In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States and NATO had to come to terms with a “new” threat environment. NATO invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history on September 12, 2001, and its naval forces began patrolling the eastern Mediterranean (Operation Active Endeavor) in October, extending its area of operation to the Strait of Gibraltar in March 2003. At the 2002 NATO Prague Summit, member states endorsed the new reality in a Military Concept for Defense Against Terrorism that identifies the following four broad roles for military operations with concrete actions: 1. Anti Terrorism, which are essentially defense measures to reduce vulnerabilities to attack; 2. Consequence Management, which is dealing with and reducing the effects of an attack after it has occurred; 3. Counter Terrorism, which involves offensive military action to reduce terrorist capabilities where NATO plays a lead or supporting role; and 4. Military Cooperation, which involve efforts to coordinate military and civil authorities, such as police, customs and immigration, ministries of finance and interior, and intelligence and security services, to maximize effectiveness against terrorism. Specifically the Military Concept for Defense Against Terrorism calls for “improved intelligence sharing and crisis response arrangements [and commitment with partners] to fully implement the Civil Emergency Planning (CEP) Action Plan…against possible attacks by…chemical, biological, or radiological (CBR) agents.”
Also at Prague, on 22 November 2002, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) approved a Partnership Action Plan On Terrorism (PAP-T) that commits partners to take steps to combat terrorism at home and share information and experience. Specifically, this initiative called on partners to: intensify political consultations and information sharing on armaments and civil emergency planning; enhance preparedness for combating terrorism by security sector reforms and force planning, air defense and air traffic management, and armaments and logistics cooperation; impede support for terrorist groups by enhancing exchange of banking information and improving border controls of arms ranging from Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) to small arms and light weapons, enhance capabilities to contribute to consequence management of WMD-related terrorism and civil emergency planning, and provide assistance to partners’ efforts against terrorism through the Political Military Steering Committee (PMSC) Clearing House mechanism and creation of a PFP Trust Fund.
To deal with these threats, Black Sea “regional” security cooperation has become ever more important for the United States and NATO. At the same time the Black Sea region, a strategic crossroads plagued by simmering tensions, has also become increasingly important strategically to its largest littoral states--Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. But Moldavians, Georgians, and Ukrainians are wary of Russian hegemony and perceived interference in their internal affairs, while relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan remain tense over Nagorno-Karabakh. Bulgarians and Romanians often express concern about Turkey’s efforts to “dominate” the Black Sea. As a result, it is often difficult to get Black Sea NATO allies (Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania) and partners along the littoral (Ukraine, Russia, Georgia) and in the “wider” region (Moldova, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) to focus beyond their narrow national interests. Hence, Black Sea “regional security cooperation” remains elusive. In contrast to the Balkans where national groups have often tended to reject their “Balkan” identity because of its negative connotations and focus on creating a “southeast European” identity, the Black Sea states often appear to have no regional identity, and the remaining belt of (so-called “frozen”) conflicts--from Transnistria in Eastern Moldova, running through Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, and Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia and Azerbaijan--seem to prevent one from emerging.
But the Black Sea’s bridge and barrier functions have become ever more important not only for the United States and Europe and NATO and the EU since 9/11, but also for the littoral states. Not only is the Black Sea becoming increasingly important as a bridge to Europe for the transport of energy and other economic activities, but also its importance has increased as a security barrier to prevent the illicit trafficking of humans, heroin from Afghanistan, and weapons (from small arms to WMD). But Black Sea regional cooperation of all the littoral states, which is necessary to fulfill these bridging and barrier functions, remains embryonic.
Despite this reality, there are a number of instrumentalities that have the potential to germinate and further foster Black Sea regional cooperation. As noted below, these initiatives respond to various agendas, but some clearly have been pursued to limit NATO’s room for maneuver in the region, or indeed to show that regional cooperation can occur without NATO having to be in the driver’s seat.
Consequently, in thinking about the Black Sea, the U.S. and its NATO allies, and the EU fundamentally need to decide whether they want to make a greater investment in Black Sea focused regional cooperation and what such an effort might achieve. A good case can be made that NATO and the EU should be more proactive because of concerns about stability and security of some of its regional members and partners to ensure steady energy supplies and the need to establish a line of “defense” against the source of many risks entering Southeastern Europe and penetrating Europe’s core. Yet, a more proactive Black Sea strategy might carry downside risks alienating NATO member Turkey and significant partner, Russia, leading some to ask whether the pain would be worth the gain.
For the moment, the EU remains more distant from the Black Sea. It will not even have a physical presence on the Black Sea until Bulgaria and Romania become members in 2007. Turkey has only commenced accession negotiations in October 2005, with prospects for membership only in the very distant future. Prospects for Ukraine and Georgia appear even further away.
If NATO, with three members on the Black Sea, decides to press ahead, it has many instruments for doing so including PFP bilateral assistance to enhance “regional” goals, projects, and cooperation. NATO launched the Southeast European Initiative (SEEI) at the1999 Washington Summit that created a consultative forum to develop complementary PFP programs with a regional focus. One of its most important outgrowths has been the Southeast European Group (SEEGROUP) that has produced studies and security personnel exchanges, whose activities are shaped by states in the region.
In the same vein, NATO might consider facilitating a Black Sea Group for the region. Although NATO has no common Black Sea project, all its members are in the EAPC, which could facilitate a Working Group to encourage local actors to create and adopt a broad Black Sea/Caucasus strategy (as has been done in SEEGROUP). PFP’s tools to build regional security include the Planning and Review Process (PARP) to mentor participating nations, Membership Action Plan (MAP) launched by the 1999 Washington Summit, the Individual Partnership Action Plan (I-PAP) and the Partnership Action Plan On Terrorism (PAP-T) launched by the EAPC at the 2002 Prague Summit, and the PAP-DIB (Defense Institution Building) launched by the 2004 Istanbul Summit.
In sum, any Black Sea regional cooperation needs to be built from the “bottom-up” (not top-down); and must be (or at least be seen as) “locally owned” and not imposed from the outside.
Efforts to Keep the Black Sea a Turkish-Russian “Lake”
While the region’s “frozen conflicts” have continued to stifle a regional identity from emerging, the 1936 Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits also has “sheltered” the Black Sea for Turkish (and Russian) domination since the Cold War. In the wake of Germany’s rise to power during the inter-war period, the Montreux Convention abolished the International Straits Commission established by the 1923 Lausanne Treaty and returned the Straits to Turkish military control. Although the Black Sea powers (then principally the USSR) were authorized to send their fleets through the Straits into the Mediterranean in peacetime, Turkey was authorized to close the Straits to warships of all countries when it was at war or threatened by aggression. Merchant ships were to be allowed free passage during peacetime and, except for countries at war with Turkey, during wartime as well.
With the Cold War’s ending much has changed on the Black Sea. Not only has the USSR disintegrated, but also there are now three “new” Black Sea littoral states—Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia—arising from its ashes. In addition, post-9/11 security requirements, which all Black Sea littoral states have recognized, have substantially altered. Hence, just as 1936 international conditions necessitated revision of the Lausanne Treaty as regards to the Black Sea, one could argue that conditions have sufficiently changed since 9/11 to merit a review of the 1936 Montreux Treaty limitations for the Black Sea. In this regard, since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Black Sea security environment has witnessed increased attention and activity, to include the following:
Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). BSEC was formed in 1992 to promote regional cooperation on economic, transportation, energy, and environmental issues. BSEC is an organization comprising all six littoral states among its 12-state membership roster. In 1998 it composed a Working Group to combat crime and deal with natural disasters. In 2002 BSEC established Working Groups to deal with border controls, crisis management, and counter terrorism (CT), and in early December 2004 its ministers of interior agreed to create a network of liaison offices. BSEC also provides a forum for the 12 Black Sea foreign ministers to discuss security issues. Encouraged by BSEC Secretary-General Tedo Japaridze, in an effort to energize an otherwise moribund organization and promote Black Sea security affairs, the United States in April 2005 applied for observer status. BSEC, though, initially rejected the U.S. request. While Russia was the most visible opponent to granting the U.S. observer status, Turkey and Serbia-Montenegro supported the rejection. On a positive note and for reasons yet unclear, BSEC reversed its decision in late September. What effect U.S. observer status will have on BSEC’s role in regional security affairs in the near future remains to be seen.
Blackseafor. This Black Sea naval task force (Blackseafor) comprising the six maritime Black Sea states commenced negotiations in 1998 to enhance peace and stability and increase regional cooperation. To this end, the Blackseafor was formally established in April 2001 with tasks of search and rescue operations, humanitarian assistance, mine counter measures, environmental protection, and goodwill visits. Starting in August 2001, Blackseafor has convened annual 30-day maritime activation exercises under changing national command starting with Turkey, then Ukraine, Bulgaria, Georgia and Romania. In January 2004 the Turks began to transform the Blackseafor into a more dynamic instrument to deal with new maritime risks. Rather than convening for exercises for one month (usually in August) each year, Blackseafor has decided to establish a permanent operation control center, draft a multilateral MOU for information exchange among its members, and carry out unscheduled activations to shadow and trail suspicious ships. (Maritime control of the Black Sea is easier than the Mediterranean with the transit of only 300 compared to 4,000 ships per day respectively.) Finally, Blackseafor on 31 March 2005 agreed to broaden its mandate to fight terrorism as well as WMD proliferation by adopting a document entitled “Maritime Risk Assessment in the Black Sea.”
Black Sea Harmony. In March 2004, the Turkish navy initiated a new security initiative Black Sea Harmony with the same objectives as NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor in the Mediterranean (e.g., to assist in establishing a maritime picture along the sea lines of communication and to shadow suspect ships). Covering roughly 40 percent (the southern portion) of the Black Sea, to date (after 16 months of operation) Turkish naval assets have conducted 12,000 hailings and have conducted 195 port visits by coast guard and other law enforcement agencies. Recently, Turkey extended an invitation to other littoral states to join Black Sea Harmony. Ukraine and Russia have declared their intention to join the operation. Multilateralizing Black Sea Harmony could become not only a model for Blackseafor, but also might be subordinated to it after it completes its transformation. NATO’s new allies, Bulgaria and Romania, though, remain unenthusiastic about these efforts, seeing them as forms of Turkish domination. Hence, Turkey’s preferred approach appears to be to maintain its dominance by preventing NATO from extending Operation Active Endeavor into the Black Sea. Turkey claims the enduring utility and immutability of the 1936 Montreux Convention, giving Turkey control over the Bosphorous and the Dardanelles, while expressing willingness to share information from Black Sea Harmony and Blackseafor with NATO. These interests are important to keep in mind as we develop a Black Sea strategy.
The Persistence of “Frozen” Conflicts. The fact of growing regional cooperation is somewhat anomalous when one considers the extent of unresolved conflicts that characterize the region. Although the USSR dissolved almost fourteen years ago, While Russia’s continued activities in Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan suggests an ongoing interest in keeping these conflicts festering, the internal dynamics among some newly independent states often contributed to various forms of hyper-nationalism (e.g., language politics) that did a lot to help the cause of separatist leaders. Russia has continued pressure on Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to undermine their efforts at Euro-Atlantic integration. After the November 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia, President Saakashvili successfully resolved the problem of Adjaria, but the problems of South Ossetia and Abkhazia remain. However, in early June 2005, Russia agreed to cease its military functions at the Batumi and Akhalkalaki bases in Georgia and withdraw its military contingent by 2008. The unresolved conflict in Transnistria has also proved to be the main obstacle for Moldovan stability, although recent Ukrainian initiatives coupled with closing its border with Transnistria have been a catalyst for some activity and created prospects for ultimate resolution. Breaking this cycle of competitive action and reaction is necessary for building Black Sea regional cooperation.
In sum, the Turkish (and Russian) efforts to minimize the U.S. presence and prevent NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor from operating on the Black Sea by invoking the Montreux Convention and promoting Black Sea Harmony/Blackseafor as an alternative, seems consistent with their apparent objective to maintain maritime dominance. Turkey’s motivations are being influenced by tensions between their NATO membership obligations on the one hand, and their shifting mood about the EU, concerns about U.S. activities in Iraq (particularly their potential to exacerbate Kurdish separatism), and their desire to maintain national influence throughout the region on the other. These interests need to be squared with the rising concerns in Bulgaria, Romania and Georgia, who would like NATO (and the U.S.) there as a “balancer.” It is for these reasons that I consider current forms of cooperation to lack substance and will continue to do so until all the Black Sea littoral states see their national interests being met by their participation.
Developing a U.S.-(NATO) Black Sea Strategy
What kind of strategy should the U.S. pursue in the Black Sea region? The question really hinges on our assessment of the threats facing the region, the scope for greater regional cooperation in confronting those threats, and our estimate of NATO’s utility for achieving those goals.
What further complicates the development of a Black Sea Strategy is the fact that the Black Sea has become more important not only to the U.S., but also to Turkey and Russia (and Ukraine). Hence, such a strategy will require their acceptance of, and participation in, activities in a region increasingly sensitive and important to their national security interests. The objective of such a strategy would be to enhance regional transparency and accountability and to develop a level of confidence among Black Sea littoral states so as to provide sufficient cooperation to meet the threats emanating from the region and from more distant venues across the region.
A Black Sea regional security strategy could either just accept the status quo, or might include exploring alternate maritime mechanisms/activities, and possibly developing new and enhanced forms of air, coast guard/border defense, and civil protection cooperation. While a passive status quo strategy has the advantage of not irritating Turkey and Russia, it also has the disadvantage of signaling NATO’s lack of interest and concern in the other states of the littoral and “greater” Black Sea region.
In developing such a strategy, the following three factors need to be taken into account. First, while the Black Sea lacks any real “regional” identity, nascent institutions with a capacity to absorb and assimilate patterns of cooperation already exist. This factor suggests that to every extent possible new forms of cooperation should try to build upon, rather than supplant current activities. Second, the region’s so-called “frozen conflicts” remain a major stumbling block to such patterns of regional cooperation from actually evolving. This factor suggests that new forms of cooperation should be tailored to taking advantage of opportunities to mediate or resolve problems. Third, any regional cooperation must be (or at least be seen as) “locally developed and owned” and not imposed from the outside. This last factor may be the more challenging for NATO, since the alliance will have to consider ways and means of deflecting reactions by some who will portray its involvement in the Black Sea region in precisely those terms
Within the contours of the above factors, what might be the modalities of future cooperation? Essentially, they fall into four categories:
1. Maritime activities. If the United States (and NATO) wants to pursue maritime security activities on the Black Sea it can either accept the slowly evolving Turkish (and Russian) Blackseafor/Black Sea Harmony activities that seek to maintain the status quo and their maritime dominance or explore other Black Sea maritime alternatives.
According to some assessments only 10 percent of illicit trafficking passes over the Black Sea, so the status quo might be acceptable from a security perspective. However, from a confidence and security building perspective, Bulgarian and Romanian (as well as Georgian and possibly Ukrainian) confidence could waver, unless the U.S. (and NATO) provided alternate enhancements—air, coast guard/border defense, and civil protection--as an offset (discussed below). One option would be for the U.S. to avoid taking the Turkish and Russian reluctance head on, but rather circumvent it by taking a flanking action.
If the U.S. and NATO decided that Turkish/Russian maritime dominance was unacceptable under contemporary conditions, another option might be to seek agreement among a majority of the High and Contracting Parties to amend the provisions of the 1936 Montreux Convention that restrict naval movements.
As to who would qualify as a High Contracting Party, in addition to five NATO allies--Britain, France, Bulgaria, Romania and (likely unwilling) Turkey, there is Australia and Japan. The other signatories Yugoslavia and the USSR no longer exit, but its Black Sea littoral state successors--Russia, Ukraine, and Georgia--might also qualify.
As to reasons why revision of the Convention might be in order, any High Contracting Party could argue that since the end of the Cold War security conditions have drastically changed. World War II and the Cold War have come and gone, and the post-Cold War period ended with 9/11. NATO not only invoked Article 5 for the first time in its history on 12 September 2001, but also implemented Operation Active Endeavor in the eastern Mediterranean on 26 October 2001, widening its area of responsibility to the Strait of Gibraltar on 10 March 2003 and continues operating today. In addition, all NATO’s allies and partners, including all the Black Sea littoral states, have registered their recognition of the changed conditions and the need to enhance cooperation against terrorism and other transnational threats since NATO’s 2002 Prague Summit.
In light of the changed post-9/11 security conditions and Turkey’s reluctance to permit NATO to extend Operation Active Endeavor into the Black Sea, the U.S. and NATO might wish to review the contemporary relevance of the Montreux Convention’s maritime limitations on tonnage and steaming time, with a view to revising them particularly for humanitarian assistance, and weigh any potential resulting Black Sea maritime security benefits against the political costs of revision.
Turkish perceptions of Black Sea security have been influenced in part by the increase in the shipping volumes of dangerous cargoes such as petroleum products crossing the Straits every day. In 2004, 150 million tons of mostly Russian oil crossed the Straits. Though these tankers pose a major security risk, Turkey expects a decrease after September 2005 when the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline will ease the Black Sea oil flow. Increased Turkish-Russian cooperation is reflected in the fact that 60 percent of Turkey’s natural gas comes from Russia, which is now its second largest trading partner. Both want stability in the South Caucasus and Central Asia and share concerns about U.S. efforts to promote democracy there as contributing to instability.
If Turkish General Staff assessments that only ten percent of illicit trafficking transits the Black Sea, while ninety percent moves by land and air, are correct, then the U.S.-(NATO) might conclude that in the interests of forging Black Sea regional cooperation that the issue of Montreux should remain closed, that Turkey (and Russia) can take the lead on providing maritime security, and focus more U.S.-NATO attention and support to other aspects of regional security.
2. Air reconnaissance. If only 10 percent of the Black Sea’s illicit activity transits by sea, and maritime reconnaissance and interdiction capabilities are currently embryonic, then air reconnaissance and interdiction might be a more productive venue for building regional cooperation. The major constraints in the region include a lack of capabilities, coordination among numerous initiatives, difficulty of breaking old habits of competition, and the absence of, and need for, a NATO Black Sea regional strategy.
Though many different Black Sea national air security systems exist, some that are NATO and many that are non-NATO, there are prospects for interoperability and software adaptations. Current shortfalls to be overcome involve developing some compatibility among the different national systems, doctrines, and standards. In addition, numerous capabilities gaps need to be addressed--with radars, communications and information systems, identify friend and foe (IFF), interception, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and information exchanges. Although all three NATO members have air sovereignty operations centers (ASOC), problems still exist with radars, command and control, National Military Command Center (NMCC) connectivity, reconnaissance, and interdiction. Another possible entry point for U.S. involvement is with a U.S. contribution and basing of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for air reconnaissance and border defense. This could be presented as a short-term solution until the time in which the six Black Sea littoral states can agree on a more permanent arrangement. And even if all three Black Sea allies had sufficient ASOC integration with NATO, this would only cover altitudes above 10,000 feet. Hence, lower flying aircraft would remain invisible to detection. Finally, even if all this were implemented and operational, the three members would be unable to exchange information with their partners on the Black Sea.
The path ahead can now only be sketched as an ideal-type goal with the following requirements: (1) Black Sea air reconnaissance requires all six littoral states’ participation; (2) modernization and compatibility of national and NATO capabilities, combined and joint training, and common SOPs compatible with NATO; and (3) capacity to develop a common air/maritime picture and coordinate decision-making procedures.
3. Coast guard/border defense. With U.S. initiative and support, the Southeast European Cooperation Initiative (SECI) was launched in December 1996 to encourage cooperation among the states of Southeastern Europe on economic, transportation, and environmental matters as a way to facilitate their European integration. Now linked with Europol, the SECI Center in Bucharest, Romania comprises 12 members (all 10 Balkan countries from Slovenia to Turkey plus Hungary and Moldova) and 13 Permanent Observers. All twelve members maintain 24 police and customs officers at the SECI Center. In October 2000 SECI broadened its activities to combat trans-border crime involving trafficking of drugs and weapons, human beings, and money laundering. In 2003 it added task forces on Anti-Smuggling and Anti Fraud, and Anti-Terrorism to include Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
While SECI has demonstrated some impressive successes, many limitations remain. For example, of 500 human traffickers arrested as a result of SECI cooperation by the end of 2004, only 50 went to trial, and only 5 resulted in conviction. This clearly demonstrates the “limited institutional capacities and weaknesses” among some of its member nations, demonstrating why SECI in cooperation with its members’ judicial authorities (e.g., its Prosecutor’s Advisory Group) adopted General Guidelines for Activities and Competence in December 2004. Also it demonstrates the importance of NATO’s PAP-DIB adopted at the Istanbul Summit and the EU, which should count Bulgaria and Romania among its membership in January 2007, good neighbor policy.
SECI, though, is also limited by the fact that some Black Sea littoral states (e.g., Russia and Ukraine) do not participate in the Center further degrading border defense capabilities. SECI, though, provides a model for GUAM members—Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Georgia—to build a similar Law Enforcement Center to cover (without Russia) the northern Black Sea littoral. In addition, in November 2004 representatives from the five Central Asian states, Russia, and Azerbaijan met in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (with Interpol, EU, and the 12 SECI members as observers) to discuss establishing a Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Center (CARICC) for the purpose of monitoring and tracking the estimated 700 tons of heroin flowing from Afghanistan through Azerbaijan. Following project team meetings in January and March 2005, on 30-May-1 June 2005 CARICC finalized a number of documents that included: an Agreement to be signed by heads of states, a set of regulations, the CARICC organizational structure, and concepts on information sharing, the role and responsibilities of liaison officers, and observer status accreditation.
Although the SECI does not yet provide coverage of the entire Black Sea littoral, the six Black Sea littoral-state coast guards have established the Black Sea Border Coordination and Information Center (BBCIC) in Burgas, Bulgaria in 2003. This organization does provide important information regarding illegal Black Sea activities; in the past eighteen months the Black Sea littoral coast guards have exchanged information more than 400 times. While most BBCIC cases have involved different sorts of illegal activities with no apparent systematic pattern, none yet have involved terrorism or WMD proliferation. While the BBCIC has great potential for maritime border protection, it is not yet connected to, nor coordinated with the SECI Center. Obviously, this weakness needs to be corrected and should become a high priority.
In summary, NATO allies Romania and Bulgaria, who host the SECI and BBCIC and who are scheduled to join the EU in 2007, provide a bilateral core for coordinating NATO and EU programs in promoting border security and coastal defense along the western Black Sea. With U.S. sponsorship and likely future presence, and further EUCOM support, the two countries could become the necessary platform for a coordinated regional border and coastal control system that, in the future, might be broadened to include more Black Sea littoral states. Turkey is important here in that as a NATO member it should be drawn into this arrangement, but Bulgaria’s and Romania’s impending EU membership provides them with leverage that they presently do not enjoy with Turkey on maritime security.
This strategy suggests that U.S. EUCOM (with NATO and the EU) would need to focus greater attention and assistance to Bulgarian and Romanian border controls and Coast Guard elements, rather than providing naval support. One of EUCOM’s potential drawbacks, though, is that compared with its impressive blue water naval capabilities and experience, its brown water Coast Guard capacities are more limited, while the EU has comparative advantages in border control management. This points to the need for integrated NATO-EU planning.
4. Civil protection. Civil emergency planning has already marked some progress in Southeast Europe. In 1996 annual meetings of the Southeast European Defense Ministers (SEDM) commenced to enhance transparency and build cooperation in Southeastern Europe. In 1999 the SEDM approved the creation of the Southeast European Brigade (SEEBRIG), with headquarters now in Constanta, Romania, that comprises a 25,000-troop force that can be assembled as needed to support peace support operations under NATO or the EU. In April and October 2004 respectively, the Joint Forces Command in Naples certified (with noting some shortfalls) SEEBRIG with Initial Operational Capability and Full Operational Capability. In addition, SEEBRIG has begun focusing on developing disaster relief capabilities. In light of these developments, it is now time to build upon SEDM and SEEBRIG successes to deal with the new risk environment consistent with NATO guidance. The SEDM should be broadened to include interior minister participation as SEEBRIG begins to move into emergency planning.
In April 2001, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia--formalized the Civil-Military Emergency Planning Council in Southeastern Europe (CMEPCSEE). The Council’s role is to facilitate regional cooperation in disaster management through consulting and coordinating among its members. Open to other members sharing the Council’s objectives, Romania joined in 2002, and Turkey in 2003. The members have agreed to: develop common standards for planning and responding to regional disasters or emergencies; create emergency response data bases and digital maps of SEE countries’ roads, rails, pipelines, and airports; establish emergency operating centers in each country with common communication SOPs; and conduct national and multinational exercises. Bulgaria, for example, hosted Civil-Military Emergency Planning field exercise (CMEPEX 04) comprising all Council members (with observers and visitors from Moldova, Greece, Serbia-Montenegro, and the United States) with the aim of improving the collective ability to respond to disaster.
The recent evolution of Southeast European civil-military emergency planning is also a positive development. The CMEPCSEE is important not only in that it incorporates military and civil institutions fostering necessary coordination and cooperation at the national level, but also pushes planning to the regional level. In order for this effort to become sufficient, the CMEPCSEE might consider merging with SEDM (which would require accepting Albania as an observer or member) and creating a Regional Civil Protection Coordination Center to harmonize training procedures, establish a regional training plan, and explore, with SEEBRIG in Constanta, Romania, ways in which that organization might address issues of civil protection. Such a union of interior and defense ministers would formalize the necessary conditions for further advancing regional cooperation.
Could this CMEPCSEE-SEDM civil-military emergency planning “model” be extended to the Black Sea region? It seems the BBCIC in Burgas, Bulgaria provides the key to building such cooperation and for planning priorities among the six Black Sea littoral states. To have any chance of success, the BBCIC needs to be linked to SECI.
The Way Ahead: Making Regional Cooperation a Reality
As the foregoing discussion makes clear, trans-atlantic security interests would be advanced if the U.S. with its NATO allies and the EU were to take a more proactive strategy. This could be achieved by launching the following: (1) develop a strategy that incorporates the Black Sea as an essential sub-regional area; (2) launch a Black Sea Initiative (similar to the SEEI in 1999) to create a Black Sea Group (as it did with SEEGROUP) to develop a consultative forum comprised of “local” participants to develop a regional cooperation strategy and prepare complementary PFP programs; and (3) involve outside NATO/EU members for assistance with technical, economic, and military capabilities.
In support of NATO, the United States, with its evolving Black Sea “presence” in Romania and Bulgaria, should focus on programs in willing Black Sea countries to build regional cooperation through (1) ASOC, reconnaissance UAVs, border guards/coastal defense, and civil emergency planning; (2) supporting outreach activities (e.g., encourage Romanian [with NATO and U.S. support] cooperation with Moldova and Ukraine on National Security Strategies and National Security Council institution building); and (3) promoting Coast Guard coastal defense programs with the European Union (and with Ukraine and Georgia ).
The U.S. needs to assess whether urging a review of the Montreux Convention would provide sufficient security benefits (in light of the Black Sea’s “diminishing” maritime importance) weighed against the resulting political costs of irritating Turkey and Russia. The U.S. might decide that rather than expanding Operation Active Endeavor into the Black Sea, it should encourage Turkey and Russia to take the maritime lead. Providing U.S. support would benefit building more effective barriers and bridges and encourage regional security cooperation.
Encouraging Bulgaria and Romania (with U.S. “presence”) along with Turkey and nascent Russian cooperation and providing U.S. and NATO assistance can become pivotal points for Black Sea air space management. But this avenue will require considerable U.S. and allied diplomatic and military engagement to fully blossom, as well as patience for the regional cooperation benefits to mature.
The increased bilateral significance of Romania and Bulgaria as NATO’s “new” (and “soon to be” EU) members, as well as Turkey’s longer EU accession, becomes critical for building a long-term strategic NATO-EU core for Black Sea regional border controls and coastal defenses. On the one hand, Bucharest’s SECI Center already provides a hub for information exchange among 12 member states, with the potential for broader Black Sea cooperation with GUAM’s 4 members, as well as with CARICC’s 7 members in Tashkent as that organization is formed. On the other hand, the BBCIC in Burgas exchanges information among the 6 Black Sea coast guards, but is not yet (though should be) connected with SECI. Hence, SECI could become the institutional hub for coordinating information exchange on trans-border crime and trafficking not only among its 12 members, but also with outreach to the northern Black Sea littoral through GUAM and with Russia and Central Asia through CARICC.
NATO and the EU can provide core competencies for Black Sea civil emergency protection activities. The CMEPCSEE incorporates civil and military institutions among its 6 Balkan members. If it were to create a Regional Civil Coordination Center to establish civil emergency training plans and procedures, it could consider merging with SEDM to establish the necessary military (defense ministry) and civil (interior ministry) coordination and utilize SEEBRIG’s efforts to address issues of civil protection. At the same time, CMEPCSEE might consider to begin to widen its Black Sea littoral coverage beyond just Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey to include emergency planning activities and exercises with GUAM members Ukraine and Georgia (and Moldova and Azerbaijan beyond the Black Sea littoral). In this fashion, Bulgaria and Romania would be empowered to play a catalytic role in building Black Sea regional cooperation through emergency planning and be further compensated for their maritime weakness.
In conclusion, transforming what some characterize, as “the myth of Black Sea regional cooperation” into reality will be difficult, but is not impossible. First, NATO needs to develop a strategy with the “local” participants and rationalize PFP programs accordingly. Second, the U.S. needs to leverage its “presence” in soon-to-be EU Black Sea members Bulgaria and Romania and with Turkey to build on existing NATO cooperation programs, encourage further outreach to other littoral and “greater” Black Sea states, and nurture coordination with the European Union. Third, dealing with Turkey and Russia will continue to be difficult; it will require very substantial effort and perseverance. Developing real Black Sea regional cooperation is possible, but will require patience and a comprehensive strategy including short-term, mid-term, and long-term programs.