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The Soviet navy's first extended deployment to the Mediterranean took place in 1958, in the aftermath of the U.S. intervention in Lebanon. Since that time, the Soviet Mediterranean Squadron has served as either a participant or close observer in every major crisis or conflict in the area and has become the primary symbol of the Soviet Union's regional presence. Soviet naval forces have played a key role in promoting local Soviet interests, and the cultivation of regional ties has provided the navy with the access needed to maintain a standing presence in the Mediterranean, far from its base of support. This paper, prepared for the 29th Annual Conference of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Barcelona, Spain, September 10-13, 1987, provides an overview of the history and current status of the Soviet naval presence in the Mediterranean. The author focuses on the local constraints facing Soviet planning, the style of Soviet Mediterranean operations, and the close relationship between Soviet naval access and political presence.

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