Courtesy Reuters

The Mediterranean Crisis

From history, climate, the cultivation of the olive and other aspects of a common civilization, the Mediterranean region has a certain unity. One can see it on the map. Yet it is too much a part of Europe, too much a part of the larger strategic concerns of non-Mediterranean powers, too diverse in the nations which encircle its waters, to constitute a subject of specifically regional politics, economics or security. A Tunisian foreign minister may call plaintively for a Mediterranean freed from the presence of superpower navies. A Soviet leader may float a suggestion for its denuclearization. A Yugoslav may propose a system of Mediterranean security to complete the work of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. A president of France may speak of a community stemming from his nation's historic and cultural ties with nations on both sides of the inland sea. Such proposals have had an occasional echo. But the Mediterranean area is not ready for a big international conference on security, for a negotiated set of principles of coexistence, or for the withdrawal of American and Soviet naval forces. Everyone sees a crisis there, but none agree on its description and no regional solution, no regional procedure for getting a solution, is at hand.

The Mediterranean today is the scene of serious local conflicts, of which those over Cyprus and over Palestine are the most intractable and the most dangerous. At the same time it has experienced the devastating results, both in international tension and internal instability, of the events which began with the 1973 October War and continued with the effects of the high price of energy. Add to this the continuing competition between the United States and Russia, the erosion of alliances and shifts in alignment, and the uncertainty on all sides as to how far détente will be applied, if at all, in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. One consequence of the oil crisis was to expose the weakness of the belt

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