On December 15, 1941, in the opening lesson on the history of the Black Sea, historian Gheorghe I. Bratianu identified two “key positions”, respectively decisive geopolitical positions that Romania had to include in its strategic calculations: “1. The entry of the Bosphorus and, in general, of the system of straits leading the navigation beyond this closed sea; and 2. Crimea, which, through its natural harbours, through its fortresses from the oldest times, through the advanced sea bastion it represents in the Black Sea is obviously a dominant position over all the maritime complex here. Whoever has Crimea can dominate over the Black Sea. Whoever does not have it cannot. It is obvious that this issue is related to ours, because, after all, what are the straits other than the extension of the mouths of the Danube “. He also added that “the notion of security space implies that we cannot remain indifferent to what is happening in these two key positions of a sea so closely linked to our existence.” The history of the 19th and 20th centuries was synthesized by Gheorghe I. Bratianu as a battle for the Black Sea between Russia and Europe.
Hydrocarbons from the Black Sea and Romania
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Black Sea Region is a geopolitical area that can be used by river actors as a platform either to expand their influence or to limit the spread of influence from other actors in the adjacent areas (Caspian Sea – Caucasus, Central Asia, Middle East, Balkans). The main geopolitical actors in the Black Sea region are the Russian Federation, the EU, NATO / US and Turkey. The broader Black Sea region includes, if we strictly address the geographical criterion, the six riparian states (Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine), but the term “extended” refers more to a political and economic region than to a geographic one. Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Greece and the Republic of Moldova integrate into this concept of the wider Black Sea area, given their economic, political and strategic importance.
One of the most important thinkers in the field of geopolitics and international relations, Zbigniew Brzezinski, considered that the central geopolitical purpose of the US should represent, at the beginning of the 21st century, the consolidation through a truly transatlantic partnership of a fixed bridgehead on the Eurasian continent, respectively the EU, so that this Europe can become a more viable trampoline for the design in Eurasia of the new international order conceived by the American political elites. The expansion of NATO from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, as well as the efforts made to include ex-Soviet states in the Euro-Atlantic area, in various formulas of engagement (association with the EU or entry into NATO), entitle us to conclude that the United States triggered the operation of conquering the fourth geopolitical circle of the world through the effort to control “Rimland”. In the opinion of geopolitician Nicholas J. Spykman, “Rimland” represents Eurasia’s marginal or “maritime border” region, the buffer space separating the pivotal area from the maritime highway surrounding Eurasia, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Southwest Asia, China, Indochina and Siberia East.
In the report on national security issues addressed to the US Government in March 1992 by Paul Wolfovitz, there was talk of the need to prevent the emergence on the European and Asian continents of a strategic force capable of opposing the US , and in this respect it was pointed out that the countries of the “health cordon” (especially Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania) are territories of the highest strategic importance and the attack over them by the Russians has to attract an armed resistance from NATO countries. In 1998, the President-in-Office of Halliburton’s Petroleum Division, the future US Vice President Dick Cheney, said, “I cannot think of a moment in history where a region in the world has suddenly become so important to us from a strategic point of view, like the Caucasus, today”. In 2001, the same Dick Cheney recommended during the seminar for drawing up the National Energy Policy report the inclusion of the following programmatic phrase: “The president makes energy security the absolute priority of our trade and our foreign policy”. Bruce Pitcairn Jackson, Chairman of the Project for Democracies in Transition, said in 2005 before the US Senate that “the security and stability of the Black Sea are essential to Euro-Atlantic security”. The increasing interest of the US and the EU in the Black Sea – Caspian Sea and the Caucasus axis, a former component of the USSR’s strategic glast, has generated countless protests from the Russian Federation in view of the West’s intervention in what is considered to be the sphere of influence of Russia.
In the National Defence Strategy of Romania for the period 2015-2019 it is expressly mentioned that “ensuring the security in the Black Sea region“ represents a national security objective of the Romanian state in the conditions in which the politico-military evolutions in the area of the Euxin Pontus reiterate the discussion of “the validity of the security arrangements concluded with Russia at the end of the 20th century“. At the same time, it is mentioned that “the European security architecture is increasingly threatened by ongoing conflicts and conflicts in the immediate vicinity, to the east and to the south, capable of directly or indirectly affecting Romania’s national security interests.” Romania, as a member of NATO and of the European Union, assumes the obligation “to preserve the strategic balance in an area of interference of some regional security complexes, as well as to contribute to the consolidation of the process of Europeanization through the gradual expansion of the European space Freedom, prosperity, security and justice“. From such a perspective defined by the National Defence Strategy, Romania is interested in ensuring the freedom of communication routes in the Black Sea for the development of trade, the settlement of the frozen conflicts in the area, the protection of the economic activities carried out in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Black Sea, and “the development of projects aimed at diversifying access to resources, enhancing interconnection capacity and competitiveness, including through the implementation of the Energetic Union’s objectives“. The Black Sea is now considered to be a second North Sea, in terms of its potential for hydrocarbons, being the most important energetic region in Europe. The explorations in the Black Sea area are still incipient in spite of the nearly 100 drilled wells, but these operations involve high costs (an exploration probe reaches about $ 150 million) and a probability of success of 20 – 25%. The Black Sea area is an energy corridor and energy provider, and a network of oil and gas pipelines oriented in north-south and east-west directions cross the area. Unfortunately, investors do not dare to exploit Pontic hydrocarbon resources, and large gas and oil pipelines built or designed pass through the Black Sea without crossing Romania, so Turkey plays the role of energy hub. The Turkish state has the capability to secure the transit of natural gas and oil from the Russian Federation, the Caspian Basin and the Middle East. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline with a capacity of 1.2 million barrels per day and Kirkuk-Ceyhan with a transport capacity of 1.5 million barrels per day are key pieces of Turkey’s political and diplomatic play in the Black Sea area, in terms of its strategic interests and its relationship with the Russian Federation. The perspective of the operation of Trans-Anatolian (TANAP 2019) and Trans-Adriatic (TAP 2020) gas pipelines will amplify Turkey’s geopolitical and strategic importance because Azerbaijan (Shah-Deniz II) will interconnect with Italy and Southeast Europe via Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece.
Given that according to the Project for the Energy Strategy of Romania for the period 2016 – 2030, finalized in December 2016, crude oil production will decrease slowly between 2030 and 2050, with the possibility that after 2035 it will turn to zero in the context of reduced oil prices, a similar trend being expected in the case of gas production, which could be tending to zero after 2045, according to the project, Romania must develop the exploitation of offshore oil and gas fields discovered in recent years in the Black Sea, which is an essential condition, according to experts, to be able to count on natural gas in the electric energy mix. At the same time, Romania is an extremely important part of the European Union’s energy strategy regarding the security of gas supply of the member states so that the countries of Central and South-Eastern Europe have access to at least three different sources of energy in the future.
On February 27, 2017, the Ministry of Energy issued the building permit for the BRUA gas pipeline, a new European gas transit corridor that will connect Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. The new gas pipeline will have a total length of 550 km and a maximum capacity of 1.5 billion cubic meters / year to Bulgaria and 4.4 billion cubic meters / year to Hungary. BRUA will link Central Europe to the Southern Corridor that brings Azeri gas from the Caspian Basin via Turkey through Greece and Albania. The future connection of BRUA with the GNL terminal forecast in Constanţa, with a 300-km extension, will continue the policy of securing the European energy market. On July 19, 2016, Transgaz signed the Memorandum of Understanding with SOCAR in Baku, which set out the details of a new phase in the AGRI project (Azerbaijan – Georgia – Romania Interconnector). The AGRI project aims to transport seven billion cubic meters of natural gas each year from the Caspian region to Romania, Azerbaijan and Georgia, and crossing the Black Sea with the help of ships. This project involves the construction of at least two liquefaction terminals on the Georgian coast of the Black Sea. The Ministers of Energy of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Romania signed a joint declaration in 2015 on the AGRI project, including the transport of natural gas, increasing the possibilities of using gas in Romania and distributing capacity in the Caspian Region, supplying and marketing Natural gas on the Romanian market.
In July 2016 Transgaz and Ukrtransgaz signed an interconnection agreement for the Transit 1 Isaccea – Negru Voda pipeline to promote natural gas transport across the border. There are three pipelines in Isaccea, two of which are fully booked by Gazprom for gas deliveries to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey. Together with the recent interconnection agreements signed by Greece and Bulgaria, as well as between Bulgaria and Romania, the agreement signed by Transgaz and Ukrtransgaz will allow the flow of gas in both directions starting from Ukraine and up to Greece. In such a situation, local network users will be able to diversify their sources of supply. The Eastring gas pipeline, proposed by Slovakia, is another project to which Romania could participate. Through this connector, the Slovak market will be able to be interconnected with Romania and Bulgaria via Hungary or Ukraine with a pipeline with an initial capacity of 20 mmc, which can then be expanded to 40 mmc. As soon as the Turkish-Stream gas pipeline (up to 63 mmc) will be built, the Eastring pipeline could also transport Russian gas to Central Europe. Eastring would have a length of 570 kilometers, and the investment would amount to 750 million euros, with an annual capacity of up to 20 billion cubic meters.
The EU has allocated € 4.7 billion over the period 2014-2020 through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) tool to stimulate the development of trans-European energy infrastructures by implementing strategic projects. The EU is currently importing 53% of its energy needs at a cost of about € 406 billion a year, or about € 1.11 billion a day. Romania ranks 5th in the EU in terms of oil and gas production, as well as third in dependence on oil and gas imports (25% of imports). The Romanian state has large reserves of oil and gas on the Black Sea continental shelf with an available capacity of about 6 billion cubic meters for underground storage of natural gas and a geographical position favourable to building a safe alternative to the “Southern” natural gas. In such a situation, Romania could play a role of balance and security for the entire central and south-eastern European region in the diversification of corridors and supply sources as well as security of supply.
In the opinion of some experts, Romania would need investments in the energy sector worth 10-15 billion euros by 2020. It should be noted that Romania should channel itself towards the diversification of access to energy resources, energy interconnection with neighbouring states and modernization of the Energy infrastructure. With the occasion of the 5th Meeting of the Task Force for the implementation of the Joint Statement on the 20th-century Strategic Partnership between Romania and the US, held in Washington on September 26, 2016, it was reiterated in the Joint Statement that “America and Romania express their support for a more transparent, predictable, integrated, diversified and competitive regional energy market” and will continue to pay “special attention to the realization of gas interconnectors between Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria, and between Romania and the Republic of Moldova, as well as accelerating the development of the exploitation of offshore reserves in the Black Sea”.
Black Sea Area, the pivot of the Russian Federation’s geopolitical re-launch
The Russian Federation is involved in the Black Sea energy projects by building a new gas pipeline (ITGI Poseidon) that will cross the Black Sea. A Gas pipeline that Gazprom will achieve with the support of DEPA (Greece) and Edison SpA (Italy). The state-owned Gazprom company was involved in other pipeline projects that crossed the Black Sea, namely South Stream, which had to pass through Bulgaria and Turkish-Stream through Turkey. South Stream has become a failed project due to Bulgaria’s withdrawal from the partnership with Gazprom following EU pressure. The realization of ITGI Poseidon could encourage Italy to support the ratification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The Turkish-Stream gas pipeline returned to its current state after Turkey and Russia signed the agreement to build this gas pipeline on October 10, 2016. The realization of Turkish-Stream will affect Ukraine, cutting its energy access to the Trans-Balkan route, the Republic of Moldova and Romania. In the view of many international economic analysts, Turkish-Stream is a harsh blow to the EU’s project to diversify its gas supply sources, given the strategic objective of limiting dependence on Russian gas.
Given the fact that the Russian Federation is making enormous efforts to become a political, economic and military superpower, at the beginning of the 21st century, we can note that in Russia at the end of the last century there was an intense activity of theoretical substantiation of Russia’s maritime policy and doctrine, culminating in 2000 when Admiral Kuroiedov, the commander of the Russian Federation’s Military Maritime Forces, presented his doctoral thesis on State Strategy for the Defence and Achievement of National Interests in the Planetary Ocean. In the same year, Admiral Kuroiedov published an article summarizing Russia’s entire naval policy for the 21st century: “The next century will be the century of the world’s oceans, and Russia is bound to be prepared for it.” On the occasion of the Russian Navy Day, on July 26, 2015, President Vladimir Putin mentioned: “We have reviewed the Russian Federation’s maritime doctrine. It is a very complex document, which aims to provide the country with an integrated, consistent and efficient naval strategy that protects Russia’s interests. The focus will be on two areas: the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. We are focusing on the Atlantic because NATO has been very active there lately and has come close to our borders. Russia must, of course, respond to these strategies. The second reason is that Sevastopol and Crimea have returned to the homeland and we need measures for their rapid integration in the national economy. Of course, we also want the revival of Russia’s naval presence in the Mediterranean.
The number one priority for the Russian Federation Marine consists in the construction and delivery to the navy of new and performing vessels and equipment, primarily with a view to recovering the gaps in the last 25 years. The Nuclear Fleet, both rocket launcher / SSBN and SSN, is the number one objective of strengthening the Russian Navy, not just the construction of new units but also the improvement of the support system for these ships. At the same time, it is intended to build a multilevel naval force, equipped with high-precision weapons systems and long and very long-range arms, so that Russia can design its military force at sea quickly and efficiently whenever it needs it.
Since March 2014, there has been a strengthening of the military structure of the Russian Federation at the level of the Black Sea Fleet and the North Caucasus Military Region. Offensive airborne capabilities have been positioned and a modernization of the military infrastructure in the Crimea has been made, which strengthens Russia’s offensive military position and its ability to project power outside its territory. Russia has greatly increased its air and naval defence capabilities in the Black Sea Basin, deploying new naval missiles (antiships with a range of 600 km that can reach the Bosporus Strait). Russian combat airplanes control about three-quarters of the Black Sea’s airspace (triplating virtually the number of Crimean airports) through long-range bombers capable of carrying cruise missiles and reconnaissance airplanes operating close to Western Black Sea coasts have the potential to penetrate deep into Central Europe.
The Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol, Feodosia and Novorossiysk, comprises six attack submarines, a rocket launcher, seven anti-submarine battleships, three frigates, six corvettes, eight missile launchers, eight seabirds, seven desert ships, five assault amphibians. The Black Sea Fleet was also subordinated to a Expeditionary Corps consisting of airborne troops and naval infantry. The Black Sea Fleet Air Support is provided by the 4th Aviation and Defence Division. In addition, an independent heavy-duty fleet, consisting of 135 An-22, An-124, IL-76MD and An-12 aircrafts, provides the aeromobility of an additional Rapid Intervention Force with 80,000 militaries from the composition of Corps 49 and 58 of the Army. Upon order, the Rapid Intervention Force is subordinated to the Black Sea Fleet. Political and military analysts believe that this Expeditionary Force has the capacity to annihilate any grouping or regime considered by Russia as a terrorist in the Mediterranean basin, East Africa, the Persian Gulf area and the entire Middle East.
A key element of the Crimean Peninsula is the C4I system from where Russian Russian terrestrial and airborne operations are coordinated for the entire European territory of Russia and the southern flank of the Russian Federation. The spatial component subordinated to the Black Sea Fleet General Headquarters has as its mission the multiplication of up to 10 times of the mobility, the speed of reaction, the effectiveness and the precision of the conventional combat technique, mainly by monitoring and controlling permanently 25% of the northern hemisphere of Terra.
The operation of the Black Sea Fleet Space Centre is carried out with the help of the latest generation of microprocessors, antennas and equipment for research, communications and satellite routing located in 20 Russian military facilities in the territory of Crimea and which allow the integration of sensors for discovering and directing High Precision Weapons in the Black Sea Fleet Automated Driving System. The Black Sea Fleet is expected to receive 20 new military ships by 2020, following an ambitious shipbuilding program, namely: six Gorskov frigates, three frigates of the Krivak IV class, a Gromki class frigate, two Ivan Gren’s amphibious ships, six Lada-class submarines and two Warsawianka submarines, and further even a Mistral helicopter portable.
In mid-March 2017, according to information provided by Russian naval authorities, the Black Sea Fleet of Russia was completed with 636.3 diesel-electric propulsion submarines, equipped with “Kalibr” cruise missiles, similar to the Tomahawk American cruise missiles. Three submarines in this project, dubbed “black holes in the ocean” (submarines “Novorossiisk”, “Rostov-on-Don” and “Stary Oskol”), because they are almost undetectable, are already in the Black Sea. By the end of 2017, the arrival of three similar submarines is expected: “Krasnodar”, “Kolpino” and “Veliki Novgorod”. The 636.3 project submarines are difficult to spot due to low noise while at the same time they are capable of proactively detecting large-scale enemy ships and attacking them with anti-tank cruise missiles. At the same time, the Russian Federation is extremely interested in taking over the large Black Sea coastal shipyards in Ukraine. The Russian takeover of these Ukrainian shipyards would allow endowment of the Russian Naval Forces with 4-5 aircraft carriers and state-of-the-art helicopter portables.
The Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation is about to become the most reputable strategic force in Southeast Europe. At present, the main tasks of the Black Sea Fleet are:
1) protection of the economic area and suppression of illegal maritime activities;
2) ensuring navigation security;
3) implementation of government’s foreign policy actions: visits, routine entries, JOINT exercises, military actions as part of peacekeeping forces. The Russian Black Sea Fleet has expanded its activities in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, amid the strengthening of the NATO military presence.
It should be noted that the implementation by the Russian Federation of A2 / AD (anti-access / area denial) areas in the Baltic Sea, Black Sea and Eastern Mediterranean region could cause major difficulties for the NATO Rapid Reaction Force NRF) who would be obliged to move to those areas. In September 2014, at the NATO Summit in Wales, it was decided to set up the NFR’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) which will able to be deployed within 48 hours to meet the challenges that might arise for NATO strategic and security interests. The VJTF will have the value of a ground troop brigade (about 5,000 soldiers) supported by appropriate elements of the air forces, naval and special forces. The leadership and composition of the VJTF will be routed on a yearly basis by France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, and this force will become fully operational until the Warsaw NATO Summit on 8-9 June 2016. And yet … General Philip M. Breedlove insisted on establishing clear responsibilities for the activation of the VJTF, namely the possibility of having the authority to order an informal activation of the VJTF in anticipation of a decision by the North Atlantic Council. Military experts estimate that it will be quite difficult to reach the desired response time in the VJTF deployment that is two to three days, as well as the fact that equipment pre-positioning and the NATO troop training system will be confronted with practical limits. At the same time, NATO needs to know what is really the NFR’s fighting ability. From such a perspective, we should think and understand the political effort and, above all, the military one of the Russian Federation to create the three A2 / AD areas, as it attempts to prevent any possibility of embedding its aspirations of regional power and, in the future, of superpower.
The Russian Federation considers that the Black Sea is an intersection of geopolitical and geo-economic borders in the context of NATO’s enlargement and the EU’s borders so that the Russian military fleet is in charge of maintaining military domination to hold absolute control of the Black Sea communications and to counteract NATO countries outside the Black Sea, especially the US. At the same time, maintaining and strengthening the Russian military presence in the CIS member states is a strategy that strengthens Russia’s defence system in the Black Sea. The Kremlin’s political and military leaders are extremely irritated by the increasing number of NATO naval drills in the Black Sea, of the fact that Turkey allows for a strengthening of the NATO / US navy in the Black Sea, by a too broad interpretation of the Montreaux Convention (1936) on the Straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles, as well as of the existence of US military facilities on the Black Sea coast.
Despite the fact that Russian Black Sea vessels participated in a series of naval exercises in the Black Sea, under NATO mandate, namely the military exercises BLACK SEA HARMONY and ACTIVE ENDEAVOR, the Russian Federation is in favour of maintaining the status quo in the Black Sea. The Kremlin rejects the extension of NATO initiative from the Mediterranean Sea (ACTIVE ENDEAVOR) in the Black Sea (BLACL SEA TASK FORCE) and believes that the regional security initiatives existing at the level of the Black Sea, BLACK SEA FOR and BLACK SEA HARMONY, are effective and sufficient to ensure security in the Black Sea. Unfortunately, BLACK SEA FOR has not been activated since April 2014.
The behaviour of the Russian troops in the execution of the CAUCAZ 2016 application, namely the execution of the penetration missions in the enemy air defence system and attacks to block the Black Sea straits, reveals the Russian Federation’s will to turn the Black Sea area into a trampoline of its military power in the areas of strategic interest: the Mediterranean area and the Middle East, and forbid the Caucasian operative-strategic direction. The emergence of Russian military units in the Middle East battle theatre was a major strategic surprise for international public opinion and the media as well as for some diplomatic chancelleries and military command centres. The ability of the Russian Federation to deploy, at a considerable distance from the national territory, aerial and naval forces and anti-aircraft forces, revealed the Kremlin’s strategic and geopolitical interests, as well as the will to break what some Russian political-military analysts define as the strategic encirclement of the Russian Federation by the US Armed Forces and its NATO allies. Regarding the effectiveness of the Russian Armed Forces, but not only on the Syrian War theatre, it is worth mentioning that General Joseph F. Dunford remarked an extremely high level, valuable in terms of Russian nuclear and cybernetic capabilities, as well as the achievements of the Russian specialists on submarine weapons, the patterns of operations of the Russian Armed Forces, places where they operate and not only. In this context, in the opinion of the US military dignitary, a combination of Russian troop behaviour and military capabilities is the most significant challenge, threat to US strategic interests.
According to the programmatic documents in the field of national security and defence, Romania as a NATO member state and of the EU has „the obligation to participate in ensuring national security and allies“, as at the regional level there is a “destabilization of the situation of the Black Sea Enlarged Area, hereinafter referred to as REMN, on the background of actions by the Russian Federation to strengthen areas of influence, the phenomenon of migration and instability in the Western Balkans“. The strengthening of the Russian military power, as well as its plenary assertion in the Black Sea region, together with the political-diplomatic and economic alliance with Turkey, which is still marked by frequent misunderstandings, gives Russia a hegemon position in the area. Given the fact that the Russian company Lukoil is involved in the exploration and exploitation of the hydrocarbons in the Romanian area of the Black Sea continental shelf, we can hope to increase confidence in a stable and predictable future of the developments of the main geopolitical actors in the area.
The revitalization of BLACK SEA FOR and the resumption of the dialogue within the Organization for Economic Cooperation at the Black Sea (OCEEM), with its political and economic instruments, could be a prerequisite for increasing trust and cooperation in the Black Sea between Romania and the Russian Federation under the conditions of observance of the international law and the building of a stable and predictable security zone because “the development of the military potential in the Eastern neighbourhood of our country, materialized in the creation and dislocation of modern capabilities in the proximity of Romania, along with the process of reorganization, modernization and endowment with systems of high-tech armaments“, as well as „the increase in the number of large-scale military exercises carried out with brief notice or even without notification, is the most important military risk factor for national security“.
* The communication presented at the international symposium entitled “European and Regional Security: Contribution of Romania and Russia to Strengthening a Climate of Confidence in the Black Sea Area” (April 11, 2017)
 Gheorghe I. Brătianu, The Black Sea. From origins and until the Ottoman conquest (Marea Neagră. De la origini până la cucerirea otomană), vol. I, Meridiane Publishing House, Bucharest, 1988, p. 108-109.
 The National Defence Strategy of the country for the period 2015-2019. A strong Romania in Europe and worldwide. (Strategia Națională de Apărare a Țării pentru perioada 2015 – 2019. O Românie puternică în Europa și în lume), p. 10 pe http://www.presidency.ro/ro/presedinte/documente-programatice, visited on 06.04.2017, at 12.15 pm.
 Ibidem, p. 1
 Ibidem, p. 13
 Ibidem, p. 20
 The military strategy of Romania – Modern armed forces for a strong Romania in Europe and worldwide. (Strategia militară a României – Forțe armate moderne, pentru o Românie puternică în Europa și în lume) at http://lege5.ro/Gratuit/geztanjsgezq/hotararea-nr-708-2016-pentru-aprobarea-strategiei-militare-a-romaniei, visited on 06.04.2017, at 4.30 pm.