Foreign Policy Blogs

Departing the Red Sea

Departing the Red Sea

A Soviet Era Rubezh system launching a Cold War era ground based Anti-Ship missile, similar in appearance to those seen being used by Houthis in the Red Sea.

The creation of the Suez Canal was successful in advancing trade from the East to Europe as a mark of industrial advancement in the 19th Century. So important was trade through the canal that it prompted national movements, significant wars, and inspired many other large similar projects worldwide. With the threat of Anti-Ship missiles being launched at commercial vessels in the Red Sea, the canal is being abandoned and ships passing through the area are losing their ability to be insured. Companies are now being forced to choose the traditional longer and more costly route around the entirety of Africa in order to deliver goods to the Mediterranean and North Africa. The loss of funds from the canal has a great economic effect on Egypt, and creates higher prices to those living in Europe who are already strickened with inflationary issues from global events and the war in Ukraine.

While the missiles being shot at ships in the Red Sea vary from basic anti-ship missiles and artillery to what looks to be a copy or version of an older chunky Soviet anti-ship missile, the possible damage to commercial vessels and possible loss of life is something the international community and world trade had not tolerated, ever. From stories of old Pirates to those featuring Tom Hanks, an international response would always be the end result as blocking commercial shipping tends to damage almost all nations who trade via blue water routes. While links between Iran toward the Houthis also suggests ties with Russia and China, both Russian and Chinese commercial shipping have suffered economically from attacks in the Red Sea region, even if not directly hit by missiles. While there has been an international military response to the threat, it is surprising that it has not been more immediate and more severe as it has often been throughout the history of trade overseas.

Notable allies and adversaries have entered into protection mode in the area, as Indian Navy ships help rescue injured vessels while China’s has taken to actively calling for the protection of commercial shipping interests alongside the US, UK, and France. With a motley crew of often adversarial Navies now working in concert, or at least for a common purpose, it is likely the case that policy approaches and actions amongst many of these adversaries have now shown to have created a lose-lose situation for all involved. This has come with the realisation that some allies are best left on their own, as their support is as harmful or worse than being in direct conflict when them. Ties to allies that have often resulted in past suffering in a country’s own population has not been a mystery for many Russians. China, with its own national challenges, is able to keep itself in a good position internationally even if it is not as robust or profitable as it has been five or more years ago. Coming so close to all out conflict when all parties are suffering from poor policy choices might do more to encourage diplomacy and resolutions to political challenges. Doing so while chunky Anti-Ship missiles are whizzing by your country’s flagged ships is probably not the motivation any party sought in resolving their fissures with international rivals, but its what is now the new normal in 2024.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration