The Current Black Sea Imbroglio: A Challenge to World Peace

Posted in China , NATO , United States , Europe , Russia , Asia , Peace and Conflict , India , Other | 26-Oct-08 | Author: Dr. Ravindra Kumar

USS Parry enters the port of Poti. A US Navy warship arrived Saturday in the Georgian port of Poti for a three-day visit, a move likely to anger Russia which has criticised US naval operations in Georgia's Black Sea waters.

For centuries, due to its geographical status, the Black Sea region has been important particularly for the countries located around it. For them it has been the chief way of transportation. It is also important from the strategic point of view as it is close to the regions like the Caucasus, Tatarstan and Bashkorostan, which are known as oil-rich regions of the world. Furthermore, the Black Sea region is the only path through which a potential rival could threaten a powerful country like Russia from this area.

Subject-specialists, and those who are familiar with contemporary and modern world history, know that being an important way of transportation and due to its special significance from the strategic point of view, the Black Sea region has become in the past the ground of many struggles, confrontations or wars. By using violence and indulging in confrontations and wars involved parties have tried to control this region from time-to-time. In this regard, particularly, the Crimean and Russo-Turkish Wars in the 19th Century and the Allied Dardanelles Campaign against Turkey during the First World War are worth mentioning here.

During the Cold War the Black Sea region was almost under the supremacy of the Soviet Union, because most of the adjacent countries were part of the Soviet Block; they were members of the Warsaw Pact, headed by the USSR. To a large extent this situation remained unchanged until the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR.
For the first time the supremacy of the Soviet Block, and particularly the USSR, over the Black Sea region faced a challenge after the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, which paved the way for the reunification of Germany. And it was only two years after the reunification of Germany that the Soviet Union also collapsed on Christmas Day, i.e. December 25, 1991.The seventy-year reign of the USSR came to an end. As a result, a new situation emerged at the world level in general and the regional level in particular. At the regional level, the Danube River, which starts in Germany and flows through Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania and empties into the Black Sea, became a key transportation route. It was natural because transportation by this way is considerably less expensive in comparison to other ways and particularly the ports of the Baltic Sea.

With the collapse of the USSR, many of its former partners declared their independence and they emerged as sovereign states. Many turned to the democratic system of governance. Along with this, some other nations of Eastern Europe, like Romania, Poland and Bulgaria setting themselves free from the Communist order, adopted democracy and many of them joined the United States-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization- NATO. This, doubtlessly, created a new situation. On the one hand it brought an end to the supremacy of Russia over the Black Sea, because now a major part of the Black Sea was under the control of Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria, all of them members of NATO, and on the other hand, particularly from the global strategic point of view, it offered a golden opportunity to the United States to transform into reality its keen desire and nonstop efforts of controlling the Black Sea through NATO to challenge Russia, its main rival of the Cold War days. For the United States control over the Black Sea is essential if it desires to project its forces onto the region with the purpose of any land-based action against Russia from the south because the Carpathian and the Caucasus mountains hinder any such move. And if the United States gains supremacy over the region, its modern weapons system would be able to target Russian territory. That is why, for years, the U.S. has made efforts to achieve this goal including transporting weapons under the cover of delivering aid in the region.

Russia, which is still a powerful country, in spite of separation of many of its allies in the Soviet Union, is continuously endeavouring to maintain its position in the region. For it, Russia too, makes all efforts including confrontation, and indulging in war. The recent Georgian-Russian war and control over the Georgian naval base of Poti by the Russian forces and extending support to South Ossetia [a mountainous region of approximately seventy thousand people and covering roughly 3900 sq kilometers] and Abkhazia in their move of independence from Georgia can been seen in this very context. And this course of using manipulative tactics by both, the United Sates and Russia, makes the situation in the Black Sea region serious and complicated.

Furthermore, the event of August 21, 2008, when NATO warships entered the Black Sea, followed by the US Navy guided missile destroyer-USS McFaul, in the name of long-planned exercises and routine visits to ports in Romania and Bulgaria, made the situation more serious. This move by the United States-led NATO made Russia uneasy, unhappy and worried. Consequently, more Russian Navy ships started moving into the Black Sea for a closer look. And the situation became very serious when on August 27, 2008, the US-led NATO and Russian warships took up positions in the Black Sea. Although, in spite of deployment of the US Coast Guard cutter Dallas, the US guided missile destroyer USS McFaul and the Russian Moskova missile cruiser, until now there is no news of direct confrontation between them. But, undoubtedly, this series of events has created a terrible situation. It has become a matter of serious concern for the whole world. Moreover, this development, which reminds us of the days of the Cold War, has brought more worries to those who are concerned about peace, prosperity and security for all.

We are well aware that for a long period of fifty years the whole world lived under the shadow of the Cold War, fearing a fatal confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Therefore, it is the need of the hour that all efforts should be made to avoid a situation like the Cold War. In this regard it must be kept foremost in mind by parties directly involved in the current Black Sea imbroglio that the Cold War like situation is not going to serve any purpose now in speedily changing conditions of the world and incessantly increasing atmosphere of globalization. Rather, this kind of situation, if created, would, more or less, affect all, regardless of whether they the parties to this series of events or not.
I reiterate that the world is moving towards a new dimension today. Unprecedented awakening, development and increasing steps towards globalization have presented before us a picture of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam [the whole world is but one family]. Now the days are gone when we could indulge in false vanity of historical or geographical superiority. In such an atmosphere of day-to-day increasing globalization no country, or group of countries, irrespective of how mighty or rich is it, can think of its progress in a state of isolation. Countries of the world are so interdependent that to act united has become compulsory. Similarly, problems often have common natures. They, more or less, affect all in one way or another. Therefore, working together at different levels for development after getting rid of problems has also become compulsory for all nations-big or small, developed or developing. The efforts and cooperation of all according to capability for resolving inevitable conflicts, disputes or problems, whether large or tiny, are indispensable.

Furthermore, countries like China and India, who for the last sixty years have played a vital role in the world’s development and who have now their overt say in the world affairs, can definitely do something concrete in this regard. In spite of many complications at the international level, China and India have both shown maturity in many of their dealings. This is evident particularly from their attitude and understanding of matters of disputes between them. It is undoubtedly a reflection of their patience and intention in prevailing circumstances. And these are the factors which accord strength to their credibility on the basis of which China and India can go forward in extending immense help to resolve conflicts like the one in the Black Sea region.

Moreover, China and India have good relations with almost all parties directly or indirectly involved in the current Black Sea imbroglio. Therefore, if both of them make serious efforts together and succeed in making these parties realize the reality of time and space [namely the Cold War is over and the nations’ interdependency has increased dramatically due to globalization], and if the parties involved in the conflict turn out to be ready to make sacrifices in larger interest, which includes their own interest also, by accepting the truth that it is the only option to be adopted as the last measure, there would be a great hope for resolving this conflict which currently seems to be a challenge for world peace.

*Indologist and writer Dr. Ravindra Kumar is the Former Vice-Chancellor of CCS University of Meerut, India.