– about security, geopolitics and history lessons in the Black Sea area in an exciting dialogue with Dr. Florin C. Stan, head of the Department of History, Romanian Navy Museum, Associate Lecturer of University “Ovidius” Constanta – Faculty of History and Political Science and expert of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in “Contemporary History”Versiunea în limba română poate fi accesată pe site-ul powerpolitics.ro
– All significant (geo) political events – evolutions or stagnations – developed around the Black Sea have been influenced by movements in global geopolitics. The interest for the Black Sea region was, it is and will remain also in the future geopolitical resetting one of the same level. Of course, we talk about the internationalization of factors in the last decade for the geopolitical and security importance to the region. But that would be a major player here in this moment?
– Geopolitical of the Black Sea region has always been a major interest on the part of key political actors at a time in an era or another. Without recourse to examples of past events emphasize that now being undertaken in this region can be decrypted using the keys provided by the main security options which are obvious now. On the one hand we have the Euro-Atlantic vision, which states internationalization of Pontic space, an option supported by the United States and all EU states. On the other hand, we view the Russian Federation vision, which promotes the region as attribute of regional powers. We can speak here a specific case. Although a member of NATO, Turkey is somewhat closer to Russia’s security vision, promoting interest in the Black Sea and in accordance with the wide expanse of their Pontic coast. Ankara remains loyal Euro-Atlantic values, not challenge EU enlargement policies or NATO. Given the geopolitical developments of the last decade, the political decisions taken in the wider Black Sea, we can say that now, in present, here is not one major player, but two main players: the Russian Federation and NATO, the whose interests are identical with those of the European Union. Unfortunately, the EU has not yet formulated a policy unit, common to the Black Sea. Turkey remains one specific case, the policy of the authorities of Ankara that takes place follow the its interests, but according to NATO interests in the region.
– Then what about the Black Sea – “Russian lake” ?
– Before spreading the idea of Russian lake for the Black Sea, this area was actually a “Ottoman lake”. Gradually, the region has lost this connotation to the late eighteenth century, because the Ottoman Empire capitulation in the front of England, France and Russia, the latter power taking the initiative power in the Black Sea from the time the Peace Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji of 1774, by which Russia received direct access to the Black Sea. Despite St. Petersburg’s ambitions circumpontic expansion, this region has never been a so-called “Russian lake”, the Paris Peace Treaty of 1856 which ended the Crimean War, the Black Sea region was declared open and non-committal. Remember that the 1936 Montreux Convention, in force today, provides freedom navigation at sea, giving Turkey the right to militarize straits in case of armed conflict. Of course, over time, Tsarist Russia and Soviet Union focused mainly on imposing their authority in the region. After the Second World War, only Washington’s firm policy on line “impoundment” (containment) Soviet expansion to the Straits made the Moscow authorities do not extend, given that the subjugation of countries in the region through clientelistic regimes imposed in Sofia and Bucharest, the Soviets dominated the west coast of the Black Sea. Creation of NATO in 1949 and accession Turkey and Greece in 1952 to the political-military alliance has limited expansion Kremlin’s authority in the region. After the “Cold War” and the implosion of the Soviet Union in December 1991, the Black Sea region has entered in a new historical stage, in which diplomacy plays a significant role in affirming the strategic interests of coastal States.
It is worth mentioning that at the end of the “Cold War”, the first cooperation project in the Black Sea region was initiated by Turkey, which was in 1990 only real market economy in this area. In taking in Istanbul on June 25, 1992, of the Declaration on economic cooperation in the Black Sea area, Russia was among the signatory, along with Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Ukraine and Turkey. Without coming up with additional arguments, we believe that this moment has marked the end of the idea of Black Sea like “Russian lake“. According to some specialists have approached contemporary Russia, now it was detached from conception imperial, authoritarian, in international relations, following the partnership with countries like China, India, Japan and U.S. and European Union, to restore the superpower status, especially political and economic means. To mention that to the European area of the former Soviet Union, Moscow shows a dynamic expectation, also in the corridor in Central Asia Islam an attitude of collaboration. These are essential parameters that must be considered when analyzing today’s Russia policy. However, as noted right the Romanian Intelligence Service Director, Mr. George Maior, in an interview in December 2010, we are at “the border of multiple interests and we need to know to navigate in such a situation”.
– How does Romania and Moldova in present at this space? There are necessary strategies designed for political and economic exploitation of this asset?
– Romania are reported at Black Sea in the naturally way, as a nation, part of this space, chasing any project promoted in the region in the context of the specific security challenges. The region is, without any doubt, a priority in the foreign policy approach of parts – and not just for Romania but for any coastal State – with particular potential in the regional. The diplomatic track pursued by the Bucharest on the Black Sea region remains not only a geographical point of confluence, but also a meeting point of the strategies promoted here. Obviously, every actor in this region promotes its national interest and this interest should be respected.
Republic of Moldova at present relates to an open policy towards the European Union and prospects in the region, given the diplomatic attitude of all major states in the region. Not incidentally, the new President of the Republic, Mr. Nicholas Timofti took the very first stage of his mandate of the visits to Bucharest, Kiev, Moscow and Istanbul, and was well received everywhere.
Sure, it would have been different under the situation in which, after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, would have turned the process of reunification of Moldova with Romania. Leaving aside the weakness of political actors in Bucharest, here we can remember the problems that prevented this process, according to an independent report of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group, published in London in March 1992. First of all, the economic weakness of both States and ethnic composition of the Republic of Moldova changed, with a rate of 63% Romanians and 14%, Russians, 12% Ukrainians and others. And, of course, not ultimately, the existence of the Transdniester issue and the presence of the Fourteenth Army of the USSR (and then of Russia Federation) in the region.
However, fact that there are two Romanian states with common borders, remains an anomaly in the contemporary world, and also manifested pro-Chisinau authorities in Bucharest undoubtedly upset Moscow. To be very accurate I stressed that in the present world context, for Romania does not a question “annexation” of Moldova Republic, but only to support the access of this old Romanian territory, to the European Union. We can mention only that the ,,Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership for the XXI century between the United States of America and Romania”, the text adopted onSeptember 31, 2011, in Washington, by the Presidents Barack Obama and Traian Basescu, one of the areas in which one Romanian-American cooperation can to strengthen is the affirmation of democracy and the rule of law, by “firm support of these values in the region”, including the Republic of Moldova, State also mentioned in this statement. And it is not small matter in perspective of affirming political and economic strategies needed both capitalization advantage of states from the generous Black Sea area and the states of the eastern border of the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance.
– And also in this context, I would like if you (as the historian which carefully studied the Chronicles that range) can to say us if along thetimes has changed something essential in vision, mind and approach of other countries ascribed Black Sea area?
– A perspective about vision, mind and approach of states around the Black Sea, in the direction of affirming their own interests in the region involve a more ample space that exceeds the limits of a simple dialog. Pointing, we can estimate that if Romania was placed (from the first decades after its inception as a modern State in law to contemporary times) on the vision area defined by the great politician Mihail Kogalniceanu, appreciated Minister of Foreign Affairs, with the following words: ” The key of our salvation is the way of Danube towards the wide Black Sea open to all “- other countries also had a somewhat linear in promoting their aims in the Black Sea area.
As I mentioned, Russia has moved from Black Sea like a “Russian lake” stage to the vision of Sea like an attribute of the regional powers, and Turkey still maintains on the position from the start of his affirming as the secular state, position given by the geographical determinations, that can to control the Straits, a status confirmed by the Montreux Convention of 1936. Contemporary Turkish position is strengthened by the fact that country is NATO member and therefore optimal partner of Western democracies, at the borders of Europe and Asia. Bulgaria has maintained her interest in the Pontic area, but without a performance of economy, any project of Sofia government in this area is less sustainable. Regarding the other littoral states established with the dismantling of the Soviet Union, Ukraine and Georgia, they were required by their appearance 21 years ago redefining the geopolitical map of the Black Sea. Disappearance of the state who dictated the geopolitical, imposed practically 90 years, an initial equation of a trilateral leadership as Russia – Ukraine – Turkey. Respect given Ukraine after the Cold War period was due to its size and population boundaries, major geopolitical features. But this elements were not converted in effectively benefits of the Kiev priority to the Black Sea, in situation of the sinuous terms of political life and slow growth economy. So far, Ukraine has remained in the region an “introverted” actor. About Georgia, it is known that its economy is major dependent on the Russia, expressing, however, its option for the assignation to the North Atlantic Alliance. Note that the main State which supports effective the opening to the West of the Georgian policy is Turkey, the most important ally of Washington in the region and the largest investor in the Georgian economy, and also the main supplier of military assistance.
– The security in the Black Sea region need also, of course, a settlement of “frozen conflicts” across North-East arch and access to large commercial rivers flowing into the Black Sea: Danube, Dnieper and Dniester. How do you think that would be the compromise solution in the case of Transdniester ?
– Recently, on you site powerpolitics.ro was published an interview with the President of Moldova Republic, Mr Nicholas Timofti, in which he said that Chisinau authorities agree to grant for Transdniester, “a wide range, from the principle of sovereignty of Moldova”. We can say that this is a fair compromise solution. However, the continued presence of the Russian military arsenals and the 14th Army in the region, inconsistent with international commitments, such as the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, concluded under the auspices of the OSCE, as well as Russia’s commitments within the framework of the Ministerial Council of the OSCE in Istanbul and Porto, disturb the balance of security in this area, and has been a barrier to any compromise in the case of Transdniester.
– Consider that a possible extension of NATO’s borders by including Moldova, Georgia, will change the security options? Such a scenario would increase security in the area or the contrary?
– A possible expansion of NATO to the East borders cannot be discussed without understanding the options that are coming from the East, options that must be respected. Now, obviously, the discussion can remain only one hypothetical. As is well known, the priority for any NATO member state is, beyond the effective principled affirmation, the building the rule of law, of democracy, of a market economy, creating an institutional set able to conduct and support political and economic projects which to assist their citizens. Providing security in the North-Atlantic Alliance is based on the capability of new including member states. No one State in the Alliance is not a simple customer or consumer security, each having the capacity in specific forms of being provider security too. Or, while the States that you mention does not claim to provide minimum security elements in a hypothetical status of NATO member countries, it‘s obvious that we could hardly speak of an increase of security in the region.
–Learning from the past, but looking to the future, what should we must to consider as a priority ?
– Learning from the “lessons” of the past, we need to appreciate Pontic space after his connection to the values shared by the peoples of the region, who recognize the experience and continued European civilization, but also the spiritual diversity of the Orient. Only in this way we can build the future projects in the general interest of states from the Black Sea area as the important region in the grand circuit of the global economy. It cannot be ignored the experience of the West nor potential of the East. In view of this aspect, we can note that adversity in the Black Sea region may not represent a solution which to employ an optimistic future. Dialogue and cooperation are the real solutions that can bring real benefits to all riparian States, diplomacy, first of all, being called to show in the context the real values in support affirmation of national interests. The only acceptable confrontation must be that of economic competitiveness.
Interview made by Gabriela Ionita