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8 - The Soviet Presence in The Mediterranean


That was the first opportunity taken by the Soviets to demonstrate their willingness to influence major events in the area by the use of military power. During that crisis the Soviet Mediterranean Squadron numbered up to 70 units, some of which were in Port Said and Alexandria, to prevent Israeli attacks against those ports. The Cold War was getting even colder. The invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 contributed to the lowering temperature.

For the Mediterranean it was the prelude to Albania renouncing its membership of the Warsaw Pact. Late that year, the MARAIRMED Command was activated in Naples to improve NATO surveillance in the Mediterranean. The Alliance's concern for the never-ending Soviet penetration, by any means, in the Mediterranean basin was reflected in this recognised need for increased vigilance. NATO ministers instructed the Council in permanent session to keep the situation under close review. In the framework of measures studied at a Reykjavik meeting the previous June, the NATO Defence Planning Committee approved, in May 1969, the future establishment of a Naval On-Call Force Mediterranean (NOCFORMED).

This maritime force, like the AMF for land and air, was to play an important deterrent role by showing the Allies' solidarity and their determination to put their forces under one flag. Assigned to NAVSOUTH, the On-Call force was activated 43 times between 1970 and 1991, when it was decided to replace it with a permanent force. It initially comprised up to five frigates or destroyers.

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