Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum 2023: Day 2

Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum 2023: Day 2

The panels of the second day of the Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum 2023 can be accessed at the following link.

Panel Xa. Migration and Border Security: New Challenges for Europe – in partnership with the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO), Croatia

This panel marked the start of the second day of the Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum, now in its seventh year. 

The discussion was moderated by Mr Krševan Antun DUJMOVIĆ, Senior Associate, Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO), Croatia, with speakers Ms Ylva JOHANSSON, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Sweden, Ms Ana REVENCO, Minister of Interior Affairs, Republic of Moldova, Mr Lucian BODE, Minister of Interior Affairs, Romania, and Mr Ivan DEMERDZHIEV, Deputy Prime Minister for Public Order and Security and Minister of Interior Affairs, Bulgaria. 

Today’s opening panel focused on the issue of migration, addressing in particular the new challenges Europe will face in this area. In a pre-recorded video message, Ms Ylva JOHANSSON underlined that the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine was a major challenge for Europe. In this respect, managing the migration wave is a priority for the EU. The speakers stressed the need for the European Union to constantly adapt to the current migration dynamics and to work together with other organisations and institutions, both national and international, responsible for this field. It is essential that EU structures are responsive and proactive in anticipating possible future waves of migration. Greater priority should be given to securing the external borders of the European Union, rather than focusing on the internal borders between Schengen and non-Schengen countries. A relevant example of this would be the organisation of specific operations to combat organisations involved in migrant smuggling.

Panel Xb. New and Old Challenges in the Eastern Mediterranean Area  – in cooperation with the Abba Eban Institute, Israel

The chair of this panel was Ms. Antonia COLIBĂȘANU, Senior Associate Expert, New Strategy Center & Chief Operating Officer & Senior Geopolitical Analyst, Geopolitical Futures, Romania. The panel was joined by Mr. Yossi MANN, Head of Israel and the Arab Gulf Program, Abba Eban Institute. Israel, Mr. Mitat ÇELİKPALA, Kadir Has University, Department of International Relations, Turkiye, Mr. Symeon TSOMOKOS, Founder and President of Delphi Economic Forum, Greece and Mr. Andreas THEOPHANOUS, President of the Cyprus Center for European and International Affairs, Head of the Department of Politics and Governance, University of Nicosia, Cyprus.

The panelists mentioned the issues that mark each of their countries. Israel is dealing with climate change in the area, which causes droughts that can lead to political instability, while also dealing with Islamic extremism. Turkey is trying to maintain its balancer position in the Black Sea (between Russia and Ukraine) and in the Middle East. It looks to increase their role as a hub between MENA energy resources and the European market. Greece wants to focus on the European integration of Balkan countries and reconciliation with Turkey, using the existing negotiation platforms. 

Cyprus is dealing with separatism and with religious tensions within their country, doubled by consistent tensions with Turkey. Energy collaboration and diplomacy could be a decisive factor in creating regional stability. A regional stock exchange could increase collaboration even more. Still, while there is collaboration on the gas market, the oil market is less flexible. A delimitation of economic exclusive zones can play a role towards regional de-escalation. 

Panel Xc. Impact of  Russia’s war in Ukraine on the Post-Soviet Space. – in partnership with the Caucasus Institute, Armenia

The panel was moderated by Mr. Dan Dungaciu, Member of the Scientific Council of New Strategy Center, and hosted Mr. Alexander Iskandaryan, Director of the Caucasus Institute, Arseny Sivitsky, CEO and Founder of Sarmat AnalytiX, and Igor Munteanu, former Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova to the US, member of the Scientific Council of New Strategy Center, as speakers.

The panel began by progressively exploring the impact of Russia’s redefined posture in the wake of the war in Ukraine on the Southern Caucasus, post-Soviet Europe and Central Asia. The panelists recognized the need for regional formats to counter Russian ambition in the post-Soviet region, while also signaling the need for connections with countries outside the post-Soviet space, such as Romania.

Countries in the post-Soviet space are adapting to the new geopolitical shifts triggered by the war. Some speakers argued that, in their geopolitical identity, many post-Soviet countries still see themselves as part of Russia’s sphere of influence, with Belarus as an example. Ultimately, the panelists debated whether a Russian defeat in the war in Ukraine would affect its capacity to maintain a sphere of influence in the rest of the post-Soviet states or not.

Panel XIa. Strategic Thinking in Times of Crisis. Managing Threats and Seizing Opportunities

The moderator of the panel was Mr Ionel NITU, President of the New Strategy Center, Romania. The debate was attended by Mr. Sebastian BURDUJA, Minister of Research, Innovation and Digitization of Romania, Mr. Sabin SĂRMAȘ, Chairman of the Committee for Information and Communication Technology of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, and Mr. Ionuț STANIMIR, Marketing and Communication Director at Banca Comercială Română (BCR) of Romania.

The panel discussions focused on the role of emerging technologies in crisis management. In Romania. There is a growing trend of the private sector’s role in digital innovation, which is why closer collaboration between the public and private sectors is becoming absolutely necessary. A particularly significant area where Romania has made progress is cyber security, which is a key component in the fight against hybrid warfare. The importance of artificial intelligence has also been highlighted, which, thanks to the use of large amounts of data, can shed light on often overlooked information. In conclusion, emerging technologies and technological innovation will play an indispensable role in future crisis management.

Panel XIb. NATO Defence Policy and Host Nation Strategic Infrastructure. Smart Investments in Security

The chair of this panel was BG Eduard SIMION (Ret.), Senior Associate Expert, New Strategy Center, Romania, Lieutenant General Iulian BERDILĂ, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff for Operations and Training, Romania, Mr. Phillip PETERSEN, Chairman, Center for the Study of New Generation, Mr. Bogdan MĂRGINEAN, Special Projects Director, Concelex, Romania, Mr. Bogdan LĂZĂROAE, Complex Program Manager, Defense & Security, Ernst & Young, Romania.

Considering the current crisis happening near Romania’s borders, the country is now a frontline state for NATO and an important strategic point in the Black Sea neighborhood. Romania’s good collaboration with its Black Sea partners (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) will prove useful in this context. The current tensions in Romania’s neighborhood represents an opportunity for the country to increase its defense capabilities, creating economic growth simultaneously. Development of defense infrastructure is necessary, but not sufficient to build resilience. Hardware is also not enough if Russia cannot be countered within the Information warfare sphere. Russia can win the war if they prolong the battlefield until European countries are affected by internal forces, fueled by propaganda. 

Lastly, in general terms, there needs to be an increasing collaboration between the military industrial complex and the ministry of national defense in each NATO state. Without private companies, national armies lose the development pace. 

Panel XIc. Future Russian Cooperation with China and Iran. Strategic Association or Opportunistic Collaboration? – in partnership with the Council on Geostrategy, UK

Panel XIc was chaired by Ms. Viktorija STARYCH-SAMUOLIENĖ, Co-Founder and Director of Strategy, Council on Geostrategy, and had the following speakers:  Ms. Tomiko ICHIKAWA, Director General, The Japan Institute of International Affairs,  Mr. Justin BASSI, Executive Director, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPl) and Ambassador Doru COSTEA, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, former ambassador of Romania to Beijing. The panel was organized in partnership with the Council on Geostrategy, UK.

The panel explored, through the collective sense of the “global West” the dynamic relation between China and Russia. China is only strengthening in relation to Russia, and is the only one capable of challenging the US. Ultimately, the China-Russia relation, although apparently friendly, is focused on transactional gains. 

China, Russia and Iran should be regarded as a triangle, united by anti-Western sentiment. Nonetheless, their historical record with the West is rather different. All these three countries opened up to the West in order to modernize, but out of all, it was China who benefited the most. In this context, China’s desire, as well as its capacity to change the World Order and replace the US should be very carefully looked at.

Presentation of the New Strategy Center study: A Possible Ominous Partnership: The China-Russia’s ‘Friendship Without Limits’

Panel XIc was followed by the Presentation of a new study released by New Strategy Center : A Possible Ominous Partnership: The China-Russia’s ‘Friendship Without Limits’, authored by Ambassador Doru COSTEA, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center and former ambassador of Romania to Beijing.

He explained how the very idea of having a ‘friendship without limits’ is somehow strange, especially at this level, while also considering that China and Russia were at war in the past century and have several conflicting interests. In such a context, the author advises us to “think Chinese in order to understand China, and think Russian in order to understand Russia”.

Panel XIIa. How to Avoid War Fatigue in the Western World? Coping with Economic Crisis and Social Problems while Resisting Kremlin’s aggressive autocracy

Ambassador Doru COSTEA, Member of the Scientific Council of New Strategy Center was the chair of this session. He was joined by Ambassador Mrs. Luminița ODOBESCU, Presidential Advisor, Department of European Affairs, Romania, Mr. François HEISBOURG, Special Advisor, Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, France, Ambassador Sergiu CELAC, Honorary Chairman, New Strategy Center, former minister of Foreign Affairs, Romania and Mr. Matthew BOYSE, Adjunct Fellow, Hudson Institute, former Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for Central Europe at the State Department, USA.

There were speculations regarding the inevitability of war fatigue in this period of time. Thus far, limited erosion of Europe’s support for Ukraine has been registered. War fatigue was especially registered in Eastern Europe, manifested, according to one of the panelists, through the farmers’ protests.

If Ukraine and Europe continue to be successful in the current war context, war fatigue will be avoided. US war fatigue would by far be the most detrimental. If the US, who is leading the Ukrainian aid effort, changes its mind, minds will also change in Europe, which is why it is very important to have an American head of state that supports Ukraine’s war effort. Lastly, Ukraine’s allies have to realise the major difference between what is right and what is easy when it comes to helping Ukraine. 

Panel XIIb. France’s Black Sea Strategy. Policy shift or long-term commitment?

The panel was moderated by His Excellency Ambassador Gheorghe MAGHERU, Member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, Romania. The speakers were Ms Alice RUFO, Director General for International Relations and Strategy, Ministry of Armed Forces, France, Mr Emmanuel DUPUY, President of the Institute for European Perspective and Security, France, Mr Luca NICULESCU, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Romania and Mr Quentin JALABERT, Non-Resident Associate Expert, New Strategy Center, France.

The debate was opened by a pre-recorded video message from Ms Alice Rufo, in which she reaffirmed France’s solidarity and commitment to respect for international law. At the same time, France will continue to adapt its efforts and strategies in line with current security needs, with the aim of promoting stability in the Black Sea region. Speakers noted that France’s presence in the region is already significant, thanks to its armed forces deployed in the area. Romania hopes that France will maintain its long-term involvement in the Black Sea area, as it is also in France’s interest that collective security is effectively ensured.

Panel XIIIa. Transatlantic Cooperation and the Challenges Posed by Russia`s War in Ukraine. Stronger Together!

The panel “Transatlantic Cooperation and the Challenges Posed by Russia`s War in Ukraine. Stronger Together!”, featured Mara E. KARLIN, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Planning and Capabilities, USA, Simona COJOCARU, Secretary of State, Ministry of National Defence, Romania, and Jonatan VSEVIOV, Secretary General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Estonia. The moderator of the debate was Eduard SIMION, Brigadier General (ret.), Senior Associate Expert, New Strategy Center, Romania.

Through a pre-recorded video message, Mara E. Karlin highlighted the critical and strategic importance of the Black Sea area in terms of transatlantic security. The importance of Romania as a NATO member in ensuring stability and security on the Eastern flank of the North Atlantic Alliance was also highlighted. The Russian Federation’s aggression has a significant impact on the global security order, as the conflict includes both direct military action and non-kinetic tactics. At the same time, transatlantic cooperation in the Black Sea area is constantly being put to the test, which is why the capacity for dialogue between Member States needs to be strengthened. Last but not least, there is a need to develop effective mechanisms whereby international actors who resort to military aggression and undermine international stability are subject to appropriate sanctions.

Panel XIIIb. Prospects for Turkiye’s Foreign and Security Policy in the Current Security Context – in partnership with The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), Turkiye

The moderator of this panel is Mr. Dan PREDA, Director, Radio Romania News, Romania. Mr. Yücel ACER, Senior researcher, SETA, Turkiye, Mr. Murat ASLAN, Researcher, SETA, Turkiye and Mrs. Valeria GIANNOTTA, Director, Turkiye Observatory, Centro Italiano di Studi di Politica Internazional (CeSPI), Italy were the speakers of this panel.

Turkiye has been criticized in many ways since Russia’s aggression against Ukraine began, for the fact that it does not apply sanctions to Russia and continues to trade with them. Still, Turkiye is not pro-Russian, since it  helped Georgia militarily after Russia’s aggression and does not accept Crimea’s annexation. Currently, Turkiye is a main geopolitical actor, since it is a necessary communication channel between Russia and Ukraine, and Russia and the Western world generally.

Results of the upcoming Turkish elections will not affect the country’s foreign policy radically.  Although Kemal Kilicdaroglu has a much more Western-oriented, moderated approach, there are some taboo points in the EU-Turkey relationship which are hard to overcome, regardless of political leadership. Turkiye’s current interest is focused on maintaining the status quo in its neighborhood, sailing through geopolitical shades of grey to advance a neoliberal agenda.

Panel XIVa. Challenges to Western Military Capabilities in the Light of the Russia`s  Ukraine War – in partnership with the Centre for the Study of the New Generation Warfare, USA

The panel entitled “Challenges to Western Military Capabilities in the Light of Russia`s Ukraine War” was moderated by Mr Greg MELCHER, Director of Operations, Center for the Study of New Generation Warfare, USA. The panellists were General (ret.) Sir James EVERARD, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR), United Kingdom, Lieutenant General Iulian BERDILĂ, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff for Operations and Training, Romania, Major General (r.) Hans DAMEN, Member of the International Advisory Board, New Strategy Center, former Head of Taskforce Logistics/J4, Ministry of Defence, The Netherlands, and Mr Justin CRUMP, CEO, Sybilline Ltd, United Kingdom.

The purpose of this panel was to examine the challenges associated with the military capabilities of Western states in the context of the War in Ukraine. Assessing the military operations in Ukraine, many relevant insights can be drawn. The current conflicts, even if they are regional, have global implications. The war in Ukraine has underlined the importance of the masses on the ground, which cannot be entirely replaced by technology. A significant aspect of this is the moral component, but there is a trend towards a diminishing importance of national defence among the population in Western countries. In the future, there is a need to train and develop human resources with adequate skills for the effective conduct of military operations. Another relevant aspect is the information field, where the West has lost ground to the Russian Federation. We must also pay particular attention to the urban dimension of warfare.

Panel XIVb. Russia`s War in Ukraine and Its Impact on the Naval Domain

The chair of this panel was Captain (Navy) (Ret.) John SANDOZ, former Assistant to the Director of Naval Intelligence, USA. He was joined by Rear Admiral Krzysztof JAWORSKI, Commander, Maritime Component Command, Polish Navy, Poland, Rear Admiral Rob PEDRE, Commander UK Strike Force, Royal Navy, UK and Rear Admiral Liviu COMAN, Deputy Chief for Operations & Training, Romanian Navy, Romania.

The Black Sea has grown in significance, not only due to the Ukraine war, but also due to issues such as the disruption of European supply chains and the food supply of African countries. Unmanned systems emerged during the Russia-Ukraine war as an essential weapon in naval warfare as well and their ubiquity will only grow. Their usefulness has been showcased in Ukraine’s attacks on Sevastopol.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet has failed to be efficient in the war in Ukraine because of a lack of coordination with other forces. The usage of mines, even old ones, by Russia affects not only military capabilities but also the safety of commerce and of port usage, a trend that has been noticed in the Black Sea. Blockade tactics have been applied with brutal effect in this war, as Russia waged resource warfare against Ukraine, with global effects.

Lastly, Russia’s war in Ukraine has put the Romanian navy in a difficult situation, as it attempts to maintain safe navigation and an effective usage of ports, currently overcrowded. 

Panel XVa. European Strategic Autonomy in the Next Decade. Reality or Utopia? – in partnership with Elcano Royal Institute, Spain

The moderator of the panel was His Excellency Ambassador Gheorghe MAGHERU, Member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, Romania. As speakers participated: H.E. Ambassador Wolfgang ISCHINGER, Chairman of the Board of the Munich Security Conference Foundation, Germany, François HEISBOURG, Special Advisor, Foundation for Strategic Research, France, Mr Charles POWELL, Director of the Elcano Royal Institute, Spain, and Bart KOT, Programme Director, Warsaw Security Forum, Poland. 

During the debate, participants reached a consensus on the need to develop a strategic autonomy for the European Union. The conflict in Ukraine has clearly highlighted the EU’s high degree of military dependence on its main partner, the United States. Given the international context, in a long-term approach, the European Union needs to develop its own response capabilities in order to maintain a relevant role in international relations. Speakers stressed that the achievement of strategic autonomy of the European Union is currently hampered by the individual actions of EU Member States in the various dimensions of the military field. There is a discrepancy between commitments expressed in declarations and actual action taken in reality. Therefore, a common vision and closer cooperation in the military field between the Member States of the European Union is absolutely crucial.

Panel XVb. War and Disinformation. The Struggle for Truth After a Year of War – in partnership with the ”Mihai Viteazul” National Intelligence Academy, Romania

This panel was chaired by Mrs. Cristina IVAN, Director of the National Institute for Intelligence Studies, “Mihai Viteazul” National Intelligence Academy, Romania, Mr. Joe CANNATACI, Head of the Department of Information Policy & Governance, Faculty of Media & Knowledge Sciences, University of Malta, Malta, Mr. Eldad BECK, Correspondent for EU area, Israel Hayom Newspaper, Israel, Mr. Nick THORPE, Central Europe Correspondent, BBC News, UK and Brigadier General Constantin SPÎNU, Chief of the Public Relations Department, Ministry of National Defence, Romania.

Disinformation is one of the weapons in Russia’s arsenal that are the hardest to detect and to counter properly. The thin line between news and opinion has been dissipating more and more in the last few years and in the journalistic field, especially during wartime. The struggle for truth implies acknowledging and addressing misinformation and disinformation coming from any part. This is how transparency and credibility are built, as they are the best assets of institutions fighting Russian disinformation. Conversely, it was argued within the panel that there is a threshold for allowing space to disinformation narratives. 

Social media can be used not only for disinformation, but also for revealing the truth. An example of this is the crowdsourcing of digital evidence of war crimes in Ukraine. A disinformation narrative that was mentioned is that according to which Ukraine should give up land to Russia for peace. It is widely used especially in Eastern Europe and it is offensive towards Ukrainians and their struggle.

Panel XVc. Security and Enlargement. EU Policy Towards the Western Balkans and the Black Sea Region as related to the Current Security Crisis – in partnership with the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, Romania

Panel XVc was chaired by Mr. Cristian DAVID, President, Institute for Liberty and Democracy, who was joined by the following speakers: Mr. Leonard ORBAN, Member of the Scientific Council of New Strategy Center, former Presidential Advisor on European Affairs, Mr. Iulian GROZA, Executive Director, Institute for European Policies and Reforms, and Mr. Igor BANDOVIĆ, Director, Belgrade Centre for Security Policy.

Starting from the idea that the European integration of Western Balkans must remain a strategic responsibility of the EU, the speakers explored the main challenges faced by the Union so far, especially in the case of Serbia. At the same time, as the Black Sea remains the focal point of Russian strategic thinking and military actions, the value of the Black Sea Region for the EU cannot be overstated. However, a fast-track integration of some countries is questionable. In the case of Ukraine, the territorial issue must be clarified before the conclusion of the negotiation process happens. It is unlikely that the EU would accept another Cyprus-like case. In the end, the discussion focused on the challenges faced by the Republic of Moldova in its European integration process.

Panel XVI. One Front, One Vision, One Strategy. NATO’s Deterrence and Defence Policy Against Russian Aggression on the Eastern Flank

The next panel was chaired by Major General (ret.) Leonardo DINU, Member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, Romania, with guests General Daniel PETRESCU, Chief of Defence Staff, Romania, Lieutenant General Stephen KELSEY, Deputy Commander NATO Joint Force Command (JFC) Naples, Lieutenant General Karel ŘEHKA, Chief of General Staff, Czech Republic, and General Giorgi MATIASHVILI, Chief of General Staff, Georgia. 

The war in Ukraine is having a significant impact, affecting not only the military sphere, but also the diplomatic, information, energy, humanitarian, etc. Following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, important decisions have been taken within NATO to defend and deter aggressors and action plans have been drawn up. The Black Sea and Balkan region has become a point of instability, not least because of the possibility of the war in Ukraine turning into a frozen conflict. In this situation, NATO’s approach to defence and deterrence policy must not only be a strategic issue, but primarily a political one, requiring solidarity and cooperation from all strategic partners. The current rhetoric of the Russian Federation tells us that the Russian state will continue to be a threat to Europe’s security. It is therefore imperative that we focus on gaining advantages over the Russian Federation, and key factors in this are the unity and interoperability capacity of NATO member states. At the same time, it is necessary to provide Ukraine with a coherent plan for its position in the future construction of the European security system.

Panel XVII. Democracy vs. Autocracy. Russia`s War in Ukraine and the Answer of the Democratic World

The panel was moderated by Mr Marilen PIRTEA, Rector of the West University of Timisoara, Romania, with His Excellency Mr Bogdan AURESCU, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Romania, as speaker.

In his speech, His Excellency Bogdan Aurescu highlighted the importance of understanding strategic developments at both national and global level. The Romanian Foreign Minister reiterated Romania’s commitment to support Ukraine in its efforts to confront the aggression initiated by the Russian Federation and called for close cooperation from the entire democratic community in this regard. It is indisputable that the spread of autocracy generates instability at global level. For this reason, the continued strengthening of democracy worldwide is of critical importance. It is necessary to act pragmatically and develop cautious relations with all states interested in strengthening democratic principles in order to maintain the global order based on respect for international law.

The end of the seventh edition of the “Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum” was marked by a speech by Mr George Scutaru, CEO of the New Strategy Center, and Mr Sorin CÎMPEANU, Rector of the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in Bucharest.