The New Strategy Center presented on Wednesday, November 15, the study “The Battle for the Black Sea! The Importance of Freedom of Navigation and Energy Stakes”, conducted together with the American think-tank Yorktown Institute. The event took place at the Army&Navy Club in Washington DC and brought together over 70 experts, analysts, academics, US foreign and security policy institutions and members of the diplomatic corps. Speakers at the event, dedicated to the strategic importance of the Black Sea region, were the Ambassador of Romania to the US, HE Andrei Muraru, George Scutaru, CEO of the New Strategy Center, Laurențiu Pachiu, Vice President of Energy Policy Group, Rear Admiral Liviu Coman, Commander of the Maritime Component of the Naval Forces Staff. Speakers included Doug Feith, former Under Secretary of Defence for Policy, Rear Admiral (ret.) Sinclair Harris, former Commander US Naval Forces Southern Command and Admiral (ret.) James Foggo, former commander of United States Naval Forces Europe-Africa and commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples. The discussion was moderated by Seth Cropsey, Director of the Yorktown Institute.
The study provides the public with information on the multiple challenges to freedom of navigation in the Black Sea as a result of Russia’s disruptive actions. Moscow blocks perimeters under the legal pretext of naval exercises, but the duration and extensive area of the blocked perimeters means that this process affects freedom of navigation. In addition, Russia affects the GPS of ships by means of electronic warfare, uses aviation intensively in the Ukrainian coastal and contiguous zone, and places mines. Romania is Ukraine’s main grain export route, with 65% of Ukraine’s grain exports passing through Romania, with a record high of almost 3 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain in October. These are very important to ensure social stability in some countries in Africa and the Middle East, so the disruption of freedom of navigation in the Black Sea affects the global grain trade and has a negative impact beyond the Black Sea.
Another event to present the study took place the same evening at the residence of HE Andrei Muraru, Ambassador of Romania to the US, as a working dinner. On this occasion, the authors underlined that the study also highlights the region’s energy stakes, dominated until the war in Ukraine by Russian gas exports. Gazprom is used by Moscow as a factor of political influence and blackmail, which is why ensuring the region’s energy independence is a priority. Romania began exploiting gas reserves in the offshore Black Sea last year, with 1 billion cubic metres (bcm) available from the Ana platform in a field operated by US company Black Sea Oil&Gas. The most prolific is in the southern Black Sea Exclusive Economic Zone, Neptun Deep, owned by a consortium of OMV Petrom and ROMGAZ, with an estimated capacity of at least 100 bcm. Construction of the infrastructure will start in 2024, and in the first quarter of 2027 gas exploitation will start from this perimeter, which will bring Romania an additional 6-7 bcm annually. At that time, Romania will become the largest gas producer in the EU. Given Russia’s aggressive behaviour, the study estimates that during the period of construction of the critical energy infrastructure, 2024-2026, Russia will take harassing actions. This is why the US and NATO must take into account such possible new tensions in the Black Sea and support Romania with additional ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) capabilities and anti-ship missile systems, so as to deter an aggressive Russian naval policy and protect Romania’s economic interests in the Exclusive Economic Zone.
The study advocates and argues for the adoption of a dedicated US Black Sea strategy, which would provide the certainty of a long-term US presence in the area, in favour of the security interests of its allies in the region and NATO. The analysis explains the specifics of the Black Sea, such as the Montreux Convention limiting the presence of non-Black Sea naval forces, and highlights Romania’s important role and the fact that Romania is the most important ally on which the US can build its Black Sea strategy.
The study can be accessed HERE
NSC experts are visiting the US in Washington on 13-17 November for a series of meetings and events aimed at presenting the strategic importance of the Black Sea region in the context of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and the need for the US Congress to pass the Black Sea Security Act, a bill aimed at developing a long-term US Black Sea strategy in multiple areas.