Geopolitical and Geostrategic Provocations in the Black Sea Region-Author: Aurel Popa
The Black Sea region has become a central area in the strategic competition between Russia and the West, being of strategic importance due to its geographical position and natural resources. Moreover, this region is an important transit hub between Europe and Asia, being a crossroads between several regions: South-East Europe, the South Caucasus, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East and the Western Balkans.
It borders North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) allies Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, as well as partner states Georgia and Ukraine and an increasingly aggressive and revisionist Russia. Although some Black Sea littoral states have gained membership of NATO and the European Union, the region has remained divided and affected by tensions between Russia and the West.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Black Sea region and the wider region of the BSR, which also includes Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova, have been deeply fragmented. Tensions and strategic competition between Russia and the Euro-Atlantic West have exacerbated these problems, pushing the region into permanent conflict.
Maximillian Hess points out that the Black Sea region has witnessed ten armed conflicts on or near its shores in recent decades, including the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. These conflicts have directly affected the region’s civilian population and economy and have demonstrated the importance of the crisis in the region for global security.
In the context of the war in Ukraine and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, NATO and the United States have stepped up their involvement in the Black Sea region. In 2022, NATO decided to reset its long-term deterrence and defence posture in all areas – land, sea, air, cyber and space – and to increase support for Ukraine. NATO has also deployed four new multinational battle groups to the region, in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, to ensure security and stability in the area.
At its June 2022 summit, NATO adopted a new strategic concept, identifying Russia as the most significant and direct threat to allies and updating its core tasks accordingly. NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană has pointed out that there is widespread competition between revisionist and aggressive Russia and the democratic world, especially in the Black Sea area.
America, along with EU allies and partners, is helping to turn Russia’s war against Ukraine into a strategic failure. Across Europe, NATO and the European Union are united in opposing Russia and defending common values. Constraining Russia’s strategic economic sectors, including defence and aerospace, will support the effort to counter Russia’s attempts to weaken and destabilise sovereign nations and undermine multilateral institutions. Welcoming Finland and Sweden into NATO will further enhance security and the collective ability to respond and be resilient in the face of common threats from Russia, including asymmetric threats. More broadly, Putin’s war has profoundly diminished Russia’s status in relation to China and other Asian powers such as India and Japan. The historic global response to Russia’s war against Ukraine sends a resounding message that countries cannot enjoy the benefits of global integration by trampling on the basic principles of the UN Charter.
Over the past decade, the Russian government has chosen to pursue an imperialist foreign policy. with the aim of overthrowing key elements of the international order. This has culminated in a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in an attempt to overthrow its government and bring it under Russian control. Russian control. But, this attack did not come out of the blue; it was preceded by Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, its military intervention in Syria, its longstanding efforts to destabilize its neighbors using intelligence and cyber capabilities, and its blatant attempts to undermine internal relations domestic democratic processes in countries in Europe, Central Asia, and around the world.
Domestically, the Russian government under President Putin is violating the human rights of its citizens, suppressing opposition and shutting down the independent press. Russia now has a stagnant political system that does not respond to the needs of its people. Russia now poses an immediate and persistent threat to international peace and stability. This is not a fight between the West and Russia. It is about the fundamental principles of the UN Charter, to which Russia is a party, in particular respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and the prohibition against acquiring territory by war.
The war in Ukraine and the violent conflicts in other parts of the wider region of the BSR (Baltic Sea, Black Sea and Caspian Sea) are a direct result of Russia’s vindictive ambitions to regain influence in the region and protect its strategic interests. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union exercised strong dominance over the countries in this area, but the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ended this period of dominance.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia lost much of its influence in the region and faced an increase in Western influence in the region. Russia was concerned about the expansion of Euro-Atlantic institutions such as NATO and the EU into the region and the limitation of its influence to its north-eastern coast. In this context, Russia has sought to expand its own influence through instruments of national power, including involvement in ethno-territorial conflicts and support for separatism in the region.
Russia’s invasions of Ukraine in 2014 and 2022 are a clear example of its ambitions to reduce US and NATO influence in the region and strengthen its sphere of ‘privileged interests’. At the same time, Russia has sought to support separatism and destabilise other countries in the region, including through cyber and propaganda. This aggressive approach by Russia has led to escalating conflicts and tensions in the region, as well as an increased US and NATO military presence in the area.
In this context, it is important for the US and the EU to strengthen their presence in the region through force deployments, arms sales, investment and diplomatic engagement. It is also important to further strengthen NATO’s Eastern Front and to enhance flexible cooperation among allies and partners, including with Ukraine. It is also important to seek a new balance with the region’s strongest ally, Turkey, and to support and secure projects to improve regional connectivity that bypass Russia.
The Black Sea is also important for Russia’s military operations in Syria and its ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean. Before Turkey closes the Bosphorus and Dardanelles Strait to warships in May 2022, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet provided most of the capacity for its Mediterranean fleet, which Moscow reconstituted in 2013 for the first time since the end of the Cold War.
During the conflict in Syria, Black Sea Fleet ships, along with reflagged civilian vessels, transported troops and supplies from Novorossiysk through the straits to Russian bases in Tartus and Latakia. Russia also used Black Sea Fleet ships to “show the flag” in the eastern Mediterranean, trying to deter NATO or other outside powers from intervening in Syria.
These operations have made the Black Sea a vital strategic area for Russia, with significant implications for regional and global security. Russia is currently seeking permanent bases in Libya and Sudan, which could intensify tensions in the eastern Mediterranean and lead to increased confrontation between Russia and NATO.
In addition, Russia has recently strengthened relations with Egypt and Syria and has enhanced its presence in the region through economic investment and military agreements.
As in other regions, Russia is exerting its influence in and around the Black Sea through various means. During the war in Ukraine, Russia took advantage of the situation to put pressure on the South Caucasus and Central Asian states, as well as on Turkey, which is a NATO ally. This pressure is aimed at limiting the economic, political and strategic cooperation of these states with Europe.
Russia uses military exercises, to close critical sea lanes for months, claims on the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and harassment of civilian vessels to leave southern Black Sea states vulnerable. These actions may prevent the development of new projects, such as the planned deep sea port at Anaklia, Georgia, or the development of oil and gas reserves in the exclusive economic zones of Turkey or Romania.
Russia also uses financial, informational and other tools to influence public opinion and political decision-making in the region. Weak governance, democratic regression and state capture in much of the region make countries in the region vulnerable to such actions by Russia. In this way, Russia can also strengthen its influence in this strategically important region.
Romania is an important littoral state that is a member of NATO and the European Union and is striving to become a leader in the region.
Bucharest is pressing the United States to develop a Black Sea strategy in the context of the threat posed by Russia. Romania shares the US assessment of this threat and has identified the Republic of Moldova as being of “paramount strategic interest” and Russia as an “aggressive” threat. In addition, Romania wants to play a leading role in south-east NATO and provide humanitarian and military support to Ukraine, although investment in Romanian defence modernisation has been limited over the past decade.
Romania calls for a comprehensive approach to Moldova, covering military, economic, transport, energy, environmental and resilience issues. This could include cooperation in areas such as cyber security and energy defence, as well as improving transport and communication infrastructure between the two countries.
There is growing concern in Romania about Russia’s control over the Serpent Island and the potential legal implications for the delimitation of the continental shelf and EEZ between Romania and Ukraine. After a long bilateral dispute, this issue was resolved in 2009, but possible Russian control over the island could create new legal uncertainty in this regard.
This uncertainty could affect the exploitation of mineral and hydrocarbon resources in the area, with significant economic consequences for both countries. In addition, the Russian military presence in the Black Sea, including on the Snake Island, may affect the security of Romania and Ukraine, which could lead to new military conflicts.
In this context, Romanian officials are concerned about Russia’s strategic ambitions in the Black Sea and the wider region of the BSR in general. If these ambitions are not defeated, Moscow will continue to regroup and rearm, which could lead to new attempts to take control of the Snake Island and other territories in the region. Romania and other NATO allies in the region are therefore stepping up their efforts to strengthen security and stability in the Black Sea in order to counter the Russian threat.
Over the years, Romania has called for a stronger NATO presence in the Black Sea area. However, the political geography of the region is complex and threat perceptions vary among NATO allies in the area. Bucharest is concerned about the presence of pro-Russian forces in the neighbourhood, such as Hungary and Serbia, and the vulnerability of Moldova on its north-eastern border. An additional concern is that Moldova used to be part of Romania and there are a significant number of people in both countries who want reunification. However, Moldova faces socio-economic challenges caused by war and an influx of refugees, which may affect Moldova’s security and stability.
Russia has around 1 400 troops in the Transnistrian region of Moldova under the pretext of protecting ammunition depots, which contain around 20 000 tonnes of expired and still usable weapons. Russian officials have warned that any attack on these forces will be considered grounds for war. Bucharest fears any miscalculation or political or military destabilisation in Moldova, the Transnistrian region or unstable Gagauzia, where Russia is fuelling separatist sentiment.
Romanian officials are concerned about Russia’s presence in the south-east and frustrated that Western partners are not paying enough attention to the issue. The war in Georgia and Russia’s annexation of Crimea have been alarm bells for Bucharest and increased concerns about Russian aggression in the Black Sea region.
In this context, NATO’s tailored Forward Presence in Romania was perceived by some officials as smaller and less capable than the Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltics and Poland. This makes Romania more vulnerable to Russian aggression.
Despite these concerns, it is important to note that NATO has reaffirmed its full commitment to the security of Romania and its allies. NATO’s tailored forward presence in Romania was an important step in this direction, but more needs to be done to strengthen Romania’s capacity to deal with security threats in the Black Sea region. A united and coordinated approach is crucial to ensure security and stability in the Black Sea region.
Romania does not have a well-defined Maritime Policy and the approach of a Maritime Security Strategy is necessary in this context.
Despite the fact that other MSR states, such as Romania, have expressed concern about Russia’s revisionist threat and influence operations, Bulgaria has taken a different approach. Although the annexation of Crimea was a major event in the region and attracted the attention of many states, Bulgaria continued to maintain cordial relations and dependence on Russia. This can be explained by the shared history and culture of the two countries, but also by Russia’s political and economic influence in Bulgaria. In this context, Bulgaria has not had the same general awakening to the threat posed by Russia as other states in the region.
Thanks to the war in Ukraine, Bulgaria has become a more active and involved partner in NATO. Today, Bulgaria hosts one of the new NATO battlegroups and has taken steps to strengthen cooperation with its most important regional ally, Romania. Bulgaria has also supported NATO’s Multinational Division Southeast Command and Forward Presence, and hosting a NATO force integration unit and a centre of excellence are just a few examples of the country’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance. In addition, Bulgaria is involved in cross-border air policing and training missions at Novo Sela and has established a new Maritime Coordination Centre in Varna. If opposition from allies such as Turkey can be overcome, the centre could take over the coordination function from the Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM) in Northwood, U.K. In the summer of 2022, the blockade of sea lines of communication prompted Bulgaria to step up its efforts to modernise its defences and show a new openness to potential cooperation with Turkey.
Despite NATO’s efforts to strengthen security and increase cooperation among its Eastern European allies, there are still major challenges for Bulgaria in terms of political stability and national security. Russia has continued to try to maintain a strong influence in Bulgaria, which is perceived as an area of strategic interest for Moscow because of historical, cultural and economic ties.
However, experts who follow Bulgarian politics closely believe that the war in Ukraine has severely affected Russia’s traditional channels of influence. Even those who still support cooperation with Russia need to reconsider their position; the Kremlin cannot keep them on its side.
Turkey is an important element in the US and NATO strategy in the Black Sea region and the Middle East, thanks to its second-largest NATO army and its control of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. In recent years, however, Turkey has positioned itself as an increasingly independent regional power, seeking economic opportunities and political support from Moscow while committing itself to an independent foreign policy restricted to its own national interests.
With Russia increasing its military presence in the Black Sea and the surrounding region, Turkey faces security risks, such as the possibility of a missile launched from Crimea hitting Ankara within seconds. However, Turkey continues to remain cautious about direct confrontation with Russia, preferring to seek common ground with its NATO allies as it prepares for what is shaping up to be an enduring strategic contest.
Under the Montreux Convention, Turkey has the right to control the passage of warships through the Bosphorus and Dardanelles straits. The convention was signed in 1936 by Turkey and a number of naval powers, including the UK, France, Germany and Italy. It was negotiated following a dispute over control of the straits, which are important strategic crossing points between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean.
Although Turkey is a member of NATO, strict adherence to the Montreux convention may create tensions with its other allies. For example, Greece and France have different objectives in the Black Sea region, and Turkey’s policy may be perceived as a threat to them. In addition, Turkey does not recognise the government of Cyprus and has blocked its accession to NATO, which has created additional tensions with its other allies.
Nevertheless, Turkey considers strict compliance with the Montreux Convention as crucial for its national security and for maintaining its strategic autonomy. In Turkey’s view, the convention provides international recognition of its ownership of straits and allows it to control the passage of warships through them in time of war. Moreover, by maintaining a detente with Russia in the Black Sea region, Turkey can focus its efforts in other strategic areas, such as the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, where it has its own objectives.
In conclusion, Turkey’s position towards the Montreux Convention and the Black Sea region in general may create tensions with its other allies, but is crucial for maintaining its strategic autonomy and national security.
The United States and NATO will need to strike a delicate balance in encouraging Turkey to position itself more forward, without favouring President Erdogan’s efforts to undermine Western sanctions on Russia. In this way, Turkey will continue to remain an important element in NATO’s strategy, but will need to adapt its foreign policy to meet new challenges in the region.
With the outbreak of the full-scale war in Ukraine, Turkey’s traditional balance between Russia and NATO has become more complex. However, the war reinforced Ankara’s perception of its own importance to NATO. Turkey’s main priority has been to avoid involvement in the conflict and to use its relations with both Moscow and Kiev to position itself as a mediator. A notable example of Turkey’s involvement was brokering and securing the grain export agreement from Ukrainian ports. This agreement established a maritime coordination centre in Istanbul, and the Turkish navy was tasked with its implementation. Turkey was also instrumental in negotiating a prisoner exchange in September 2022. However, Turkish officials often argue that their Western NATO allies do not sufficiently appreciate their support for Ukraine and Turkey’s wider diplomatic role.
Ankara now acknowledges that the war has made its traditional preference for a condominium approach to security between the Black Sea littoral states impossible. Turkey can no longer continue to rely on such an approach given the current situation in the region. Turkey has also ceased to regard Russia as a reliable partner in the region because it has supported separatism in Cyprus and Georgia and annexed Crimea. As a result, Turkey has had to reconsider its position on regional security and redefine its relationship with Russia.
Finally, Turkey remains an important member of NATO and will continue its engagement with its NATO allies. However, Ankara will be more cautious about its relationship with Russia and will pay greater attention to regional security in the Black Sea. Although the current situation has made Turkey’s traditional balance between Russia and NATO more complex, Ankara will continue its efforts to promote stability and security in the region.
Although Turkey’s traditional balance between Russia and NATO has become more complex with the outbreak of large-scale war in Ukraine, Ankara has been reluctant to articulate a clear vision of what might replace its traditional approach to Black Sea security. Turkey has maintained its status as a custodian of the straits, and this has led to opposition to a permanent NATO presence in the Black Sea. In addition, Ankara is concerned that other allies could push NATO into an unnecessary confrontational approach with Moscow and is promoting the idea of a negotiated solution to the war in Ukraine. However, Turkish officials believe Ankara can protect its own security interests in the Black Sea by maintaining a cooperative relationship with Moscow. Despite this, some of the other littoral states are circumspect about Turkish intentions and are reluctant to see Ankara taking greater responsibility for regional security outside the NATO framework.
Ankara has not yet proposed a concrete alternative to its traditional approach to Black Sea security. However, Turkish officials are aware that they need to find a solution that preserves the delicate balance between their cooperative relationship with Moscow and their membership of NATO. In addition, Turkey wants to ensure that conflict with Moscow does not escalate in the region and that it is able to protect its security interests in the Black Sea. At the same time, the littoral states are wary of accepting a stronger Turkish stance on regional security, given Turkish opposition to a permanent NATO presence in the Black Sea. Ankara therefore needs to balance these concerns and find an approach that can be accepted by all stakeholders in the region.
Ankara has recognised the importance of NATO as a cornerstone of its security, despite the fact that many members of the Turkish elite feel a growing anti-Western sentiment and are trying to balance between NATO and Russia. However, Russia’s militarization of Crimea and its attempts to disrupt communication lines in the Black Sea pose a significant challenge to Turkish interests and could have implications for Turkey’s long-term commitment to NATO. In this context, helping Ukraine emerge victorious from the conflict could strengthen pro-Western elements in the Turkish elite and improve relations between Washington and Ankara.
As Russia intensifies its campaign for dominance in the Black Sea, Georgia’s security is particularly affected, given the unstable political situation and state capture, which has already exacerbated existing vulnerabilities. Even though about one-fifth of Georgia’s territory and two-thirds of its coastline are under Russian occupation, Georgia is important in shaping regional security dynamics because it has a pro-European orientation, NATO partner status and a key strategic position on transit routes linking Europe to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia. In this context, Georgia’s sovereignty and independence are important for its security.
NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept states that the security of countries aspiring to become members of the Alliance is closely linked to the security of NATO itself. The situation in Georgia is therefore a matter of concern for NATO and its member states. Russia’s occupation of South Ossetia/Tskhinvali and Abkhazia in 2008 has complicated the Georgian government’s efforts to regain control over its entire territory and deepened Georgia’s political fragmentation. Since 2008, Russian forces have continued to break Georgian territory through the process of moving the de facto border lines further into Georgia proper. This has put at risk the remaining Georgian ports in Batumi and Poti, as well as the nearby road, rail and pipeline infrastructure. Russian control over Abkhazia constrains Georgia’s connectivity across the Black Sea and undermines its ability to develop its economy and ensure its energy security.
Georgia has implemented a number of reforms, including extensive privatisation, reform of security services and the fight against official corruption, in order to align with European values and norms. Through NATO’s Partnership for Peace and its own Integrated Partnership Action Plan, Georgia has developed strong institutional relations with NATO. Together with Montenegro, Georgia was one of two states to adopt an annual national programme to pursue its NATO membership aspirations. This effort was recognised by NATO’s 2008 Bucharest Declaration, which stated that Georgia (and Ukraine) “will become” members of the alliance.
In recent years, Georgia has had close relations with the United States and NATO, particularly on regional security and European integration. However, lately, concerns about Georgia’s domestic politics have intensified, particularly with regard to respect for democratic values and the rule of law.
This concern has been reflected in the speeches of politicians and officials from the United States and Europe, who have expressed concerns about abuses of power, corruption and other internal problems in Georgia. In this way, Georgia has been put under pressure to improve the internal situation and to honour its democratic commitments.
This pressure has left Georgia vulnerable and at risk of losing Western support. In addition, the fact that Georgia is not considered a reliable partner because of internal problems may lead to a hedging strategy on the part of the United States and NATO instead of open and sincere support.
Also, the conflict in Ukraine has made Georgia feel even more vulnerable, and Georgian officials have been at pains not to offer Russia any justification for further aggression. At the same time, Georgia has sought to strengthen its ties with the West and receive support from the United States and NATO in its efforts to protect its national security and territorial integrity.
Today, the war in Ukraine and Russia’s campaign to dominate the Black Sea pose a major threat to Georgia’s security and strategic orientation. Although Tbilisi tries to remain neutral and avoid involvement in the conflict, it relies on the safe conduct of its Black Sea transit activities, which is threatened by the Russian military presence in the region.
In addition, Russia can use its influence over the Black Sea to limit Western power and influence in the region, including in Georgia and the South Caucasus region and Central Asia in general. In this context, it is essential for Georgia to work with its Western strategic partners to protect its interests and strengthen its regional security.
In conclusion, Georgia is in a vulnerable security position and is affected by instability in the region, including the war in Ukraine and Russia’s campaign to dominate the Black Sea. It is therefore important for Georgia to continue to strengthen its relations with its Western partners and to work together to protect its interests and secure a strong position in the region.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has generated widespread concern among US allies and partners about security in and around the Black Sea. While the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine remains uncertain, its consequences will have long-term effects on regional security.
In recent years, the Black Sea has become a key area of strategic conflict and regional security. Its importance is due to its strategic position, as well as the natural resources and critical trade routes that transit through it. With the intensification of Russia’s aggressive actions in recent years, concerns about the security of the Black Sea and its surrounding regions have grown and become a major security issue for NATO and its partners.
NATO and its partners in the region have taken security measures to protect vulnerable areas and counter Russia’s aggressive actions. In this regard, the United States has announced a new Black Sea security plan, which includes increasing its military presence in the region and improving the defence capabilities of its partners in the region.
In conclusion, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has heightened concerns about the security of the Black Sea and its surrounding regions. In these circumstances, it is important that NATO and its partners continue to take steps to counter Russia’s aggressive actions and strengthen regional security in the long term.
 Admiral (rtr) PhD. Aurel POPA, President of the Maritime Security Forum
 Specifically, the Transnistrian conflict in Moldova, the war between Georgia and Abkhazia, the Georgian civil war, the Russian-Georgian war, the two Chechen wars, the Russian-Ukrainian wars of 2014 and 2022, and the first and second wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. See Maximillian Hess, “Welcome to the Black Sea Era of War,” Foreign Policy, April 25, 2022, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/04/25/black-sea-war-russia-ukraine-turkey/. This report uses the term “wider Black Sea region” to refer to the sea itself, the six littoral states (Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine), plus neighbouring Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova.
 “Allies stand strong together in NATO in face of biggest security threat in a generation”, NATO, 24 March 2022, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_193674.htm.
 Mircea Geoană, (speech delivered at the Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Black Sea Summit, Constanta, Romania, 1 July 2022), https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news_197707.htm.
 See US National Security Strategy -OCTOBER 2022
 At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the USSR alone maintained 60,000 troops and 835 ships (including 28 submarines) in the Black Sea Fleet. The Warsaw Pact also operated a total of 10 naval bases in the Black Sea in the USSR, Bulgaria and Romania. Ferhan Oral and Șafak Oğuz, “The Security of the Black Sea: The Struggle in the Black Sea and Turkey’s Policy in the Post-Cold War Era”, Karadeniz Araștırmaları 18, no. 69 (2021): 1-16, https://www.proquest.com/openview/0a75354b4b1ce33fac55062e36d08e4a/1?pq- origsite=gscholar&cbl=237821; and Toucas, “The Geostrategic Importance of the Black Sea Region”.
 Igor Delanoë, “Russian Naval Forces in the War in Syria”, in Russia’s War in Syria: Assessing Russian Military Capabilities and Lessons Learned (Philadelphia, PA: FPRI, 2020), https://www.fpri.org/article/2020/09/about- the-book-russia-war-syria/.
 Maximilian Hess and Maia Otarashvili, “Georgia’s doomed deep-sea port ambitions,” FPRI, Black Sea Strategy Papers, October 2, 2020, https://www.fpri.org/article/2020/10/georgias-doomed-deep-sea-port-ambitions- geopolitics-of-the-cancelled-anaklia-project/; and Murat Temizer, “Bakan Dönmez: Karadeniz’deki gas rezervi, konutların 30 yıl ihtiyacını karșılayacak büyüklükte” [Minister Dönmez: Volumes of gas reserves in the Black Sea will meet 30 years of household demand], Anadolu Ajansi, 8 March 2022, https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/ekonomi/ bakan-donmez-karadenizdeki-gas-reserves-konutlarin-30-yil-ihtiyacini-karsilayacak-buyuklukte/2527411.
 Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey are NATO members. Ukraine and Georgia are NATO partners and aspiring members. The Republic of Moldova does not aspire to NATO membership, but cooperates with the alliance through the Partnership for Peace framework, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Trust Fund activities, an individual Partnership Action Plan and other activities. Armenia and Azerbaijan cooperate through the Partnership for Peace, Trust Fund activities and individual Partnership Action Plans. Both have also provided forces for NATO peacekeeping actions.
 Jeffrey Mankoff, “Turkey’s balancing act on Ukraine is becoming more precarious”, Foreign Policy, 10 March 2022, https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/03/10/turkey-ukraine-russia-war-nato-erdogan/.
 “Russian and Ukrainian officials sign grain export deal aimed at easing global crisis,” Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 22 July 2
 Interview with senior Turkish diplomat, Ankara, March 2022.
 “NATO Strategic Concept 2022”, NATO.
 “McCain Institute Unveils Tracker of Russian ‘Borderization’ in Georgia,” McCain Institute, October 16, 2019, https://www.mccaininstitute.org/resources/in-the-news/mccain-institute-unveils-tracker-of-russian- borderization-in-georgia/.
 See, “Russian troops enter Georgian port,” Reuters, August 11, 2008, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-georgia-ossetia-poti/russian-troops-enter- georgian-port-georgian-pm-idUKLB2226261820080811.
 “Deepening relations with Georgia,” NATO, 30 May 2014, https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_84060.htm.
 “Garibashvili Makes Controversial Remarks on Ukraine, Again,” Civil.ge, April 3, 2022, https://civil.ge/ archives/483425; and Tim Hume, “Georgia Blocked Hundreds of Foreign Fighters from Joining the Defence of Ukraine,” VICE News, March 1, 2022, https://www.vice.com/en/article/y3vx7k/georgia-blocked-hundreds-of- foreign-fighters-from-joining-the-defence-of-ukraine.