Murky waters: the Black Sea region and European security

European Defence Studies

Peace, Security & Defence

Picture of Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor

Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence at Friends of Europe

The Black Sea has become one of the most bitterly contested strategic zones around Europe since the end of the Cold War. It is the theatre not only of so-called frozen conflicts in breakaway areas of Moldova and Georgia supported by Russian troops but also of live conflicts over Crimea and Donbas, where since 2014 Russian forces and proxies have seized and occupied territory internationally recognised as part of Ukraine.

Approaching the issue as a zero-sum game in which ‘freedom’ must prevail over ‘authoritarianism’ – the dominant perspective in Washington and much of eastern Europe – carries a serious risk of further armed conflict in those countries with the threat of a major war, which would be in neither Russian nor Western interests. There must be a better way.

Based on interviews with significant policymakers, military commanders, energy executives, strategic experts and civil society representatives in Black Sea states, NATO, the European Union and the United States, the report explores whether there is an alternative to escalating east-west tension in the region, and if an alternate security framework, reciprocal confidence-building measures or de facto great power understandings can defuse the contest.

The study is the ninth in the European Defence Cooperation series, following eight similar studies on France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, transatlantic defence cooperation, the Arctic and the Sahel.

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