The program’s goal is to bring together senior military representatives and civilian security specialists to build a regional security system based on cooperation and integration.
Decision makers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine were in Stuttgart for a first-hand look at the U.S. European Command mission.
“It is extremely important for decision makers from [Black Sea] regional countries to come here and listen first hand [to] what EUCOM is doing, what kind of responsibilities they have and make professional, personal acquaintances,” Konoplyov said.
Army Lt. Col. Walter S. Sweetser, Eurasia Branch Chief, U.S. European Command Directorate of Strategy, Policy and Assessments, credits the Black Sea Program for affording the command a better regional perspective on threats and increased possibilities for cooperation.
“The program will help us plan and execute our own Theater Security Cooperation programs,” he said.
The Harvard Black Sea Program grew from the Harvard Ukrainian National Security Program in 2001, said Konoplyov, a retired Ukrainian Armed Forces colonel.
He said there was a need to expand on the original scope “as countries started to move from early stages of democracy toward bigger goals” to include a better relationship with NATO and the European Union.
Prior to expanding to a Black Sea concept, the program didn’t receive much attention from the U.S. Department of Defense, Konoplyov said.
“All attention was on the Balkans … the Black Sea was on the back burner,” he explained. But after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in America, “the Black Sea region became a focus of military, civilian and political attention for everybody.”
Konoplyov and Sweetser agree the partnership between Harvard and EUCOM is a win-win situation.
“We would like to make the Harvard Black Sea Security Program a tool for EUCOM,” Konoplyov said, “shaping it to the [command’s] needs by selecting topics of importance.”
EUCOM is already looking forward to the expansion of the scope of the program but also the partnership to include the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch, Germany, Sweetser said. The Marshall Center is a renowned U.S. Department of Defense and German Ministry of Defense educational institution. More than 5,000 military and civilian officials from more than 50 nations have graduated from resident courses and approximately 15,000 have attended more than 230 conferences discussing European and Central Asian security issues since the center was dedicated in 1993.
The first stop on this year’s curriculum was Zagreb, Croatia. The country is not in the Black Sea region, but was selected because of its familiarity with the issues that Black Sea countries are currently experiencing, he explained.
“Croatia shares similar trends such as Euro-Atlantic, NATO and Kosovo issues,” Konoplyov explained. “[They’ve had] problems in the past with their neighbors.” Hosted by the Croatian Minister of Defense, this phase of the program focused on Croatia’s foreign policy, defense policy and Euro-Atlantic cooperation.
Twenty U.S. general officers will join the original 20 Black Sea Security Program participants at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Mass., for a one-week “intensive Harvard curriculum,” Konoplyov said.
The final phase of curriculum includes presentations by former Deputy Secretary of Defense James McDougal and current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Bryza.
The goal is to provide a neutral academic environment, Konoplyov said.
By providing a “relaxed mutual atmosphere” participants can better understand the “logic behind American decision making. We want to get politics out of the discussion and find original solutions,” he said.
Konoplyov said the more friends the U.S has in the Black Sea region the stronger the influence the nation will have on preventing future conflicts.
“It’s not just about winning friends,” he said, “but it’s about being more informed and more educated.”