Multidimensional Security Issues in the Wider Black Sea Region – Striking a Balance

Teija Tiilikainen Teija Tiilikainen
Dimitrios Triantaphyllou Dimitrios Triantaphyllou
Fabrizio Tassinari Fabrizio Tassinari
Aleksandr Iskandaryan Aleksandr Iskandaryan
Igor Torbakov Igor Torbakov
Mikko Palonkorpi Mikko Palonkorpi
James Sherr James Sherr
Leonid Polyakov Leonid Polyakov
Lada Roslycky Lada Roslycky
Sinikukka Saari Sinikukka Saari
Leila Alieva Leila Alieva
Marina Muskhelishvili Marina Muskhelishvili
Mustafa Aydin Mustafa Aydin

Pe 16.4.2010 klo 9:00-17:00
The Auditorium of the New Annex Building of the Parliament
Arkadiankatu 3

This conference brought to Helsinki leading experts on security issues in the wider Black Sea region to discuss the intertwined and multidimensional security questions and the key actors’ agendas in the region. The aim was to map the nexus of regional challenges at multiple levels and the potential for workable solutions.
The wider Black Sea region – understood in a broad sense and including the EU’s eastern neighbours such as Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey – poses significant security challenges. Many states in the region struggle with weak institutional capacity, corruption, a lack of rule-of-law, and have profound territorial and political disagreements. As the Georgian war of August 2008 demonstrated, highly charged protracted conflicts can easily flare up.
Even in the absence of direct military action, the threats to regional stability are serious: weak and poor states with disputed uncontrolled zones are fertile seeding ground for organised crime, human trafficking and irregular migration. Many people are displaced, corruption is widespread and human rights violations and political powerlessness are an every-day reality for many living in the region. Many of the regional threats are transnational in character and thus they impact directly on adjacent areas.
Furthermore, the region is strategically important for the neighbouring states and international actors such as the EU, the United States, as well as Nato. Their logics of action are sometimes internally fragmented and/or mutually incompatible thus creating further tensions in the region.

Registration starting at 8:30
9–9:10 Welcome words: Teija Tiilikainen, Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs
9:10-9:45 Keynote address: Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, Director General of the International Centre for Black Sea Studies, Athens
What are the general dynamics and overreaching issues in the wider Black Sea region of today?
9:45–11:00 Panel 1: Competing logics of action in the region – power-politics vs. regional multilateralism
How do the key actors – Russia, the US, the EU – approach the problems and potential of the Black Sea region? What are their priorities? How could one describe the actors’ underlying logic of thinking and acting and how do these strategies cohere?
Fabrizio Tassinari, Danish Institute of International Studies, Copenhagen
Carlo Frappi, Italian Centre for Turkish Studies/Institute for International Political Studies, Milan
Chair and commentator:
Arkady Moshes, Finnish Institute of International Affairs


11:15-12:30 Panel 2: Conflict resolution
How should the protracted conflicts in the region be approached? How should the outside as well as non-state actors in the region get involved? What are the mechanisms that maintain the protracted conflicts and how these mechanisms could be altered?
Aleksandr Iskandaryan, Caucasus Institute, Yerevan
Igor Torbakov, Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Chair and commentator:
Mikko Palonkorpi, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki
13:15-15:00 Panel 3: From hard to soft security issues
How to tackle with the multidimensional security challenges in the region? How does the wider military security architecture look like in the region today? How do human security deficiencies contribute to the conflicts in the region?
James Sherr, Chatham House, London
Leonid Polyakov, Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies, Kyiv
Lada Roslycky, University of Groningen, Groningen

Chair and commentator:
Igor Torbakov, Finnish Institute of International Affairs


15:15-16:30 Panel 4: State weakness and the obstacles to effective institution-building
How to strengthen state structures and make them more democratic and functional? Could these issues be approached regionally? How to empower civil society actors and individuals?
Marina Muskhelishvili, Centre for Social Studies and Tbilisi State University
Leila Alieva, Center for National and International Studies, Baku
Chair and commentator:
Sinikukka Saari, Finnish Institute of International Affairs
16:30-17:00 Concluding remarks: Mustafa Aydin, Rector of the Kadir Has University, Istanbul
How do the future prospects appear in the region? Is a regional identity developing gradually or does the future of the region look as fragmented as it is today? What forms and subjects of regional cooperation have the greatest potential?

Summary of the conference: “Multidimensional Security Issues in the Wider Black Sea Region – Striking a Balance”

Dr. Teija Tiilikainen opened the conference by welcoming the speakers and audience to the event to discuss the topic concerning the Black Sea region of which importance is growing.

In his keynote address Dr. Dimitrios Triantaphyllou discussed the general dynamics in the wider Black Sea region of today. Black Sea region is a product of Post-Cold War regionalism and is nowadays influenced by both global and regional factors. The development of the multipolar world affects the Black Sea region; the region is near to one of the poles, meaning Russia, and home for the “EU pole”. Russia, the EU and the US all have an impact to the region, in how they are going to deal with the region and the common neighbourhood. The common war on terrorism, the changing nature of the US foreign policy, as well as nuclear terrorism, are all factors affecting the Black Sea region. Whether the countries in the region have tools to work with these challenges, is also worth thinking of. The Black Sea region has been economically a fast growing region, but the financial economic crisis has had negative implications.

The important factor is how the region perceives itself. Greater regionalism and regional networking would have a clear benefit for the Black Sea countries. Dr. Triantaphyllou stated that the tools for institutionalisation of the regional cooperation are there, but he was questioning if there is enough political will and support to make the tools work. Black Sea regionalism is a key policy recommendation for how to deal with the challenges. Conflict and security dialogue should be increased and linked with economic development. The policy recommendation, that Dr. Triantaphyllou defined, includes also targeted training for officials, good governance and institutions, as well as intercultural dialogue.

PANEL I: Competing logics of action in the region – power-politics vs. regional multilateralism

In his presentation Dr. Fabrizio Tassinari discussed the EU policy in the Black Sea region. After the EU enlargement in 2004 people started to think about the Black Sea region, but also EU’s neighbourhood policy and EU-Russia strategic partnership had an effect on the growing importance of the Black Sea region. EU launched the programme “Black Sea Synergy” in 2008 which seeks to increase cooperation among and between the Black Sea countries. EU strived to keep the number of priorities very limited. Dr. Tassinari argued that it needs to foster the coordination for how actions are carried out. The EU policy has remained fuzzy, as it has three different and confusing combinations of policies. For future recommendations Dr. Tassinari suggested streamlining the EU’s policy and regional cooperation. Also the EU could address the local actors and let the non-EU actors take part more actively in the process.

Dr. Arkady Moshes commented by saying that the region-building in the area is in trouble and the dynamics are slowing down. EU’s arrival to the Black Sea region is a positive thing; though it is not the whole solution but a part of it. Many countries in the region want to become members of the EU. At the same time NATO’s role has gone down. Expectations for the EU are thereby high. EU is not passive in the region, but it is also not doing enough. Dr. Moshes argued that regional policies cannot be carried out without Russia. Conflicts in the region, problematic Russian-Ukrainian relationship and the energy issue need to be addressed.

In the Q&A session it was discussed how capable the EU is to take part in and to solve the problem in the Black Sea region. Dr. Triantaphyllou argued that the EU is developing a more cohesive policy and adapting its policies, but it will take time. Also, the whole region has to work in more cohesive way. Dr. Tassinari was pessimistic about the EU’s actions. The Lisbon treaty has important innovations and the tools are available, but EU’s policy is not realistic and is actually just getting fuzzier.

PANEL II: Conflict resolution

In his presentation Dr. Aleksandr Iskandaryan emphasized that conflicts in the Black Sea region are complicated and different from each other. It is also wrong to think that conflicts are an isolated phenomenon. Concerning nation-building, for new societies the corner stones are national and ethnic identities. For example the Karabakh conflict is not just a piece of land for Armenia, but it is also a corner stone of Armenia’s political identity. In conflict resolution it is not worth looking for a single solution that would work for everyone. The pros and cons versus the war need to be thought through.

Dr. Igor Torbakov stated that the conflicts of the Black Sea region are a legacy of the collapse of the empire. The Soviet empire didn’t have a proper way to deal with the national minorities. As any collapse inflicts mixing of peoples, it is no surprise that we are having such an amount of conflicts. The factor of time affects the conflicts in a way that the distance between the separatist community and the host country grows and the more difficult it will be to control the situation. There is a consensus that the states are paying a hard price for the separation. The regional dynamics in the Black Sea region have changed dramatically. There is a problem of refugees and of the policies towards them. Military, economic and political factors, as well as democratic development affect the domestic dynamics in the host-state. Without serious democratic reform, no real reconciliation is possible and the unresolved conflicts will remain. Dr. Torbakov’s view of the situation was pessimistic and he could not see the resolution of the conflicts coming soon, except in Transnistria.

Mr. Mikko Palonkorpi highlighted Georgian conflict resolution, in which the best option would be to give time for Georgia to develop its own economy and to make it attractive. The conflict should be approached on the highest political level. In conflict resolution, in general, different dynamics of the conflicts should be taken into account and the aim should be realistic.

In the Q&A session the role of the external actors in the Black Sea region was discussed. Dr. Torbakov said that concerning the conflict in the Caucasus he is positive towards the EU’s action in the long-term. If there is hope to resolve the issue, it will be with the help of EU’s engagement to the region. At the moment, however, the EU is not a security factor. Dr. Torbakov also emphasized Russia’s role in the region, which is that of a status quo power relating to the resolution of conflicts. The area is strategic environment for Russia.

PANEL III: From hard to soft security issues

Mr. James Sherr started his presentation by reporting that the Russia and Eurasia Programme in Chatham House is starting a new project on Russian Soft Power (SP). Sherr noted that many countries, even Russia, have expressed their interest towards the project. Sherr argued that there is a need to re-examine the notion of soft power and its usage in the Russian foreign policy. Soft power, as defined by Joseph Nye back in 1990 is “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion”. What is at stake is whether this practice of SP is diminishing or increasing in Russia’s foreign-policy making. Sherr defines SP as the modes of influence by Russia abroad and in Russia’s domestic sphere. He goes further and argues that “influence” – the way of doing things in Russia – is a combination of situational and more historical-political aspects. On the one hand, experiences and processes in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union left their imprint on the policy-making practices. On the other hand, Soviet and Chekist inheritance plays a role in the thinking of the current Russian elites.

Sherr defines four key forms of influence:

1) Business. Promotion and expansion of certain types of business culture. This is a culture where deals are valued rather than contracts, where ties between business and the state are close, and where the understanding of links between informal and formal rules is paramount for success.

2) Energy. Securing long-term energy contracts with favourable terms and energy assets below market price is the second key variable of the Russian soft power.

3) History. Russia is building a new historical narrative of the major events in Soviet/Russian history. This works well against the background of the general ignorance of the population on historical events and the distorted reading of history by the current regime.

4) Information and information space. The media is controlled inside Russia and there are also more active attempts to voice Russian interpretations of events abroad.

In conclusion Sherr emphasized that we should realize that “ours is not the only narrative” (of the future and of the past). We should approach others in a more humble way but with no less determination”.

In his presentation Mr. Leonid Polyakov emphasized that the Black Sea region is at the intersection of failing states and emerging trans-national regions. He argued that soft security issues are not on the fore but military agenda is. The Russian-Georgian war in autumn 2008 demonstrated that hard security is back on the agenda. The hard security architecture of the region has three pillars.

The first pillar is the United States that has, at the moment, the biggest military presence in the region. The anti-missile bases attract most of the attention. A possibility to have new missiles based in Romania by 2015 would cement US presence in the region. The bases in Romania and Bulgaria play a role in NATO’s European front. The second pillar is Turkey. It is at the moment the most ambitious military power in the region. Turkey is actively building its naval presence in the Black Sea and it may have total control of the Black Sea in the foreseeable future. Turkey’s arms industry is also growing rapidly. It has more and more an independent military and foreign policy and it is paying more attention to Russia’s concerns than to those of the US. The third pillar is Russia which is traditionally regarded as an assertive military power. Russia’s major military base at the Black Sea is located in Ukraine’s territory, at Sevastopol until, at least 2017. Russia expects the current administration of Ukraine to be more sympathetic to its wish to maintain the naval base at Sevastopol. At the same time Russia is building a naval base in Novorossiysk and in Abkhazia. Russia’s decision to buy the French warship Mistral has created mistrust and many questions in the region.

In conclusion, Polyakov emphasized that despite the need to resolve many soft security issues, the trend is different. More attention is paid on hard security and this may well dominate the whole next decade.

Ms Lada Roslycky's presentation showed how some of the themes touched upon by previous speakers interrelate with one another. In her study on soft power, separatism and political-criminal nexus in the Black Sea region she argues that the Black Sea region is not a regional security complex. This is because “it is not and never has been centered on a particular power”. Instead, what we have at the moment is a combination of three security complexes: the European security complex centered on Brussels, the post-Soviet security complex with Russia as its focal point and thirdly, a security complex where Turkey has the role of an insulator state.

Roslycky reported on different ways in which the post-Soviet political-criminal nexus influences and is used as a soft power in the region. She underlined the need for a new framework for security analysis. In her analysis the political and societal security sectors are in a complimentary relationship with the intangible components of state power namely national strategic purpose and national will. The major security threats stemming from the political and societal security sectors are ethnic/civil conflict, separatism and an eventual loss of sovereignty. In the case of the Sevastopol naval base, that Russia currently has on the territory of Ukraine, there is clear pressure to change the perceptions of the local people in favour of Russia. The means to influence include: the use of NGOs and the media, casting territoriality into doubt, use of language and education as a political instrument, publishing of anti-state newspapers, (forced) dispersal of passports, renaming of streets/towns, the use of religion as a political instrument and modification of shared common memory.

In conclusion, Roslycky emphasized the need to consider the role of the political-criminal nexus in the promotion of separatism through the modification of both hard and soft elements of power in the Black Sea region, and the need to identify local and regional political and societal security threats, actors and referent objects in this regard. It is also important to define and nurture the shared common interests across the region.

PANEL IV: State weakness and the obstacles to effective institution-building

Dr. Marina Muskhelishvili discussed the internal situation of the Black Sea countries. The situation is not stable, but frozen. In frozen situations order is based on the balance of power, not in institutionalised order. In these countries there is fake pluralism; elections take place, but the opposition has no chances, manipulation is common etc. This kind of situation is not unique in the region. Such frozen situations are not going to change, unless the direction where it could change is clear. There is no one institutional model, but different kinds of models, and the societies need to decide which model they are choosing and in which direction they are going. There are two complementary ways, how to act there: to create positive competition and to develop institutions and mechanisms, which could be promoted by the EU. International organisations should support the countries to achieve a more productive and secure environment. The first thing what Europe should do, is to communicate with the societies in the region.

Dr. Leila Alieva emphasized that the Soviet time was damaging for the countries in the Caucasus. Now the primary goal in these countries after the Soviet Union collapse is democratization. State-building though has its difficulties, as we are dealing with the authoritarian trends in the region. There is imbalance between state and society, and absence of institutions of public control. EU policies in the region have faced a serious dilemma. It has a problem on how the instruments should be adopted to the states with instrumental obstacles. It is easy to reduce cooperation, which is a very dangerous trend. Dr. Alieva was however optimistic to the good development in the countries. In the history there has been enormous potential to reform, so why wouldn’t it be possible today.

Dr. Sinikukka Saari highlighted that the institutions in the Black Sea states are weak, people don’t trust them and because of that the institutions are replaced by informal personal relations. How could the vicious cycle then be broken? There is potential for the transition, but people and political parties are needed to pursue the processes of transition. What we want is to transform the rules of the game from a zero-sum game to a win-win situation.

In his concluding remarks Dr. Mustafa Aydin noted that regions can be very fragmented, but despite of that there can still be regional identity. In the future the Black Sea region will be as fragmented as today. Competition is going on, as the US and other actors are trying to get influence there. Even the borders in the region are not finalised yet and there is a real concentration of multiple problems at the moment, which makes the development difficult. The best form for regional cooperation would be an inclusive organisation open for all the countries. It could be the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), but it should be revised. The organization should focus on economic cooperation and on technical issues. Dr. Aydin was predicting that we will see more conflicts in the region and that some security conflicts won’t be solved without armed conflicts. Also in the future the EU will be more and more involved in the Black Sea issues. What should we then do to change the situation? We should encourage the Black Sea regionalism and enhance its profile. We need to deal with the conflicts and create security dialogue for that. To focus on economic issues and to promote and coordinate regional cooperation is very important. We should also promote inter-cultural dialogue as well as good governance and civil society dialogue in the Black Sea region.