The pace of international developments has accelerated in the 21st century and the countries and political leaders are successful that use the entire elements of dynamism and briskness in taking decisions and have the necessary capabilities for utilizing small changes in strategy and selecting the required tactics based on their countries ‘key deciding national interests. The surrounding Black Sea region has a tapestry of countries with diverse cultures, religions, and ethnicities. In the west and south lie the countries of Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey which are members of Nato. In the north, with the undetermined border between Ukraine and Russia, there is a great deal of instability and insecurity. The region has experienced considerable historical crises that are not yet solid and can erupt again in a wider area around the Black Sea, including: The Transnistria, Ossetia, Abkhazia, Karaback and Donbas.
The general atmosphere in the Black Sea is interconnected with the international developments and the situation has flared up with the wide Russian military drills along the Ukraine border. According to the estimates, about 100,000 Russian soldiers have participated in these drills under the direct command of Sergey Shoygu, the Russian defense minister. These days, there are rampant worrying theories talked about on the media of East European states, including in case of a Russian invasion the Nato will dispatch forces from Romania to defend Ukraine and the region’s countries have allocated hefty sums for their military purchases; while caught up in the middle of a corona crisis, these countries also have other urgencies.
Of course, the idea that Russia can or even wants to invade Ukraine is a remote idea, though not totally rejected, and in fact even in this supposed situation, Nato’s direct intervention will not be to the benefit of Ukraine. This , anyway, does not mean that we should not, in the long term, be worried about major geopolitical leaps and changes which now we see unfolding; leaps that question the architecture of international relations across the world, such as the security equation in Europe and even the survival of the liberal democracy model, and most political actors and analysts believe that it seems the situation of the Cold war is still standing after the soviet collapse; although the situation now, for the approach taken, compared to that during the US- USSR rivalry, is harder and more complicated. And even though some maintain the main rivalry has departed the Eurasia region and the global strife locomotive has shifted towards East Asia, China and the Yellow Sea , the US and China being the center of such a conflict.
The reality is, over the past two decades with the rise of Putin and Russia’s role, the Americans have embarked on a campaign of exaggerating his Tsar-like approach in the defense and security affairs of the East European countries, two main goals of such an approach being boosting arms sales and establishing military bases in the region for besieging Russia. However, the psychological war has, on one side, caused a regional mobilization with centricity of the Ankara, Bucharest and Warsaw triangle to psychologically support Ukraine, a thing that was strengthened by a series of Russian statements met with reactions from Washington, Brussels, Berlin and Kiev. For example, a kremlin official warned that “ intensification of clashes will be the end of Ukraine as a country.” Of course, this is not the first time that Moscow uses such a language, and on the other side, Kiev has tried to exploit the current situation to drive the west toward stricter sanctions on Russia and renew its request to become a member of the Nato.
But some believe that Putin is content with the present situation, because Moscow basically by heavy deployment of its troops along the Ukraine border wants to send signals to the west and test their reaction, especially America’s, to the subject of Ukraine integration in the Nato and arms support for Kiev. The reality is the Black Sea’s geopolitical destiny is paradoxical; although over the last 150 years the region has been away from intense fighting, after the communist bloc collapse, great efforts and developments have been made to return the balance of power to the region. At present, the issue of security in the Black Sea area is still a pressing issue for the littoral states, especially that Turkey has gone on with its arms cooperation with Russia and deploying the S-400 system and Biden has taken an unpleasant decision regarding the Turks, declaring recognition of the Armenian Genocide; while there are evident contradictions in Ankara’s propaganda maneuvers in support of Ukraine. Russia and Turkey have experienced relative development in recent years and rank 14th and 16th among the world economies; ranks that will fall to 18th and 20th in 2035. The reality is Moscow and Ankara have had a prominent role in the international developments, especially in Eurasia. After the recent developments and the Azeri-Armenian clashes, Turkey is experiencing new conditions and is trying to secure its national interests by adopting a pragmatic approach of taking necessary turns and twists in its regional and international positions. Russia’s Putin, too, is trying to reap maximum gains from the regional developments in the Middle east and Caucasus; In this situation, the Ankara- Moscow relations have experienced dramatic ups and downs and both sides have taken great lengths to resolve the issues through dialogue to insure mutual interests. Altogether the mutual ties have experienced many highs and lows.
Some maintain that Russia’s domestic conditions, such as economic woes and protests at Alexi Navalny’s detention in prison, have born on the Moscow’s polices and driven it to exert military pressure on Ukraine; though according to the polls from the Levada polling center, Vlamidir Putin still enjoys a 60% popularity among the people, but he is concerned about a scenario in which the west wants to destabilize Russia. In his speech in the Unity Day he touched upon the redlines that the west should not breach if it does not want to see Russia’s asymmetrical and violent reaction. At present, Russia’s main concern is Nato’s aggressive approach in its surrounding environment and Moscow will go on with its defensive movements. In doing so, the Russian army and government have deployed tens of the Eskander tactical missiles in Kaliningrad, neighboring the borders of Poland; this plan is part of the project for countering the US anti-missile defense systems in Central and Southern Europe.
In a summary, everybody knows that for Russia and even China the issue of color revolutions through which the west wants to wreak internal mayhem is a top priority. In this regard, at a meeting between Sergey Labrov and his counterpart in China, which was immediately held after the China-US meeting in Anchorage, the two countries set two main goals for close cooperation, that is countering “ color revolutions”, and “ preventing interference in internal affairs and countering the US dollar dominance and the US hegemony over the global fiscal system.” However, there are deep suspicions among the East European states, at least in domestic circles, that with the western power declining, maybe someday Moscow and Beijing will embark on two plans, annexing the Baltic states and Taiwan. The pressing question here is Will the world see that day?
Ali Beman Eghbalizarch, Senior Expert at European Studies
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)