Authors: Ruslan Mamedov and Olga Pylova*
For many years, the Black Sea has been a platform for the military exercises of Black Sea region countries and their partners. For instance, in September 2018, the strategic command staff exercise Cossack Freedom — 2018 was held and involved Ukrainian troops. A few months prior, in July 2018, the joint Ukraine–US Navy exercise Sea Breeze 2018 was held in the Black Sea. In 2018, Georgia, Ukraine, France, and the US held joint exercises controlled by Romania’s Navy. The press service of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet also reports about regular exercises: on January 29, 2019, a planned drill involved the ASW corvette Kasimov entering a combat training sea range to perform training missions.
Certainly, these events have a special significance for their participants, who exchange information and expand cooperation. The Blackseafor was established for this purpose in 2001 and had Bulgaria, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Georgia participate. Today, we can hardly say that the states of the Black Sea region have a complete understanding on security matters: joint exercises with the participation of all states have not been held since 2014. The Blackseafor has essentially become defunct after Ukraine refused to take part in the group’s events. Therefore, close cooperation between the states of the Black Sea region on security matters has been suspended since 2014, but they continue to cooperate in other formats.
Georgia’s policy regarding the Black Sea region has been laid out in several documents, primarily the National Security Concept of Georgia adopted in 2011. The Black Sea region and security therein are mentioned in the introduction to the document referring to the desire of Georgia’s people to become fully integrated into NATO and the EU and to contribute to maintaining security in the Black Sea region. Additionally, other parts of the Concept state that Georgia supports the integration of all Black Sea states into the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance. According to the document, such measures will give a significant boost to the security of the Black Sea region as Europe’s south-eastern border. In particular, the Concept states that NATO is capable of providing aid in the fight against illegal trafficking of arms and drugs as well as combatting slave trade and terrorism in the Black Sea region.
It should be noted that cooperation with the Black Sea region is considered separately in conjunction with collaboration with Ukraine and Turkey, but other regional states are not mentioned. Russia is mentioned in conjunction with cooperation in order to preserve and deepen good-neighbourly relations.
In June 2014, the government of Georgia adopted a new National Military Strategy. It was a revised version of the 2005 Strategy and is largely based on the National Security Concept. It mentions the Black Sea region only once in conjunction with discussing the need to cooperate with other regional states to maintain security. It is noteworthy that the Strategy primarily emphasizes the need to cooperate with NATO member states. Thus, Georgia’s authorities link security cooperation in the Black Sea region primarily with NATO and the EU. Military documents rarely refer to immediate cooperation with neighbours within specialized regional alliances.
Ukraine’s Navy has currently set several objectives at once such as defence of the coasts of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, ensuring the inviolability of the state border, protecting the state’s sovereign rights in its exclusive (maritime) economic zone, participating in international (joint) operations under the auspices of NATO and the EU and developing deployment infrastructure.
As of today, Ukraine’s naval surface forces comprise two surface ship brigades, two defence and supply battalions and a search and rescue battalion. The Hetman Sahaidachny frigate (U130) is considered to be the Navy’s flagship. According to official data, the US has proposed providing deliveries to Ukraine’s defence property and new navigation complexes by 2020.
The principal mission of Ukraine’s Navy is to provide joint duty with NATO’s Response Force and the EU’s HelBRoC Battlegroup, to systematically hold drills of the PASSEX type in the north-western part of the Black Sea, to comply with the Plan for Achieving Partnership Objectives through the Forces and Means of the Ukrainian Navy Assigned to Participate in the NATO’s Process of Force Planning and Assessment (PFPA) and Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC), to practically apply state-of-the-art experience in preparing for and participating in multinational forces conducting peacekeeping missions, to coordinate Sea Breeze international exercises in Ukraine and to participate in NATO’s anti-terror Operation Active Endeavour and Turkish Navy’s Operation Black Sea Harmony. Additionally, the official objectives and goals of Ukraine’s Navy are most frequently connected with “containing the Russian threat.”
As for Ukraine’s Military Doctrine (as amended in 2015), it gives scant treatment to the issues of security in the Black Sea region and when it does so, it goes in the context of countering Russia’s actions in the region. In particular, the document speaks about the unresolved issue of delimitating Ukraine’s state border in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov; it states that the unfinished legal framework concerning Ukraine’s state border with the Russian Federation, the Republic of Belarus and the Republic of Moldova is a military and political challenge that might grow into a threat of using military force against Ukraine. Additionally, the Doctrine mentions the Black Sea region as one of the crucial operational and strategic frontiers and areas. Reviving the country’s naval potential, developing Ukraine’s Navy for it to be ready to defend the coastline of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, taking part in international operations of the EU and NATO is listed as one of the objectives on the path toward achieving the goals of Ukraine’s military policy.
Ukraine has recently been striving for closer cooperation with the US, NATO, and the EU in the Black Sea, explaining its stance by the need to counter the “Russian aggression” in the region. All the drills Ukraine’s military take part in are held without Russia’s participation, but with the involvement of external actors such as the US, member states of the European Union, and NATO. It should be noted that Ukraine’s Military Doctrine does not treat the Black Sea region extensively: regional security and the region in general are mentioned solely in conjunction with more global issues.
Romania addressed security issues in the Black Sea region in several official documents, including the 2016 Military Strategy of Romania compiled by the Ministry of National Defence, the governmental 2017 White Paper on Defence and the National Defence Strategy 2015–2019 by the administration of the President of Romania. The introduction to the National Defence Strategy 2015–2019 stipulates that Romania supports the collective security principle. However, Bucharest adjusts its priorities in matters concerning Euro-Atlantic interests proceeding from the premise that the priority means of ensuring the country’s security is its NATO and EU membership.
According to the White Paper, Romania has recently been facing increased comprehensive risks and threats, such as “the annexation of Crimea, the growing instability and the escalation of terrorism in the Middle East and Northern Africa, the impact of Islamic State activities on European states and the humanitarian crisis generated by the massive flow of refugees in Europe.” Bucharest believes that preserving frozen conflicts in the Black Sea region negatively affects security, while inter-ethnic frictions and the regional and local imbalances may result in new manifestations of instability. The White Paper proposes significantly increasing the profile of the Black Sea issue within NATO and interacting with individual NATO members in order “to ensure a visible Allied maritime presence in this maritime basin” while emphasizing the region’s importance for Euro-Atlantic security. It is worth mentioning that, according to the document, Turkey is Romania’s strategic partner in NATO. Bucharest’s dialogue with Ankara appears important in conjunction with stabilizing the situation and maintaining security in the Black Sea.
Romania’s Military Strategy mentions the Black Sea region several times, but it is interesting that the Russian Federation is mentioned here twice. In the first instance, Russia is mentioned in connection with European security threats for Romania: it appears necessary to find “a coherent solution to respond to Russian Federation and the effect of hybrid threats.” In the second instance, Bucharest notes regional security destabilization in the Black Sea Extended Region (BSER) “against the background of actions undertaken by the Russian Federation to strengthen its areas of influence.” The National Defence Strategy 2015–2019 also mentions Russia as an important actor in Euro-Atlantic security, and its actions in the Black Sea “have once again raised NATO’s awareness upon fulfilling its fundamental mission that is collective defence.” Moreover, there is a separate reference to “the validity of the security arrangements agreed upon with Russia at the end of the 20th century.”
The Republic of Bulgaria’s report on defence and the armed forces was published in 2010. Among other things, it describes Bulgaria’s vision of the Black Sea region’s development prospects. According to the Report, the geostrategic situation in the region affects the country significantly. In this connection, the Report makes separate mention of frozen conflicts, the activities of terrorist groups, ethnic and religious disputes, organized crime, the illegal sales of arms and drugs and human trafficking. The government of Bulgaria believes the Black Sea region is a generally favourable environment that allows the Republic to conduct a stable defence policy in the interests of national security with due consideration given to Bulgaria’s commitments to NATO and the EU. Even though there are no immediate military threats and threats to its territorial integrity, Bulgaria, according to the document, plans to maintain a defined potential that is commensurate with the aforementioned risks and threats.
The National Security Strategy of the Republic of Bulgaria (2011) that followed the Report describes the state’s interests in the Black Sea region among “external security concepts.” The document states that Bulgaria considers the region in the European and Euro-Atlantic context promoting state-to-state cooperation in economy, trade and security. Particular attention is given to the importance of cooperation in transporting oil through the countries of the Black Sea region. The government of the Republic also believes that Bulgaria should protect “international peace” and the outer borders of NATO and the EU.
The Bulgarian government pays relatively little attention to matters concerning security in the Black Sea region. As a rule, the region is mentioned in conjunction with cooperation with the EU and NATO. It is noteworthy that the document does not mention the state’s bilateral or multilateral ties with its neighbours in the region in order to maintain security or counter emerging threats.
Tracing Turkey’s doctrine on the Black Sea region is extremely difficult. There is no programmatic document on the matter in open access for Turkish citizens and outside observers. The Defence White Paper 2000 was the last document published by the Turkish authorities. Therein, Turkey stresses its leading role in founding the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), its commitment to building confidence measures and security in the Black Sea region, its support for the Blackseafor activities and its desire to make the Black Sea a region of stability and prosperity. Apparently, the principles and strategies of Turkey’s foreign policy are set forth in classified documents.
Since 2000, many factors that specified threats to security and responses thereto have changed for Turkey. The Kurdish question and the crisis in Iraq and Syria, the neighbouring states on Turkey’s southern borders and the crisis that generated a million-strong flow of migrants into Turkey became the principal causes of concern for the Turkish authorities. Following the 2008 events in Georgia and the 2014 events in Ukraine, the Black Sea region still did not become a point of major tensions in Russia–Turkey relations, even though Ankara’s stance on those issues was diametrically opposed to that of Moscow.
Since 2015, Russia has moved beyond its traditional sphere of influence and sharply increased its maritime presence in the Eastern Mediterranean to conduct a military operation in Syria. It was the Bosporus that served as a venue for the so-called “Syrian express.” Turkey found Russia as its neighbour not only to the north and east, but also to the south of its borders. With its involvement in the Syrian affairs, building up military forces and deploying various weapons systems, including S-400, on Latakia’s coast, Moscow has radically changed the balance of power in the region. Ankara–Moscow relations became tense and even went through a crisis following the incident with the Russian plane over the Syria–Turkey border on November 24, 2015. The situation affected Turkey’s approach to security in the Black Sea region. There were calls to bolster NATO in the Black Sea to neutralize Russia’s influence, which, in turn, resulted in suggestions that a joint Bulgaria–Romania–Turkey fleet be established. Nevertheless, it never happened due, among other reasons, to Bulgaria’s refusal to participate.
At the same time, Turkey’s relations with other NATO countries deteriorated. The process was chronic. Back in 2003, Ankara was opposed to the US invasion of Iraq. The key discord factor within NATO was the support the US and its allies gave to the Kurds’ forces in Syria including providing them with weapons to fight the ISIS threat that was spreading in 2014. This is why Turkey’s NATO allies supported the People’s Protection Units (YPG) that were infiltrated by fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. Ankara considered them to be terrorist organizations that threatened Turkey’s territorial integrity. At the same time, Turkey saw itself as the gatekeeper of European security.
The 2016 coup d’état attempt had a special impact on foreign policy and the perception of threats. The Turkish authorities accused the preacher Fethullah Gülen, who lived in Philadelphia (US), of instigating the coup. Shortly before that, Turkey–Russia relations had been restored, and following the military coup attempt, Turkey initiated closer collaboration with Russia on various issues, primarily in Syria. In April 2017, Turkey’s navy ships paid an unofficial visit to the Russian port of Novorossiysk and held joint exercises with their Russian counterparts. Moreover, Ankara and Russia reached an agreement on selling S-400 missile defence system to Turkey, which was an additional irritant in Turkey’s relations with the US, NATO’s leading state. However, it stresses the fact that the Republic of Turkey has its own agenda in ensuring its security since Turkey did not cease drills with NATO members or receiving NATO ships in its ports.
Even though Turkey is considered the largest actor in the Black Sea, the balance of power has been invariably shifting in favour of Russia since the late 2000s. To preserve its status, Turkey not only needs the support of NATO states, but also mobility to redeploy some of its navy from its eastern and southern borders in the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean Sea.
No matter how much NATO states wish to build up their potential in the Black Sea region, Russia and Turkey are finding points of contact on regional issues. This is largely due to the commitment to the principles of the Montreux Convention signed in 1936 in Switzerland. A special regime is in effect for non-Black-sea states. The regime does not allow for the deployment of aircraft carriers and warships in the Black Sea with tonnage of over 30,000 for a term exceeding 21 days. This undermines US efforts to maintain a permanent presence in the basin. Attempts to advance US interests via Black Sea states that are NATO members (Bulgaria and Romania) have failed, while Turkey’s concessions would automatically result in violating the Convention and, consequently, in the need to revise the status of the straits. Such an outcome would result in additional risks and increase conflict potential in the Black Sea region. The understanding of escalation risks force the countries with the first and second largest fleets in the Black Sea (Turkey and Russia, respectively) to neutralize them and to maintain the proper level of cooperation.
Russia’s strategy for the Black Sea region is set forth in several documents. The most important are the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation of 2015, the 2030 Framework of the Naval State Policy of the Russian Federation of 2017 (Framework 2030), the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation, the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation and the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation.
According to the Maritime Doctrine, “the national maritime policy in the Black Sea and in the Sea of Azov is based on expedited restoration and comprehensive strengthening of the strategic positions of the Russian Federation as well as maintaining peace and stability in the region.” At the same time, Moscow considers the advancement of NATO’s military infrastructure towards Russia’s borders as unacceptable. Moscow’s paradigm proceeds from the premise that the international legal regulation in the Atlantic region is imperfect and the need for improvement in various areas, including the Black Sea (the Kerch Strait is mentioned, for instance). The document pays significant attention to Crimea, which is considered in conjunction with the issues of Russia’s sovereignty over its territories and economic development plans. In addition to developing infrastructure, special attention is paid to the issue of “including ports of Crimea and the basin of the Black and Azov seas into Mediterranean cruise routes and developing multipurpose international-scale recreational complexes.” This idea is repeated twice in the text since it is also part of the National Maritime Policy for the Mediterranean.
In conjunction with challenges to international security and threats to Russia’s military security, Framework 2030 notes the “global strike” concept developed by the US. Russia views its Navy with its strategic nuclear capabilities and general-purpose naval forces as an instrument for containing and neutralizing the “global strike.” To maintain the second most powerful navy in the world, Russia will, after 2025, equip its submarine and surface forces with hypersonic missiles and various-purpose robotic equipment. Additionally, Russia plans to create a maritime aircraft carrying complex. Various estimates specifically attribute Russia’s regional supremacy to the aviation component of its forces in the Black Sea region. An overall analysis of the document shows that the Black Sea region and related issues are not given special attention therein. Russia’s goals and objectives formulated in this Presidential Executive Order are global and aimed at preventing immediate threats to Russia as it increases its influence throughout the world ocean in compliance with international law.
More general documents pay relatively little attention to the Black Sea region. The 2015 National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation does not mention the Black Sea region with the exception of the Ukrainian issues cited in conjunction with the West opposing integration processes in Eurasia. Regarding Russia’s principal tasks in containing and preventing conflicts, the 2014 Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation has a paragraph on bolstering the collective security system (CSTO, OSCE, CIS and SCO). It addresses, among other matters, interaction with Abkhazia and South Ossetia in order to ensure joint defence and security. Some positive element is added by the Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation of 2018. As far as individual issues related to the Black Sea, Russia is in favour of the political and diplomatic settlement of conflicts. Moscow calls for the settlement of the Transnistria issue while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova and the special status of Transnistria and normalizing relations with Georgia while further assisting Abkhazia and South Ossetia in their development. According to the Foreign Policy Concept, “Russia’s approaches to working with partners in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions will be formulated so as to reaffirm the commitment to the goals and principles of the Charter of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and take into account the need to strengthen the mechanism of cooperation among the five Caspian States based on collective decision-making.”
Today, we can also say that Russia does not pay sufficient attention to cooperation in the Black Sea region. As a result, joint exercises of regional states and NATO member states without Russia’s participation have become increasingly frequent precedents. The trend for rapprochement between the North Atlantic Alliance and Black Sea region states in their efforts to maintain security is further confirmed by the latter’s official documents. They speak with increasing frequency about the need for rapprochement with NATO and the EU (as do the documents, for instance, of Bulgaria and Romania) and taking a stand against Russia (as do the documents of Ukraine).
Ignoring the recent challenges in the Black Sea region, Russia is increasingly losing out to NATO in matters of influencing the region. To expand its cooperation with Bucharest, Sofia, Kiev and Tbilisi, Russia needs to add “strategic depth” to inter-country relations. That is, despite the political situation, work should be launched on strategic elements of the relations that would buttress security in the region. Pre-emptive measures are required to prevent the situation from deteriorating into a severe escalation and the existing conflicts from unfreezing. Working along the lines of track 2 diplomacy can offer opportunities for achieving greater understanding between parties.
For NATO members that are also countries of the Black Sea region, maintaining special relations with Russia appears important. Despite the desire of several Black Sea region states to demonstrate NATO’s expanded role in the region, it appears it would be appropriate for Black Sea region countries to approve such steps.
*Olga Pylova, Program Assistant at the Russian International Affairs Council
First published in our partner RIAC
Why America’s nuclear threat to Russia now is bigger than the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the central issue was how short America’s available reaction-time to a Soviet blitz nuclear attack would be and whether it would be too short for America to respond before America’s leader, JFK, would be able to press the nuclear button and retaliate against such a Soviet nuclear first-strike (from so near a location as Cuba). That time-interval would have been about 30 minutes, and Kennedy told Khrushchev that that would be unacceptably short and so if Khrushchev would go through with his plan to place his missiles in Cuba, then America would preemptively launch our nuclear warheads against the Soviet Union. Khrushchev decided not to do it. WW III was thus averted. But now we’re potentially down to around 5 minutes, in the reverse direction, and almost nobody is even talking about it.
The present version of that threat (to the entire world) started in 2010, when U.S. President Barack Obama (who had just won the Nobel Peace Prize for his rhetoric) met privately in the White House with the then newly and democratically elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, who had just been elected by Ukrainians on a platform of continuing into the future the geostrategic neutrality of Russia’s next-door neighbor Ukraine regarding the continuing goal of the U.S. Government to conquer Russia. Yanukovych refused to assist America in that regard, but would also not oppose it; Ukraine would remain neutral. Later that same year, Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met privately with Yanukovych in Kiev, and the result was the same: Ukraine would remain neutral regarding Russia and the United States. Then, in 2011, two agents of the CIA-created Google Corporation, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who happened to be personal friends and associates of Ms. Clinton (plus some of those men’s close associates), met privately with Julian Assange for a ‘friendly’ visit allegedly in order to quote him in their upcoming book, The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses, and Our Lives how to stir up and organize a grass-roots movement online so as to enhance democracy. Only later did Assange recognize that he had divulged to them tips that were subsequently used by the U.S. State Department and CIA to organize the coup that overthrew Yanukovych in February 2014. Assange then headlined in October 2014, “Google Is Not What It Seems”. That’s when Assange noted, “Jared Cohen could be wryly named Google’s ‘director of regime change.’”
This coup (called ’the Maidan revolution’ or “Euromaidan”) started being organized inside the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine by no later than 1 March 2013, but Wikipedia says instead: “Euromaidan started in the night of 21 November 2013 when up to 2,000 protesters gathered at Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti and began to organize themselves with the help of social networks.” (Nothing was mentioned there about the U.S. Embassy’s having organized them.)
The U.S. Government had also engaged the Gallup polling organization, both before and after the coup, in order to poll Ukrainians, and especially ones who lived in its Crimean independent republic, regarding their views on U.S., Russia, NATO, and the EU; and, generally, Ukrainians were far more pro-Russia than pro-U.S., NATO, or EU, but this was especially the case in Crimea; so, America’s Government knew that Crimeans would be especially resistant. However, this was not really new information. During 2003-2009, only around 20% of Ukrainians had wanted NATO membership, while around 55% opposed it. In 2010, Gallup found that whereas 17% of Ukrainians considered NATO to mean “protection of your country,” 40% said it’s “a threat to your country.” Ukrainians predominantly saw NATO as an enemy, not a friend. But after Obama’s February 2014 Ukrainian coup, “Ukraine’s NATO membership would get 53.4% of the votes, one third of Ukrainians (33.6%) would oppose it.” However, afterward, the support averaged around 45% — still over twice as high as had been the case prior to the coup.
In other words: what Obama did was generally successful, it grabbed Ukraine, or most of it, and it changed Ukrainians’ minds regarding America and Russia. But only after the subsequent passage of time did the American neoconservative heart become successfully grafted into the Ukrainian nation so as to make Ukraine a viable place to position U.S. nuclear missiles against Moscow. Furthermore: America’s rulers also needed to do some work upon U.S. public opinion. Not until February of 2014 — the time of Obama’s coup — did more than 15% of the American public have a “very unfavorable” view of Russia. (Right before Russia invaded Ukraine, that figure had already risen to 42%. America’s press — and academia or public-policy ‘experts’ — have been very effective at managing public opinion.)
Back in 2012, when Obama was running for re-election, against Mitt Romney, that figure was still remaining at 11%, where it had been approximately ever since Gallup had started polling on this question in 1989. So, Obama, and the U.S. Congress, and the newsmedia owners who had sold all of those poliiticians to the American public, had a lot of work yet to do after Obama’s re-election in 2012. During that political contest, Obama was aware of this fact, and used it to his own advantage against the overtly hyper-anti-Russian candidate, Romney.
A major reason why the American people re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama, instead of elected a new President Romney, was Romney’s having said of Russia, on 26 March 2012,
Russia, this is, without question, our number one geopolitical foe. They — they fight every cause for the world’s worst actors. … Russia is the — the geopolitical foe.
Not just “a” geopolitical foe, but “the” geopolitical foe.” (Wow! In a world with growing jihadist movements, such as Al Qaeda and ISIS?) The prior month, Gallup had polled, and reported that 11% figure; so, Romney was jumping the gun a lot on this, maybe because he was more concerned about fundraising than about appealing to voters. He knew he would need lots of money in order to have even a chance against Obama.
Obama responded to that comment mainly at the re-election campaign’s end, by springing this upon Romney during a debate, on 22 October 2012:
Governor Romney, I’m glad that you recognize that Al Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what’s the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not Al Qaida; you said Russia. In the 1980s, they’re now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because, you know, the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.
Obama’s campaign had very successfully presented himself as NOT being like Romney (even though he secretly WAS). Lies like this had, in fact, won Obama his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. But now he won his re-election. He was an astoundingly gifted liar.
In March 2012, at a summit in South Korea, Obama was caught in a “hot mic” incident. Without realizing he could be overheard, Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more ability to negotiate with the Russians about missile defense after the November election.
“On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved, but it’s important for him [the incoming President Putin] to give me space,” Obama was heard telling Medvedev, apparently referring to incoming Russian president Vladimir Putin.
“Yeah, I understand,” Medvedev replied.
Obama interjected, saying, “This is my last election. After my election, I have more flexibility.”
So: Obama was telling Putin there, through Medvedev, that his next Administration would soften its stand on America’s installing in eastern Europe, near and even on Russia’s borders, missiles that are designed to disable Russia’s ability to retaliate against a U.S. nuclear first-strike — the U.S. ABM or anti-ballistic-missile system and the nuclear weapoons that America was designing.
Obama wasn’t lying only to America’s voters; he was shown there privately lying to Putin, by indicating to Medvedev that instead of becoming more aggressive (by his planned ABMs, and super-advanced nuclear fuses) against Russia in a second term, he’d become less aggressive (by negotiating with Putin about these matters — as you can see there, the nub of the issue was George Herbert Walker Bush’s lie to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990).
Whereas Cuba was around 30 minutes away from nuking Washington DC., Ukraine would be around 5 minutes away from nuking Moscow. No other country is that close to Moscow. This is probably the main reason why, on 24 February 2022, Putin finally decided to invade Ukraine. But even if he wins there, Finland is only 7 minutes away from Moscow. And Finland was one of the Axis powers in Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa invasion against the Soviet Union between 25 June 1941 and 19 September 1944; so, Finland’s rejoining the nazi alliance now would certainly pose an even greater danger to Russians than Cuba’s joining the Soviet alliance posed to Americans in 1962. But this time, the aggressor-nation in the matter is the U.S. and its allies, not Russia, and yet Russia is responding with far less urgency than America had done in 1962. We’re still on borrowed time, borrowed now from Russia.
To all this, a friend has replied to me:
Completely invalid analogy. Having Russian missiles in Cuba in the early days of ICBM technology was to the USA what having USA missiles in Turkey was to Russia. The crisis was resolved when both countries agreed to withdraw their missiles. Made sense in those days. Today, the technology is such that proximity of launch sites to targets is irrelevant.
However, some of America’s top nuclear scientists don’t share that view, at all, but its opposite. They concluded, on 1 March 2017:
The US nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the US nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the US ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing — boosting the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three — and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.
Starting in 2006, the predominant American meta-strategy has been called “Nuclear Primacy” — meaning to attain the ability to win a nuclear war — not merely what it had previously been (M.A.D. or “Mutually Assured Destruction”): to prevent one.
Apparently, the latest fashion in U.S. Government and academic thinking, about this ‘competition’, is, first, to dismember Russia. They even sell this goal as embodying America’s “commitment to anti-imperialism.”
Even after the lies that got us to invade Iraq, America’s public seem to have learned no lessons.
Can BRICS Make a Contribution to International Security?
The 14th BRICS Summit is being held in virtual format in Beijing, China. Under turbulent international situations, the question of whether BRICS should indeed play a significant role in international security remains open. Numerous skeptics believe that security issues should remain outside of the BRICS mandate because BRICS has little to contribute here if compared to institutions specifically created to handle security challenges.
Their arguments can be concluded as the three following aspects. Firstly, security has always been closely linked to geography. Secondly, security cooperation tends to presuppose common values and coinciding views on the international system. Thirdly, effective security cooperation is possible if the institution in question has a clear and specific security-related mandate.
These arguments cannot be dismissed as irrelevant. But it is also hard to unconditionally accept them since they reflect traditional views on security which no longer fully reflect the realities of the 21st century. Meanwhile, these realities allow us to assess the capabilities of BRICS in the security domain a little more optimistically, even if the capabilities of BRICS have not yet been fully used.
Let’s start with geography. In general, security problems affect countries geographically close to each other. Conflicts and wars, as well as alliances and unions, arise mainly between neighbors. But in today’s world, there are many dimensions of security that are not so rigidly tied to geography.
Problems such as cyber security, international terrorism, climate change and the threat of pandemics do not have a specific geographical preference; they are global in nature. Within BRICS, they already actively discuss “non-geographical” issues of international security: non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the use of atomic energy and space for peaceful purposes, international information security and potential threats associated with new technologies.
On the other hand, the regionalization (fragmentation) of the global political and economic systems taking place today contains challenges to international security. If the world breaks apart into a number of blocs, such development can result not only in economic competition between them, but ultimately in a military confrontation.
Therefore, BRICS, figuratively speaking, can help to “sew” the fabric of global security that is being fragmented in front of our eyes. Interaction within the framework of BRICS can become one of the factors hindering the formation of a bipolar system of world politics.
What about values? Tasks related to international security are not always solved on the basis of a unity of values. Very often, the task is precisely to find a balance of interests between countries whose values differ significantly.
In a sense, we can say that the composition of the UN Security Council reflects the significant pluralism of values that exists in the modern world. The notion that humanity was rapidly moving towards the universalization of Western liberal values two or three decades ago has not been confirmed by the course of history.
There is every reason to assume that the pluralism of values in the world will only increase over time. Security will have to be negotiated not on the basis of common values but on the basis of converging interests.
BRICS, like the UN Security Council, has members with different sets of values. It is a small but very representative organization—especially if we take into account not only the BRICS members but also those countries that are somehow involved in the organization’s project activities (BRICS+). Therefore, if something can be agreed upon within the framework of BRICS, then it can be agreed on in a broader format, up to the level of global agreements.
Thus, BRICS can be perceived as a laboratory for working out those solutions in the field of security that are likely to be acceptable to very different participants. In addition, each of the BRICS countries is able to pull its many partners and allies along with it.
Finally, let us turn to the issue of the BRICS mandate. International organizations, among other classifications, can be divided into specialized and universal ones. For the latter, a vague mandate is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if such a vague mandate combines security and development concerns.
In today’s world, these problems cannot be separated from each other. Without security, it is impossible to count on progressive development, but without successful development there will be no sustainable security. Unfortunately, security issues are still very often separated from development issues, and these two areas are dealt with by different institutions and different groups of officials and experts.
However, the logic of development and the logic of security do not diverge from each other any longer. If BRICS succeeds in trying to reconcile these two logics, it will benefit everyone. In particular, such a project format of work may be in demand in the UN system where specialized organizations often do not interact enough with each other.
Therefore, it’s necessary to maximize the comparative advantages of existing formats of multilateral cooperation like BRICS which bring their own specific features to the table. In the field of security, BRICS could well become a testing ground for developing multilateral approaches to new challenges and threats of the 21st century.
From our partners RIAC
An Epitaph for Anniversary
On the eve of the NATO summit in Madrid, to be held on June 28-30, Julianne Smith, U.S. Permanent Representative to the alliance, announced that Russia’s actions in Ukraine had violated the NATO‒Russia Founding Act. Building on this, she added that the West no longer considers it imperative to adhere to the provisions of the document that has shaped Moscow‒Brussels relations over the last quarter century. However, the fate of the Founding Act will finally be decided in Madrid.
Ironically, Julianne Smith’s statement came just after the Act’s 25th anniversary. It all started on May 27, 1997 in the Elysee Palace in Paris, where Russian President Boris Yeltsin, leaders of NATO’s then 16 member states and Alliance Secretary General Javier Solana signed a document intended to turn Moscow and Brussels into strategic partners. Exactly five years later, on May 28, 2002, the new Russian leader Vladimir Putin visited Rome to sign a declaration establishing the NATO‒Russia Council. This was how the platform for implementing the provisions of the Founding Act was established.
The 1997 document contains plenty of fine words about abandoning the practices of using force against each other, about respect for sovereignty and independence as well as about the mutual desire to establish a pan-European security system. In practical terms, the most important provision may well be the alliance’s permanent commitment not to deploy additional substantial combat forces on the territory of its new members and Russia’s commitment to be restrained in the deployment of its conventional armed forces in Europe.
As hopes of turning Moscow and Brussels into strategic partners melted away year by year, the sides began to pay more attention to formal matters. What’s the meaning of the word “permanent”? What are “substantial combat forces”? The West assumed that “substantial strength” should be measured starting from a brigade—therefore, NATO, responding to the Ukrainian crisis of 2014, decided to deploy four new battalions in the Baltics and Poland on a rotational basis so as not to formally violate the Founding Act. Moscow protested the decision, but it was reluctant to take the initiative to terminate the Act either. Experts argued about who violated the Founding Act first, but these disputes are—in the end—becoming a thing of the past. At the Madrid summit, the alliance will most likely abandon all formal self-limitations, putting this into official wordings, and it will solely be guided by its own ideas about the “Russian threat.” This means that we will observe permanent brigades and divisions, rather than just battalions, on NATO’s eastern flank.
Moscow and Brussels will still have to communicate, since it is in the interests of both sides to reduce the risk of a direct military clash. Paradoxically, perhaps, NATO could muster courage to launch a new dialogue with Russia after the Madrid summit, which will fix the unbreakable unity of the alliance and adopt a new utterly anti-Russian strategy.
The atmosphere of 1997 has faded into oblivion. However, Moscow communicated with both Washington and Brussels even in the more distant and far less romantic times of the Warsaw Pact, ultimately arriving at mutually acceptable solutions to many difficult problems.
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