Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, was not only a violation of international humanitarian law and an encroachment on the sovereignty of an independent country. This move has put the security of all European countries at significant risk, as the Kremlin’s main focus of aggressive rhetoric in recent years has been on the West.
Even before the massive offensive on Ukraine, Moscow used disinformation and lobbyists, energy and logistics, and even secret agents to destabilize the situation in European countries. For many months, the Russian leadership has insisted on returning to the principle of “zones of influence” in international relations, speaking of “NATO’s rollback to the 1997 borders.” In a broad sense, this means Russia’s intention to appropriate the sovereignty of nearby states: some – de jure, some – de facto.
The states of the Black Sea basin are in a particular position in the context of Russian aggression. For geographical reasons and history, Russia seeks to maintain the region’s political and economic leadership. Moscow is threatening three Black Sea countries – Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine – with military means. The other three, Bulgaria, Romania, and Türkiye, belong to the NATO bloc, which the Kremlin sees as a hostile alliance. At the same time, the Russian government included Bucharest and Sofia in the list of “unfriendly capitals.” In addition, pipelines delivering Russian gas to the countries of Southern and Central Europe have been laid in the Black Sea and the region. Moscow is interested in keeping transit volumes and new projects in this area. In addition, Russia’s strong position in the Black Sea states also allows the Kremlin to pursue political and economic expansion in the Balkans and the Middle East.
Mykhailo Drapak is Expert of the Regional Initiatives and Neighborhood Program of the Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian Prism”. Research interests: Political processes in Central Europe, regional interstate initiatives and good neighborhood in Europe, Europeanization of Central Europe, the rights of national minorities and European nationalism movements in the XXI century, overcoming the consequences of international conflicts.
This policy brief is developed within the project “Romanian – Ukrainian Civil Society Forum for Dialogue and Cooperation. Third edition”, implemented by the Experts for Security and Global Affairs Association, Romania, in partnership with Strategic and Security Studies Group and Foreign Policy Council “Ukrainian PRISM”, Ukraine, with the support of Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation, a project of the German Marshall Fund. The views expressed in this policy paper are those of the author and do not necessarily coincide with those of ESGA partners.