Power Politics in the Black Sea region
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 06:08
Written by Namiq Abbasov
Formation of the modern Black Sea Region
The terms that are so-called the Black Sea region or Black Sea area covers the states which are
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Apart
from these countries, the NATO, in the name of the United States and the EU also have interests in the
Black Sea region that contradict with the interests of Russia, leading to complexity of the region. The
formation of the modern Black Sea region resulted from the several specific factors that affected to the
changing the character of the Black Sea region and playing crucial in the international area.
First factor for the formation of the region is the collapse of the Soviet Union which led to democratization
of some post-communist states such as Ukraine, George and so forth. After the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the Cold War was ended and the bipolar world system converted into multipolar (some claim
monomultipolar) system and it changed the situation in the region in which new status quo emerged as a
result of new perspectives and interests of the littoral states and the influences of the big actors such as
the United States, several European states in the name of the EU.
Second factor for the formation of the modern Black Sea region resulted from the demand of the West,
especially the EU, for the supplies of the energy from the East through South Caucasus and Black
Sea corridor which accelerated the diversification of the energy routines to the European Union. As the
interests of the European Union emerged in the region, it clashed with interests of Russia and Turkey, the
countries that have achieved a substantial amount of cooperation between each other.
The other factors that affected to the shaping of the Black Sea region and driving of the area to the
complex region are the accessions of two littoral states, Romania and Bulgaria to NATO in 2004 and
partly to the EU in 2007 which contributed to the coming of the interests of the United States to the
region where the interest of the Euro-Atlantic area contradicted with the interests of Russia which is
trying very hardly to restore its sphere of influence. Moreover, the eight days war between George and
Russia showed that Russia will not easily let the opening of the region to the Euro-Atlantic area and try to
implement its main interests, preventing the arriving of the West to the region. So, all states have dynamic
interests over the Black Sea region. The main actors in the region can be divided into several parts which
are the representers of the Euro-Atlantic area that is the EU and the United States, Russia, Turkey, other
littoral states of the Black Sea.
Interests of major actors in Black Sea Region
The Interests of Russia
From the times of Peter the Great, the access to the warm seas has been a central point of the foreign
policy of Russia. As the successor state, Russia after the dissolution of the USSR tried strongly to restore
its sphere of influence as it was during the USSR.
The new foreign policy of Russia was developed on the basis of the “near abroad” which was proposed
in order to retain influence over some territories after dismemberment of the Soviet Union. It is clear that
after the collapse of the USSR, the eastern European states began to follow an independent foreign
policy and Russia had to admit the loss of its influence means to the Eastern Europe. That is why the
Russian officials promoted near abroad policy in which it was shown that Russia accept the loss of the
eastern Europe, but other territories till the eastern Europe is the sphere of influence of Russia. It is
interesting point that the United States accepted the sphere of the influence of Russia as mentioned in
near abroad policy. In 1992, the state secretary of the United States declared that the United States had
no interests in South Caucasus which partly indicates that the United Stated agreed to the territories
that mentioned in the near abroad policy. However, as the years passed the situation changed and the
interests of the United States were provided with contributions and willingness of the regional states as
Azerbaijan, George and so on which made Russia very furious.
The Black Sea Zone is deemed very crucial for the national security of Russia which is the reason that
Russia strongly tries to prevent the coming of the Euro-Atlantic community to the area. The main interests
of Russia in the black sea region have several dimensions. The most importantly, Russia intends to keep
its position of a key actor in the region.
The other interests of Russia have been observed in the energy security of the region. As a huge amount
of natural gas possessing state, Russia aims the prevention of the energy-related projects which will not
be under direct control of hers. That is why she wanted directly participate in the delivery of the Caspian
Sea natural resources to the western market. In Azerbaijani issue, Russia believed that Azerbaijan
would use only Baku-Novorosisk pipeline for the delivery of the energy resources of Azerbaijan to the
western markets. This pipeline is under the direct control of Russia and she was unwilling to accept
the delivery of the gas and oil to the West without the control of Russia. After unsuccessfulness in the
prevention of the signing of the Deal of Century, Russia tries to impede the construction of the Nabucco
gas pipeline, because it will allow the Central Asian gas to deliver to the West without the Russian control.
That is why using the great chances of the condition of controversial views of the European states over
the construction of the Nabucco gas pipeline, Russia revitalized its energy policy and signed several
agreements for the construction of its South Stream gas pipeline.
At the same time, Russia attempts to impede the creation of the anti-Russian military coalitions and the
movement of the regional states through the NATO membership. The revolutions in George and Ukraine
led the creation of the pro-western foreign policy of these states which angered Russia. In addition, the
appeal of Ukraine and George for the NATO membership in Buxarest Summit of NATO in 2007 and
rejection of them gave way to the destructive actions of Russia which was demonstrated the cutting of the
gas pipelines from Russia to Ukraine and the eight-day war in George. The efforts of George to pursue
pro-western foreign policy resulted with the loss of its two territories.
Interests of the Euro-Atlantic Community
As a part of the Euro-Atlantic community, the EU involved to the region making some programs. One of
the large programs of the EU, the TACIS was proposed in order to create relations with post-communist
states. TACIS is vey huge covering several programs such as INOGATE for the creation of means for the
delivery of natural gas and oil from Caspian Base to Europe and TRANSEACA for the development of
transportation means from East through West.
The other program of the EU is the New Neighborhood Policy which was specially introduced for the
creation and development of the cooperation between the EU and its neighbors. Lately, the Eastern
Partnership was provided with suggestion of the Poland president. However, the regional territorial
conflicts within the states of the Eastern Partnership and the influence of Russia make challenges for the
implementation of the Eastern Partnership.
The enhancement of the United States main political national interests in the region specially begins from
its policy of the war on terror after the destruction of the buildings. The military involvement of the NATO
to Afghanistan increased the geopolitical significance of the region. As a result, the military minister of
the United States, Ronald Rumsfeld visited the region in order to get the support of the regional states.
Rumsfeld strongly tried to abolish the Amendment of the United States Congress numbered 907 in order
to give financial assistance to Azerbaijan, to renew the airports of Azerbaijan and importantly gain the
geopolitical support of Azerbaijan for the war with Afghanistan.
At the same time NATO determined several programs and plans such as Peace for Partnership,
Individual Action Plan for the regional states. The Program of Peace for Partnership was introduced
in order to build good relations with the post-communist states. It was indented to assist to the postcommunist states for the construction of the national defense system. The other program, the Individual
Action Plan was introduced in Prague summit in 2002. In this plan it is mentioned that NATO will give
some assistance for the construction of the military forces in line with NATO standards. Meanwhile,
Bulgaria and Rumania were accepted to the NATO. But their acceptance is not sufficient for the
realization of the NATO interests in the region. At the same time the controversial policy of Turkey
towards the region complicated the situation in the region.
Interests of Turkey
The main contribution of Turkey to the region is the suggestion for the creation of the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation. Turkey suggested the proposal in order to expand its influence to the newly
independent states, but because it was clashed with interests of Russia, Turkey had to give up these
ideas which weakened the effectiveness of the BSEC.
It is certain that Turkey is the member of the NATO and it seems that it protects the interests of the
NATO. However, Turkey refused to act from the name of the NATO in the region. Specially, turkey does
not want the dominance of the euro-community in the region.
Throughout the years, there had been competition between Ottoman Empire and Russia in order
to dominate in the Black Sea. However, right now in contrast to competition, Turkey wants to make
cooperation with Russia over Black Sea. Instead of rivalry, Turkey aims to divide the Black Sea base
between Russian influence area and Turkey influence area and prevent the domination of the West in
the region. The main aim of Turkey is to be energy hub in the region. Although Turkey tries to enter to
the European Union, this does not mean that Turkey will implement the EU policies in the region. So
as a regional strategic state, with Russia Turkey wants jointly dominate over the Black Sea without the
intervention of the West.
Namiq Abbasov, Qafqaz University, European Studies
 DR. SOHBET KARBUZ, Losing the Energy Battle: How and Why the US and EU Need to Engage the
Black Sea Region, http://www.ensec.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=255:losingthe-battle-why-and-how-the-united-states-and-europe-need-to-engage-the-black-searegion&catid=108:energysecuritycontent&Itemid=365, MONDAY, 26 JULY 2010 00:00
 George Friedman, Georgia and the Balance of Power, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/
sep/25/georgia-and-the-balance-of-power/, September 25, 2008
 GARY SCHMITT, Democracy and the Black Sea Region, http://www.newamericancentury.org/
blacksea-20050309.htm, March 9, 2005
 Institute for Regional and International Studies, Black Sea Region: Strategic Balance
 Dr. Andreas Umland, Gas Pipelines and the Russian-Ukrainian Power Balance http://
 Commission on the Black Sea, A 2020 Vision for the Black Sea region, Introduction:
 M K Bhadrakumar, Russia remains a Black Sea power, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?
context=va&aid=9986, Global Research, August 29, 2008
 Michal Thim, Quest for Hard Power: The European Union and the Black Sea Region after the RussiaGeorgia War, http://www.amo.cz/publikace/quest-for-hard-power.html, 22.01.2009
Author of this article: Namiq Abbasov
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