Rezumat: Lucrarea “Bazinul Mării Negre: Cooperare Economică Nouă şi Geopolitica Depăşită” a fost pregătită la sugestia conducerii departamentului de Securitate Naţională şi Luare de Decizii (NSDM) din cadrul Şcolii Navale Superioare Americane (U.S.Naval War College) din Newport, statul Rhode Island, unde autorul a fost profesor vizitator. Lucrarea scoate în evidenţă importanţa strategică a Mării Negre la graniţa dintre Europa şi Orientul Mijlociu şi potenţialul ei economic regional şi internaţional.
Studiul subliniază că în 1992 după prăbuşirea Uniunii Sovietice ţările din zona Mării Negre au semnat o declaraţie prin care s-au pus bazele Blocului de Cooperare Economică al bazinului Mării Negre. Noua organizaţie (BSEC) a fost confruntată însă de la început cu probleme economice şi cu ambiţii geopolitice. Urmărind să-şi extindă influenţa în regiune, Turcia de exemplu, a insistat asupra deschiderii şi cooperării economice. Rusia a urmărit să perpetueze însă dominarea politică şi militară a mării. Urmărind integrarea în NATO, România şi Bulgaria au promovat politici de apropiere de Alianţa Nord Atlantică. Neputându-se rupe total de Moscova, Ucraina şi Georgia s-au concentrat asupra consolidării independenţei recent dobândite. Alianţa NATO, a optat pentru o politică a uşilor deschise.
Diferenţele sociale şi culturale dintre ţările membre ale Blocului de Cooperare al bazinului Mării Negre, precum şi agendele politice şi geopolitice divergenţele ţărilor membre, au făcut ca noua asociaţie să avanseze lent şi să obţină rezultate modeste. Cu toate acestea, însăşi apariţia organizaţiei imediat după prăbuşirea comunismului reprezintă un pas important pe calea integrării Europene şi Euro-Atlantice.
Summary: The Black Sea is strategically located between southeast Europe and Asia Minor and it connects its littoral countries with the Mediterranean Sea and the world beyond. The Black Sea is extremely important economically and geo-politically to all the countries surrounding it and especially to Russia, which used to be the dominant power of the region. In 1992, after the collapse of communism and the break up of the former Soviet Union, at Turkey’s initiative, the countries of this region signed a declaration that set up the Black Sea Economic Cooperation bloc (BSEC). The new organization was confronted, however, with problems of cultural diversity, economic stagnation, and opposing geo-political agendas. Turkey, for example, wanted to expand its influence in the area and pushed for increased economic cooperation. Russia, wanted to perpetuate its old political and military domination. Romania and Bulgaria pursued a policy of Euro-Atlantic integration. Ukraine and Georgia wanted to assert their newly found independence from Moscow. The European Union and NATO adopted open door policies with the intention of expanding themselves into the region. This paper analyses these factors and weighs the achievements and perspectives of the Black Sea area.
For most of its modern history, the Black Sea was of limited importance to the Western world, but over the last decade it has received unusual economic, political, and strategic attention. The demise of communism and the dissolution of the former Soviet Union; the expansion of NATO and the European Union toward the east; the discovery of huge new oil and gas reserves around the Caspian Sea; and strangely enough, the recent hypothesis that the Black Sea could be the location of Noah’s flood, have triggered an international attention unknown for this region in recent history. (1) Is this just a temporary phenomenon or the emergence of a new and important region of the world?
The fall of communism and the birth of the newly independent countries around the Black Sea offer unique political and economic opportunities to integrate this area in the modern, Western-led world. However, three important questions remain. Will Russia, the main successor state of the former Soviet Union, accept a loss of status and cooperate as an equal partner with the other countries? If so, given the mosaic of cultures and interests that makes up the region, will the Black Sea countries prove capable of full cooperation? Last but not least, what is the position of the United States and of the West toward this region? Whatever the answers, the Black Sea countries appear to be on the road to creating a new area of cooperation.
Brief Geographic and Historical Background
The Black Sea is located in southeast Europe, where it separates the old continent from, or connects it with Asia Minor. The sea is in a way an extension of the Mediterranean Sea, with which it is linked through the small Sea of Marmara and the narrow Dardanelles and Bosphorus Straits. By comparison to the Mediterranean Sea, which has a surface area of almost a million square miles, the Black Sea is only 168,500 square miles in size, but it is larger than the better-known Baltic Sea or Red Sea. In addition, the Black Sea is rather deep, reaching over 3,600 feet. Its waters, however, are heavily polluted and have a toxic composition that makes life impossible at depths deeper than about six hundred feet. (2)
Named Pontus Euxinus by the Romans, the Black Sea has been of major importance to the inhabitants of the area since ancient times. It was sailed in antiquity by Greek sailors and traders who apparently founded its first city ports. Most Black Sea ports of today have their roots in those days, and ancient Greek and Roman ruins are still visible around them. The Romans controlled the western and southern shores of the sea and used them for commerce. One of the ancient silk roads connecting the West and the East also passed through the Black Sea area. The Byzantine Empire continued the Roman control of the sea until it fell into Ottoman hands. For a while, the Black Sea became a Turkish lake, and its navigation and trade served mainly Turkish interests. The ascent of Russia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries coincided with the gradual retreat of the Ottoman Empire and brought a new balance of power in the region. The eventual collapse of the Ottomans marked a radical change in the geopolitics of the Black Sea basin. New international agreements opened the navigation through the straits and through the Danube, helping reconnect the countries of the region with the Mediterranean Sea.
The establishment of the USSR after World War I modified further the geopolitical balance in the region; Moscow’s expansion in the Balkans after World War II transforming the Black Sea into a Soviet stronghold. The Soviets built new military facilities and a strong Black Sea fleet poised against Turkey and NATO. Instead of serving as a bridge between East and West and between North and South, for decades the Black Sea became a sea of separation. The end of communism marked yet another era in the life of this sea. However, in which direction did the surrounding countries begin to move at the turn of the millennium?
The end of the twentieth century witnessed a number of new trends little anticipated during previous years. The totalitarian regimes and their centralized economies fell apart. A new form of international competition and cooperation gave birth gradually to a global economic concept. Multi-ethnic countries broke up and were replaced by new regional groupings of states. The most important feature of this part of the world at the end of the century was the emergence of many newly independent states. At the same time, the European Union and NATO began to expand toward the east and in the process became magnets for the Black Sea countries. After centuries of neglect and decades of communist abuse, the new countries of the area saw a chance of cooperation among themselves and with the West both as a goal by itself and as a way to gain access to the Euro-Atlantic structures. Turkey, a full member of NATO and an aspiring member of the European Union, was the first to act.
The Black Sea Initiative
Ankara was behind the initiative of Black Sea cooperation, which dates back to 1990. Turkey saw a chance to spearhead a new age of regional development, and probably to regain some of the influence it had had in previous centuries. The other littoral countries, seeing it in their own interests to cooperate, acceded to the Turkish initiative. They also perceived it as a way of distancing themselves from Moscow’s tutelage. For most of the former communist countries, the beginning of the 1990s was a period of euphoria, of rediscovering identities, a period of dreams of a better future. Russia, which from a geopolitical point of view lost the most in the new transformation of the region, joined the project reluctantly and probably only because it could not afford to be left out. While Moscow maintained a front of seeming cooperation, nationalist Russian circles resorted to violence to retain control over the former Soviet republics of the Black Sea basin.
From an economic point of view, the Black Sea is of great importance to Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia, countries that otherwise would be landlocked. The sea is economically important to Russia too, because with its vast size it needs as many sea links with the world as possible. In addition, unlike the other seaports of Russia, its Black Sea ports are open to navigation almost year round. For Moscow, moreover, the Black Sea is the sole direct link to the Balkans and to the Mediterranean Sea, and therefore it is of utmost geopolitical importance.
From a cultural and political standpoint, the countries of the Black Sea region do not share much in common except the sea itself. Most of them have a deep fear of Russia and have uneasy relations with each other. They also belong to different cultures and ethnic groups, speak different languages, and have different histories, interests, and aspirations. With the exception of the Turks, who are Moslems, most the inhabitants of the shores of the sea are Orthodox Christians, but even they do not always get along.
The Ukrainians, for example, have been controlled and abused for centuries by the Russians and are now trying hard to assert their newly acquired independence. Aware of their precarious internal situation and of their geopolitical position between Russia and Europe, the Ukrainians have chosen to first consolidate their statehood rather than to seek integration with the West. The Romanians, farther south, are traditionally Western-oriented and want to join NATO and the European Union. Romania, however, like practically every former communist country of the region, is controlled by politicians who put their own interests before those of the country. Thus, reforms have been delayed for personal gain and the country has made little progress during the last decade to justify Western integration. To complicate the situation, the very existence of Moldova is questionable, and between Romania and Ukraine territorial issues are pending. Bulgaria, located between Romania and Turkey, does not seem to have such problems, but the status of its Turkish minority and the possibility of a breakup of Macedonia and are causes of great concern. The Georgians, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, like the Russians and most Ukrainians, Romanians, and Bulgarians, are also Christian Orthodox. Georgia, however, has endured harsh Russian treatment since it declared its independence. Strategically located near Turkey, Georgia fell victim to a Russian – incited separatist movement, and to a large degree it has remained under Moscow’s control.
As for Turkey, which launched the Black Sea cooperation project, its goals are chiefly economic, but with political underpinnings. Should the European Union expand further and integrate Romania and Bulgaria, it will be difficult to leave Turkey out, since they are all equally involved in this new cooperation project.
Moscow and the New Black Sea Trend
On 25 June 1992, the heads of states and governments of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine met in Istanbul and signed the Declaration on Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Greece are not Black Sea-littoral countries, but they are interested in the cooperation, as are a few other countries that expressed their intention to join.
The founding statement stresses constructive relations based on the principles and documents of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Its objective was defined from the start as “creating conditions for a mutually beneficial prosperity.” The statement recognizes the need for economic cooperation based on free market economies and upholds the value of “good neighborliness, democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.” The document acknowledges that the region is faced with serious conflicts and dangers, but “the signers bind themselves to strive in good faith to oppose violence, aggression, lawlessness, terrorism, and to promote peaceful settlements.” In the final sentences, the signatories declare their intent to transform the Black Sea into a region of peace, freedom, and stability that should “facilitate the processes and structures of European integration.” (3)
The declaration on Black Sea Economic Cooperation was meant to mark the beginning of a new era. It was to be, however, a very difficult era. The document was too broad and optimistic for a region that was just rediscovering freedom and did not have the economic means to attain its new goals. Turkey was just experimenting with democracy and a market economy; the formerly communist countries were in political turmoil and economic disarray. Most of the inhabitants of those countries were enthusiastic about democracy and had great expectations, but their immediate futures were bleak. Their leaders, former communists, were in no mood to give up power to change the systems in ways that would jeopardize their interests. For the population at large, the results were disappointing. Moscow and the Russians in general were particularly frustrated.
At the beginning of the 1990s, Moscow had plenty to worry about in the Black Sea Basin. Relations with Ukraine were very tense. Moldova was moving toward rejoining Romania, while Romania itself wanted to integrate with the West. The situation in the Caucasus was grave, and Georgia was improving its relations with Turkey. Russia was losing its preeminent position in the Black Sea, and Turkey was the ascendant. While Ankara was launching a new regional policy, Moscow was under attack inside and challenged from outside. The new Kremlin leaders had to redefine Russia’s policy and to update its military doctrine. During those tense years, nationalist Russian leaders agitated openly against the newly independent states, and many of the Russians living in these states took arms and rose against the new local authorities. In the southwestern part of the former union the ensuing events crippled the very countries that could have made the Black Sea cooperation work.