The Black Sea has historically been a meeting place of imperial ambitions and lucrative trade. For most of recorded history, the Black Sea has been a strategic hinge and remains so today. Russia has annexed Crimea and supports an ongoing insurgency in Ukraine’s southeast—where fighting continues between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed forces. Moscow provides military and political assistance to the breakaway regions of Transnistria in Moldova and Abkhazia in Georgia. Russia is increasing the size of its Black Sea Fleet and Russian aircraft continue to harass American naval vessels in the Black Sea as part of concerted efforts to pressure NATO from the Baltics to the Mediterranean.
Three NATO countries—Romania, Bulgaria, and Turkey—have Black Sea coastlines, and face the prospect of Russia’s expanding military presence. Across Central and East Europe, NATO has responded to Russia with measures designed to reinforce alliance coordination. In both Bulgaria and Romania, the alliance has set up local NATO commands. Romania is home to part of a NATO missile shield, Bulgaria has RAF fighters stationed there, and both countries will host U.S. troop rotations in 2017.
On May 18, Hudson Institute, in cooperation with the Romanian research institute New Strategy Center, held a conference on Black Sea regional issues and their importance to both NATO and U.S. security. An expert panel discussed challenges and opportunities facing the U.S. and its allies in this volatile environment.