THE NEW ALLIES AND
EMERGING SECURITY DYNAMICS IN THE BLACK SEA AREA
I am very glad to be invited to the Columbia University / International
Peace Academy to address a very rich and challenging topic about the emerging dynamics in
the Black Sea area in the context of the current transformations of the international security environment.
Why the Black Sea area? Because
I believe this region has gained an unprecedented importance for advancing stability
and security beyond the European continent and for overcoming former confrontational
paradigms that defined its political and historic traditions. We should therefore
analyze this topic from three interconnected aspects: the strategic assets and opportunities of the Black Sea area,
the challenges and risks emerging from this region and the new foundations for a
transformed security approach towards the Black Sea.
1. Strategic assets and opportunities
Within the proposed evaluation of opportunities, challenges and
policies, we should examine first some relevant geographical coordinates of
The Black Sea region includes the coastal waters of Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, the Russian Federation, Turkey and Ukraine and it is a space with densely
populated shores, significant natural resources and a tiny connection to the Mediterranean through the straits of Bosporus and Dardanelles. Although it cannot be considered
entirely an open sea, it is directly linked with important communication lines,
through rivers (the Danube, Volga, Don) and land corridors that unite
Europe to Caucasus and Central Asia, and from North to South, the
Baltic area to South Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean.
Historically and politically, one cannot define the security
evolutions in this region without approaching an enlarged vision about the Black Sea, since evolutions in this
region are intrinsically connected to the security development in the Balkans
from Former Yugoslavia to Albania and Greece, in Caucasus with Georgia, Armenia
and Azerbaijan, the Near and Middle East, from Turkey to Iraq and Iran. To some
extend this approach could also incorporate the Caspian and Central Asian areas
along the former famous Silk Road or the lines of expansion of Alexander the Great.
The Black Sea strategic importance along the centuries lied in the role
it played as a bridge and a frontier, a buffer zone and a transit one, between Europe and Asia. Moreover the Black Sea stood for a point of juncture
between commercial routes and regions rich in energetic resources.
The "Great Game" in the Black Sea was shaped along its history by two
types of core-policies: political-military containment and deterrence, and
economic linkage between continents. Both of them have undergone dramatic
changes during recent years.
The classical containment policies were using this region as
the limes (in Latin "frontier")
between Europe and the Asian continent and as an asset
for launching military campaigns for territorial expansion. Politically the
argument of prevention and protection of frontiers has been used for example by
the Roman emperor Traianus in launching the attacks against the Parts’ tribes
in the Middle East that he defeated before dying on his way home in a place
that corresponds to contemporary Tikrit.
Since today’s type of warfare and means to conduct military
campaigns are less related to classical territorial assessments, both the
political and military containments acquired new dimensions. Regional cooperative
instruments have been created to build a common understanding among political
elites and advance stability and cooperation beyond the European continent. Most
known example is the Partnership for Peace.
On the other side, the basic significance of geographical
distances has changed. Missiles can reach far-away lands in a matter of hours. Terrorist
organizations extended their networking and capacities for launching attacks
from everyplace of the world. Therefore military containment policies should be
transformed to acquire a new dimension of prevention and response. Against this
background, the Black Sea should become a part of a broader defensive arc from Mediterranean to Caucasus, based on surveillance and early
warning, information sharing and strategies for prevention of terrorism or arms
proliferation. As a starting point, we might use the example of the Operation
Active Endeavor launched by NATO in the Mediterranean after September 11 events.
Going from containment to commerce, this region maintains a
major role for the commercial flows from Asia to Europe and for the transportation routes connecting
Sea to the
Black Sea. A well known Romanian historian
and diplomat, Gheorghe Bratianu spoke about the Black Sea as being the pivotal area for the
If one follows on the map the former Greek, Byzantine and Venetians
routes, one will find interesting similarities with current projects for
Eurasian transportation and energetic infrastructure. Along the southern path,
gas and oil projects are crossing the Black Sea from Caspian and Caucasus regions to Western Europe, from Georgia and Turkey to Romania and Bulgarian ports, to include the
opportunities offered by European navigable rivers and the possible connections
to the Mediterranean harbors.
Let’s now go to the second point of my presentation and evaluate
what are the risks and challenges to European security that emerge from the Black Sea area.
and threats to European security emerging from the Black Sea area
The Black Sea area has always been a source of insecurity, invasions and
migrations, and a gateway for importing region instabilities to the core of Europe. Against this background, the Black Sea has also been the basis for
specific regional strategies, conjectural alliances, diplomatic and military
ties with countries from the Caucasus or the Middle East. The steppe diplomacy of the Byzantines or the agreements
between Ottomans and Venetians played a major role in shaping the security of this
Currently the security challenges are generated by the
interrelated evolutions of economic disparities, low intensity conflicts,
illegal trafficking of armaments, mafia intrusion, human beings and drugs’
traffic, migrations and terrorist phenomena.
The creation of a large number of new states after the
disappearance of the Soviet Union and the Former Yugoslavia brought to light a number of
frozen territorial and ethnic disputes that are still not solved from
Transdniestria to Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Kosovo issues.
The large accumulations of military technique in the Black Sea area during the Cold War has
increased the opportunities for illegal trafficking of armaments and munitions
that also feed the needs of secessionist movements in building private armies
and paramilitary forces. In my opinion we are facing now a de-localization of
domestic disputes and their gradual expansion, since illegal groupings have
acquired the means to geographically extend their networking.
The Black Sea region is also facing potential significant migratory flows
for several reasons including historical motives, demographic and economic
growth disparities and maintenance of frozen conflicts. The area is a potential
European gate for illegal immigration from other continents. Such evolutions
could support the increase of armaments’ trafficking and the diversification of
transit routes for terrorist organizations through the Black Sea to Europe.
Finally, transition to democracy and market economy in
former communist countries has not been an easy process. The inherent
difficulties of strengthening the rule of law and political legitimacy contributed
to the development of internal tensions and center-periphery dichotomies. It is
one reason why, in some cases, authoritarian models of governance are still an
appealing solution for the political elites in this region.
It is obvious that these security risks are interconnected
and that conventional threats and frozen conflicts catalyze the emergence of
There is no single Achille’s heel but a complex picture of
hot spots, associated weaknesses and growing instabilities. A potential
solution for regional problems cannot be based therefore but on an extended
concept of security that might incorporate regional integration,
democratization, economic growth and re-definition of strategic policies
towards the Black
3. A strategic approach to the
future of the Black Sea in the current security context
How can we define a new security approach towards the Black Sea area? As mentioned, I believe there
are tremendous opportunities today to overcome strategic legacies and move
towards new patterns for cooperation and sustainable development. Two main
security evolutions could play a catalyzing role.
First, the enlargement of NATO and EU and their policies of
peace and stabilization introduced a comprehensive and historically exceptional
project of modernization in the Black Sea region. Extended cooperation with the Russian Federation has also open new opportunities for
joint action and definition of common security interests.
Second, the September 11 events taught us that remnants of
the traditional divisions into spheres of influence could be replaced by a more
pervasive definition of the enemy that is faceless, borderless and pitiless.
The way this region will cope with emerging security risks is a challenging
test for countries in the region and the international community.
The last 10 years stood for a positive accumulation of
cooperative security arrangements, from the inclusion of all littoral states
into the Partnership for Peace, to the development of confidence and security
building measures, multinational military forces (Black Sea FOR) and regional
formats for economic cooperation (BSECO). There is a now a real possibility of solving
the "frozen conflicts" through multilateralization in areas such as Abkhazia,
Transdniestria or Nagorno - Karabach with the support of different
But the last 10 years also demonstrated that there is a need
for a more visionary policy towards the entire region and the creation of
inter-institutional chains of cooperation and burden sharing.
With the encouraging progresses in the Balkans, the
problematic European backyard is gradually moving from Southeastern Europe to the Black Sea area. In this context, the Black Sea could be the litmus test for the
spread of democracy and security beyond Europe, in three major areas:
1. In political terms, the success of institutional
liberalism and the transition towards democracy of riparian countries will form
the basis for predictable security partnerships and extension of stability and
peace from the Balkans to Eastern Europe, Caucasus and even farther to Afghanistan.
2. In military terms, the region could
be both a platform for power projection and peace support operations in
neighboring areas and a buffer zone against asymmetric risks to European
security. In this context, there is a need for an extensive evaluation of opportunities
for infrastructure development, force deployment and sustainability, early
warning and prevention mechanisms in the Black Sea.
3. Finally, in economic terms, the Black Sea could become a significant source
of prosperity and market development for both Europe and its riparian countries, by the developing
and securing of the energetic routes, communication and financial flows between
the Caspian and Central Asian regions, Southeastern Europe and Western Europe.
To conclude, in redefining the Black Sea security dimension
I will replace the "bridge versus frontier" thinking with a new and, I believe,
more comprehensive description: the Black Sea could become a strategic platform
for the spread of democracy and stability, an emergent center for sustainable
development and a networking piece in an extended security approach from the
Mediterranean to Levant, Middle East and Central Asia.