The sixth edition of the Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum Conference was opened by Ionel Nițu, President of the New Strategy Center and Răzvan Teodorescu, Acting Rector of the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine.
Panel I. The War in Ukraine and the Security Challenges in the Black Sea Region and the Balkans
The conference started with a panel dedicated to the war in Ukraine and the security challenges in the Black Sea region. Ambassador Sorin Ducaru, Honorary Chairman of the Scientific Council of New Strategy Center and Director of the EU Satellite Center, moderated the discussion and was joined by Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă. Both the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have highlighted the Euro-Atlantic resilience. This war has led to a rethinking of the Euro-Atlantic alliance’s approach. The current crises affect all governments, but also policy-making capacity and public resilience. In many ways, the current war in our region may be described as a war of values.
Both the Black Sea area and the Balkans are of great strategic interest, which is why strong support is needed for these states to be integrated into Euro-Atlantic configurations and ensure regional stability. The crisis in Ukraine could thus provide an opportunity to strengthen the Euro-Atlantic area.
The strategic context has led both to a break with energy dependence on Russia and an economic reorientation of Europe. In this respect, Romania is working to exploit gas from the Black Sea, seeking to ensure the country’s energy independence and to have the possibility of exporting resources to the region as well.
Panel IIa. Education and the Challenges of War and Pandemic. Resilience through Education in the Era of Hybrid Threats
Panel “Education and the Challenges of War and Pandemic. Resilience through Education in the Era of Hybrid Threats” addressed the topic of education in relation to resilience to hybrid war.
The term hybrid warfare is a term that has been used a lot lately, but is very difficult to define. Disinformation campaigns are carried out through new platforms, which have a particular appeal to young people. A resilient society is needed to counter disinformation and propaganda campaigns. As the speakers stressed, education is becoming a key element in ensuring a resilient state, ready to face hybrid challenges.
The moderator of the panel was Alina Bârgăoanu, Associate Expert at the New Strategy Center and Dean of the Faculty of Communications and Public Relations at SNSPA. Speakers on this panel were Ligia Deca, Presidential Advisor on Education, Sorin Cîmpeanu, Minister of Education, Ovidiu Raețchi, President of the Euro-Atlantic Resilience Centre and Cristina Ivan, Director, National Institute for the Study of Intelligence, “Mihai Viteazul” National Academy of Intelligence.
Panel IIb. From the Prague NATO Summit to the Madrid NATO Summit. NATO after 20 Years – New Challenges and New Opportunities
The second panel hosted by the Black Sea panel featured a discussion was also organized that took into account this year’s NATO summit in Madrid and the changes it brings. Moderated by Leonard Orban, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, the debate had as speakers Bogdan Aurescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, Andrei Benedejčič, Secretary of State for National and International Security, Slovenia, Charles Powell, Director of the Elcano Royal Institue, Spain and Bruno Tertrais, Deputy Director, Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique, France.
Entitled “From the Prague NATO Summit to the Madrid NATO Summit. NATO after 20 Years – New Challenges and New Opportunities”, the panel considered the fundamental changes that took place between the two summits. If during the NATO summit in Prague in 2002 the main concern was transnational terrorism, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, in this year’s framework, the unprovoked invasion of Russia was the main element. The events of the past 6 months have demonstrated Western disillusionment with Vladimir Putin’s policies since 2000. The Euro-Atlantic space tried to integrate Russia into the global security architecture, through its involvement in the fight against terrorism or through institutional initiatives such as the NATO-Russia Council. However, we are witnessing a profound paradigm shift, caused by Russia’s attempt to modify the global security system. However, the Kremlin’s attempt to divide the Euro-Atlantic world has had the opposite result: the European Union is more united than ever, and the Euro-Atlantic relationship has in turn been strongly reinvigorated.
Panel IIIa. Why the Wider Black Sea Region Matters in the Energy Sector? Challenges and Opportunities for Cooperative Action
The next panel, entitled “Why the Wider Black Sea Region Matters in the Energy Sector?” Challenges and Opportunities for Cooperative Action”, had as speakers: Mr. Virgil Popescu, Minister of Energy, Mr. Teodor Chirica, President of the Board of Directors, Nuclearelectrica, Vice President, Regulatory & Corporate Public Affairs, OMV Petrom, Mr. Răzvan Popescu, interim director, ROMGAZ and Mr. Eric Stab, President and CEO, ENGIE.
Romania makes continuous efforts to ensure the country’s energy independence and to develop the energy field. Efforts are also being made to exploit the Black Sea gas. The panelists emphasized the importance of reducing dependence on Russian energy sources and the need for a green transition. All these steps can only be carried out through a European solidarity effort. Thanks to the gas resources of the Black Sea, Romania has the capacity to be an important supplier of energy at the regional level. At the same time, Romania is making efforts to increase the country’s nuclear capabilities, by restoring unit 1 of the Cernavodă plant, with units 3 and 4 to be operational from 2030 and 2031, respectively.
Panel IIIb. “New Generation Warfare, New Technologies. Unmanned Systems in the Black Sea Region – Deterrence & Defence Perspective”
The panel was moderated by Mr. Greg Melcher, Chief Operations Officer, Center for the Study of New Generation Warfare, USA and benefited from the presence LTG Viorel Pană, Chief of the Romanian Air Force, RADM Mihai Panait, Chief of the Romanian Naval Forces, RADM (LH) Iuri Covaleov, Deputy Chief of Military Intelligence for ISR, Ministry of Defense, Craig Borchelt, Senior Manager – Business Development, Autonomous Systems of Boeing and Capt. (N) (Ret.) Oren Guter, Naval Programs – BD and Marketing Director of IAI, Israel. The panel aimed to present various general aspects in the use of unmanned vehicles (UAVs) and their future uses, while focusing on the more specific perspective of the Black Sea space.
Speakers identified spotting, targeting, ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) and combat damage assessment as the most suitable missions for UAVs, due to their main strengths: UAVs are cheap, accurate and difficult to counter. For example, although air and missile defense systems are capable of defending against unmanned vehicles, the cost of maintaining the defense systems exceeds that of deploying drones by a significant margin. Different conclusions about the value of these new technologies have been drawn from exploring how unmanned systems are being used in the conflict in Ukraine, and especially by comparing how the two sides operate. The speakers also described the important steps taken by Romania in the endowment process and presented specific examples of state-of-the-art technology produced by key industrial partners.
Panel IIIc. The Impact of the War in Ukraine on the Western Balkans
“The Impact of the War in Ukraine on the Western Balkans” was moderated by Ambassador (ret.) Doru Costea, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center. The panel brought together experts with extensive experience in the region, such as Sir Stuart Peach, the British Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to the Western Balkans, Amb. Victor Jackovich, the first ambassador of the United States to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Prof. Murat Aslan, from the Directorate of Security Studies of Sabahattin Zaim University in Istanbul, Mr. Srecko Latal, the regional editor of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, and Mr. Vuk Vuksanovic, a senior researcher at Belgrade Center for Security Policies (BCSP).
During the discussion, the guests highlighted the fragile security context in the region. According to the speakers, the solution is a complete integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures, which until now has stagnated in the Western Balkans. Otherwise, the situation may degenerate from a political issue to a security issue. At the same time, the Euro-Atlantic ambitions of the countries in the region are threatened by both external and internal factors. Actors like Russia have a destabilizing potential over the region. Internally, problems such as the instability of the political system or organized crime networks prevent the region from following its European path. As for the war in Ukraine, it deepened the Russian-Serbian partnership. Russia continues to project its influence among a part of the population in Serbia, using soft power methods.
Panel IV. The War in Ukraine. Lessons Learned for NATO Comprehensive Deterrence and Defence Posture in the Black Sea Region and the Balkans
The fourth panel was chaired by Major General (Ret.) Leonardo Dinu, member of the Scientific Council of New Strategy Center; former Deputy Chief of the Romanian Military Intelligence Directorate, and enjoyed the presence of the following speakers: General Daniel Petrescu, Chief of Defence, Romania, Lieutenant General Tsanko STOYKOV, Deputy Chief of Defence, Bulgaria, Major General Giorgi MATIASHVILI, Chief of Defence, Georgia and Lieutenant General (Ret.) Ben HODGES, former commander United States Army Europe, USA.
From the Romanian perspective, the conclusions drawn after months of conflict to our East can be found on many levels: strategically, it is important to recognize the primacy of politics in the prelude to war and the brutality of war. Operationally, it becomes necessary to perform a switch from civilian activities to forward defense, and tactically, the importance of mission command and leadership becomes obvious. From the Georgian perspective, a pattern of aggressive Russian behavior can be observed, dating from 1991 onwards, culminating in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict. From the American perspective, in an example of failed deterrence, the West played a part in Russia’s miscalculations, that resulted in underestimating the Ukrainian military, the Ukrainian ability to obtain international support, the necessary human cost and Western unity. In the context of the war, NATO needs to maintain its readiness by performing military exercises.
Panel Va. Security and Technology. Regional Opportunities on Semiconductor Supply Chains
This panel addressed the issue of semiconductors and related logistics chains. The panel was moderated by Ionel Nițu, the President of the New Strategy Center, the Minister of Research, Innovation and Digitization, Mr. Sebastian Burduja, the CEO of BCR, Sergiu Manea and Cristian Bologa, university professor in the Informatics department of the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest.
Semiconductors are the new oil of the 1990s, with US President Roland Reagan talking about the need to counter conventional weapons power through technology as early as the 1980s. In recent years, China has spent more on semiconductor imports than on oil. The American share of semiconductor production has fallen from 37% to 15%, and Europe produces about 10% of semiconductors, Japan 6%, the global leader being Taiwan with a 60% market share. When it comes to advanced semiconductors, Taiwan’s share rises to 92%, with the only other country still producing such semiconductors being South Korea at 8%.
The speakers pointed to the chance that European countries have to re-enter the technological race by relocating production from Asia, the major impediment being the lack of labor. The recent American initiative, known as the Chips Act, which allocates over $50 billion for the development of the domestic semiconductor industry will require over 13,000 specialists, of which only approximately 10,000 will be able to be recruited, given the shortage of qualified human resources in the field. This problem is even more acute in Europe and especially in the East of the continent, being the main obstacle in the rapid relocation of the semiconductor manufacturing industry. Therefore, a recurring idea in the discussion was the need for qualified human resources through massive investments in educational institutions.
Panel Vb – Deterrence and Defence Policy of the Euro-Atlantic Area. From Frozen Conflicts to the War in Ukraine
Panel Vb was chaired by Mr. Bogdan Berneagă, Senior Associate Expert, New Strategy Center, Mr. István-Loránt Antal, Chairman of the Committee on Energy, Energy Infrastructure and Mineral Resources in the Senate, Romanian Parliament and Mr. Bogdan Păun, Manager of the Project Management Department, Hidroelectrica, Romania.
The panel explored the prospects of offshore exploitation in the Black Sea, and clarified the legislative efforts made in order to facilitate this exploitation, which is important for the entire region, not only for Romania. The speakers have explored the elaborate parliamentary process regarding several laws that reach various aspects of offshore exploitation in Romania’s exclusive economic zone. Offshore wind is another opportunity for development of the Romanian energetic industry, as part of Romania’s reindustrialization process, but it also requires a serious legislative effort. The panel proceeded by outlining the plans for future investments in Romanian energy, particularly in hydro energy, that includes on-shore wind farms, off-shore wind farms, floating & on-land photovoltaic farms, and green hydrogen. The total investment amount reaches 6.25 billion euros.
Panel VI. Deterrence and Defence Policy of the Euro-Atlantic Area. From Frozen Conflicts to the War in Ukraine
The panel was moderated by Ambassador Cristian Diaconescu, Member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center. The speakers were: Mr. Vasile Dîncu, Minister of National Defense of Romania, his Ukrainian counterpart, Mr. Oleksiy Reznikov via video message, and Mr. Oleksandr Polishchuk, Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine.
The policy of deterrence can cause strategic mistakes, and the concept of deterrence should be replaced by the word ”victory”. Deterrence has been used in the past, which led to Russia’s invasion of Georgia, this mistake was then repeated in Crimea, and now we see it happening with the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine’s victory theory assumes the recovery of Crimea. Victory is a realistic scenario for Ukraine, as it proved that Russia can be defeated.
Ukraine needs Europe to take more clear measures against the aggressor, so that then normality can be reached in Ukraine and then, a European-oriented development can be pursued. Regarding the Balkans, the possible attempts that Russia will have to manipulate the Balkan democracies are mentioned, especially in the case of Bulgaria and Montenegro, for which elections are coming up.
The Black Sea, as an area of security interest, was a difficult subject to impose within international relations, the United States being decisive in imposing this topic, in Romania’s interest, within NATO.