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The Black Sea Region. A geopolitical Trojan horse?

Issue 5/2019 now available! The Black Sea region is quickly becoming a geopolitical battleground which is gaining the interest of major powers, regional players and smaller countries - and the stakes are only getting higher.

August 26, 2019 - New Eastern Europe

The Black Sea region. A complex and dynamic space

Countries in the Black Sea region remain hostage to geopolitics and history. The impact of various factors on the shape of relations on this area is still very noticeable. Thus, any examination of the geopolitical situation here that does not account for historical conditions may diminish the complexity of the situation on the ground.

The geopolitical rivalry and the clash of interests between the superpowers have been present in the Black Sea region for centuries. During the Cold War when the East-West divide was at its height, the Black Sea was “excluded” from geopolitical competition between the superpowers as it became the domain of mainly one player – the Soviet Union.

August 26, 2019 - Tomasz Stępniewski

Security takes centre stage in the Black Sea

The annexation and militarisation of the Crimean Peninsula has given Russia greater access to use enhanced military capabilities to project its forces in the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East and apply pressure on the other countries in the region, particularly Ukraine and Georgia. In response, NATO and the Euro-Atlantic community have started developing a new approach to Black Sea security.

The Black Sea region over the centuries has been the subject of interest of empires and powerful states. The region, as a security space, has a complicated history. It combines a central maritime space with limited access and coastal areas that link it to the regional security complexes of Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East – and that often intersect and overlap.

August 26, 2019 - Zurab Agladze

Georgia’s long and uncertain road to NATO membership

Georgia’s membership of NATO lies at the core of its foreign policy. The ambition is beyond the line of ministries and state bureaucratic apparatus, as it represents the utmost desire of the entire country.

Recent polls in Georgia suggest that support for the country’s membership of NATO is at more than 70 per cent. Euro-Atlantic integration is Tbilisi’s near-term objective. The longer-term strategy is to move closer to NATO is non-negotiable for the state. Considering its geographic location, in the company of a hostile neighbour, Georgia adamantly wants to gain security by joining the Alliance. However, NATO is not only a security choice for Georgia; it is also a reflection of its political values and foreign policy.

August 26, 2019 - Giorgi Goguadze

The shift of dominance in the Black Sea

Turkey’s policy in the Black Sea, which mainly aims to deter NATO’s presence in the region, has diminished its overall role, making it more vulnerable to Russia’s growing influence. Russian’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was a clear signal that the Black Sea is gradually becoming a Russian lake, upsetting the equilibrium that has been in place for nearly a century.

Despite centuries of political and military conflicts and other power dynamics around the Black Sea, there has never been a period in history when a common conception of the Black Sea region existed – not even among the littoral states. Accordingly, the Black Sea region has gradually evolved into a unit of analysis, a sort of framework under which certain power dynamics are analysed by different scholars and policy-makers.

August 26, 2019 - Sophia Petriashvili

A sea of insecurity

The Black Sea has always been an important geopolitical theatre. The November 2018 Russian attack on Ukraine’s naval convoy illustrates the Kremlin’s desire to assert dominance in the region and causing greater insecurity and uncertainty for those pro-western states that are situated along the sea coast.

The Black Sea, though serving as an extension of the wider Mediterranean space, has always been strategically important in global politics. The level of interest global powers have expressed in the region has varied from time to time, but the sea has its own merits as a space where historical steppe lands from the north, the isolated South Caucasus, the wider Middle East and the Mediterranean met each other.

August 26, 2019 - Emil Avdaliani

A playground for influence

The Black Sea region is once again becoming an arena attracting large powers to invest and develop. However, the growing interest among the various powers also leads to a higher risk of conflict and confrontation, something that this region is already known for, historically.

Hellenes referred to the Black Sea as Póntos Áxeinos which derives from the ancient Persian word axšaina used to describe objects of dark colour. The Black Sea region has, historically speaking, been an arena of confrontation between different nations. It has witnessed the glorious rise of empires as well as their crushing defeats. During the heyday of the Ottoman Empire, the Black Sea was referred to as an “Ottoman Lake”. European states have also been historically involved in the disputes over the region.

August 26, 2019 - Leo Sikharulidze

All is not quiet on the eastern front

A fateful combination of geopolitical facts has made Ukraine and Georgia key to the success of the Kremlin’s strategic goal of imperial resurgence, which apparently can only be achieved by controlling the fate of these two nations. Consequently, Georgia and Ukraine have become the primary targets of Russian aggression.

The world is rich with geopolitical hot spots right now. Iran, the Levant, North Korea, the waters east of China – all provide credible risks of a major war. Sino-American competition is clearly a major international issue for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, multi-sided geopolitical struggle in the Middle East will certainly provide a plentiful supply of crises.

August 26, 2019 - David Batashvili

The dimensions of Georgia’s frozen conflicts

According to the Russian narrative, NATO at its border poses a risk to its national security. This narrative helps to legitimise the Kremlin’s aggressive action, which is aimed at restoring dominance on what it considers to be its “sphere of influence”. Yet the idea that Georgia reversing its Euro-Atlantic course would lead to the resolution of its internal frozen conflicts and ensure regional security is naïve.

When speaking about Georgia’s frozen conflicts, it is important to acknowledge the different parties, aspects and dimensions in order to accurately assess the situation between Georgia, the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Russia. The conflicts can be viewed in three dimensions: first, an inter-power conflict between non-democratic rule and liberal democracy (i.e. Russia and the West); second, an interstate conflict between Russia and Georgia over the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; and third, as two intrastate conflicts – between ethnic Georgians and ethnic Abkhaz over the Abkhazia territory, and between ethnic Georgians and ethnic Ossetians over what Georgians call the territory of Samachablo/Tskhinvali Region (also known as South Ossetia).

August 26, 2019 - Nino Kukhianidze

The cost of five years of war in Donbas

Beyond the catastrophic economic price Ukraine has been forced to pay, the war in Donbas has taken a terrible toll on the lives of millions of ordinary Ukrainians. Nothing but a lasting peace and reintegration can turn this situation around.

Seven years ago, in the summer of 2012, some ten thousand English and French football fans made the journey to Donetsk in eastern Ukraine to see their teams play in the group stages of the UEFA European football championship and then party in the centre of town. They took the newly delivered Hyundair Rotem Intercity trains from Kyiv or flew into the recently opened terminal at Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk. It was the capital of the country’s industry, the most populous region and at this time a calling card for Ukraine. No one then could have foreseen that the conflict that erupted less than two years later would turn the region into an active war zone.

August 26, 2019 - Janek Lasocki

The time for big ideas

In the last five years since the start of the war in Donbas, a new wave of civic engagement has risen in the post-industrial city of Sievierodonetsk. Now the civil society has to learn how to co-operate with city officials and between themselves.

In the spring of 2014 a large part of the Donbas region fell into the hands of Russian-supported separatists. Since then, the city of Sievierodonetsk became the new capital of the Ukrainian-controlled Luhansk region. It is located just 30 kilometres away from the border which separates Ukrainian-controlled territory with the separatist-held self-declared republics supported by Russian forces.

August 26, 2019 - Svitlana Oslavska

From Piața Universității to #rezist

The true goal of the 2107 protests was the fight against passivity. Many of the protesters would not have bothered to vote in the last general elections, but through their presence on the streets, they cast their vote in their own way. It was a fiesta in the truest sense.

In 2017 the Romanian government changed legal provisions which allowed for the pardoning of corrupt officials and changed the law to be more relaxed towards the abuse of power. Since they were announced, frequent anti-government demonstrations in many cities in Romania broke out as thousands voiced their concern that the country was moving away from the values of the EU. The poet, novelist and academic Ruxandra Cesereanu was involved with these protests from the very beginning, documenting them in a journal which will be published in Romania. Here are some excerpts from her writings.

August 26, 2019 - Ruxandra Cesereanu

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