Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

“Our Sea”—An Eastern Mediterranean matrix game

Mare Nostrum cover.png

The ever-prolific Tom Mouat has completed the design of another matrix game, this time devoted to strategic jockeying by Russia, NATO, and others in the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean:

President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin has sought to reverse the post-Cold War era transformations during which Russia lost its satellites, withdrew militarily from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), forfeited its regional predominance, and curtailed its international power projection. Moscow’s primary strategic objective under the Putin presidency is to create a Eurasian bloc of states under predominant Russian influence that will necessitate containing, undermining and reversing NATO influence throughout eastern Europe. Even where it cannot pressure or entice its neighbours to integrate in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Kremlin attempts to neutralize nearby capitals by preventing them from moving into Western institutions, particularly NATO and the European Union (EU).

In this strategic context, Russia’s supremacy in the Black Sea becomes critical for restoring its east European and Eurasian dominion, as well as projecting power toward the Mediterranean and Middle East. Its offensives in and around the Black Sea are part of a larger anti-NATO strategy in which naval forces play a significant and growing role. Russia is using the Black Sea as a more advantageous method of revisionism than extensive land conquests. Control of ports and sea lanes delivers several benefits: it prevents NATO from projecting sufficient security for its Black Sea members; deters the intervention of littoral states on behalf of vulnerable neighbours; threatens to choke the trade and energy routes of states not in compliance with Russia’s national ambitions; and gives Moscow an enhanced ability to exploit fossil fuels in maritime locations.

All of this assumes particular significance, of course, against the backdrop of Russian deployment of its (rather dilapitated) aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to support combat operations in Syria, reports that NATO is again playing hide-and-seek with Russian attack submarines in the Med (and vice-versa), continued conflict in the Ukraine, political uncertainty in Turkey, the regional migrant crisis, and the growing value of eastern Mediterranean oil and gas deposits.


The actors represented in the game include the US, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Cyprus, and the UK, and turns represent around 2-4 weeks. Rules, counters, and maps are included, and can be downloaded from here (pdf).

3 responses to ““Our Sea”—An Eastern Mediterranean matrix game

  1. Nabil Ben hariz 27/12/2016 at 3:36 pm

    Dear All,
    How can we play that such wargame.
    Thanks for your reply.
    Nabil ben hariz

  2. Lorenzo Nannetti (@LorenzoNannetti) 19/12/2016 at 3:49 am

    Also, a variant may be considered including EU as an actor.

  3. Lorenzo Nannetti (@LorenzoNannetti) 19/12/2016 at 3:48 am

    Some suggestions to Maj. Mouat for a further refinement: in the map, include the location of the Zohr, Aphrodite, Tamar and Leviathan gas fields. They are the key Eastern Mediterranean gas findings and will shape some of the geopolitics in the area – they already are. Linked to this, I’d make it more explicit in the briefings that the possible reunification path for Cyprus is approved by Turkey exactly because all parties (Cyprus, Turkey and the northern part of Cyprus) want to develop the Aphrodite gas field fast and the agreement is needed or no development will happen. This is a key info to remind players of if they don’t already know it.

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