04 Mar
Analysis: A new hybrid war in the Black Sea against the backdrop of the Ukrainian conflict

Analysis: A new hybrid war in the Black Sea against the backdrop of the Ukrainian conflict

According to the reports issued by the U.S. governmental and non-governmental think tanks, particularly the ones of the Institute for National Strategic Studies of the National Defense University and those of the Research Center for Russian and Eurasian Affairs, the Black Sea region is of vital importance as far as the U.S. interests are concerned.

The U.S. should adopt a new policy to have a stronger presence in this region. In this regard, the Montreux Convention, obliging Turkey to control the entrance of foreign warships to the Black Sea through the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits in wartime, may prove an obstacle. Thus, Turkey did not allow six British minesweepers to enter the Black Sea in connection with the military operations in Ukraine, understanding that these warships could hardly change the situation on the Ukrainian front, but would exacerbate the already tense situation.

According to U.S. experts, regardless of the provisions of the Montreux Convention, the U.S. theoretically has good opportunities to extend its influence in the Black Sea basin. First, the U.S. needs to deepen the military-technical cooperation with its Black Sea allies, i.e. Bulgaria and Romania. By increasing the supply of military equipment to these countries, the U.S. will thus increase its naval and air defense capabilities, as well as the number of U.S. military instructors who are to teach the armed forces of the allied countries how to use the equipment and, if necessary, defend themselves against Russian aggression. Moreover, the naval base should assume key importance so that it can better ensure the passage of ships, loaded with grain, from the Ukrainian Port of Odesa to Romania, and from there to the EU countries. It is also important that the U.S. counter Russia in information warfare. According to U.S. journalists, special attention should be given to journalists from Bulgaria and other neighboring countries. Through U.S. grants, journalists from these countries will be able to run media literacy programs, will study the impact that the Russian disinformation campaign has on the peoples in the region, and will introduce countermeasures. Apparently, the U.S. will also wage information warfare against Russia in this region, while the activities of the U.S.-guided journalists will be only a visible part of the information warfare. According to U.S. experts, in order not to fail in this new strategy, the U.S. needs to extend its influence in Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia and Austria. Why exactly in these counties? This is because Serbia is a friendly country to Russia, while Austria, Slovakia and Hungary have never considered that the rise in tensions with Russia would be in their interests. However, through the exercise of soft power, the U.S. can change sentiments in these countries, which will enable the break of the Russian hold in Europe and a more effective consolidation of Western countries against Russia.

As regards the increased activities of the U.S. in the Black Sea basin, the reason for this is that the Black Sea is of paramount importance to Russia in terms of communications. Except for the Black Sea, all the basins, through which Russia has access to the sea, freeze in the winter and become almost impossible to navigate. Therefore, as far as navigation, export and import of goods are concerned, the Black Sea is indispensable to Russia. It is a short seaway, giving Russia access to the Mediterranean, from there to the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans, while the Don and the Kuban rivers, flowing into the Black Sea, ensure navigation to the depth of Russia.

According to U.S experts, the U.S. needs to take these steps just to counter Russian aggression and to get the opportunity of equal navigation in the Black Sea, but if the U.S. actually manages to strengthen its hold in the Black Sea, it can use this against Russia during a global conflict, cutting off Russia’s sea transport routes and blocking its Black Sea fleet. This can be viewed from the perspective of the U.S. Anaconda Plan. It is for the success of this plan that the current U.S. authorities are doing their best so that Congress will not block the sale of F16 fighter jets to Turkey, as well as will approve of additional military aid to Ukraine. The F16 fighter jets deal will strengthen NATO’s southern flank; as for the additional aid to Ukraine, the U.S. clearly understands that regardless of the aid volumes, it cannot help Ukraine return the territories taken by Russia, but it can prolong the conflict and drain Russia.

According to U.S. experts, Iran and China should be actively countered in the Black Sea as well. In fact, this is because these countries, being the geopolitical rivals of the U.S., have their own interests in the Black Sea. The roads bypassing the Trans-Caspian transport routes — which run from Iran and China through the Turkic countries — lead to the Black Sea. In the case of China, the Ukrainian conflict also contributed to this, as the shortest and the best routes to Europe through Russia were passing through Ukraine. Thus, seizing the opportunity, the U.S. is trying to strike the interests of its three main geopolitical rivals in the Black Sea. As regards Armenia, the increase in tensions in the Black Sea is not in our interests, as Armenia is highly dependent on the transit from Iran to Europe through the Black Sea, while a good part of goods are imported to Armenia through the Black Sea. On the other hand, such developments can be a good excuse for the current anti-Armenian authorities to open the border with Turkey and Azerbaijan — making unilateral concessions — justifying this act on the grounds that otherwise Armenia could be isolated from the world.

Ashot Barekyan