Center for Strategic Decision Research

Paris '07 Workshop

Major Challenges in the Black Sea Area

Ukraine's Foreign  Min Borys Tarasyuk (on left)

Ukrainian former Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk (left) speaks with Georgian Vice Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze.

His Excellency Borys Tarasyuk
former Foreign Minister of Ukraine

"conflicts [in the Black Sea region] undermine the energy security not only of the countries
in the region but for all of Europe, and they also undermine the concerted efforts
of the international community to curb drug-trafficking,
armament smuggling, and organized crime..."

In the Black Sea area, I see five major challenges: the protracted, or “frozen,” conflicts in the area, and here I mean Transdnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Nagorno-Karabakh; the foreign military presence in the countries of the region; energy security, which is a challenge not only to the region but to the entire Euro-Atlantic community; regional borders that are being challenged or are in the process of settlement; and of course the various ethnic factors. I am going to focus on the concerted efforts that are needed to tackle all of these challenges.


            To begin, I would like to say a few words about the Transdnistria separatist issue. Separatism in Transdnistria and Moldova resulted from a short civil war back in 1992. Now we are facing a new element in this still separatist regime, which is that the referendum that was held in the fall of 2006, which was not recognized by the international community, resulted in asking the people of Transdnistria if they would like to join Russia. You can imagine what the answer was, adding a new dimension to the situation. 

Currently the remnants of the14th army of the Soviet Union, 1,300 to 1,400 soldiers, are still in Transdnistria. Complicating the situation are the huge stores of armaments left by the 14th army, amounting to 25,000 tons of ammunition and armaments that are not being monitored, or, I should say, that the Russians are not allowing to be monitored, which was suggested by the OSCE. So no one knows what is happening with these stocks of armaments. 

Transdnistria is known all over Europe as a kind of black hole of Europe, since it was and still is a source of smuggling of goods and armaments. Also, this is an area in which small and medium-sized armaments and ammunitions are being produced and, because they are not marked, being spread not only throughout this area but throughout Europe and the world for illegal use. Representatives of the Russian nationality are also acquiring Russian passports against Romanians who are acquiring Romanian passports in Moldova, and the same is being done by the Ukrainians, which makes for a very serious situation.


What is being done to settle this conflict? Since 1992, four countries have tried to settle it: Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, and Romania.  That group became the so-called five, with Ukraine and Russia as guarantors of a peaceful settlement, OSCE as a participant, and Moldova and Transdnistria. Since 2005, when President Yuschenko put forward his settlement plan called “Settlement through Democracy,” and with the efforts of Ukraine, two major global players—the European Union and the United States—have been part of the settlement process. In December 2005, the European Union began its unique mission on the border between Ukraine and Moldova, known as the EU Border Assistance Mission. 

What are the problems here? Recently Russia and Moldova began to deviate from working with the group of five, which is very alarming. They held a summit in which they separately discussed a settlement plan away from the others involved. While there is now a stalemate in negotiations, we need to look at the so-called mechanism of peaceful settlement—I believe the OSCE-led civil observation mission will be the answer. The issues of Abzkhazia and South Ossetia I leave for my colleague, Minister Bezhuashvili, to discuss.


What are the consequences of the protracted or frozen conflicts for the entire Euro-Atlantic region? These conflicts undermine the energy security not only of the countries in the region but for all of Europe, and they also undermine the concerted efforts of the international community to curb drug-trafficking, armament smuggling, and organized crime, which are the real challenges to security.

Regarding another challenge, the military presence, one can mention Georgia and Moldova as examples of Russians not fulfilling their commitments under the Istanbul OSCE summit to withdraw their troops. Another example is Ukraine, where the presence of the Russian Black Sea Fleet is alarming. We are concerned that the fleet command is not fulfilling both the bilateral commitments and Ukrainian legislation, and as such the fleet may be a destabilizing factor because of noncompliance. While consultations are taking place between Ukraine and Russia, no major solution has been reached at this time. What is needed is compliance with the bilateral agreements and with Ukrainian legislation as well as preparations for withdrawal of the Russian Black Sea fleet by 2017.

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