The Black Sea as the Next Berlin Wall

Posted: June 9, 2014 in Black Sea, Current Affairs, EU, Europe
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The Black Sea region is setting itself up to replace the Berlin Wall just as the Cold Peace has now replaced the era of the Cold War between Washington and Moscow.

Russia’s recent wholesale annexation of Crimea from Ukraine has fundamentality altered the security architecture in the Black Sea region by decreasing regional security and increasing the risk of direct confrontation with the West. Moscow now has a clear path for potentially rejuvenating its Black Sea fleet, though that is a task that will take years to return it to a blue water navy. No longer sharing the deep water port at Sevastopol with Kiev frees their naval strategy as well as providing open access to off shore resources in the form of oil and natural gas.

To date, passage in and out of the Black Sea has been controlled by the Montreux Convention which cedes the responsibility of monitoring the passage of military traffic in and out of the Bosphorus Straits to Turkey, a NATO member since 1952.  This kept the Black Sea out of much of what was the Cold War until the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

With the addition of Bulgaria and Romania to NATO and EU the Black Sea has become the new European shoreline. Additionally, Turkey lies at the southern shore with Georgia to the east.  The odd man out of this democratic concert is Russia. Moscow, however, now controls the shoreline from Sochi to Crimea along with the underwater oil and gas resources that once were held by Kiev.

Today the Black Sea has reemerged from over a century of strategic indifference to center stage in the latest East-West power game. Although it is a geographic cul-de-sac, the Black Sea’s importance has only grown as the states that surround it have become players on a larger stage due to wider collective security and economic agreements.

Just as Berlin became a pawn between East and West following WWII through the Cold War, the Black Sea is being set up by Russian hegemony as the new point of confrontation between Washington and Moscow. Washington has recently increased the stakes in this contest with the European Reassurance Initiative which will give the US a greater military presence in the Black Sea region both unilaterally and through NATO.

The once forgotten waters of the Black Sea are about to become busy again as the great powers play out their diplomatic strategy through naval exercises and over the horizon power projections. The situation is beginning to mirror that of Berlin’s predicament between the US and Red armies as the two confronted each other at the end of WWII.

This new “Berlin Wall”, however, is not confined to one city but to an entire region. This increases its importance and danger of once again becoming the new area of upheaval between contesting ideologies.

 

 

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