The Black Sea Region: New Challenges Require Broad International Engagement
His Excellency Nikolay Svinarov
Minister of Defense of Bulgaria
The post-September 11 reality has forced us to define today’s threat to security in a new way. No longer can we focus only on terrorism, the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction, transnational crime, and the effect of “weak countries.” Today we must also deal with the well-planned marriage between international terrorists and international organized crime. This new reality requires a complex response and a new form of civil-military cooperation on both a national and an international scale.
THE CHALLENGES OF THE BLACK SEA REGION
The manifestations of today’s interrelated threats can clearly be seen in the Black Sea region, an area that is gaining importance for Euro-Atlantic security because of NATO and EU enlargement—it is now both organizations’ eastern boundary with central Asia and the broad Middle East. The Black Sea region marks a crossing point of problems and challenges that are very complicated in nature and that influence Euro-Atlantic security and the joint efforts of the international community. It is also a region that continues to undergo substantial political changes that require a clear vision, a strong will, and foreign support to resolve well.
The many different challenges that are found in the Black Sea region necessitate the involvement of the major international organizations and a united approach to solutions. And in order to continue on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration, deep reforms across the political, economic, and security spectrum must be made. The success of such reforms will mark the consolidation of the region’s democratic forces as well as the irreversibility of the democratic process. Success will require both the formation of an institutional process and learning from the experiences of those who have already taken that road. An important role will be played by the international organizations as they enable cooperation and stimulate the realization of the course undertaken.
The “Frozen Conflicts”
Once reforms are underway, we must also deal with the “frozen conflicts.” The latest developments in that area give us reason to be optimistic at least to some extent. The current political leadership in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova demonstrate a constructive approach to the region and a wish for dialogue to discuss all unsolved problems. The Georgian government has already presented an initiative for the peaceful solution of the conflict with South Ossetia and Ukrainian President Ushenko has presented his plan for settling the conflict in the Trans-Dniester. Some progress has also been made on sorting out the issues related to the control of the sensitive border areas in the region.
The international community should encourage and support all of these steps. It should also offer a united approach for effecting a positive attitude by all interested countries and a way to exercise joint pressure to drive the process in a constructive direction.
The international community should also pay attention to the very important role Russia plays in solving the frozen conflicts. By using different instruments and approaches we can help to overcome some of the historic and geopolitical attitudes Russia holds that often hamper solving problems. Directing Russia toward taking an interest in the entire region requires a delicate balance between supporting the international organizations and supporting the existing interests of the individual member-states.
Illegal Trafficking and Terrorism
The existence of frozen conflicts, not secure and guarded boundaries, sets the stage for international terrorism and criminality as well as for religious and ethnic tension. The illegal trafficking of conventional armaments, weapons of mass destruction, drugs, and people through the region’s vital corridors, plus the actions of terrorist groups, are a third set of challenges that seriously threaten both the security and stability of the Black Sea region as well as the entire transatlantic community. To solve these challenges and to achieve permanent stability in the region, two important criteria must be met:
1. The formulation of a broad approach to security issues in the region that covers all major problems, from the development of democratic processes to the successful implementation of reforms to the fight against illegal trafficking, terrorism, and the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction.
2. Engaging the major international actors that can contribute effectively to the solution of these issues.
As a Black Sea country and a NATO member, Bulgaria has the will and the capability to contribute to the settling of a number of security issues in the region. As a member of the Alliance, Bulgaria is privy to the mechanisms of partnership that can help to bring about democratic changes and defense reform in the Black Sea Partner countries.
As a Black Sea country, Bulgaria actively participates in regional initiatives, including BLACKSEAFOR, BLACKSEAEC, SEDM, and SECI as well as a number of multilateral efforts. These cooperative programs are important not only for strengthening stability and furthering development but for achieving permanent solutions to the security problems.
INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENT IN THE BLACK SEA REGION
If the international community, through such leading organizations as the UN, NATO, the EU, and OSCE, develops a united vision and a complex strategic approach to the problems of security in the Black Sea region, it will be in the interest not only of the Black Sea countries but the entire Euro-Atlantic population. Becoming engaged in the spectrum of Black Sea security issues will have a positive impact on the complex problems in Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, and the Caucasus as well as stimulate the consolidation of leadership in those countries. It will also help to overcome Russia’s suspicions regarding Black Sea international initiatives and create opportunities for coping with the contemporary challenges to security.