Center for Strategic Decision Research


Black Sea Security: The Russian Viewpoint

Colonel General Alexander Skvorzov
Deputy Chief of Russian General Staff

Russia sees the creation of a coherent system for countering actual challenges and threats as a universal way to ensure security in any region of the world, including the Black Sea. Such a system should match the vital interests of each state, provide international stability, and sustain development over the longer term. 

And while there are many different approaches to creating such a regional security architecture, one point is clear: until the concerns of all regional states, including the Russian Federation, are duly taken into account, the security of the Black Sea region cannot be effectively ensured. We are working from this viewpoint as we develop relations with other states; looking to the south is one of our priorities. 


As we discuss the issues, we welcome the desire of this workshop that representatives of a broad range of countries be included. It is also important that the opinion of the representatives of the armed forces of the Russian Federation be heard. It is perplexing to us that an international “expert” conference on Black Sea security was held in Bratislava on May 7-8, 2004, under the aegis of the George Marshall Foundation, without Russian representation. Along with specialists from the U.S. and other NATO member-states, the ministers of foreign affairs from Bulgaria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine were invited, and issues regarding military and political cooperation relating to the Black Sea and the Caucasus were discussed. But representatives of one of the biggest Black Sea states, Russia, were not invited to the conference.  

Many experts believe that to hold meetings of this kind without Russian participation is illogical, and that it would have been opportune to invite Russians to the Bratislava meeting. By not providing Russian representatives with the opportunity to attend the workshop, our side has developed reasonable doubts as to the intentions of the workshop’s organizers, especially regarding the intention of taking Russia’s strategic concerns in the region into account. 


Russia is deeply convinced that the problems regarding the use of force in the modern world can only be addressed by strengthening the core role of the United Nations and that of international law. It is only by doing so that we can provide an effective answer to modern challenges and threats. Today the Black Sea region, as well as the entire European continent, must continue its fight against transnational threats, including extremism and terrorism, organized crime, narcotics and human trafficking, weapons smuggling, and money laundering resulting from criminal activities. 

Russia supports international efforts aimed at coping with the new challenges. We stand for a decrease in military force within a system of collective security for the European continent. We also support using political measures to prevent and settle crises and urge international cooperation, including in the military area. 


The Black Sea region security efforts that we are discussing at this workshop represent, in our view, a classic model of regional security. The economic and integration successes as well as political stability confirm that it is an effective model based on time-tested international law and unique multilateral agreements. It goes without saying that the Black Sea should remain a region of cooperation and openness. 

One of the key and most authoritative international documents regulating navy activities and, consequently, stability and security in the region is the Montreux Convention of 1936. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Turkey, which has been guaranteeing for many decades regular and strict compliance with this instrument by the Black Sea and out-of-region states. While the convention does not prevent the possibility of large groups of out-of-region combat ships appearing in the Black Sea basin, it does put time limits on visits by small squads and single ships of no more than 21 days. By limiting the waters only to navy ships of the Black Sea states, these states enjoy peace and stability. We all know the unfortunate circumstances that can arise when large units of military force appear on peaceful shores, disregarding any concerns or traditions except their own—relations are sharply aggravated and the situation is destabilized for many years to come. 

In the opinion of the Russian Federation, the Montreux Convention of 1936 is one of the major guarantors of peace and tranquility in the Black Sea area. Therefore we should not only carefully abide by it but protect it. It is unthinkable that geographically remote countries should move Black Sea states to a second-class role. 

Another efficient international legal instrument that takes into account modern challenges and threats to security is BLACKSEAFOR. As you know, this legal instrument regulates the activities of naval ships from Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine and is aimed at fulfilling many of the tasks agreed upon by all the parties. BLACKSEAFOR was conceived and launched as a framework for ensuring regional stability and security and for developing inter-state cooperation and dialogue. 

This multinational naval group can also be used under extraordinary circumstances in the Black Sea. Its tasks can include search-and-rescue, humanitarian operations, removal of sea mines, ecological monitoring, joint exercises, and goodwill visits. According to Article 7 of the agreement, BLACKSEAFOR may also be used in peace-making operations under the UNSC or OSCE mandate if these organizations make a request. BLACKSEAFOR provides a unique approach to ensuring stability and security in the Black Sea. It is the first legal instrument to provide for the exchange of military data related not only to land components of national armed forces but to their marine component as well. 

Because naval forces are comparable to and, regarding their mobility, frequently superior to, heavy land forces, it is our opinion that including naval activities in the Black Sea framework of confidence-building measures is a logical, natural way to build up the pan-European security system. Doing so could set an example for similar activities in other “hot” regions.


I would like to conclude by saying that the current mechanisms for ensuring security in the Black Sea region are functioning successfully and do not require revision. But there is still great opportunity to develop additional confidence-building measures, to increase cooperation in military and military-technical areas, and to address challenges and threats, ecological problems, navigation issues, and joint search-and-rescue needs. Our countries have a rich history of friendly relations and common political and economic interests regarding the Black Sea region, and great potential for cooperation. We should make this potential reality by confidently strengthening our relationships and keeping them open.




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