It should be noted that since the early 1990s, this part of Europe has been the focus of the Alliance, but this interest has been linked to the internal transformations of post-communist countries and eastward expansion, and security has been seen almost exclusively in the context of socio-political and economic (in) stability of new members of the Western security community.
The Russian Federation, considered a natural partner and a potential ally and, even under certain circumstances, a future member of the Western Alliance, was considered to be the key country with the most significant influence on the development of political and security processes in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea basin. NATO has therefore refrained from engaging in the New Independent States region, trying to be sensitive to Moscow's real and imagined concerns about the threat to its security interests in connection with the Alliance's expansion to the east. NATO's 2010 Strategic Concept recommended maintaining a strategic partnership with Russia, and Russia was not seen as an adversary in Western capitals, even given its aggression in Georgia in August 2008. Similar sentiments prevailed in the author's expert interviews with leading American think tanks as part of a research program at the Wilson Center in Washington in the first half of 2011.
The revision of attitudes towards Russia began only after the beginning of the aggression in Ukraine in 2014, when NATO's security environment underwent radical changes, which underlined the inconsistency of the Alliance's Strategic Concept 2010 with the new military-political realities. All this has forced Western countries to shift Russia from a partner to a strategic threat. The practical implementation of the new approaches was the relocation of the Alliance's military infrastructure closer to the border with Russia. This process primarily affected the Baltic states and Poland, which faced a real threat of a hybrid war from the Russian Federation.
The Black Sea region, despite Russia's sharply increased military activity, remains somewhat on the periphery of NATO's strategic interests. As some Ukrainian experts, including A. Shelest, rightly point out, the changes in the Alliance's approaches to the Black Sea region are "due to existing threats rather than an understanding of the added importance of enhanced partnership and a comprehensive vision of the region." Thus, NATO's response to Russia's aggressive behavior is largely reactive with marked elements of deterrence, while lacking a comprehensive strategic holistic vision of the Black Sea region as part of the Alliance's overall long-term strategy. Thus, there was an urgent need to develop a separate Black Sea policy, not only in the context of countering the expansion of Russian influence in the Black Sea basin, but also given developments in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean.
In December 2019, at a meeting of NATO Heads of Government and Government in London, its members asked Secretary-General J. Stoltenberg to prepare an analysis of the Alliance's prospects for strengthening its political component, thus launching the process of developing a new Strategic Concept. The group that was formed in April of the following year, published a document entitled "NATO 2030: United for a New Era" on 25 November 2020. The text essentially starts a discussion on the content of the new version of the Strategic Concept of the Alliance and the stated provisions will take a prominent place in the new document.
The main feature of the modern security environment "NATO 2030" identifies the resumption of geopolitical rivalry, which is expressed in the escalation of hostility between states for territory, resources and values. In the Euro-Atlantic area, the main threats to Western security come from Russia, which is proposed to continue its so-called "dual policy." On the one hand, it is to curb Moscow's aggression and not return to the previous level of cooperation until Russia stops violating international law. On the other hand, the Alliance must remain open in response to Russia's constructive behavior, as well as to cooperation in arms control, military transparency and the reduction of the risk of armed conflict. It is noted that Russia poses the greatest military threat to NATO on the eastern flank, taking aggressive action against Ukraine and Georgia and expanding its military infrastructure in the Black and Baltic Seas. In general, the document actually acknowledged the futility of attempts and the fundamental impossibility of integrating the Russian Federation into the Euro-Atlantic security system.
Although the document noted the strategic importance of the Black Sea region, it did not mention the need to formulate a separate policy in the framework of NATO's overall strategy, which would unite high-level cooperation between member states and Allies, creating an appropriate military-political infrastructure.
This can be explained by several reasons. First, the realization of the strategic importance of the Black Sea basin has been happening only recently and at the same time the inertia of the perception of the region as peripheral in terms of overall strategy continues to operate. Second, non-Alliance countries in the region are still seen as recipients of security that require increased attention and resource spending. Third, there is marked competition between Allies, which is sometimes not conducive to maintaining security in the region. First of all, it is worth mentioning Turkey and Romania, which are fighting for the status of the most effective member of NATO in the Black Sea basin. Fourth, the trajectory of Turkey and its interests not only in the Black Sea region but also in the Greater Middle East are not fully understood. Turkey would play a key role in NATO's potentially regional security system, but it is unclear whether it would have the resources to carry out two projects: a joint venture with its allies and its own Middle East. In addition, there are growing doubts within the Alliance about Ankara's commitment to NATO principles and values.
One wonders whether the Black Sea policy is possible and how to implement it, based on the interests of the North Atlantic Alliance and the countries of the region, as well as ensuring peace and stability in general. I think so, it is possible. This requires, first of all, a common vision at NATO level of the challenges and threats in the Black Sea basin, as well as the mechanisms and tools for their neutralization in the long run. The region's integrated security system will require the inclusion of all states, except, of course, Russia. The West will have to play a more prominent role not only in the creation of common means and instruments of security, but also in the internal stabilization processes in the countries of the Black Sea region (primarily Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova), which belong to the transition type.