June 26, 2020
BY KURT VOLKER
The Kremlin wants the rest of the world to believe that it has a special role and set of rights in the Black Sea. Too many Western policymakers fall for this. In truth, the political, economic, and security development of the region is important in its own right.
Russia’s push on the Black Sea dates from the Tsarist era. During the Cold War, all littoral territory apart from Turkey was part of either the Soviet Union or its Warsaw Pact allies. Now Russia has a legal claim to only 10 percent of the Black Sea coast. The other littoral states, with a population of 150m, are independent, democratic, and seeking their own economic development and security. Three are NATO allies and the others are NATO partners. These countries are emerging democracies. They need to strengthen democratic institutions and fight corruption, boost growth, enhance energy security, and improve connectivity.
The first pillar of Western policy should be supporting democracy. Growing the zone of stable, law-governed political freedom in Europe is a strategic interest. Successful development in Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova also sends a signal to the Russian people about the cost of kleptocracy.