1 year ago




STRATEGIC EQUILIBRIUM IN THE BLACK SEA REGION IN THE CONTEXT... in some kind of actions that could guarantee some transparency and could reduce the risks related to the military activities. Both the decisions taken at the Warsaw Summit, as well as the subsequent actions of the Allies, have indicated clearly that the Alliance has been seeking no confrontation with Russia and that it does not constitute any threat to Moscow. The only thing that the NATO Allies are not prepared to swallow is a possible compromise with the principles on which the common European and Euro-Atlantic security is based. NATO has been doing its best to remain transparent, foreseeable, and decisive in its actions. The challenges facing the security of the Black Sea region do not boil down to the threats coming from the East alone. Because, due to their close geographic proximity to the Middle East and North Africa, the Black Sea countries are directly exposed to a number of threats coming from the South. The ongoing conflict in Syria and the refugee-and-migration flows into Europe pose a major challenge to the economic and the social systems of the European countries, as well as to the integrational capacities of these countries’ societies. The refugee-and-migration flows also represent a potential threat to the national security of the said countries because of a possible infiltration of radicalized persons into these flows. Therefore, any decisions or actions related to the refugee-and-migration flows should be comprehensive in nature and should take into account all kinds of possible consequences. It is particularly important to countries, such as Bulgaria, to make the necessary preliminary assessments and to take all posible measures in order to prevent any potential re-direction of the mixed migration flows to Bulgaria or Greece overland, or via the Black Sea marine areas offshore Bulgaria. In the context of the migration crisis, the Alliance decided to join the international community efforts to deal with the refugee-and-migration influx into Europe. NATO’s actions in the Aegean Sea have already contributed to the common community efforts to curb the illegal migration flows by means of observation, tracing out, and providing, in real time, intelligence information to the Turkish and the Greek competent authorities, as well as to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX). On the basis of the above, the North Atlantic Alliance has managed to deepen its cooperation on a tactical and operational level with the European Union. In addition, within the framework of the Warsaw Summit, the Allies have managed to unite around the understanding of NATO’s possible role in the Central Mediterranean. Upon EU request, the Alliance is going to render assistance to “Operation Sophia” in the context of implementing Resolution 2292 of the United Nations Security Council, as well as in close cooperation with the European Union. The threats from the East and the South have been involving an intensive employment of hybrid warfare methods, i.e. a combined application of military and non-military means which are meant to demoralize, confuse, and delude the opponents. Experience indicates that the non-conventional hybrid approach can have direct consequences for the military capabilities of the affected countries, including by launching cyber attacks against military equipment and critical infrastructure. Some other examples involve the funding of political parties and interference in the domestic affairs, media propaganda, manipulation of the minorities in the relevant regions, the misuse of energy dependence, and sophisticated day-to-day media “exposure”, including in the social media. Some analyzers assert that a war is already being waged in the information and the cyber space. The Black Sea region is already becoming a cross-point of such clashes. It was in response to the above mentioned continuously growing security challenges that the NATO Warsaw and Wales summits made some strategic decisions aimed at DIPLOMACY 18/2016 147

STRATEGIC EQUILIBRIUM IN THE BLACK SEA REGION IN THE CONTEXT... strengthening collective defense, mapping out measures for the purpose of enhancing NATO’s deterring and defense capabilities and, more particularly, involving a more tangible military presence in the Eastern periphery, and of further formulating the Alliance’s adapted presence in its South-Eastern periphery and, more particularly, in the Black Sea region. The implementation of the NATO Readiness Action Plan, which was drawn up in the context of the above threats, is considered to be the Alliance’s most adequate response to all the challenges in the changed security environment of today. As an element of this plan’s implementation, in February, 2016, the Bulgarian Parliament introduced some amendments to the local legislation for the purpose of permitting joint air policing of the Bulgarian airspace. Further on, in Warsaw, the Heads of State and Government united around the position that they are all going to work together for a much stronger and a much more prepared North Atlantic Alliance capable of applying in practice 360-degree deterrence and responding in this way to the challenges arising in all four cardinal points. The 2008 war in Georgia and the subsequent annexation of Crimea have gradually changed the strategic balance in the Black Sea. The relations between Turkey and Russia in the Black Sea region have been very dynamic. More often than not, these relations have been encouraged by the principles of mutual benefit, which principles are in a position to make the two countries turn their back on some very serious contradictions existing between them. Immediately after the incident with the downed Russian aircraft, Turkey insisted that NATO should assume a more important role in the Black Sea because “NATO’s invisibility has been transforming the Black Sea into a Russian pond”. According to the Turkish president, all this calls for the adoption of a number of measures in all spheres – overland, by air, and by sea. At first glance, this might look as a serious turnabout in the traditional Turkish policy which ranges from enclosing in a capsule the regional and the national formats in the security area to cooperation between the six littoral states alone, which stands for avoiding NATO’s role or the role of any of its Allies in the Black Sea region. In addition, we will also have to mention here the restrictions imposed by the 1936 Montreux Convention concerning the entry into the Black Sea through the Straits, controlled by Turkey, of naval vessels belonging to non- Black-Sea countries. Following the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis, a very important event involved a speededup process of getting rid of all regional security modalities existing already in the Black Sea. For example, some formats, such as the Black Sea Naval Force (BLACKSEAFOR), i.e. the naval cooperation task force in the Black Sea, and the Strengthening of Confidence and Security in the Black Sea Measures Document, were entirely marginalized and eventually ceased to exist. These developments further titled the balance in the Black Sea. Under the conditions of frozen security cooperation formats in the Black Sea, the imbalance between Turkey and Russia as the two largest Black Sea countries (not only in a territorial, but also in a naval aspect), on one hand, and Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Georgia, on the other, is becoming even more evident. In this context, as well as during the process of searching for a new balance, it is only logical that countries, such as Bulgaria and Romania, have started to insist upon a more tangible NATO presence in the Black Sea. Such presence is also going to send a much stronger and a more positive signal to the two littoral non-NATO states, Ukraine and Georgia, that the strategic balance can be maintained even in the absence of any cooperation within the framework of the already frozen regional formats. The current “warming” of relations between Turkey and Russia, along with the development of joint energy projects in the Black Sea between the two countries, could 148 ДИПЛОМАЦИЯ 18/2016

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