Challenges for security and stability in the Black Sea region

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

In the face of continued international concern over Russia’s activities in the Black Sea region, the MacMillan Center hosted a panel on the topic of “Challenges for Security and Stability in the Region of the Black Sea” on March 7 with Ambassador Kaha Imnadze, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the United Nations; Ambassasdor Vlad Lupan, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Moldova to the United Nations; Colonel Florin Romanz, Military Advisor, Permanent Mission of Romania to the United Nations; Rauf Alp Denktas, First Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations; and Colonel Mykhailo Kyrylenko, Military Advisor, Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations. The panel was chaired by Yuriy Sergeyev, the Rice Faculty Fellow at the MacMillan Center. (view video)

Ambassador Imnadze began the panel with a brief overview of the Black Sea region from Georgia’s perspective, and said there were three premises that informed his view of the region’s future. The first premise was economic.

“Obviously, the Black Sea is a connection between Europe and Central Asia, with important maritime trade routes,” he said. “That also includes the routes for oil and gas exports, the key pipelines, that are key to Europe’s energy diversity supply.”

Ambassador Imnadze’s second premise was the “increasing militarization of the region that we are observing currently because of ongoing conflict or tensions.” 

The third premise, Ambassador Imnadze said, is that territorial integrity, one of the principles of the modern international world order, “is not only being challenged, openly, in the Black Sea territory, it is being upset.”

“The Black Sea is indeed the stepping stone in Russia’s assertion of coming back as another pole of power,” he said. “Therefore, this game of players that we have in the Black Sea and the Middle East in many ways will determine the next stage of how we are going to see international relations and the new world order. From my country’s perspective, we do want our country to be a true bridge.”  

The second panelist to speak was Ambassador Lupan of Moldova. He contributed to the discussion a historical overview of the politically motivated energy-related issues that color any discussion of stability in the Black Sea. 

Russia, he said, “fueled and supported a vast array of conflicts in the region” through its control over oil and gas supplies, and continues to attempt to control the political situation in the region by using its control over energy supplies to manipulate other countries. 

“Maybe Western Europe is living in a post-security modern world where democracies don’t attack each other, but we don’t,” he said. “Ultimately the question is, what will be the next steps? Competing bilaterally and paying for Russian gas that ultimately arms an actual aggressor that might end up controlling us, or use the already adopted European strategy?” 

Rauf Alp Denktas, First Counsellor at the Permanent Mission, offered a discussion of the institutional mechanisms that used to be crucial to cooperation in the region, but that have deteriorated in recent years. 

“I wanted to highlight the state of these mechanisms because they did really play an important role in the past and we believe as Turkey that we need to find a way of starting dialogue in these,” he said. “Russia is on the one hand an important partner in many fields, namely economy, energy, and Syria, and on the other hand a force that challenges the existing system.” 

Colonel Romanz of Romania gave perspectives from Romania’s position as both part of the EU and NATO. “We believe that it is important to continue to address the Black Sea from the perspective of its impact on European security and not simply as a regional issue,” he said. He urged better coordination between NATO and the EU in the region, and said that the dramatic shifts in the balance of power in the region have affected both EU and NATO member states. 

The final panelist to offer remarks was Colonel Kyrylenko of Ukraine, who delivered a slide presentation called “Militarization of the Occupied Crimea: A Growing Threat in the Region and Beyond.” The three conclusions of his presentation were that 1) CAUCASUS-2016 [a Russian military exercise in Crimea] is yet another evidence of Russia’s violation of international law and a real threat to other states in the Black Sea region; 2) The growing militarization of Crimea by aggressor state increases the possibility of armed conflict in the region; and 3) Russia’s provocative and irresponsible policy, including its preparation to deploy nuclear weapons in Crimea require consolidated and firm response from the whole international community.

The panel was sponsored by the European Studies Council at the Macmillan Center at Yale.

Written by Olivia Paschal, B.A. Political Science and History, Class of 2018.