Though protracted conflicts in Transnistria, Nagorno Karabakh, South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been undermining the possibilities for cooperation for years, Russian-Georgian contradiction and Armenian-Turkish inconsistency also influenced perspectives of the cooperation. Ukrainian crisis of 2014-2015 brought new challenges to the regional security, which cannot be ignored. Thus experts of the Black Sea states will talk for 2 days on what is changing in the security sphere in the Black Sea region now, and will these contradictions be inevitable and irrevocable.
Participants of the Online Conference:
Dr. Hanna Shelest – Head of the Online Black Sea University project (Odessa, Ukraine) – moderator of the discussion.
Dr. Balkan Devlen – Izmir University of Economics (Izmir, Turkey)
Dr. Yulia Nikitina – Moscow State Institute of International Relations –MGIMO (Moscow, Russia)
Dr. Rovshan Ibrahimov – Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (Baku, Azerbaijan)
Dr. Sergey Minasyan – Caucasus Institute (Yerevan, Armenia)
Dr. Teo Moga – University “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” in Iaşi (Iasi, Romania)

Hanna Shelest
Dear Colleagues! Let us start the first day of our online conference “The changing security paradigm in the Black Sea region”. As a moderator, I would like to put forward the first three questions, which I propose to kick off our discussion:
1. Why the Russian-Georgian conflict of 2008 didn’t have the same implication to the Black Sea region as a current Ukrainian crisis?
2. What are the main challenges of the Black Sea security now?
3. What are the main changes in the security paradigm in the Black Sea region?
Sergey Minasyan
Good evening, dear colleagues.

1. size matters and of course the scales of the 2008 conflict were not even comparable with the ukrainian crisis that means – to its impact to the Black sea region as well. As a result of the global scales of this current crisis we are facing with more severe reaction of the EU and US toward russia’s policy.
2. It is obvious that main challenge for the BS region is return to the old fashion geopolitical competition between main actors. it seems that so called new cold war is coming (of course with completely different features and political context). So it seems that region will face a new stage of militarization, political competition that will only rise the challenges of the resumption of hostilities in Donbass, south Caucasus and may be – even in Transnistria.
3. The main change in the bs security paradigm is more strict and direct context of the bilateral competition between the West and Russia which will only complicate the regional situation and rise the stakes in the regional ethnopolitical conflicts and issues that will be more frame-worked in the more broader global security dynamics…

Yulia Nikitina
Dear colleagues,

First, I would like to ask a question for Sergey: from the point of view of military strategy, to what extent the maritime theater of operations was important in 2008, compared to the events in Ukraine (separately for Crimean case and wider conflict in Donbas region)?
My question is related to the problem of defining the Black Sea region, because from numerous previous discussion in the framework of our Online Black Sea University we know that there are serious doubts that the Black sea region is a region. So my question is whether the sea itself as the theater of operations can help uniting this region as a security region

Hanna Shelest
For our discussion we probably stay more within the framework coming from the BSEC and EU documents defining the Black Sea region, however missing Serbia and Greece, which have not been actively involved in the security affairs here. For my opinion we cannot limit the security sphere only by the 6 littoral states, as the years showed that to analyze regional affairs imposible without Moldova and Caucasus states. Sea as a theater of operations was considered only within navy cooperation projects such as BLACKSEAFOR or Black Sea Harmony, but as we are looking now not only on military security, but all aspects of it, we have all arguments to consider wider geographical perspective
Rovshan Ibrahimov
Dear colleagues,
Have a nice day (night),
Glad to meet all of you on this platform. Regarding to the questions asked by Hanna,
1. i agree with Sergey, the scope of both conflicts is not comparable with each other. First of all, the conflict in Georgia is not a direct threat to the whole system of regional security in the broad sense of the word. in turn, the conflict in Ukraine affects many actors in the Eurasian space, and in a way is perceived as a geopolitical competition between the main actors.
2. it is difficult to describe common challenges for the Black Sea, because there is no region as well as common security complex for the black see region. therefore, any assumed actor in this region has different perception and understanding of security, security threats and challenges.
Sergey Minasyan

dear colleagues and friends,

To Yulia question…
the maritime theater was no the most important and decisive one part of the Georgian campaign in 2008 though it was the first even case of the sea combat as well as full scale amphibious operation in BS after WWII. But The Ukraine crisis is more important in this sense not only as it was Crimean operation (Donbass sea maritime dimension is still not so important) as in the framework of more global Russia/Russian BS fleet and NATO presence/redeployment and buildup issues (not so much navy, because of montreux convention’s rules, then new air and land forces deployment in Bulgaria, Rumania and so on)

Sergey Minasyan
and of course, I agree with rovshan that we have not one region and regional security framework but a more complex combination of sub-regional security systems combination
Yulia Nikitina

Sergey,

Here is the trick: there was a kind of a “naval engagement” (or a “battle”, depending on different sources) of the Russian Black Sea fleet and Georgian patrol boats near the Abkhazian coast in 2008. However, this episode was not perceived as a threat to the Black Sea regional security, it was mostly a matter of bilateral relations. And the Russia-Georgia conflict in general, despite a wide international response, was mainly analyzed in classical geopolitical terms.
As to the Black Sea regional security in general, there are four major types of threats usually analyzed by experts:

1) Energy security.
2) Great power rivalry,
3) Frozen conflicts,
4) Threats to human security.

For me, only energy security threats (1) and threats to human security (4) can unite the Black Sea countries in their cooperation.

Concerning the point made by Rovshan. It seems that Russia-Georgia conflict was perceived as a continuation of the situation with frozen conflicts (3) that has been present in the region since the 1990s. So nothing really new. But in case of Ukraine, great power rivalry (2) acquired a new quality, when it turned from an inter-state rivalry to a supra-regional rivalry, as I would call it.
Thus, the difference is that in 2008 there was no new quality of threats, but in 2014 there is a new quality.

Sergey Minasyan

Yulia,

I am not sure that it is possible to reach any kind sustainable success in cooperation between BS regional countries in your mentioned Energy and human security if there is no any kind progress in the basic great power rivalry as well as linked/unlinked frozen conflicts issue. Don’t forget, that so called EU energy security problematics for brussles and eu countries mainly perceived as measures to create alternative (from Russia and its pipelines) routes to transport oil and gas to europe. I am not sure that even theoretical it might be possible to find any consensus between main global power have been engaged in the region on joint approaches to energy security. The same is in human rights (that also includes democracy and domestic processes issues) between West and Russia/some post-soviet countries…

Yulia Nikitina

Sergey,

I take your point about a hierarchy of threats in the Black Sea region: unless there is major progress in the relations among great powers (or powers and organizations like NATO and the EU), progress in other spheres is not plausible. However, the question is how to reverse this trend. My suggestion is that cooperation in “less important” (low politics) spheres like energy or migration can boost cooperation at the political level and decrease great power rivalry. In general, the situation with energy security that you mentioned is the consequence of securitization of such issues as energy cooperation; the same could be said about migration, which can also be securitized by politicians. My recommendation here would be to “divorce” hard security issues with issues, which have been securitized. There should be different logics of cooperation and rivalry for each of these groups of issues (“real” hard security issues and securitized issues). However, in practice it could be difficult. I wonder what recipes we can suggest.

Balkan Devlen

Dear All,

Sorry for being late to the party. Here are my quick comments for Hanna’s questions. I will post them individually as the system deleted my longish post before I have a chance to submit it.
1. I agree with the comments regarding 2008 war (away from Europe, Georgia not being big enough or crucially located enough for the West etc.) but also the nature of Russia’s operation was different. It was mostly a conventional operation, some information operations (Saakashvili chewing his tie etc.). However, ukraine is a different story. Annexation of crimea is achieved and the war in Donbas is carried out by what they nowadays call hybrid warfare, but what it used to be called subversion during cold war. Extensive and sophisticated information operations targeting not only russian language media but also international media. So I think 2008 was a trial run for Russia’s return to great power rivalry and Ukraine is the first theatre in what will most likely be an ongoing saga for a while.

Balkan Devlen
2. The central challenge is the remilitarisation of Black Sea as pointed above. This concern will over-crowd all others, leading to the erosion of institutional capacity to deal with common problems of the region such as environment, transportation security, organised crime, human trafficking etc. It will most likely lead to marginalisation of BSEC and other regional forums and emergence of NATO vs Russia as the central institutional dynamic.
Balkan Devlen
3. Following the point above I’d submit that now the central dynamic is a concern to contain/deal with Russian resurgence for of NATO members and disrupting/preventing such containment for Russia. Turkey is an interesting case here as its primary objective for the black sea has always been to maintain the status quo and don’t let outside powers to muddy the waters. In addition to that, now Turkey has a very good working relation with Russia, due to energy dependence and other economic interests and does not ant to jeopardise that. So far Turkey could have its cake and eat it too but I am not sure how long this could go on.
Balkan Devlen
Regarding Hanna’s last question. I think crises, confrontations, incidents etc are likely in the black sea until the new rules of the game are settled. each side will try and see how much they can push the other around. It is hard to tell what will be the new equilibrium but three factors are crucial:
1. the extent of Russia’s revisionism
2. the extent and depth of NATO’s involvement/commitment in the region.
3. Whether Turkey will choose a side willingly or forced by its allies.
Hanna Shelest
Good morning, dear colleagues. Let me start this day with new questions for our discussion.
1. Can the regional security system be the business of only Black Sea states, or even more narrow – littoral states?
2. Who are the others, who influence the security situation in the Black sea region, or who is seriously influences by the situation here?
Yulia Nikitina

Colleagues,

I would not be so sure when defining great power rivalry as the main spoiler of the Black sea regional security. It can be seen as “the chicken or the egg” dilemma: if there was a working security system in the Black sea (or wider in the OSCE area) before 2008 or 2014, great power rivalry would not have occurred in such forms, probably, It would have been just political misunderstanding, nothing more.
So the major question, in my view, is how to create a regional security community?
I can agree with Sergey that cooperation on extra-regional issues might help, but only for those great powers, which are involved in such cooperation on ISIS or Iranian nuclear deal. We need to think over strategies of creating a security community both for great powers and for middle and small states.

Yulia Nikitina

Hanna,

You asked a tricky question. On the one hand, presence of extra-regional powers can mean that the region is so important that there will be other states and organizations interested in influencing the security situation. On the other hand, presence of extra-regional powers could mean that this region is not really a region but just a periphery to other well-defined security regions.

As to the answer to your first question, my understanding is that the group of only littoral states can be responsible for very narrow issues like biological security of the sea. All wider security issues need wider involvement.

Sergey Minasyan
Hanna, I agree with Yulia that the littoral states can and may be responsible only for very narrow complex of security issues while for the more broADER problems we will need involvement and engagement of the other global and regional actors.
Hanna Shelest
So, my question was – who are those outsiders, who can influence the security situation in the region, and are EU and NATO should be considered as outsiders or already insiders?
Sergey Minasyan
EU and nato are already insiders while NATO–member usa might be considered here in two ways – both insider and outsider. Indeed it is very typical for the usa who is already considered as a regional power in the all regions of the world…
Balkan Devlen
Interests by outside powers (and here it mostly means the US after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to NATO and EU) is a double edged sword. Nothing really good comes out when great powers focus on particular regions but also not much has been done to resolve issues if they ignore that region (case in point, central Africa). As NATO and EU is now very much involved actors in the region I do not think it would be possible to establish a security dynamic that would exclude them. That means, whether we like it or not, Black Sea security is no longer just the domain of littoral states.
Teo Moga
Answers to the first round of questions from the 29th of June:
1. Indeed, I agree with the fact that Ukraine matters more in terms of size and scope; however, I believe the timeline is also relevant. Whereas the Georgian-Russian has been a fierce example of Moscow’s unwillingness to make concessions to any ‘Western’ interference (i.e. epitomised by a future potential NATO membership to Georgia) in its ‘traditional’ zone of interest, the Ukrainian crisis has been the culmination of an increasing competition between the two poles of power – Euro-Atlantic and Russian – over the ‘shared’ neighbourhood. Realist thinking and interest-based logic have taken their toll in both the case of Georgia and Ukraine. The increasing lack of cooperation and understanding between the two poles of power, the conflicting discourses and approaches have been translated into a chess-board/battle-ground where, unfortunately, the main pawns have been the countries situated ‘in-between’. It is somehow surprising how the Euro-Atlantic community ‘sleepwalked’ into a crisis, dragging Ukraine with it, without fully taking into account previous warnings (i.e. the Russian-Georgian war) or without rigorously assessing Russia’s potential reactions.
2. 3. The challenges the Black Sea basin and the adjacent states are currently facing are significantly high. The main reason for that stems from increasing militarisation where the ‘gunboat diplomacy’, ‘shows of force’ have totally replaced cooperation and dialogue. The result of that has been an increasingly volatile region, unstable and, to a certain extent, unpredictable for the years to come.
Answers to the second round of questions from the 30th of June:
1. The Black Sea states seem not to matter much in the broader Black Sea security equation. Their actions are very much limited by the outside powers which actively participate in the shaping of the foreign policy agendas of the littoral states. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the Black Sea basin has traditionally been a contested area where different outside actors sought to project power. It is again not surprising that the two countries – Ukraine and Georgia – which have not yet (let to) become members of any power alliance/bloc are the ones which suffered most in the past years. Their cases are representative for the whole Black Sea region and points out to the fact that the post-Cold War era has not managed in post-Soviet Eastern Europe to fully clarify allegiances, interests, a definite set of rules abided by all actors involved. Such background could be detrimental for the security and stability of the wider Black Sea region on long term.
Yulia Nikitina
Balkan,
The official Russian position is that the post Cold War order has been challenged by NATO expansion, so again it is the question of the chicken and the egg.
Hanna,
My final point is that the security paradigm is now similar to the Cold War paradigm in this region. Thus, probably there was a shift of paradigm after 1990-1991, but the great powers did not manage to depart from the logic of the Cold War and proceed to real cooperation.
Rovshan Ibrahimov
about changing the paradigm of security in the Black Sea, it is difficult to imagine that in a short time here will form a region. As a consequence, also difficult to discuss security issues in its whole, because in some cases, countries themselves are a threat to each other. However, the countries of the Black Sea have a unique opportunity to form intteregional ties in eurasia, between the EU and the East, through the development of transport communications. In this case, with the development of communication links, the Black Sea countries could form the framework of general perceptions and interests of the black sea states.
Rovshan Ibrahimov
I also do not see the confrontation that took place during the Cold War. No blocks. The confrontation takes place between Russia, which wants to indicate to the world that the former Soviet space is a sphere of its national interests and the West, which in principle is acceptng Russian perception and expectation and does not contest. the only thing that happened was an unsuccessful attempt of the EU to create a favorable for it a buffer zone in the zone of the former Soviet republics, through the Eastern Partnership program. This attempt failed because of a sharp reaction of Russia, which the West did not expect. In general, no any state or group of states,organisations in the west are ready to fight with russia for the countries which we can define as partners of the eastern partnership program. there is excalation,there is a desire to “punish” Russia, even punishment is implemented by a very limited leverages, such as sanctions and nothing more. There is no confrontation over the sphere of influence, as it was during the Cold War.
Sergey Minasyan
Hanna, I am sure that we have a changing dynamics of security agenda in the region. After Crimea it is also clear that we will have a very different situation in the naval military balance as well. For example I predict a very visible shifting in Russia military capabilities in the region – firxt time since the bigging of 1990th. But it will be not only naval and naval support buildup by the russians. I think we are now on the way even of the possib;e nuclearization of the bs security agenda – there were a lot of different kind statements from Moscow that it is possible to deploy if not nuclear weapons but at least – the delivery systems (for example-Tu-22M3 bombers and Iskander-M missiles) in Creamea… That seems will face an adequate reaction from the NAto sides as well…. So, security in BS becomes more and more complicated. At least from the military and military-technical point of view….
Hanna Shelest
Our discussion is closed. Thank you very much.