Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Jean-Emmanuel Roux de Luze: "Turkey is playing the NATO card in the Ukrainian conflict"

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, April 5th 2022 à 10:05 | Read 246 times

During a speech at the 11th International Meeting of Cybèle, organised in Marseilles on 31 March and 1 April 2022 by the Euromed-IHEDN association, Rear Admiral Jean-Emmanuel Roux de Luze, Deputy Commander of the Mediterranean maritime zone (CECMED), explains the consequences of the war in Ukraine for the French Navy.

Jean-Emmanuel Roux de Luze observed the rise in power of Russian ships in the Mediterranean (photo: F.Dubessy)
Jean-Emmanuel Roux de Luze observed the rise in power of Russian ships in the Mediterranean (photo: F.Dubessy) How would you describe the Mediterranean maritime area?

Jean-Emmanuel Roux de Luze: It is a multi-millennial theatre covering 10% of the oceans, but 30% of world trade. It is a complex and complicated area, very dynamic, with relations to be managed between the twenty or so riparians, plus the United States. It is a pot on the boil that is sometimes brought to a boil before returning to normal.
The Navy's role is to patrol to find out what's going on. We monitor the Balkans, Libya and the interactions with other Mediterranean countries. We monitor the trafficking of migrants, weapons and drugs.

Were you surprised by the war in Ukraine?

J-E.R.d.L.: We were not caught cold. Just surprised, like everyone else, that Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. We were not caught cold, because we followed the build-up of all the means in the maritime sector and, of course, also what was happening in the land sector.

"The Russians are more present than in the past"

What are the consequences of this conflict on your mission?

J-E.R.d.L.: Our job is to be present in our area of responsibility, the Mediterranean maritime zone. So we are permanently deploying ships, submarines and aircraft there. The Russians have been there for a long time. Let's say that since the beginning of the war in Syria, they are well established at the Tartous base (Editor's note: Second Syrian port after Latakia) and at the Latakia base for aircraft. So they are more present than in the past. Today, they have doubled their number of ships to about twenty.

For years, we have been "living with them". You have to bear in mind that we work in an international space, the Russians too. We have the right to be there, and they have the right to be there. In the current crisis, our comrades in the army or the air force are operating in NATO countries. We operate on the high seas. So we are in the ring with the other competitors. There are rules to follow, but the traffic is free. We have been "rubbing shoulders" with the Russians for years.

"Turkey is playing the NATO card to the hilt"

A complex, complicated and dynamic area (photo: F.Dubessy)
A complex, complicated and dynamic area (photo: F.Dubessy)
Are there any new hot spots since this conflict?

I wouldn't call them hot spots. We live together, we monitor each other, we mark each other. For the moment, in the Eastern and Central Mediterranean zones, the behaviour of the competitors remains "professional". We have not experienced any hot episodes.

Turkey, a member of NATO, has had rather difficult relations with France, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean with the Navy. How does it behave today with this war?

J-E.R.d.L.: Turkey is playing the NATO card to the hilt. It is clearly with us. During this crisis, it is putting aside its differences with its neighbours, particularly territorial ones with Greece. In the Franco-Turkish bilateral, we have indeed observed tensions in recent years. They have already been resolved, and for a year now, before the current crisis, with a warming of our relations. We have exchanges with them, we do exercises and we work together. It is a real partner.

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