Russia’s Defence Minister has ordered the Russian Navy to re-establish permanent presence in the Mediterranean to “protect national interests” in the strategic region.

“It is imperative to set up a task force to be deployed on a permanent basis in the Mediterranean in order to protect Russia’s national interests in the region,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting of top military officials in Moscow on Wednesday.

A naval task force, drawn from the Black Sea Fleet, will be deployed for round-the-year duty in the Mediterranean in 2015, a General Staff official said earlier.

“The force will accomplish scheduled and urgent missions on the Mediterranean theatre of operations, including deterrence of threats to Russian national and military security originating from that region,” the official said.

The Russian Navy held its largest war games in the Mediterranean in January to practice the deployment of a new naval task, he added.

The Mediterranean task force will be modelled on a Soviet Navy group that used to patrol the region during the Cold War, the official revealed.

The Fifth Operation Squadron of the Soviet Navy was deployed in the Mediterranean in 1967, shortly after the 6-day Arab-Israeli war. Russian historians believe the move deterred the United States from using its 6 Fleet on the side of Israel.  

The 5 squadron, numbering up to 80 warships at its peak strength, was disbanded in 1992, shortly after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

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