Security issues in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea regions

MOSCOW, 29 Sep 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.

Until now, the Baltic states, Eastern Europe and the Black Sea region were considered three neighbouring, but generally different territories within the framework of the common global policy of the collective West. Moreover, their importance concerned only the issue of the confrontation between NATO and Russia, which in its significance did not stand out from the total number of numerous tasks to ensure the geopolitical dominance of the United States in the world. Including in the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Transcaucasia or Southeast Asia.

The collapse of the pro-American Afghan government even before the last American soldier “left the territory of the country” actually turns the Baltic states, Eastern Europe and the Black Sea into the last “front line” of Western “democracy” in the east. The prospect of preserving American geopolitical hegemony in Europe now begins to depend on the ability to keep it under its control.

Back in May 2020, the American Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) published the report “One Flank, One Threat, One Presence. Strategy for the Eastern Flank of NATO” by the authorship of the former commander of the US ground forces in Europe Ben Hodges and the former US military attache in Poland, retired Colonel Ray Wojcik. The current events in Afghanistan have significantly increased its relevance.

As follows from the document, the main strategic task of the United States “in the east” is the creation of a single NATO forward presence on the Eastern flank – the territories of the countries of Northern, Central, and Eastern Europe that are members of NATO or are partners of the organisation.

Along with the need to “traditionally” strengthen the “deterrence and defence potential” in the Baltic Sea region, the short and medium-term goal of NATO, the authors emphasise the necessity of strengthening the military presence in the so-called “wider Black Sea region”. The Western Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean and the South Caucasus (Transcaucasia) are considered as such, in which NATO either already has an “expanded forward presence” or is implementing a “specially developed forward presence” (TFP) program, meaning at least Georgia, as well as, in the future, Armenia.

Thus, a new geopolitical term is being put into circulation – the Baltic-Black Sea region, which should continue to be considered the Eastern Flank of NATO, combining the entire strategy of the North Atlantic Alliance in the “eastern direction”. Noting that at the moment, the United States does not have such a whole concept, but it should be created as quickly as possible.

The following reference points are considered as its key elements:

Firstly, the strategy should comprehensively cover all countries that are physically included in the “strip of territory”. This marks their separation from the Western European countries that are members of NATO. In the presented approach, “old Europe” becomes a rear area, and the US military efforts are supposed to be concentrated “on the front line” of the Eastern Flank, the political control centre of which is recommended to be created in Poland. This greatly changes the political role of the Visegrad Group and in general all the recent integration initiatives of Warsaw within the framework of the Intermarium project.

Secondly, since the Baltic Sea is considered sufficiently blocked for any active actions of Russia, the main attention of the concept is supposed to be paid to strengthening the ability of the United States and NATO to block the waters of the Black Sea in order to completely oust the Russian Federation from its neutral waters.

This point is justified by the fact that at the moment Russia almost completely dominates the Black Sea, and, based on this, is conducting an active geopolitical expansion into the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East.

According to the report, Russia has almost completed the formation of an operational corridor for the movement of its armed forces between the Caspian, Azov, Black and Adriatic Seas. And this threatens NATO member Turkey and hinders the integration of the Western Balkans into NATO.

Thirdly, the formation of the Eastern Flank in the proposed form will increase Turkey’s stability in NATO and make Ankara “more consistent in promoting common interests with the United States” in the region. Otherwise, the Turkish leadership’s desire to strengthen the role of its country as a regional leader (within the framework of the New Osman and Turan projects) in the medium term may dramatically aggravate the US-Turkish contradictions, up to Turkey’s withdrawal from NATO.

Moreover, Ankara currently has serious tensions with Athens and Paris over control of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. As well as major financial claims against Berlin and Rome “for curbing the flow of Syrian migrants to Europe”.

As was noted above, at the moment, the United States does not have a ready-made strategy for the “eastern direction”. However, the activation of American “analytical factories” (the Center for International Policy, the Center for a New American Security, the New America foundation, the RAND Corporation, the Atlantic Council, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution, the Heritage Foundation, the Stimson Centre) in the direction of “reassessing the new configuration of the international situation” indicates the beginning of serious work on this topic.

This is also confirmed by Biden’s proposal to send the son of the famous American political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski, Mark Brzezinski, as the US ambassador to Poland. In the Clinton administration, he was Director for Russia and Eurasia, then Director for the Balkan Peninsula at the US National Security Council.

Zbigniew Brzezinski was the author of the “Anaconda plan”, which assumed the isolation of the Soviet Union by forming a continuous zone of geopolitical instability along its borders. Including the stimulation of direct civil war in the countries adjacent to the USSR.

As can be seen now, some of the conditions of the “Anaconda plan” have been achieved in the current historical period. Russian influence in Central Asia is weakened, and the current events in Afghanistan will “close” the whole of Central Asia for a long time.

Thus, for contacts with the outside world, Russia has only the Northern Sea Route, the Black Sea, the Far East and the border with China. At the same time, the NSR, despite its length of 7,326 km, is a coastal line that is blocked at the exits in the Bering Strait and in the Murmansk region. That is, from the point of view of the United States and NATO, only a relatively small “section” of the Black Sea remains “uncovered”.

And it can be destabilised quite simply. No matter how paradoxical it may sound, but if you manage to “set fire” to the Western Balkans, the “southern” channel of Russian gas supplies to Western Europe is cut. Taking into account Washington’s plans to be able to “negotiate” with Berlin on the topic of mechanisms for blocking the Russian transit of hydrocarbons through the “northern streams”, there is a theoretical opportunity to complete the notorious “Anaconda” completely.

To do this, the United States has already obtained a public agreement from a number of Balkan countries to “temporarily host” refugees from Afghanistan. Officially – not everyone, but only those who have applied for asylum in the United States and are awaiting a decision by the American authorities. But even in this case, we are talking about the relocation of at least 10,000 to 35,000 Afghan citizens to refugee camps in the Balkans.

According to the Reuters news agency, the authorities of Albania and Kosovo have announced their consent to this. Washington expects a similar agreement from Bosnia and Northern Macedonia.

Thus, we should expect the formation of a significant mobilisation reserve in the Western Balkans for the activities of Islamist radical religious and ethnic criminal groups. As practice has shown, even in the case of openly illegal actions of “refugees”, it is technically impossible to expel them from the host countries. And they strongly do not want to integrate peacefully into local ethnic groups and European society themselves.

The development of this scenario will almost automatically lead to the destabilisation of public, social, and then political life, first in the mentioned countries, and then in the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the involvement of Montenegro and Croatia. It is impossible to exclude the spread of instability to Romania, whose authorities have already begun to persuade the United States to agree to “also accept refugees”. In the medium term, this could hit Bulgaria and Greece.

From the point of view of the United States, the practical implementation of such dynamics corresponds to America’s strategic goals, since it allows simultaneously blocking both the “near threat” in the face of Russia and the “far threat” in the form of the destruction of the “Greek-Balkan” section of the Chinese geo-economic Belt and Road project.

This will also create sufficient media grounds for strengthening the direct American military presence “on the eastern flank”, the testing of which the United States has been carrying out since 2017 as part of the Defender Europe series of exercises. It should be noted that for the first time in their history, in 2021, they were held on the southern flank of NATO – in the Balkans.

One of the practical results of this was the Pentagon’s revision of plans for the deployment of American nuclear weapons in Europe. In the perspective of 2022-2024, the US Strategic Aviation Command plans to deploy new high-precision guided nuclear bombs B61-12 in Europe.

Their carriers are considered fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II fighters of the US Air Force, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, as well as F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter-bombers planned for purchase by Germany. It is important to note that this program already includes training courses for the use of nuclear weapons by pilots of Eastern European countries, in particular the Polish Air Force.

All of the above is all the more dangerous because it brings the “Baltic-Black Sea” region to the level of “the very last line of defence of Western Civilisation” at which “it is no longer possible to show softness and indecision”.

At the same time, over the past decade and a half, American foreign policy has lost its long-term strategic character. All the “big projects” implemented by the United States have the character of a momentary hysterical jerk. Therefore, if the initial goal is not achieved immediately, in the future the projects demonstrate a steady tendency to collapse into an unsolvable problem for the United States itself, undermining America’s geopolitical hegemony.

For the American establishment, the situation psychologically seems like this: if America fails to hold the “eastern flank”, the United States will “lose” not only Eastern Europe or the Balkans, Washington will actually lose control of the European Union and will be thrown “across the Atlantic”, which will turn the United States from a global hegemon into an ordinary “regional power” littered with severe economic problems, not unlike Brazil or Argentina.

In the view of the ruling elite of America, this means the complete collapse of not only the modern American state, but also the entire concept of “God-chosen America” as such. Moreover, such a result will definitely destroy the dollar dominance in world finance that the well-being of American financial multinational corporations is based on.

To allow this, in their understanding, is absolutely impossible. Consequently, the United States is obliged to demonstrate “on the eastern flank” not just a presence, but to emphasise the aggressive determination to “defend the borders” literally at the slightest provocation.

And since Americans have not considered it necessary to take risks on their own for a long time, it means that they will actively push “allies and partners” to such behaviour. The recent incident with the British “Defender” destroyer near Crimea is the most obvious confirmation of this.

Thus, with the start of the US strategic retreat from Afghanistan and Europe, as RUSSTRAT experts have already written about, in the near and medium term in the “Baltic-Black Sea region”, primarily in the Balkans, we should expect an increase in geopolitical and even direct military escalation.

Institute for International Political and Economic Strategies – RUSSTRAT

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