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9 - The Mediterranean, a Sea Of Crisis

A change in Malta's foreign policy was the origin of a major change in AFSOUTH's organisation. Acceding to a request by the Maltese government and following an Italian invitation, NAVSOUTH was moved to Naples in 1971, to facilities on the little island of Nisida previously occupied by the Italian Air Force Academy. Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the headquarters from Malta, NATO signed a seven-year agreement with that government on the use of certain facilities.

Another period of serious tension in the Mediterranean made evident the need for NATO Allies to keep a close watch on events which, even if not in the area covered by the Treaty, were taken by the Soviets as opportunities for military build-up. During the Yom-Kippur War, in October 1973, Soviet Navy units in the Mediterranean were doubled, reaching a peak close to l00 units.

The oil price war that closely followed the end of the fourth Arab-Israeli conflict was a further factor for political instability in the whole area. Against this disturbing background, NATO Ministers had to stress once again the importance for the Alliance to maintain its defensive and deterrent capabilities.

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10 - The Transition to the Post Cold-War

But scenarios continued to change, as did the political and socio-economic landscape surrounding the Mediterranean area. Popular demonstrations in Bulgaria and Romania led to dramatic regime changes. Hungary opened its western borders. The Berlin Wall came down. NATO offered new relationships to Central and Eastern European nations. The Warsaw Pact ceased to exist on 31 March 1991.

The early 1990s might be termed an era of post-transition. Arms control was the preferred route to build a safer European security environment. AFSOUTH played an important role in the process by indicating the specific problems and needs of the Mediterranean area, while adapting once again to a changing security environment.

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11 - Operation Southern Guard

The War in the Gulf was not far from the AFSOUTH area of responsibility and, at least emotionally, everybody in the Southern Region felt affected. NATO as such was not involved but the chances for an eventual involvement could not be ruled out.

As a matter of fact, on that occasion the Alliance - by a decision taken by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe - took the first ever initiative linked, however indirectly, with an event occurring outside of the area covered by Atlantic treaty. The authorisation to extend the routine training activation of the Naval On-Call Force Mediterranean, so as to be able to operate it in the Eastern Mediterranean also as a compensation for the absence of NATO units deployed to the Persian Gulf area, was a further sign of the continuing and changing role NATO was to play in its southern European flank.

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Allied Joint Force Command Naples
Via Madonna del Pantano
80014 Lago Patria
Giugliano in Campania, Naples, Italy

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