Building Security in the Black Sea Region
Ambassador Volodymyr Khandogiy
Ukrainian Ambassador to NATO
It goes without saying that security is one of the key factors in stability and prosperity in every country in every region of the world; its importance can hardly be overstated. However, there are regions whose importance goes far beyond the countries belonging to them, and the Black Sea area is one of those. For Ukraine, it provides the only maritime route to the Mediterranean and other world oceans and gives us the opportunity to diversify our energy supplies.
COOPERATIVE EFFORTS IN THE BLACK SEA REGION
The strategic potential of the Black Sea, which is vital for Ukraines independence, can be fully utilized only if conditions there ensure regional stability and security. That is why Ukraine, from the very beginning of its independence, has played an active role in developing cooperation in this region in several areas, including the military.
The Security-Building Initiative
One of the most important initiatives in that effort is the document that provides naval confidence- and security-building measures in the Black Sea, as well as mechanisms for cooperation. Participating states consider this document a key element in the development of cooperation in the region. In the first assessment meeting, organized in Vienna by Bulgaria in December 2003, representatives of the participating states underlined the importance of information exchange according to provisions of the document. Such exchange involves information on communication channels, naval forces deployed within the zone of application, large planned national naval activities, and so on. In the area of cooperation between navies, I would like to point out that the first annual tactical confidence-building naval exercise, GALATHEA 2004, was hosted by Bulgaria between May 23 and June 4, 2004.
Although the document has not been in place for long, it is a good example of effective cooperation. Of course, there is still much to be done, but we are certain that tasks that are carried out according to the document will benefit each participating state as well as the region as a whole. We believe the Black Sea naval confidence- and security-building measures will make a tangible contribution to European security.
BLACKSEAFOR, a unique institution, has also proved its effectiveness and become instrumental in strengthening security not only in the Black Sea region but in the entire Euro-Atlantic area. Since it was established in 2001, BLACKSEAFOR, or the Black Sea Naval Cooperation Task Group, has become an active and essential tool of cooperation among participating states. Working committees have demonstrated their ability to implement their tasks properly. In order to maintain a high level of interoperability with navies of the participating states, Ukraine takes an active part in BLACKSEAFOR activities. For instance, we proposed conducting a search-and-rescue training exercise that would simulate an operation to assist a submarine in an emergency. This proposal was agreed to by the representatives of the navies of the littoral states at a meeting of COMBLACKSEAFOR in April 2003 in Bulgaria.
Ukraine has also proposed the possibility of creating a permanent command center that could be operational not only for the period of time BLACKSEAFOR is active but for the whole year. In our view, this center would be very useful if a naval cooperation task group is asked to perform tasks beyond the activation period. A permanent command center would also contribute to the interoperability and standardization of our naval units. In addition we think it is important to update existing communication systems by establishing communication networks between units and headquarters. This would make data exchange easier and faster.
MEETING THE NEW THREATS
All of the above initiatives are particularly important since recent events have shown that we must be prepared to meet the new asymmetric threats and challenges that are emerging in the international security field. The Black Sea region has no immunity in this respect. But the question is, Do we have the proper mechanisms to respond? We cannot exclude the possibility that attempts will be made to seize a trade vessel or a passenger ship to smuggle arms or to conduct terrorist acts. There are serious regional security challenges from separatist movements in the area, such as illegal drug trade, arms sales, and illegal migration, including trafficking in human beings. But our cooperation in the Black Sea region should not be limited to the resolution of these problems and the development of military cooperation.
The fundamental issue is that we will never achieve security in the Black Sea region if we exclude certain countries in the region from the mainstream of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. We are absolutely certain that the ultimate fate of the Black Sea region should not be limited to bridging Europe and Asia. All interested countries in the region should be given an opportunity to become an integral part of a new Europe and the new Euro-Atlantic security structure.
NATO and EU enlargement will deeply affect the political and economic situation in our region, but further enlargement of these organizations is inevitable; it is the only way to enhance stability and well-being in this part of the world. In this connection, I would like to mention a new initiative that is now being elaborated in Euro-Atlantic think tanks. The idea is to form a new group of like-minded countries to pursue common objectives, including their Euro-Atlantic ambitions. We believe that this is a step in the right direction and hope to be able to support this interesting initiative. I would also like to mention GUAAM, an emerging political and security framework for a number of countries, which can play a special role in strengthening cooperation in the Black Sea region in regard to responding to new challenges. One of the initiatives main tasks is to expand its geography and ensure support for activities both within the region and beyond.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that, as important as it is alone, the Black Sea region is a part of the wider Euro-Atlantic security area. And the security of the Black Sea area states, both economic and political, can be assured only through existing global mechanisms.