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Article published in MSF StudyRomania’s maritime resilience in the era of hybrid threats and the importance of a Maritime Security Strategy

With an area of over 400,000 km², the Black Sea is one of the most important geopolitical areas in the world. Situated on the border between Europe and Asia, the region is shared by six countries: Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia and Georgia. The Black Sea’s strategic position has put the region at the centre of major geopolitical, economic and security interests.

In the Black Sea regional context, Turkey remains a key player. The Turkish state has the largest Black Sea coastline and is one of the most important trading partners of the countries in the region. Turkey also has a major influence on security in the region, being a member of NATO and the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC)[2] .

Russia is also an important player in the Black Sea region. The Russian state has the largest number of ships and naval bases in the Black Sea, giving it a strong presence in the region. Russia also has a strong influence on the politics of the region, particularly in relation to the conflicts in Ukraine and Georgia.

The European Union (EU) and NATO are also involved in the Black Sea region. The EU has a strong neighbourhood policy and promotes cooperation with the countries in the region through the Eastern Partnership[3] . NATO, through the NATO Maritime Command[4] , aims to ensure security in the Black Sea area.

The Black Sea region faces a number of security challenges, including threats to energy security, drug trafficking, smuggling and terrorism. In addition, military conflicts in Ukraine and Georgia have affected regional stability and attracted the attention of the international community.

The Black Sea region has also become a cyber security hotspot. In recent years, several cyber attacks targeting countries in the region have been attributed to Russia. In 2020, it was reported that a Russian hacker group carried out a cyber attack on Ukraine that affected around 20,000 email accounts[5] .

These cyber attacks and threats to cyber security are a growing problem in the Black Sea region, particularly in the context of tensions between Russia and Ukraine. In the wake of these incidents, governments in the Black Sea region and their international partners have started to pay more attention to cyber security and take measures to protect critical infrastructure and sensitive information

The Black Sea region is one of the most important geopolitical areas in the world, as it lies at the crossroads of three continents and is where the interests of multiple regional and world powers meet. Security in this region is therefore essential for the stability of the whole Eurasian area and for international security.

In recent years, security in the Black Sea region has become an increasingly important issue due to a number of factors, including political and military tensions.

The report “The Black Sea: Great Power Competition and Hybrid Threats” published by the think-tank Atlantic Council in 2021, shows that the Black Sea region has become an area of fierce competition between Russia and NATO, and in recent years there have been military incidents, including interceptions of aircraft and warships. In addition, the report highlights hybrid threats, including disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks that are used to destabilise the region[6] .

The Black Sea is an important transport route for goods and energy. It is a key area for the export of oil and gas from Russia and other Central Asian countries to Europe, as well as for the transport of manufactured goods and other goods from Europe to Asia and the Middle East. Any disruption or conflict in this region could have a significant impact on the global economy, including the supply of energy and manufactured goods.

It is clear that security in the Black Sea region is of crucial importance for the stability of the Eurasian area and for international security. In a world where hybrid threats and cyber attacks are increasingly present, states and international organisations must cooperate closely to prevent and counter these threats.

The Black Sea is of major strategic importance to NATO and the EU. Several of the Black Sea countries are NATO members, and some have a special partnership with the Alliance. This region offers important opportunities for NATO and the EU to strengthen their presence in the region, to strengthen partnerships with countries in the region, to promote their values and interests, to respond to challenges and threats such as terrorism, extremism, humanitarian crises or conflicts. In this respect, ensuring security in the Black Sea region is a vital aspect of NATO and EU security and defence policy.

The Black Sea region, with its rich and diverse history, has always been an area of strategic interest for European and Asian powers. The history of security in this region has been marked by two important eras: the Soviet and post-Soviet eras.

The Soviet period was characterised by a strong Soviet military presence in the Black Sea region. Soviet military bases in Crimea, Georgia, Ukraine and elsewhere ensured a strong presence and influence in the region. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and NATO disputed control of the Black Sea, and it became an important theatre for naval and air operations.

In the post-Soviet period, the Black Sea region witnessed significant changes. After the break-up of the Soviet Union, states in the region sought their own identities and security interests. With the formation of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), a regional security structure was created involving many of the states in the region, with the exception of Georgia and Ukraine. In addition, relations were established with international organisations such as NATO and the EU.

However, security problems in the region did not disappear with the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the post-Soviet period. The region has witnessed major armed conflicts, such as the wars in Transnistria[7] , Abkhazia[8] and South Ossetia[9] , which have had a significant impact on regional security and stability. In addition, other security issues such as terrorism, drugs and human trafficking continued to affect the region.

The unfolding wars in the Balkans had a significant impact on the Black Sea region. These conflicts were characterised by foreign intervention and political, economic and social destabilisation of the countries involved. The Black Sea region was mainly affected by the following three aspects:

  • Refugees and migration – the wars in the Balkans have led to a significant increase in the number of refugees and migrants in neighbouring countries. These people have sought refuge and safety in the Black Sea region, where they have settled in different parts of the region. In particular, Ukraine and Bulgaria were the countries that received the largest number of refugees from the Balkans;
  • Arms trafficking and smuggling – during the wars in the Balkans, arms trafficking was an important source of funding for combatant groups and terrorist organisations. In this context, the Black Sea has become an important transport route for these weapons and other contraband. This arms trafficking[10] has had a negative impact on regional security and stability as it has fuelled conflict and violence in other areas;
  • Regional cooperation – the wars in the Balkans have directly and indirectly affected regional cooperation and economic integration in the Black Sea region. For example, states in the region have been forced to spend significant resources to deal with the problems caused by refugees and migrants. At the same time, arms trafficking and smuggling have undermined cooperation and coordination efforts between countries.

For the past three decades, Russia has used the Black Sea region as a buffer zone against the West, maintaining control through protracted conflicts such as those in Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These conflicts have been designed to prevent Western influence in this key region.

Russia has stepped up its aggression, culminating in the annexation of Crimea in 2014 through military intervention. This action was a turning point for NATO and the United States, which had to reassess their position in the region.

NATO has responded to this new challenge by transforming its posture from defensive to deterrent, expanding its responsiveness and strengthening its regional operations in terms of logistics, personnel and technology. This new approach has enabled NATO to be prepared to act quickly in the event of further Russian aggression.

At the same time, the United States proposed and eventually placed a missile shield in Romania and Poland, which became an important pillar of regional security. The missile shield was designed to protect Europe against ballistic threats from the Middle East, but also to deter Russian aggression.

However, some European countries initially opposed the deployment of the missile shield, citing the risk of inflaming tensions with Russia. But this changed when Russia’s aggression became clear and imminent, and European countries realised they had to work with the US and NATO to protect their regional security.

NATO and the United States have made significant efforts to strengthen the Alliance’s northern flank in recent years. This area includes the Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and Poland, which felt vulnerable to Russian aggression.

In 2016, NATO decided to deploy four multinational[11] battalions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to provide a stronger military presence in the region. These battalions are led by different Alliance nations and consist of around 1,000 troops. In addition, NATO has increased the level of training and exercises in the region and improved the infrastructure to allow faster deployment of troops and equipment when needed.

The United States also played an important role in strengthening the Alliance’s northern flank. In 2017, the United States inaugurated a new permanent military base in Poland, housing approximately 4,500 US troops. In addition, the United States has conducted joint military exercises with the Baltics and Poland and provided advanced military equipment such as missile defense systems and Abrams tanks.

The United States has also stepped up its investment in Poland’s defence capabilities, including through the implementation of a regional security initiative called the Three Seas Initiative, which includes other Central and Eastern European countries. This initiative aims to improve regional infrastructure and strengthen energy and security cooperation.

The Three Seas Initiative[12] is a platform for regional cooperation between the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which includes 12 EU Member States: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The concept was launched in 2015 by the Presidents of Poland and Croatia, with the aim of developing economic, energy and transport cooperation between Member States and narrowing the economic and development gaps between them and Western European countries.

The initiative focuses on regional connectivity projects, including the development of transport and energy infrastructure, the development of the digital market, and the development of the research and innovation sector.

The implementation of the concept is coordinated by a Three Seas Initiative Secretariat, which is based in Poland and organises an annual summit of leaders from the 12 member countries. In addition, the Initiative works with other regional organisations, such as the European Union and NATO, to support the development and security of the region.

Efforts to strengthen NATO’s northern and south-eastern flanks have been aimed at enhancing security and stability in these strategic regions for the alliance. While both regions face unique threats and challenges, there are significant differences in the approach and implementation of efforts to strengthen them.

One possible approach is to engage directly with conflict zones in the region, rather than from an international perspective. This involves analysing local specificities and regional interdependencies in order to develop more targeted solutions tailored to the concrete situation in each area.

Romania has continuously advocated over the last five years for increased attention and significant strengthening of NATO’s south-eastern flank, highlighting the strategic importance of the Black Sea where vulnerabilities are now taking their toll. Russia’s war against Ukraine is essentially a maritime war.

The war in Ukraine has led to a rediscovery of the strategic importance of the Black Sea and the regional dimension of its security, stability and economic development in times of war and peace. It is precisely this regional aspect that must be taken into account by policy-makers as they develop strategies to manage the conflict and its consequences.

NATO and the EU have failed to develop a common strategy for the Black Sea because of diverging interests and different threat perceptions. This was a costly misstep, as it allowed Russia to expand its influence and destabilise the region by supporting separatism in Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine is a stark reminder of the strategic importance of the region and the need for a regional approach to ensure its stability and development. It is now essential to develop a coherent and common strategy for the Black Sea, taking into account the interests of all Member States and focusing on ensuring Europe’s energy security, promoting economic cooperation and preventing conflicts.

Russia regards the Black Sea as an area of strategic interest and national security. Russia has had a strong presence in this area for centuries, and this presence was strengthened in the Soviet era when the Russian Black Sea Fleet became the largest military fleet in the region. Today, the Russian Black Sea Fleet is of significant strategic importance, providing Russia’s access to the Mediterranean and the rest of the world.

On the other hand, the US and the EU see the Black Sea as an important strategic area in relation to energy security and transportation of goods. The Black Sea is of crucial importance for the transport of goods, being linked to ports in South-Eastern Europe, including Romania and Bulgaria, and the Middle East. In addition, energy resources in the Black Sea are considered by the countries of the region as critical for Europe’s energy security.

In recent years, tensions between Russia and the West have been rising and the Black Sea region has become an important site of this conflict. Russia has carried out provocative military actions, such as intercepting NATO and other countries’ ships, as well as significant military exercises in the area. These actions have increased US and other NATO countries’ concerns about the security of the Black Sea region.

In recent years, the issue of extremism and terrorism in the Black Sea region has become increasingly worrying as terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida seek to expand their influence and recruit members in the area.

A major source of extremism and terrorism in the Black Sea region is the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014. Pro-Russian separatist groups and terrorist organizations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir,[13] became active in Crimea after the Russian annexation and began recruiting members to achieve their goals. Several supporters of terrorist organisations such as ISIS and al-Qaeda have also been arrested in Crimea in recent years.

In recent years, Hizb ut-Tahrir has been subjected to security crackdowns by governments, particularly in the Black Sea region, because of its alleged links to terrorism and Islamic extremism. In 2003[14] , the Russian government banned Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation and launched a crackdown on its members. Arrests of Hizb ut-Tahrir members have also been reported in Ukraine, Georgia and other countries in the region.

In 2018, Crimean authorities carried out several raids in which they arrested several Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters, accusing them of involvement in “terrorist activities”. There are also reports that Hizb ut-Tahrir is active in other parts of the world, including the Black Sea region.

In Turkey, terrorist attacks have increased in recent years and terrorist groups such as ISIS and the PKK continue to be active in the region. This has led to increased security at Turkey’s land and sea borders, and Turkish authorities have tightened security controls at ports and airports in the Black Sea region.

In addition, there are concerns about the possibility of terrorist groups using drug and human trafficking corridors in the Black Sea region to finance their terrorist activities.

The Black Sea, located in the strategic region of Eastern Europe, faces significant security challenges. In addition to traditional threats such as geopolitical conflicts and regional instability, drug trafficking and smuggling are also of concern. These illicit activities damage the economies, public health and social stability of the countries bordering the Black Sea.

 In recent years, the production and transit of drugs such as opium and heroin from Afghanistan has increased significantly. Land and sea routes from Central Asia and the Middle East through the Black Sea region are used to transport drugs to European markets. For example, traffickers often use Ukrainian or Bulgarian ports to smuggle heroin into Western Europe.

Sea routes from South America to Europe pass through this basin, and drug traffickers often use merchant ships, small boats or even homemade submarines to avoid detection.

Cigarette smuggling is one of the most widespread illegal activities in the region. Smuggled cigarettes are brought from Ukraine, Moldova or Russia and sold on the black market, generating significant losses for the budgets of the riparian states.

 Illegal trade in protected animals and plants is also a problem in the Black Sea region. Some species of rare animals or plants are illegally caught or felled and the resulting products are sold on the black market, contributing to the degradation of biodiversity and the loss of the region’s natural heritage.

In 2019[15] , Ukrainian authorities made a significant drug seizure in the port of Odessa. Approximately 7.5 tons of cocaine were discovered in a container from South America. This was one of the largest cocaine seizures in Ukrainian history and highlighted the involvement of the Black Sea in drug trafficking routes.

In 2021[16] , Bulgarian authorities carried out a large-scale operation against drug traffickers in the Black Sea region. Significant quantities of heroin, cocaine and marijuana were seized and several people involved in drug trafficking networks were arrested. This operation demonstrated the persistence of drug trafficking and the need for close cooperation between the countries bordering the Mediterranean to combat this phenomenon.

In 2018, Romanian and Bulgarian law enforcement agencies worked together to dismantle an international drug trafficking network operating in the Black Sea region. Significant quantities of drugs, including cocaine and heroin, were seized and members of the network were arrested. This action highlighted regional cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking and the need for concerted efforts to tackle this common threat.

In 2021[17] a ton and a half of heroin was discovered in the Port of Constanta. The drugs were concealed in containers of building materials that travelled on the Iran-Romania route, with a final destination in Western European countries.

These examples illustrate that drug trafficking in the Black Sea region remains an ongoing problem and that the authorities in the countries bordering the Black Sea need to step up their efforts to combat this phenomenon, including by strengthening regional and international cooperation.

Terrorist and extremist groups can obtain funding through drug trafficking and smuggling. For example, there are cases where terrorist organisations such as ISIS have been involved in drug trafficking from Afghanistan via the Black Sea routes, using the money obtained to finance their terrorist activities.

Some separatist groups in the Black Sea region have obtained financial and logistical resources through drug trafficking and smuggling. These resources enable them to undertake destabilising actions and fuel regional conflicts. For example, in the Transnistrian region of Moldova, drug trafficking and smuggling are known to help finance and support separatism.

  1. Approaches and strategies for ensuring security in the Black Sea region

Security in the Black Sea is a common concern for the littoral states and the international community. International cooperation and diplomatic dialogue are essential tools in ensuring regional stability and security. By strengthening strategic partnerships, information exchange, political dialogue and preventive diplomacy, solid foundations can be built to promote security, stability and cooperation in the Black Sea region. It is essential that the littoral states continue to work together to identify and effectively manage common threats, and that the international community supports these efforts through diplomatic engagement and cooperation in key areas so that the Black Sea region remains a secure and prosperous area.

Strengthening regional security through cooperation and strategic partnerships in the Black Sea region can be achieved through various mechanisms and initiatives. Here are some relevant examples:

  • NATO and the Partnership for Peace (PfP) – Black Sea littoral states such as Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey are members of NATO, while others, such as Ukraine and Georgia, are part of the Partnership for Peace. They receive security support and assistance from NATO allies and participate in joint military exercises and training activities;
    • Members of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Initiative (BSEC) work together in areas such as regional security, infrastructure development, energy, transport, tourism and environmental protection;
    • Black Sea Group[18] – this group brings together law enforcement agencies from the Black Sea littoral states to combat cross-border crime, including drug trafficking, smuggling and corruption. Members share information and best practices, coordinate joint operations and support the exchange of experts;
    • Joint military exercises and naval operations – the Black Sea littoral states, in cooperation with international partners, conduct joint military exercises and naval operations to improve interoperability and responsiveness in case of crisis or conflict;
    • Black Sea littoral states conduct political dialogues and bilateral consultations to address regional security issues and promote common understanding. These may include discussions on crisis management, economic development and infrastructure investment.

Through these examples of cooperation and strategic partnerships, the aim is to strengthen regional security and promote stability in the Black Sea region. These mechanisms allow the littoral states to collaborate, share expertise and respond together to security challenges, thus contributing to a secure environment.

The EU promotes political dialogue and diplomacy in the Black Sea region, facilitating negotiations and consultations between the littoral states and international partners. Through its representatives and European institutions, the EU supports cooperative approaches to security issues and conflict mediation.

The EU provides financial assistance and support for economic development, infrastructure and energy security in the Black Sea littoral states. Through assistance instruments and specific programmes, the EU fosters regional cooperation and promotes sustainable development in the region.

The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP)[19] has a clear focus on security and stability in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood, including the Black Sea region. Through the ENP, the EU supports political reforms, institution-building and security modernisation in partner states.

The EU promotes the coordination of security actions in the Black Sea region through Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) Joint Missions and Operations[20] . These can include monitoring of the security situation, development of defence capabilities and crisis management.

Joint CSDP missions and operations may involve a wide range of activities, such as monitoring compliance with peace agreements, assisting security sector reform, training and educating local security forces, managing humanitarian crises or evacuating civilians in emergency situations. These actions are deployed in different regions of the world and can be tailored to the specifics of each situation.

The joint missions and operations of the CSDP are carried out through cooperation between EU Member States and involve human, financial and technological resources from them. They are coordinated by the European External Action Service (EEAS), which is the institution responsible for planning, implementing and monitoring these actions.

An example of a CSDP mission is the European Security Assistance Mission to Mali (EUCAP Sahel Mali)[21] , which aims to support the Malian authorities in strengthening security and governance capacities. This involves providing technical assistance and advice in the security sector, as well as developing law enforcement and justice institutions in Mali.

The EU Advisory Mission in Ukraine (EUAM Ukraine) and the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM Georgia) are two civilian missions deployed by the European Union in these countries with the aim of supporting and strengthening democratic processes, rule of law and security reforms.

EUAM Ukraine was established in 2014 in response to Ukraine’s request for support in security sector reform and rule of law processes. The mission aims to provide assistance and advice to the Ukrainian authorities in areas such as civilian management of the security sector, respect for human rights, police reform, the fight against corruption and the strengthening of justice.

Through the expertise and experience provided by international experts, EUAM Ukraine works closely with Ukrainian institutions to improve their capacity and effectiveness in the field of security and justice. The mission also promotes democratic values, respect for human rights and good governance in Ukraine.

EUMM Georgia was launched in 2008 in response to the conflict between Russia and Georgia. The mission’s role is to monitor the security situation and promote stability in the occupied Abkhazia and occupied Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia) and adjacent areas.

EUMM Georgia consists of international observers who monitor the situation on the ground, facilitate dialogue and help build confidence between the parties. The mission also plays an important role in facilitating humanitarian access and freedom of movement in conflict-affected regions.

The overall aim of EUMM Georgia is to contribute to the peaceful settlement of the conflict and respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia, promoting European values and regional cooperation.

Thus, the EU plays an active role in promoting regional security in the Black Sea through diplomacy, financial support, coordination of security actions and promotion of European values and norms. Through these efforts, the EU contributes to strengthening stability and sustainable development in the region.

To further strengthen regional security in the Black Sea, the European Union (EU) could adopt the following additional measures:

  • Stepping up support for security reforms – the EU can continue to provide technical and financial assistance to strengthen defence and security capabilities in the Black Sea littoral states. This can include modernising and professionalising security forces, improving security infrastructure and facilitating information exchange;
    • Strengthening cooperation on cyber security – data and digital infrastructure are becoming increasingly vulnerable in the digital age and cyber threats can affect regional security. The EU should strengthen cooperation with neighbouring states and international partners on cyber security, promoting the exchange of best practices, capacity building and strengthening cyber protection;
    • supporting institutional reforms and the rule of law – strengthening the rule of law and democratic institutions is essential for regional security. The EU should continue to support and monitor institutional reforms, promoting transparency, accountability and respect for human rights in the littoral states.

The EU can intensify partnerships and regional dialogue with organisations and states in the Black Sea region, including the Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), the Three Seas Initiative and NATO partners. Through these partnerships, joint projects can be developed, information exchange promoted and security cooperation strengthened.

The EU can continue to provide financial and technical support for regional development projects in the Black Sea region. These projects can target transport, energy and communications infrastructure, facilitating connectivity and regional economic integration. By promoting sustainable development and economic growth, it can contribute to strengthening security and stability in the region.

By adopting these additional measures, the EU could play a more active role in ensuring regional security in the Black Sea and promoting stability, cooperation and sustainable development in the region.

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) could consider the following actions to further contribute to security in the Black Sea region:

  • NATO could increase its military presence in the Black Sea region through more exercises and maritime presence, as well as regular rotation of forces to bases in the littoral states. This would demonstrate NATO’s commitment to the security of the region and strengthen deterrence against potential threats to states in the region;
    • NATO could enhance cooperation with the Black Sea littoral states by strengthening partnerships and political dialogue. This would include promoting information exchange, joint exercises and strengthening the defence and security capabilities of these states. NATO could provide technical assistance and advice on developing security infrastructure and strengthening defence and law and order institutions; although Russia is currently excluded from the partnership equation, viable solutions will be found in a future when Russia ceases to be an aggressor state.
    • Given the importance of cyber security in the digital age, NATO should pay increased attention to strengthening cyber defence capabilities in the Black Sea region. This would include supporting the development of national cyber defence capabilities, exchange of information and best practices, and the organisation of joint exercises and training in this field;
    • NATO should continue to promote dialogue and diplomacy as a means of resolving disputes and tensions in the Black Sea region. This may include facilitating negotiations and mediation in conflicts, promoting political dialogue between the littoral states and supporting confidence-building initiatives and the development of bilateral and regional relations.

These measures would contribute to strengthening NATO’s presence and engagement in the Black Sea region and enhance security and stability in the area.

From a diplomatic perspective, the US should focus its policy in the Black Sea region on Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. Romania is the best option for hosting all NATO forces in this area, and through the Danube-Black Sea canal network, it allows for the efficient transfer of forces, thus avoiding the limitations on naval movements imposed by the Montreux Convention.

In order to develop an effective strategy for the Black Sea region, it is necessary to focus on the maritime aspects of the region. In this respect, US military investment in Romanian ports would be essential, with a particular focus on the port of Constanta, but also on Danube ports such as Galati and Braila. The allocation of significant resources for the development of military forces in the Black Sea region would also be essential. Particular attention should be paid to anti-ship missile units, air defences and long-range artillery/missiles to ensure that there is the capability to respond quickly and effectively to any Russian challenge. In addition, the US should develop its standing rotational forces in the Black Sea region, which would enhance its ability to conduct surveillance, patrol and intervention operations when needed. In conclusion, a well-developed and implemented maritime strategy could be key to the security and stability of the Black Sea and the surrounding region.

The Montreux Convention, which regulates access of foreign warships to the Black Sea, imposes a number of restrictions in this respect. However, from a legal point of view, there is a possibility for the US and other NATO states to deploy long-range anti-ship missile boats under 1000 t displacement on the Danube and the Danube-Black Sea canal without violating the Montreux Convention. In general military vessels have a relatively small draught. For example, corvettes are up to 3m and missile boats 2.5m. In this regard, NATO and the US could consider developing a force, comprising fast and efficient missile boats, specifically designed to counter large Russian platforms in the Black Sea.

This strategy would provide an opportunity for the US and NATO states to increase their military presence in the Black Sea and strengthen their strategic position in the region. It would also allow countering Russian capabilities in the Black Sea, which could pose a threat to NATO ships and interests in the region.

In addition, this approach would provide a solution to the restrictions imposed by the Montreux Convention, which limits access of foreign warships to the Black Sea. Instead of focusing on large warships, which could be restricted by the convention, the US and NATO states could use smaller, more manoeuvrable ships with considerable firepower.

Senators Mitt Romney and Jeanne Shaheen introduced the Black Sea Strategy bill last year. It calls on the US government to create a comprehensive Black Sea strategy, including mechanisms for regional political, military and economic engagement and a clear plan to counter Russian aggression in the Black Sea. A coherent Black Sea strategy would recognize the US interest in the Black Sea as a gateway to the Eurasian heartland, identify as a goal the creation of a dominant maritime position in the Black Sea in cooperation with US allies and regional partners, recognize Ukraine’s role in a future Black Sea order, and create a roadmap for future strategic action in the Black Sea. A fit-for-purpose Black Sea strategy, more simply, would give US policy a coherence it currently lacks.

The United States Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act/NDAA on Thursday evening, July 27, 2023. As part of the NDAA, the Black Sea Security Act bill was also approved through an amendment introduced by Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Mitt Romney.

“With this action, the U.S. Senate confirms the Black Sea’s status as a region of critical geostrategic importance and ushers in a new era of U.S. engagement in the region. The U.S. Senate is also expressing, for the first time, through the passage of this bill, strong support for comprehensive U.S. engagement in the Black Sea region with allies and partners in strategic areas such as security and defense, economics, energy, and democratic resilience. [22]

Such a strategy would provide an opportunity to strengthen the US presence in the region and promote its interests more effectively. It would also allow for the creation of a network of alliances and partnerships to help ensure stability and security in the region. In addition, by developing a specific strategy for the Black Sea, the US would be able to demonstrate its commitment to its regional allies and give them a clear direction for joint action.

Safety and security in the Black Sea is of great importance to the countries bordering the Black Sea, given the strategic position of the area and cross-border security threats such as drug trafficking, smuggling, corruption, terrorism and internal conflicts in the region. To address these threats, the riparian states have stepped up their efforts to cooperate and coordinate their security policies.

Improving regional cooperation: the littoral states should work together to develop a joint action plan for Black Sea security. This plan could include measures such as increased naval and air patrols, intelligence sharing and increased capacity to respond to threats.

With the increase in maritime traffic and economic activity in the area, it is becoming increasingly important to strengthen monitoring and control capacity. Coastal states should develop advanced monitoring technologies and improve border control capabilities at borders and border crossing points.

Effective communication and information sharing between security agencies in the region could help prevent and combat security threats. Border states should improve cooperation between their security agencies and share relevant information on suspicious activities.

Cooperation with international partners, such as NATO and the European Union, is an effective way to strengthen Black Sea security. By developing strategic partnerships, the littoral states could benefit from the expertise and resources of these organisations in the fight against security threats.

In the event of future crisis situations in the area, it is important that the riparian states have rapid response capabilities to ensure security and stability.

In conclusion, the development of a Black Sea strategy is essential for the littoral states, NATO, the promotion of American interests in the region and the strengthening of the US position in Eurasia. This strategic document should provide a clear direction for military, economic and political action in cooperation with regional allies, thereby helping to ensure stability and security in the region.

[1] Author: Admiral (rtr) PhD. Aurel POPA, Maritime Security Forum, ..

[2] The Organisation of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) is an intergovernmental organisation made up of the Black Sea littoral states and the states of the Black Sea region. It was established in 1992 and is based in Istanbul, Turkey. The aim of the BSEC is to promote economic and trade cooperation between member states and to improve living standards in the region. Members are Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. The organisation also has four observer countries: Austria, Germany, Italy and Poland. h ttps:// acc esat 15.03.2023.

[3] The Eastern Partnership is an initiative launched by the European Union in 2009 to strengthen the EU’s relations with six Eastern and South-Eastern European countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The initiative’s main objectives are to increase security, strengthen the rule of law and democratic institutions and promote economic cooperation and reforms. h ttps:// ac esat 20.03.2023.

[4] NATO Maritime Command headquarters is located in Northwood, a suburb of London, UK. It is a permanent NATO naval command, which is responsible for planning and executing NATO naval operations in various areas, including the Black Sea. However, NATO Maritime Command can conduct operations and missions in any location where its presence is required. h ttps:// ac ceased 20.03.2023.

[5] In 2020, there were several cyber attacks on Ukraine, including a major cyber attack that targeted Ukraine’s government networks and security institutions. Ukrainian authorities and cybersecurity experts have identified the hacker group responsible for this attack as “Fancy Bear” or “APT28”, an entity suspected of having links to Russian security services. Sources: “Russian hackers suspected of targeting Ukraine again” published by BBC News on 24 February 2020, “Cyber Security in the Black Sea Region” published by the NATO Defense College think-tank in 2020.

[6] “The Black Sea: Great Power Competition and Hybrid Threats”.

[7] The conflict in Transnistria is one of the longest and most complex conflicts in Eastern Europe. It began in the early 1990s, when Moldova declared independence from the Soviet Union and Russian-backed secessionist movements began to gain momentum in the eastern region of Transnistria. The conflict has led to fighting between the government in Chisinau and Russian-backed Transnistrian separatist forces.

[8] In the case of Abkhazia, the conflict began in the late 1980s, when Russian-backed secessionist movements began to gain momentum in the region. In 1992, a war broke out between Georgian and Abkhaz forces, and the conflict continued until a ceasefire agreement was reached in 1994. In 2008, another military conflict broke out between Georgia and Russia and Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia, leading to an escalation of tensions in the region. .

[9] South Ossetia is another breakaway region of Georgia that became the subject of a military conflict with Russia in the 1990s and 2008. In 1991, a conflict broke out between Georgian and Ossetian forces, and the conflict continued until 1992, when a ceasefire agreement was signed. In 2008, another military conflict broke out between Georgia and Russia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia.

[10] In 1992, a Panamanian-flagged vessel known as the “Korsakov” was intercepted by Turkish authorities in the Black Sea. Weapons and ammunition destined for Bosnian Serb forces were found on board and the ship’s crew was arrested. “Turks seize arms ship bound for Bosnian Serbs”, published May 21, 1992, The New York Times.

[11] In 2016, NATO decided to create four multinational battalions in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, called Enhanced Forward Presence Brigades. These battalions were created in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and growing security concerns in Eastern Europe. Each brigade is made up of around 1,000 troops and their main missions are to provide deterrence and defence against any threats to NATO states in the region. These battalions are under NATO command and are made up of forces from different NATO member countries. Official NATO website:

[12] The initiative was launched in 2015 by the Presidents of Poland and Croatia and has since been extended to include 12 member countries: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The initiative was also supported by the US, which called for greater cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. In 2019, the US held a meeting of the Big Three Initiative in Bucharest, where US President Donald Trump called for investment in the region and increased energy cooperation.

[13] Hizb ut-Tahrir (“Liberation Party”) was founded in 1953 in Jordan by a Palestinian judge and theologian named Taqiuddin al-Nabhani. He created the organisation with the stated aim of restoring the Islamic Caliphate and uniting the Muslim world under a single leader. It is important to note that Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in several countries, including Russia, Germany, Turkey and Central Asian countries, and its activities and aims are closely monitored by authorities and security organisations.

[14] h ttps:// con sultata 20.03.2023.

[15] accessed 02 03.2023 .

[16] accessed 02.03.2023.

[17] accessed 02.03.2023.

[18] The Black Sea Group is a regional initiative for cooperation in the fight against organised crime in the Black Sea region. It was established in 1996 and is made up of the Black Sea littoral states, including Albania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. The Cross-Border Organised Crime Task Force organises regular meetings where representatives of member states discuss and coordinate joint actions to address security and crime issues in the Black Sea region.

[19] The European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is an external policy of the European Union (EU) aimed at developing relations with countries in its immediate neighbourhood. It was launched in 2004 as a framework for cooperation and assistance to partner countries in the east and south of the EU, with the aim of strengthening stability, security, prosperity and democratic values in these countries. Under the European Neighbourhood Policy, the EU works with 16 partner countries, 12 of which are in the Eastern Neighbourhood (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine) and 4 in the Southern Neighbourhood (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia). The European Neighbourhood Policy has evolved over time and was revised in 2015. Ac ceased on 06.03.2023.

[20] The CSDP Joint Operations have been developed within the European Union (EU) in a series of stages and decisions taken between 1999 and 2003. Subsequently, in 2003, a European Council Decision was adopted creating a permanent structure for the conduct of EU military and civilian operations. This led to the establishment of CSDP Joint Missions and Operations and strengthened the EU’s capacity to act in the field of security and defence in the framework of foreign and security policy. Since then, the EU has deployed a number of missions and operations in different regions of the world, such as Africa, the Western Balkans, the Middle East or the Mediterranean, to promote peace, stabilisation and crisis management. These actions are coordinated by the European External Action Service (EEAS) and involve the contribution of EU Member States in military and civilian forces. h ttps:// ac ceased 14.03.2023.

[21] EUCAP Sahel Mali is a European Union civilian mission that was launched in 2014 under the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). The mission aims to support and develop the institutional capacities of Mali’s security forces, in particular in the area of crisis management and security sector reform. h ttps:// acc esat 12.03.2023.

[22] Andrei Muraru, Ambassador of Romania to the United States.

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