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
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.
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.
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.