warns-against-arctic-shipping-amid-debate-over-suez-canals-closure/.

[6] Laura Basagni, “The Mediterranean Sea and Its Port System: Risk and Opportunity in a Globally Connected World,” in Infrastructures and Power in the Middle East and North Africa, eds. Silva Columbo and Eduard Soler i Lecha, Euromesco Joint Policy Study 17 (Barcelona: European Institute of the Mediterranean, 2020): pp. 13-14, https://www.iemed.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/JPS_17-Infrastructures-and-power-in-the-MENA.pdf.

[7] Columbo and Soler i Lecha, “Why Infrastructures Matter,” p. 6.

[8] Basagni, “The Mediterranean Sea and Its Port System,” p. 22.

[9] William F. Wechsler, “US Withdrawal From the Middle East: Perceptions and Reality,” in The MENA Region: A Great Power Competition, eds. Karim Mezran and Arturo Vavelli (Milan: ISPI & Atlantic Council, 2019): p. 17, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/MENA-Chapter-one.pdf.

[10] Stephen Blank, “Gunboat Diplomacy à la Russe: Russia’s Naval Base in Sudan and Its Implications,” Newport Papers, U.S. Naval War College Press (Forthcoming).

[11] Official Internet Portal of Legal Information, “On Approval of the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation,” Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of July 31, 2022 – No. 512, http://bitly.ws/w4TE.

[12] Stephen Blank, ”Russia’s Efforts to Play in the Indian Ocean Basin,” Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, June 17, 2021, https://newlinesinstitute.org/russia/russias-efforts-to-play-in-the-indian-ocean-basin/.

[13] Nima Elbagir, Barbara Arvanitidis, Tamara Qiblawi et. al., “Russia Is Plundering Gold in Sudan to Boost Putin’s War Effort in Ukraine,” CNN, July 29, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/07/29/africa/sudan-russia-gold-investigation-cmd-intl/index.html.

[14] Candace Rondeaux, “How a Man Linked to Prigozhin, ‘Putin’s Chef,’ Infiltrated the United Nations,” Daily Beast, November 27, 2020, https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-a-man-linked-to-prigozhin-putins-chef-infiltrated-the-united-nations.

[15] Jason Burke and Zeinab Mohammad Salih, “Russian Mercenaries Accused of Deadly Attacks on Mines on Sudan-CAR Border,” The Guardian, June 21, 2022, http://bitly.ws/w67C.

[16] Amy McKinnon, Robbie Gramer, and Jack Detch, “Russia’s Dreams of a Red Sea Naval Base Are Scuttled – for Now,” Foreign Policy, July 15, 2022 https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/07/15/russia-sudan-putin-east-africa-port-red-sea-naval-base-scuttled/.

[17]  Rondeaux, “How a Man Linked to Prigozhin.”

[18] Rondeaux, “How a Man Linked to Prigozhin”; Casey Michel, “Russia’s Crimes of Colonialism,” Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/russias-crimes-of-colonialism-putin-ukraine-war-empire-eurasia-lavrov-africa-soviet-union-11660076835.

[19] Oleg Kashin, “Who Will Get Rid of Putin? The Answer Is Grim,” New York Times, August 18, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/18/opinion/russia-putin-corruption.html; Alexander Golts, “Why Russia Smuggles U.S. Electronics,” Moscow Times, October 8, 2012, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2012/10/08/why-russia-smuggles-us-electronics-a18380.

[20] Mordechai Chaziza, “Israel-China Relations in an Era of Strategic Rivalry and Great Power Competition,” Strategic Assessment 25, no. 2 (2022): p. 4, https://www.inss.org.il/publication/israel-china-relations-in-an-era-of-strategic-rivalry-and-great-power-competition/.

[21] Ibid., p. 5.

[22] Nir Hasson, “Israel Promotes Giant, Controversial Dead Sea Infrastructure Project,” Haaretz, June 22, 2022, http://bitly.ws/w68G.

[23] “Israel Hopes New Data Cables Can Make Friends of Former Enemies,” The Economist, March 5, 2022, https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2022/03/05/israel-hopes-new-data-cables-can-make-friends-of-former-enemies.

[24] Red Sea Global: https://www.theredsea.sa/en/project.

[25] Mohammed Francis, “What Is The Red Sea Project In Saudi Arabia?” Inside Saudi,   https://insidesaudi.com/what-is-the-red-sea-project-in-saudi-arabia/.

[26] Seth G. Jones, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr., Danika Newlee, and Nicholas Harrington, “Iran’s Threat to Critical Saudi Infrastructure: The Implications of U.S.-Iranian Escalation,” CSIS Brief, Center for Strategic & International Studies, August 5, 2019, https://www.csis.org/analysis/irans-threat-saudi-critical-infrastructure-implications-us-iranian-escalation.

[27] Ibid., p. 196.

[28] Barry Pavel, “China and Iran Are About to Become Allies—Here’s What We Should Do About It,” National Interest, July 31, 2020, https://nationalinterest.org/feature/china-and-iran-are-about-become-allies%E2%80%94here%E2%80%99s-what-we-should-do-about-it-165958.

[29] Daniel R. Russel and Blake H. Berger, Weaponizing the Belt and Road Initiative, Asia Society Policy Institute (2020): p. 18, https://asiasociety.org/policy-institute/weaponizing-belt-and-road-initiative.

[30] John Vandiver, “China’s Base in Africa Now Big Enough to Host Aircraft Carriers, AFRICOM Boss Says,” Stars and Stripes, April 21, 2021, http://bitly.ws/w69J.

[31] Lisa Watanabe, “Europe and Major-Power Shifts in the Middle East,” in Strategic Trends 2022: Key Developments In Global Affairs, eds. Brian G. Carlson and Oliver Thränert (Zurich: Center For Security Studies, 2021): p. 90, http://bitly.ws/w6a5.

[32] Ibid., p. 91.

[33] Russel and Berger, Weaponizing the Belt and Road Initiative, p. 18.

[34] Stephen Blank, “Iran: The New Front in the U.S.-China Rivalry,” Newlines Institute, July 15, 2020, https://newlinesinstitute.org/iran/iran-the-new-front-in-the-u-s-china-rivalry/.

[35] Jonathan Fulton, “Will China Become a Major Arms Supplier to Iran?” Atlantic Council, June 9, 2020, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/iransource/will-china-become-a-major-arms-supplier-to-iran/; Lucille Greer,China Will Not Capitalize on the End of the Iran Arms Embargo,” Bourse & Bazaar Foundation, October 19, 2020,  https://www.bourseandbazaar.com/articles/2020/10/17/china-will-not-capitalize-on-the-end-of-the-iran-arms-embargo.

[36] Joel Wuthnow, The PLA Beyond Asia: China’s Growing Presence in the Red Sea Region, Strategic Forum 303, Institute For National Security Studies, Strategic Forum National Defense University, January 2020, https://inss.ndu.edu/Portals/68/Documents/stratforum/SF-303.pdf.

[37] Lt. Col. Daniel Lindley, “Assessing China’s Motives: How the Belt and Road Initiative Threatens US Interests,” Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, August 1, 2022, http://bitly.ws/w6bA.

[38] Eric A. Miller, “More Chinese Military Bases in Africa: A Question of  When, Not If,” Foreign Policy, August 16, 2022, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/08/16/china-military-bases-africa-navy-pla-geopolitics-strategy/.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Raffaello Pantucci, “Terrorism Fused with Great Power Conflict May Be the West’s Next Challenge,” Financial Times, August 21, 2022, https://www.ft.com/content/622822b5-036f-4731-99c7-f325f6e4f2da.

[41] Yoel Guznansky, ”Iran’s Growing Naval Ambitions: Why It Wants Naval Bases In Syria and Yemen,” Foreign Affairs, January 1, 2017, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/iran/irans-growing-naval-ambitions.

[42] “Iran Navy Expanding Its Presence in Red Sea, Israel Says,” Al-Monitor, July 5, 2022, https://www.al-monitor.com/originals/2022/07/iran-navy-expanding-its-presence-red-sea-israel-says; A. Savyon, “The Iran-U.S. Conflict: Iran Is Working on Obtaining Strategic Capability – Long-Range Missiles and Nuclear Submarines,” Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1518, Memri, June 26, 2020, http://bitly.ws/w6cK.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Seth J. Frantzman, “Could a New Iran Deal Increase Iran’s Drone Export Threat?-Analysis,” Jerusalem Post, August 22, 2022, https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/iran-news/article-715293.

[45] A. Savyon, “The Iran-U.S. Conflict”; Nasser Karimi and Isabel Debre, “Iran Launches Rocket into Space As Nuclear Talks to Resume,” AP News, June 26, 2002, http://bitly.ws/w6YU.

[46] “Arab Coalition Seizes New Iranian Missile Shipment off Yemen Coast,” The National, June 29, 2020, http://bitly.ws/w6ZV.

[47] Muhammad Fraser-Rahim and Mo Fatah, “In Somalia, Iran Is Replicating Russia’s Afghan Strategy,” Foreign Policy, July 17, 2020, https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/07/17/iran-aiding-al-shabab-somalia-united-states/.

[48] Jon Hoffman, “Yemen’s Small Islands Hold Major Strategic Value,” World Politics Review, January 18, 2022, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/overshadowed-by-war-yemen-s-small-islands-hold-strategic-value/.

[49] Rondeaux, “How a Man Linked to Prigozhin”; Elbagir et. al., “Russia Is Plundering Gold in Sudan.”

[50] Blank, “Gunboat Diplomacy à la Russe”; —”Russia’s Efforts to Play in the Indian Ocean Basin.”

[51] Andrey Kortunov, “The Astana Model: Methods and Ambitions of Russian Political Action,” in The MENA Region: A Great Power Competition, eds. Karim Mezran and Arturo Vavelli (Milan: ISPI & Atlantic Council, 2019): pp. 61-62, https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/MENA-Chapter-Three.pdf.

[52] Peter Huessy, “Maritime Chokepoints: Inconvenient Geography,” Jewish Policy Center, Fall 2019, https://www.jewishpolicycenter.org/2019/10/10/maritime-chokepoints-inconvenient-geography/.

[53] Andrew McGregor, “Mystery of Arms Ship Seized by Somali Pirates Grows Deeper,” Aberfoyle International Security, October 30, 2008, https://www.aberfoylesecurity.com/?p=2371.

[54]  Pavel Felgenhauer as quoted in Charles Bartles, “Possible Reasoning for Extraterritorial Naval Bases,” OEW, January 14, 2021, oew-online.com/.

[55] Amy MacKinnon, “With Base in Sudan, Russia Expands Its Military Reach in Africa,” Foreign Policy, December 14, 2020, http://bitly.ws/w75X.

[56] Petr Konovalov, “What Will Sudan Gain from Having a Russia Naval Base?” New Eastern Outlook, July 29, 2021, www.journal-neo.org/.

[57] Blank, “Gunboat Diplomacy, à la Russe.”

[58] Nicola de Blasio and Henry Lee, “Saudi Arabia’s Energy Infrastructure under Attack. What’s Next?” National Interest, October 6, 2019, http://bitly.ws/wecS.

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