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ByYordan Bozhilov
Talking points for the EU Institute for Strategic Studies

SECURITY RISKS AND CHALLENGES IN THE BLACK SEA REGION In the light of the developments caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the strategic value of the Black Sea region acquires a renewed and more consistent relevance. Given these circumstances, it is high time for a strategic EU approach to the Black Sea, which should aim at a more coordinated response to the threats and challenges in the wider region. The region is important for the EU from many perspectives. Just to mention some: Enlargement policies, energy and energy security, environmental policies and dealing with environmental risks, transport, tourism, and others. There are important underwater communications. Black sea is important for the global food security. It is important from the point of view of the future of the European security architecture, and also with the global legal order. Everyone is looking at how the war is developing, what are the actions of NATO and the EU in addressing Russia's war against Ukraine. This is also important for the determination of the global South. This has implications for the future settlement of the world. ================================================= Security issues are now prevalent in the region. The Black Sea region represents an extremely complex and complicated security environment. 1. Russia's war against Ukraine is the biggest threat to regional and European peace and security. The war can still take on different dimensions and it is not clear when and how it will end. Russia has the potential to fight a long war. I don't think Ukraine was Putin's ultimate goal. He thinks in other categories. Since his power in Russia is unlimited and unchallenged, he himself determines the future of the country according to his vision. His views raising Russia as a global player, and tries to restore a mini USSR, creating zones of influence. Russia has military superiority in the Black Sea, while other countries have deficits and cannot be overcome at sea due to Turkey's position on the straits. NATO is strengthening the eastern flank by deploying land forces. 2. New problems associated with the war - Thousands of incidents of air, water and land pollution and the degradation of ecosystems have already been identified. They affect not only Ukraine but also the neighboring countries. - Explosions of ammunitions are associated with spread of toxic gases and particles. - Fires in forested areas cause damaging the entire ecosystem. - The weapons used during this war will raise the carbon footprint in the region. - Multiple industrial facilities, warehouses and factories have been damaged, some storing a range of hazardous substances. - Air pollution and potentially serious contamination of ground and surface waters is a huge problem. Russia is targeting also Ukraine’s water infrastructure, including pumping stations and purification plants. - Large volumes of military waste, including destroyed military vehicles, creates a major clean-up challenge. - The use of explosive weapons in populated areas also creates pollution from building materials including asbestos, metals, and combustion products. - On the first day of the invasion, gamma radiation in the Chernobyl zone was reported to be approximately 28 times the annual limit. It was the result of heavy vehicle movements. - There are many outdated coal mines in the Donbas region. And these mines pose a huge danger in Ukraine. Because when a mine is shut down it cannot be abandoned for good. - Huge amount of land mines are planted on the Ukrainian territory. - Blocking Ukraine's exports - Blocking by Russia of the EEZ of the Black Sea countries /Bulgaria/. - Free floating sea mines. - Millions of refugees and internally displaced persons. - Devastated Ukrainian economy, destroyed houses and infrastructure. 3. Besides the war, there are many other problems. States are very heterogeneous in their constitution, interests and strategic goals. - Old unresolved issues/conflicts – Transnistria, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. - Slow progress by countries to modernize their democracies, societies and economies. Weak economies, weak democracies. Russia has mechanisms to influence internal processes. - Turkey is a special player. Turkey takes the role of custodian of the Montreux Convention and doesn’t allow entrance of military vessels of non-littoral states. NATO will have deficits in the naval domain. 4. Russia is ready to escalate. Russia can use all these vulnerabilities to its advantage. Russia has influence over old and new risks and can use them to its advantage. Russia has military superiority in the Black Sea region. Russia will continue using all sorts of malicious influences on our countries for years, like disinformation, propaganda, cyber-attacks. Nationalism, populism, anti-democracy, anti-EU - all these are parties that are ideologically close to the Kremlin. Russia may try to challenge NATO unity through limited aggression against a NATO state. Will the country itself invoke Article 5 and will others risk nuclear war? The Black Sea is the most vulnerable region now for aggression and provocations against the EU and NATO. Because of the overlap of different risks, because of the weakness of democracies in different countries, because of different interests and especially because of the revisionist Russia. We must be ready to respond. We must have a good analysis and predictions about possible provocations. Let's be ready for a collective response. It is necessary to have a better knowledge of the region and the ongoing processes. Obviously, there are different EU policies that are intertwined in the region, but how do we have a common approach? Is an approach like RAN possible? To cover many things in a single approach, research and policy proposals? Many analysts believe that the EU should develop its own long-term strategy for Russia.