BLACK SEA BASIN REGIONAL PROFILE:

THE SECURITY SITUATION AND THE REGION-BUILDING OPPORTUNITIES

 

(A Background and January - March 2000 Issue in Brief)

© Institute for Security and International Studies (ISIS), Sofia

Research Study 5

Hard Copy: ISSN 1311 – 3259

AN ISN SPONSORED QUARTERLY ELECTRONIC PERIODICAL


I INTRODUCTION

II PROFILE BACKGROUND OF THE BLACK SEA BASIN

1. Geopolitical and Geostrategic Tendencies
2. Sources of Conflict

III CONFLICTS AND POST-CONFLICT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BLACK SEA AREA

1. Chechnya
2. The Kurdish Issue in Turkey

IV THE NATIONAL PERSPECTIVES: SPECIFIC DEVELOPMENTS

1. Armenia
2. Bulgaria
3. Russia
4. Ukraine

V THE BILATERAL RELATIONS IN THE BLACK SEA REGION

1. Bilateral Relations
2. Multilateral Relations

VI THE STATE OF REGIONAL INITIATIVES

1. The Economic Situation in Black Sea Region Countries and Its Consequences on Black Sea Cooperation
2. Political and Security Aspects of the Cooperation

VII EXTERNAL FACTORS (STATES AND INSTITUTIONS) INFLUENCING THE BLACK SEA REGION

1. USA
2. NATO

VIII THE SECURITY SITUATION AND REGION-BUILDING OPPORTUNITIES: CONCLUSION


 I   Introduction

Black Sea economic and political cooperation and region-building opportunities continued to be overshadowed by uncertain security developments in the January to March 2000 period. Though the Russian military campaign in Chechnya almost drew to a close with the Chechen separatists and terrorists pulled away or neutralized by federal forces, the major outcome has been a high enough popularity for acting Russian President Vladimir Putin to gain patriotic support and win the 26 March 2000 presidential elections.  At the same time, political, economic, humanitarian, and social prospects of the troubled region remain bleak.  The capacity to integrate the people and territory of Chechnya as well as that of the other non-Russian Caucasian areas into a meaningful social, economic and political life after solving the many humanitarian issues will provide for more optimistic development of the broader Transcaucasian region and improvement of region-building chances.  The real challenge for Moscow remains the ability to negotiate a political solution to the warring territory’s complex issues.

Oil and gas issues of the broader Black Sea-Caspian Sea region continue to determine the development of the geopolitical and geoeconomic situation.  Competing projects in that field preserve the potential to detonate political and strategic relations in the region unless acceptable compromises are reached.

The period witnessed active NATO efforts to bring regional actors, especially Ukraine and Russia, into a working dialogue and cooperation that will reflect positively on regional and broader security relations.  Important prerequisites have been developed for NATO to launch the policy of improving relations with Russia one year after the cooling that followed the NATO campaign against FRY because of Kosovo.  Some of Russia’s CIS partners from the GUUAM (Georgia-Ukraine-Uzbekistan-Azerbaijan-Moldova), in addition to the Black Sea states of Romania and Bulgaria, have demonstrated their will to strengthen their ties with the Alliance.

 

II   Profile Background of the Black Sea Basin

1.  Geopolitical and Geostrategic Tendencies

In January this year, one month after his visit to Ukraine, Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian said that his country would intensify its relations with GUUAM.  While becoming a member of the union is not on the agenda, activating relations with Moldova and Uzbekistan are part of the country’s foreign-political program.  GUUAM is an organization that bears a clear pro-Western orientation.

At the beginning of February  Azeri Foreign Minister Vilaiat Guliev declared that Baku fully supported creation of a military pact with Ankara and Tbilisi.  This strategic alliance will lead to strengthening security and stability of the region.  The idea of such an alliance stems from proposals by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to establish a Pact for Stability and Security.

The Armenian minister of defense visited Minsk, Belarus, on 8-10 February and met his counterpart Alexander Chumakov.  They discussed a plan for strategic and military-technical cooperation between the two countries.  The Armenian Parliament ratified two bilateral Armenian-Belorussian military treaties on 7 February.  One of them provides for military help in case of aggression or threat of aggression against one of the parties to the treaty.

Azeri Foreign Minister Guliev declared on 10 February  that his country might join NATO and allow the establishment of NATO bases on its territory.  First, his country’s armed forces need to be shaped along NATO standards.  The relationship with the Alliance will gradually evolve, according to the Azeri foreign minister.  A NATO information center in Baku will soon be opened, and plans are ongoing to prepare the first PfP exercise on Azerbaijan territory in 2001.

After the visit of Azeri President G. Aliev to Washington on 15 February, Foreign Minister Guliev changed his views and declared that his country would not provide bases for the Alliance – a reversal of his declaration four days earlier.  Most obviously, these geopolitical exercises display two tendencies:  first, there is no perception of stability and prospective regional security by the countries of the Southern Caucasus, and second, NATO is not rushing into the area in an effort to replace Russia in geopolitical and geostrategic relations.  The balance between the CIS and GUAAM in political and strategic terms is very likely to continue.  Turkey, as a NATO country, has an extremely delicate role in the fluid geopolitical situation.  Any rush may turn into a dangerous detonator in a region, already suffering from military conflicts.  The visits of the NATO Secretary-General to Ukraine, Moldova, and later to Russia clearly signify the will of the Alliance to follow a cooperative line of relations with Russia in a situation in which PfP partners are definitely drifting away from Moscow and wishing to be involved with NATO.

The political line that Russia would take after the presidential elections will be of major importance regarding the next moves on the geopolitical and geostrategic arena of the Black Sea-Transcaucasia-Caspian Sea region.

 

2.  Sources of Conflict

A source of conflict during the first three months of this year continued to be competing interests over oil and the gas pipelines from Russia and the Caspian region to the world markets.

The “Blue Stream” natural gas pipeline near the Russian city of Krasnodar started construction on 2 February.„“  It will be 1’200 km long and will lie partly on the bottom of the Black Sea.  It will supply Turkey with Russian gas that is expected to become available to individual consumers in Turkey in less than a year, according to Russian intentions.  The project will cost $ 2.5 billion and is to be carried out by two companies: Russia’s “Gasprom” and Italy’s ENI.

“Blue Stream” has two competing projects.  One is the gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel, and eventually to Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey.  This project, supported by US energy companies, will supply gas to two prospective recipients of the same product (Turkey and Israel) through “Blue Stream”.

The other competing project is the “Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline” (TCGP), expected to transport Turkmeni natural gas to Turkey through Azerbaijan and Georgia.  It will be 2’000 km long and initial cost calculations were recently corrected.  Now expectations are for $ 2 billion compared to $ 3.5 billion earlier.  Lower market prices of the technical facilities and increased capacity of the gas pipeline are the major reasons for the drop in price.  There is already a firm commitment by the governments of Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey for accelerating the construction of the TCGP.  American experts, stimulating the project and participating in it, consider it already time to test the project commercially, to set up the consortium and additional partners.  A real issue that needs to be tackled is Azerbaijan’s position.  Azerbaijan strives to promote transporting the newly found Azeri gas at “Shah Denis”, where capacity is measured at between 700 billion and 1’000 billion cubic meters.  The obvious competition with the TCGP may be solved by merging the two projects. However, this issue requires further elaboration.

Meanwhile, Russia is cooperating with Azerbaijan in providing a route by-passing Chechnya for the Azeri Caspian oil from Baku to Novorossiysk.  Transportation has been realized by railway through Chechnya, and by mid-March 170 of the new oil pipeline’s 315 km had been constructed.

So, alongside the uncertain geopolitical and geostrategic shifts in the region, a source of potential conflict continues to be the competing interests of various actors concerning oil and gas transportation from the area to the world markets.  As stressed in the previous Profiles, no less important are the same players’ elements of converging, overlapping, or parallel interests – a good ground for testing cooperative approaches at both the economic and politico-strategic level.  This judgment again highlights the careful position of NATO in cooperating with its PfP partners and trying to enlarge the range of cooperation with both Russia and Ukraine in the region.  After the 26 March presidential elections, an agreement for broader cooperation between Russia and  its Western partners may provide new opportunities for developing the common interests of parties involved in the complex geopolitical, geoeconomic and geostrategic tangle. 

 

III   Conflicts and Post-Conflict Developments in the Black Sea Area

1.  Chechnya

On the eve of the Presidential elections the major part of the Russian military campaign has been completed.  More Russian soldiers and militiamen were killed after Russian authorities reported the death of more than 1’800 servicemen.  After applying a new approach to the Chechnya operation in comparison to 1994-96 – minimizing losses plus maximizing fire power ¾ Russian armed forces succeeded in by-passing pockets of resistance, leaving them to special interior forces.  The accurate Tochka missile, fired at buildings in Grozny and the Arena system for defending armoured vehicles, proved of great assistance to the armed forces.  Useful lessons have been learned by the Russian Air Force, Air Defense Force, and strategic leadership of the country.  Yet the war is not finally over.  More reports will be heard of difficult direct clashes, ambushes, and acts of terror organized by Chechen separatists.  The military stability of territories adjacent to Chechnya will be crucial for final success of the military operation.

Yet these questions remain:  1)  How will the military victory continue and be used politically? 2) What political and constitutional formula will be implemented in the troubled region? 3) How will the dramatic refugee issue be solved? 4) How will the economy and social life be brought to normality to prevent further eruptions of the Chechen conflict?  The war in Chechnya further complicated older questions:  How will the Chechens stop  fearing Russians?  And will the Russians stop considering the former eternal criminals?  Another issue remains unsolved:  How can Russia democratically integrate into the federation the various Caucasian people and ethnic groups with their varying religions, cultures, customs, and traditions?

The region’s humanitarian situation that was created by the Chechen conflict remains one of the most troubling outcomes of the war.  The $2.4 million that the USA provided for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on 29 February to support activities related to the conflict in Chechnya will hardly be enough to cover the many other needs.  The good news for the region’s people is that the combination of Russian military success and Western insistence on applying political means to resolve the conflict produced a promising result on 3 March.  US Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gamma, EU Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten, and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov agreed on the following during their first ever  US-EU-Russian Trilateral Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal:  1) an ambassadorial visit by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to Chechnya; 2) two experts on human rights of the Council of Europe (CE) will be located in the Office of President Putin’s representative to Chechnya; 3) the president of the International Red Cross will visit Chechnya; 4) better involvement of humanitarian organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Chechnya.  Acting Russian President Putin’s appointment of an ombudsman to investigate human-rights violations is a step in the right direction if enough information and expertise are involved to reveal such violations and the offenders are held accountable for their actions.  EU Commissioner Patten said that there is a good deal of humanitarian assistance that the EU would like to make available, but assurance is needed that the circumstances exist to deliver that assistance.

Another good sign about the future fate of Chechnya is that part of the discussions during the presidential campaign concentrated on rebuilding the rebellious republic.  In the course of these discussions, some practical steps were made toward post-conflict rehabilitation.  Preparation for spring crops in Chechnya was made during February-March with federal financial support in 10 of the republic’s regions.  In another measure the Russian government launched a program to teach entrepreneurial activity to the republic’s economically active population.  Participants in the program will be eligible for federal subsidies.  No doubt this effort to divert the militant energy of the Chechens into constructive peaceful activity may cancel the present illegal dealing in drugs, slaves, gold, arms, alcohol, etc.

 

2.  The Kurdish Issue in Turkey

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) announced on 9 February that it will end its 15-year guerrilla insurrection against Turkey and start political struggle forKurdish rights in a peaceful way within the framework of democracy.  Turkish authorities expect the PKK to lay its arms down before they do anything, and they therefore refrain from any comments.  The armed wing of the PKK will be reorganized, and the phasing of this process will correspond to the democratic transformation of Turkey and solution of the Kurdish question.  Another of the rebels’ conditions is that peace will remain inseparably linked to the fate of Abdulah Ocalan.  His brother and the PKK leader said they will not lay down arms, because Turkey has not responded to previous PKK peace moves.  During an interview in Brussels he explained that the rebels will stay up in the mountains, not to attack but to defend themselves.

It is not yet clear if all guerrillas and PKK commanders would accept this central leadership platform.  And Turkey expects  Ocalan 4,500 rebels to surrender without preconditions.

Both Ocalan’s death sentence and the future integration of PKK Kurds are still kept on hold by Turkish authorities, testing the reactions of EU authorities in a process of prolonged mutual adaptation.  Political wisdom calls for any form of mutually accepted rationality through political discourse instead of armed struggle – a vision that requires internal agreement rather than international accommodation.

 

IV   The National Perspectives:  Specific Developments

1.  Armenia

Five months after the assassinations in the Armenian Parliament the political situation in the country remains in crisis.  Pressure on President Robert Kocharian to step down is ineffective, and the arguments that he was involved in the assassinations and deaths are not serious.  The arrests ordered by the chief investigator arouse suspicions of political motivation.  The political stalemate in the country has led to ineffective government – a development that probably has some logical relationship with the assassination attempt against the president of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic on 22 March.

 2.  Bulgaria

On 17 March Prime Minister Ivan Kostov presented Parliament a new edition of his Government Program – “2001”.  It reflects the new situation at the beginning of  EU accession negotiations and seeks to accelerate implementation of economic measures to improve the present dramatically low living standards of more than 80% of Bulgarians.

 3.  Russia

The Russian government presented a new defense doctrine that marks no serious deviation from the 1997 concept.  One can certainly doubt the effect of the “first-use pledge regarding nuclear weapons”;  it apparently bears little operational meaning, especially if one considers the rough nuclear parity of Russia and the USA.

During the second half of January the Chinese defense minister visited his Russian counterpart, Sergeev, in Moscow.  A new step was made in bilateral military cooperation within the Navy, Air Force, education, purchase of anti-ship missiles, and space technology.  Russian Acting President Putin confirmed his country’s strategic relations with China during the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister to Moscow in late February.  Peace and stability on the planet are joint objectives of the two countries, the Chinese minister added.  Putin pointed to the regional meaning of the bilateral relations too.

The President Lukashenko of Belorus was elected Chairman of the Council of the Russia-Belorus Union on 26 January.  Acting President Putin and President Lukashenko exchanged ratification documents establishing the union.  The new union’s Council of Ministers was presided over by the Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Michail Kassyanov.

The French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine arrived in Moscow on 3 February and met with his counterpart and with the acting Russian president.  Chechnya, Russian-EU relations, bilateral relations, Kosovo, the Middle East, and other issues were discussed during the visit.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife visited Saint Peterburg on 10-11 March and met with the acting Russian President Putin and his wife.  The UK and the Blair government will definitely support economic reforms that President Putin was expected to launch following his election on 26 March.

There are many challenges for the newly elected Russian president  in the political, social, economic, strategic, global, and regional affairs.  The greatest of all challenges, according to this Profile, is to move from the ‘Hope in the Man’ image by presenting something more reliable to the „hopees“ – ‘Hope in the System’.

 4.  Ukraine

President Kuchma issued a decree on 15 January setting 16 April as the date for a referendum on constitutional changes.  Voters will be asked to answer the following questions:  1) Are they confident in the Parliament (the Supreme Rada), and, if not, should the president have the right to dissolve it? 2) Should the president have the right to dissolve the Rada if members fail to produce a working majority in one month, or to approve the state budget within three months?  3) Should the deputies remain immune from prosecution for wrong-doing? 4) Should the number of deputies be cut from 450 to 300? 5) Should a second chamber be created to represent regional interests?  The referendum issue was central to the fight between the government and opposition deputies with rival ‘parliaments’ meeting in two different buildings – until the majority took possession of the official chamber and opened the session on 8 February.

The present internal political situation in Ukraine raises fundamental questions about the separation of powers among the institutions and the role of the media in a democratic society.  There are doubts whether President Kuchma is driving the situation towards a fully dependant Parliament.

The Ukrainian president signed a law prohibiting the death penalty during the second half of March – a step that brings the Ukrainian legislature closer to Council of Europe requirements.

 

V   Bilateral and Multilateral Relations in the Black Sea Region

1.  Bilateral Relations

a)  Russia-Ukraine

(1)  The Russian arms-trading giant ‘Rossvooruzhenie’ and the Ukrainian State Armaments Company agreed at the end of January to sell specific naval facilities to Greece in a joint deal.  Under other circumstances the two companies have been fierce competitors on the world market.  (2)  The Russia’s first deputy prime minister, M. Kassyanov, visited Kiev in the end of February and met with President Kuchma for a discussion on the Ukrainian debt to Russia ($ 2-3 billion).  The new prime minister of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko, also met with Kassyanov.

b)  Bulgaria-Armenia and Bulgaria-Azerbaijan

In the end of December 1999 Bulgaria announced its decision to introduce a visa regime with Armenia and Azerbaijan from 1 January 2000.  The decision paralleled Bulgaria’s commitment to harmonize its visa regime with the EU.

c)  Bulgaria- Georgia

A one-day visit in early March to Tbilisi was made by Bulgarian Defense Minister Boyko Noev and the first deputy chief of the Bulgarian General Staff.  Military agreements on bilateral cooperation were signed by the Bulgarian military leaders and their Georgian counterparts.

d)  Armenia-Azerbaijan

The dispute between the two countries over Nagorno-Karabakh evolved into an Armenian cyber-attack against Azerbaijan, which is less powerful in Internet technologies.  The target has been the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.  Meantime, Armenian President R. Kocharian of Armenia said in mid-February that Armenians must do all they can to reach a compromise on the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.  He said this was the best way to attract substantial foreign investments in the region.

e) Georgia-Russia

Georgia’s Green Party called for an international investigation of the Esheri (Abkhasia) Russian secret military laboratory in mid-January.  The Greens speculate that nuclear and tectonic weapons are developed by the laboratory.

f)  Georgia-Turkey

Turkish President Suleiman Demirel visited Tbilisi in mid-January – just a few days after his meeting in Ankara with the Azeri President G. Aliev.  He met with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, and the large Turkish delegation of governmental officials and businessmen talked on various bilateral-cooperation issues.  Turkey is Georgia’s second largest trading partner after Russia.  Unsolved details of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline highlighted the discussions.

g)  Georgia-Ukraine

Georgia will intensify its work on building the Poti-Odessa ferry-boat complex and realizing Eurasian transport corridors, Georgian Minister Lordkipanidze said in late January at his meeting with the Ukrainian prime minister.

h)  Turkey-Greece

Ismaihl Cem, the Turkish foreign minister made the first official visit to Greece by a Turkish Foreign Minister in some 40 years on 4 February.  It reciprocated a trip to Ankara in January by Greek Foreign Minister G. Papandreou.  The visit to Athens also marked a new level of improving Turkish-EU relations.  Five cooperation agreements resulted from the visit.

i)  Ukraine-Turkey

The Ukrainian coastguard shot at Turkish fishing boats on 22 March, violating Ukraine’s territorial waters.  One boat was sunk and two Turkish fishermen were killed in the incident.

The territorial sea, the economic zone, and the continental shelf are issues not yet regulated within Law of the Sea Convention rules (1982).  During the past decade Turkish fishermen have amassed a huge record of violations of the acting treaties that regulate the territorial waters of Ukraine, Romania, and Bulgaria.

 

2.  Multilateral Relations:  the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

(1)  Russian Acting President Putin was elected chairman of the CIS during the summit meeting of the Commonwealth on 25 January.  Contradictory to some expectations, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan preserved their CIS membership.  (2)  Egor Stroev, chairman of the Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS, suggested to the parliamentarians in early March that Saint Peterburg become the capital of the CIS.  (3)  Joint military exercise „Southern Shield-2000“ will take place on 3-4 April in seven CIS countries – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgistan, Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus, and Armenia.

 

VI   State of the Regional Initiatives

1.  The Economic Situation in Countries of the Black Sea Region and its Consequences for Black Sea Cooperation

a)  Azerbaijan

Though Azerbaijan has been establishing a diversified economy, all its plans had been based on oil revenues yet to be realized.  At the end of January the government changed its plans to privatize the state oil company SOCAR.  Foreign companies have made large investments in infrastructure and buying vouchers.  The level of investment is very probably going to drop.  During the first days of February the situation was further worsened by the fuel crisis.  It came after overselling on the international market at a period of higher prices.  Sales of oil and oil product account for 75% of the state budget.  The economic and the energy crises are directly linked by analysts to the Aliyev family’s incompetent management.

b)  Ukraine

Ukraine faces payment of $3.1 billion this year, equivalent to approximately three times the country’s reserves.  The government of Victor Yushchenko has an ambitious reform program.  Figures from the first two months of the year show an increase in budget income 1.5 times larger than the previous year.  The 6.2% growth in GNP for January and February  is the first positive figure in the last nine years.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s chronic energy debts to Russia may be solved through a debt-for-equity swap – by handling state-owned enterprises in lieu of cash.  The difficulty may come from lack of agreement on how much Ukraine owes Russia.  Government predictions are for 1% GDP growth this year.

 

2.  Political and Security Aspects of Cooperation

(1)  In mid-January Georgian President Shevardnadze launched an idea to convene a meeting on issues of security and cooperation in the Caucasus It may eventually evolve into an organization on security and cooperation – a kind of a “regional OSCE”.  According to Shevardnadze, participants in the all-Caucasus process should be Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan, but also the USA, Turkey, and the EU.  (2)  The sixth working expert meeting on navy cooperation in the Black Sea took place on 15-17 March in a Bulgarian military resort north of Varna.  Representatives of the foreign and defense ministries of Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine discussed creation of a task group for navy cooperation in the Black Sea.  The meeting was opened by the Bulgarian Navy Chief of Staff, Rear-Admiral Peter Petrov.

 

VII   External Factors (States and Institutions) Influencing the Black Sea Region

1.  USA

(1)  USA-Russia.  US Secretary of State Albright visited Moscow at the end of January and met with her colleague, Russian Foreign Minister I. Ivanov and with Acting President Putin.  Arms control and non-proliferation issues figured prominently in the talks.  START II, START III, and the ABM Treaty were central in the discussions, but were not subjects for one-day miracles.  Chechnya, European security, and reinvigorated NATO ties with Russia were also topics discussed.  The two leaders of the foreign-policy institutions signed two agreements:  one on satellite technology and aerospace cooperation and another that updates the 1987 agreement on nuclear risk reduction.

(2)  USA-Ukraine.  US Secretary of State Albright said on 18 January in a speech at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, D. C. that the Clinton administration will be focusing particular attention and resources during 2000 on challenges faced by four “key democracies” – one of them is Ukraine.

Ambassador Stephen Sestanovich, special advisor to the US secretary of state for the new independent states (NIS) met in Kiev with Ukrainian President Kuchma and other top government officials on 3-4 February. They discussed Ukraine’s plans for economic reform and how the United States can best support them.

(3)  USA-Azerbaijan.  President Aliyev of Azerbaijan visited Washington, D.C., and met with President Clinton on 12-15 February.  They discussed prospects for a Nagorno-Karabakh peace settlement.  Aliyev brought an update to the US President on discussions going on between Azerbaijan and Armenia.  Caspian energy development, the common commitment between the USA and Azerbaijan on the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, and regional security issues were topics of the bilateral talks.

 

2.  NATO

(1)  NATO-Ukraine.  The Secretary-General of NATO, Lord George Robertson, visited Kiev during the first week of February.  On 8 February Ukraine was visited by the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe (SACEUR), Gen. Wesley Clark.  The NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) met for the first time on Ukrainian soil on 1 March.  The US permanent representative on the North Atlantic Council (NAC) said to Odessa State University students on 2 March that increased cooperation between the Alliance and Ukraine is good for Ukraine’s security, good for NATO’s security, and good for the security of all nations of Central and Eastern Europe.

(2)  NATO-Moldova.  Lord Robertson visited Moldova on 12 February after similar visits to Romania and Bulgaria.

(3)  NATO-Russia.  Russian realism towards the role and impact of NATO was demonstrated on 16 February when Lord Robertson met with the Russian foreign minister, defense minister, and Acting President Putin in Moscow after 11 months of frozen relations resulting from Russia’s protest over the NATO-led bombing of FRY.  There was an agreement to expand contacts in a significant way.  The joint statement at the end of the visit says both sides would pursue a vigorous dialogue on a wide range of security issues. These, it said,  will enable NATO and Russia to address the challenges that lie ahead and to make their mutual cooperation a cornerstone of European security.  The meeting showed Russian President Putin’s intentions not to abstain from relations with the West but rather to establish them in pursuing Russia’s interests.  The meeting was Putin’s answer to an earlier comment by US President Clinton that Putin is a person with whom the USA can do business.

The NATO-Russia Joint councilwas convened in Brussels on 15 March – almost a year after the beginning of NATO’s operation „Allied Force“ in FRY.  A long list of topics was on the Joint Council agenda, and the good news was that a modest start has finally been made.  The last year gave Russia the opportunity to assess attitudes towards NATO of not only its former Central and Southeastern European allies but also of half the former Soviet republics.  Membership or very close relationships with NATO were the political judgements of governments and people of these countries.  This is a stimulating factor for Russia, apart from many others, to stay a board a working relationship with the Alliance.

According to the Agency for Political News (APN) in Russia in mid-March, 29% of Russians think the Russian Federation must join the Alliance as a full member.  Another 18% would prefer to see a bilateral military alliance with China,  18% a military alliance within the CIS, and 15% a restored Warsaw Pact.  Yet 11% do not want any alliances for pauperized Russia.

 

VIII   The Security Situation and Region-Building Opportunities:  Conclusions

1.  Though separatists’ resistance in Chechnya remains here and there, the Russian federal military victory is not in doubt, as is the dramatic humanitarian situation in and around the republic.  The first modest post-conflict reconstruction efforts can be witnessed, but Russia needs much greater financial resources to invest in the peaceful build-up of the war-torn territory and people – certainly a continuing challenge for the newly elected president of Russia.  The need for stability and Western cooperation as well as the expansion eastwards of pro-Atlantic sentiment led Russian policy-makers to a smoother yet not very active relationship with NATO.  The bilateral inter-state links of the USA continued to drive and motivate stability in the region.

2.  Competing oil and gas pipeline projects, many Black Seat countries’ energy debts to Russia and and dependence upon it, the crisis or near crisis state of most of the region’s national economies continued to shape opportunities for region-building.  Russia’s eventual assumption of ability as a global economic actor and partner after the presidential elections may allow gradual transformation of the Black Sea-Caspian Sea area into a viable, functioning, and self-sustainable region.  Turkey’s ability to boost the fledgling economies of some of its neighboring nations may also promote the region.  Adequate political and security interrelationship should evolve parallel to these processes.  Both tasks are quite unattainable without the long-term commitment within the region of the USA, NATO, and the EU.

 


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ISSN 1311 – 3240

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