Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts If the Atlantic Ocean is the New Black Sea, What’s the Black Sea? Aegis Ashore and the Black Sea Region’s Changing Security Dynamic
If the Atlantic Ocean is the New Black Sea, What’s the Black Sea? Aegis Ashore and the Black Sea Region’s Changing Security Dynamic

If the Atlantic Ocean is the New Black Sea, What’s the Black Sea? Aegis Ashore and the Black Sea Region’s Changing Security Dynamic

Black Sea Map (Source: Wikipedia)Source: Wikipedia



“The success of any major operation or campaign depends on the free movement of one’s forces in the theater. Without the ability to conduct large-scale movements on land, at sea, and in the air, operational warfare is essentially an empty concept.”[1]

Is the Black Sea a distinctive strategic space? That provocative question is begged by Russia’s maritime doctrine, the newest version of which was approved last summer by President Vladimir Putin. One answer comes from Vladimir Anokhin, a retired military officer associated with Russia’s Academy of Geopolitical Problems. He writes, “Neither the Black Sea nor the Mediterranean is a theatre of war for a modern navy.”[2]

That statement is true so far as it goes: the Black Sea is a geographically isolated, semi-enclosed sea. Non-riparian states are subject to tight limits on the number and size of naval vessels permitted there at any one time as well as the duration of their stay. These limits tighten further in wartime, when Turkey has the legal right to prohibit the passage of belligerents’ warships between the Mediterranean and the Black Seas. [3] The Soviet Union’s dissolution gave rise to an as yet unresolved challenge to Russian predominance there. Its strategic objective remains, Igor Delanoë writes, “to lock the basin.”[4]

Russia’s green water Black Sea fleet is a modern iteration of Alfred Thayer Mahan’s “fortress fleet,” by which he meant a navy that operates mostly under cover of shore-based fire support as part of a static coastal defense. Its modern embodiment is an integrated anti-access strategy under which naval vessels (surface and subsurface) are supported by shore-based ballistic missiles. Like the Mahanian fortress fleet, it expands Russia’s anti-access operational area in the Black Sea. But unlike Mahan’s strategically and operationally defensive fortress fleet, Russia’s Black Sea fleet can be offensive and assertive at the tactical level, operating as it does under the aegis of longer-range anti-ship missiles and submarines.”[5] This adds the character of a “fleet-in-being”[6] on the modern Chinese model of a counter-intervention tool.[7] It is, moreover, “a useful toll for integrating ‘lost’ territories.”[8]

So while the place of the Black Sea (and the Mediterranean) in Russia’s newest maritime doctrine may be subsumed strategically to the Atlantic Ocean, it does not diminish the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s critical sea-denial role. It is the sharp end of Russian demands that others recognize its “privileged interests”[9] there.

A start to answering whether the Black Sea is a distinctive strategic space is to clarify the meaning of the term strategy. The Chinese naval officer and geostrategist Xu Qi writes that strategy “represents a country’s effort in the world arena to use geographic orientation and principles to pursue and safeguard its national interests.”[10] It can be conceptualized as a given military force’s position and movement within an n-dimensional strategy space (Duncan Robinson calls this space a strategy hypercube[11]). That space is non-exclusive; it is also turbulent and unstable, not static and linear. Overemphasis of the maritime dimension is a common (if understandable) composition fallacy. “The navy’s strategic choice must be oriented toward the world’s oceans and formulated with a perspective of the grand strategic space,” wrote Xu Qi, “At the same time, it is still more essential to surmount traditional concepts of geographic orientation.”[12]

One can visualize the Black Sea strategic space as a four-dimensional hypercube, within which there is a maritime dimension (surface and subsurface), an atmospheric space dimension (aircraft and missiles), an outer space dimension (satellites), and a littoral land space dimension.[13] Russian anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities are predominantly non-naval. It has a large land-based ballistic missile force for anti-access missions against such key point targets such as air bases and naval facilities. It has advanced counter-maritime and counter-air systems for area denial missions to destroy critical mobile assets, including surface ships and aircraft. Russian A2/AD extends into the space, cyber and the electro-magnetic domains, respectively, as part of a comprehensive architecture to disrupt an adversary’s ability to project power regionally.

So we can accept Mr. Anokhin’s maxim as true and at the same time reject it as incomplete. It is true the warfighting role of naval surface vessels would likely be secondary in in any Black Sea regional conflict. The Black Sea is nonetheless a strategic space, one in which land-based tactical ballistic missiles as well as air and ground forces play an important role—deterrent as well as warfighting—sometimes more so than naval platforms.

More than a decade has passed since President Putin made a pair of declarations within a single two-day span. The first was that “the Azov-Black Sea region is a Russian strategic interest zone.” The second was that adjacent Krasnodar—”Russia’s southern outpost”—is “our most important region, a strategic interest zone, where we have our only warm water sea lines of communication with our main European partners. The Black Sea gives Russia direct access to the most important global transportation routes, including for energy.”[14] Both are reflected in the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation published in December 2014. Among several “main external military risks” enumerated in the document is this key one:

“[T]he deployment (and enlargement) of military forces of foreign states (and groups of states) in the territories of the states contiguous to the Russian Federation and its allies as well as in adjacent waters, including for the purpose of exerting political and military pressure on the Russian Federation.[15] [Emphasis added]

At the same time the United States and its NATO allies explore more concerted approaches to defending the alliance’s southeastern flank:

“The idea of pursuing an integrated Western strategy toward the Black Sea region has in fact steadily gained ground since the NATO Istanbul Summit of July 2004. The enlargement of the alliance to include Bulgaria and Romania raised the issue of how it was to protect security and stability in the Black Sea. Responding to this prospect, the Russian defense minister, Sergey Ivanov, at a meeting with his Turkish counterpart challenged expansion of NATO naval patrols to the Black Sea; regional security, he declared, ‘should be ensured by the forces of the Black Sea states’.”

In mid-May 2016 a ballistic missile defense (aka anti-ballistic missile or “ABM”) system known as Aegis Ashore—the land-based version of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense onboard the United States Navy’s four forward-deployed Aegis ballistic missile defense vessels—was operationally certified.[16] Located near Caracal in south central Romania and housed on the formerly disused Soviet-era Devaselu airbase (over which the United States assumed operational control in October 2014), Aegis Ashore is part of the second phase of the so-called “European Phased Adaptive Approach” (EPAA) to an overall NATO missile defense architecture. A second Aegis Ashore site in Poland is scheduled to become operational in 2018.

The fundamental justification for Aegis Ashore (which applies generally to any effective limited missile defense[17]) is that it will deter—and failing that, defeat—Iranian intermediate-range missiles launched against targets in Europe and/or Iranian intercontinental missiles launched against the continental United States. The presumed deterrent effect of Aegis Ashore is grounded in its asymmetric advantage vis-à-vis Iranian missile systems, and in the unambiguous commitment of the United States (within the NATO command structure) to use it.

Russia sees it differently. There is “no doubt,” according to the Russian Foreign Ministry that the United States missile defense system “is directed against Russia,”[18] something reiterated recently by President Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitriy Peshkov. Some senior Russian military officials see a less acute threat. The Devaselu site poses only a “limited” threat, one that does not “critically reduce the combat capabilities” of Russia’s Special Missile Forces said its commander, General Sergei Karakayev.[19] And recent commentary in Vzglyad questioned more generally the utility of ballistic missile defense systems, arguing to “Let the United States build a missile defense system. Perpetually.”[20]

The Black Sea strategy hypercube became more turbulent after a recent series of sharp exchanges among NATO allies Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey over the question of regional naval cooperation. Depending on one’s viewpoint, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis either proposed a full-fledged “Black Sea flotilla” as his critics claim; or as he claims, that the allies merely consider joint naval exercises. Either way, it exposed fracture lines in the NATO’s least integrated regional bloc. It also shone a light on the political fragility of NATO member-state Bulgaria, where pro-Russia (and anti-NATO) groups like Natsionalno dvizhenie rusofili (“National Movement of Russophiles”) are a persistent challenge.[21]

One obvious question is whether Aegis Ashore and a postulated NATO Black Sea naval presence (of one sort or another) rather than deter threats—both specified ones like Iranian ballistic missiles as well as the obvious if sometimes unstated Russia one—will trigger a spiral of insecurity and provoke, not diminish, security challenges in the Black Sea? Current events in the Black Sea region do not unfold in a vacuum. Instead, they bear the full burden of history, at least as it is remembered by actors, each in their own way. That history is marked by a struggle for primacy, something perhaps best encapsulated by a somewhat acrostic observation made recently by Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitriy Peskov:

“It is in any case understandable that the unambiguous lesson of this legacy is this: these actions do not of course contribute to an atmosphere of trust and security.”[22]

Black Sea, Russian Sea

“And the Dnepr empties into the Black Sea, and this sea is known as the Russian Sea, and Saint Andrew, the brother of Peter, taught near it, it is said.”[23]

The Romanian historian and political figure Gheorghe Brătianu wrote, “To understand the past, we must first understand the entire geographical, historical and geopolitical context which it belongs.”[24] The history of the Black Sea is largely one of domination by a single great power.[25] Dr. Brătianu called the Black Sea of a millennium ago “un lac Byzantine—a Byzantine lake.”[26] In the mid fifteenth century, Mehmed the Conqueror (who later proclaimed himself Kayzer-i Rum or “Caesar of the Roman Empire”) transformed it into a figurative Ottoman one that was closed to all foreign ships.[27] Control of the Anatolian plateau and the Balkan Peninsula—and later, the Crimean Peninsula—ensured Ottoman dominion until their defeat in the Russo-Turkish War (1768-1774). Russia, having forced the Ottomans to relinquish the Crimean peninsula and the Azov Sea littoral, gained its first Black Sea foothold.[28]

The region is “a political construction rather than a simple geographical space,” writes Mustafa Aydin, existing “at the center of a Mackinder-type ‘geopolitical heartland’ as well as a Huntingtonian style of civilizational fault line, dotted with various ethnic and political conflicts…”[29]

The Greater Black Sea[30]

The Greater Black Sea

As a geographical space, the Black Sea is the world’s most isolated semi-enclosed sea. It is connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas and various straits,[31] and to the Azov Sea to its north by the Strait of Kerch.

The contemporary Black Sea is part of a broader and enduring strategic contest, much like earlier ones between the Ottoman and Russian empires that spanned the vast space to the Caspian Sea. This suggests it should be understood as part of a larger geographical continuum that extends from the adjacent areas of the Mediterranean to the Caspian, a territorial expanse in which the Soviet Union’s disintegration ended a centuries-old hegemonic system. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, “the key strategic risks and prizes for most Black Sea states [were] in the hinterland.”

“This is where borders have been threatened and defended, territorial ambitions have been played out, and national independence has been asserted and consolidated. In short, there is a persistent tendency for Black Sea states to look landward in forming their foreign and security policies. Even in the more confrontational periods of Russo-Turkish relations, the key stakes in the strategic competition were on the margins of the Black Sea, in the Balkans and the Caucasus.”[32]

Today some Black Sea riparian states—notably Russia, and NATO members Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey[33]—look toward the Black Sea as much as away from it. Its maritime space represents strategic depth in a region exposed to ballistic missile proliferation, both within the region and in the adjacent Middle East and South Asia. The region’s security dynamics (and its exigent nuclear proliferation risk) threaten a cascading effect on strategic balances and doctrines from Central Asia to the Aegean. For Russia, its importance was amplified by the loss of strategic depth once provided by Ukraine, which feeds a sense of insecurity vis-à-vis the west.[34]

versus Defense

Perhaps what is afoot in the Black Sea reflects a subtle distinction between two similar but different concepts, security and defense. The former has gradually replaced the latter since the end of the Cold War:

“The concept of security is much broader and thus less accurate, since it encompasses various kinds of loosely defined risks and threats, that is, intrastate conflicts, international terrorism, WMD proliferation, as well as various infra-military issues, such as transnational criminality, illegal immigration, energy security, environmental degradations, and climate change.”[35]

Those who use the term security usually have in mind particular kinds of threats, where the term threat means “actions that convey a conditional commitment to punish unless one’s demands are met.”[36] The term defense in this context is the means; security is the end.

“Defense is subordinate to security. It involves using the properties of matter for a given purpose. […] Its discussion requires reference both to the thing or person whose security is to be defended, and to the action or intention of the potential attacker…Discussing security involves not only how to grant it…but also considering precisely who or what is to be defended against whom or what, and why.”[37]

While the un-capitalized concept of defense is defensive,[38] “a properly capitalized Defense concept appeals to that basic function of the State to provide protection from outside threats…to be able to actively defend, they must also be capable of preemptive military action.”[39] This idea is embedded in NATO’s fundamental “defense and security” doctrine:

“NATO members will always assist each other against attack, in accordance with Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. That commitment remains firm and binding. NATO will deter and defend against any threat of aggression, and against emerging security challenges where they threaten the fundamental security of individual Allies or the Alliance as a whole.”[40]

This suggests both an additive and a transitive property. It is additive in the sense that individual NATO member-states each opt (or not) to act collectively. Thus “collective defense” is literally so: it is the sum of each member-state’s commitment to every other member-state. So, too, it is transitive: a threat of aggression toward any given member-state (along with each of that member-state’s “emerging security challenges”) is said to apply equally to every other member-state. The associated problems are not novel: Arnold Wolfers wrote in his seminal 1952 essay “[T]he term ‘security’ covers a range of goals so wide that highly divergent policies can be interpreted as policies of security.”[41]

The transitive quality of collective defense is a license to treat a wide range of security risks and threats as if they are Defense interests although many go well beyond the strictly defensive. The author suggests the United States has taken political advantage of this transitive property to “find” a Defense interest in the Black Sea. On this basis it can claim a security interest in a Black Sea missile defense architecture, one that while a Defense interest is not a (un-capitalized) defense or defensive one.

So what threat is preempted by a land-based antiballistic missile system in Romania? The United States and NATO contend it is Iranian ballistic missiles. Given that today Iranian ballistic missiles lack intercontinental range, any direct threat to continental United States is hypothetical and unlikely to manifest for several years at best.[42] The threat to American Defense interests is more proximate, however:

“Iran is developing and producing medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) capabilities with ranges estimated up to about 2000 kilometers (with some non-U.S. government sources citing slightly higher ranges), sufficient to strike targets throughout the Middle East. […] Iran views these missiles as an important deterrent and retaliatory force against U.S. and other forces in the region in the event of war. Iran has also constructed an underground network of bunkers and underground silo-like missile launch facilities, and is seeking improved air defenses presumably to enhance the survivability of their MRBMs against preemptive attack.”[43]

Iranian MRBM Sites & Ranges

Iranian MRBM Sites & RangesSource: Congressional Research Service

All of Turkey along with parts of the western Black Sea riparian (and NATO member) states Bulgaria and Romania fall within 2000 kilometers of Iranian ballistic missile launch sites. This distance represents the outer range of Iranian MRBM systems like the Ghadr-110, which is believed capable of delivering a single 700-1000 kilogram warhead to within 100 meters of a designated target.[44] That being said, Anthony Cordesman believes “much of Iran’s missile force is more a weapon of intimidation than a war fighting tool”[45] since its missiles are thought to lack advanced guidance systems and have only been tested in limited conditions. Iran’s missile arsenal includes a mix of solid and liquid-fuel MRBM like the Shahab-3 (range: 1500 kilometers) and its Shahab-4 variant (range: 1900 kilometers) and the Sejjil-2 (range: 2000–2500 kilometers); as well as Iranian developmental-stage IRBMs like the Shahab-5 aka Toqyān (range: 3000–5000 kilometers) and the reputed Shahab-6 aka Toqyān 2 (range: 3000–5000 km).[46]

Iran’s ballistic missile program presents a ratable threat today only out to medium-range (1000-3000 kilometers). It may in future pose a limited one at intermediate-range (3000-5000 kilometers) and has intercontinental-range ambitions. Estimating the relevant timeframes is elusive. Past intelligence estimates erred—sometimes egregiously—in understating the time required for new missile systems to achieve operational status.[47] Iran’s determination to do so, however, is not in dispute: witness its successful October 2015 test launch of the Emad IRBM, basically a precision-guided version of Shahab-3/Ghadr-series rockets.[48]

Iranian Ballistic Missile Potential Threat Evolution

Iranian Ballistic Missile Potential Threat EvolutionSource: United States State Department[49]

The United States forcefully maintains that Aegis Ashore is intended to counter the evolving threat from Iranian ballistic missiles and “is not positioned or designed to intercept Russian ICBMs.” President Putin rejects the contended Iranian threat outright:

“Coming after the United States withdrew unilaterally from the ABM [Anti-Ballistic Missile] Treaty—an obvious first step in an effort to fracture the strategic balance of forces worldwide—it deals a second blow to the international security system by creating conditions that violate the INF [Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces] treaty…We can not and will not allow the United States to violate the [INF] treaty. […] Remember a few years ago, our opponents said in unison the missile defense system is needed by our partners in Europe and the United States to prevent nuclear missile threats from Iran. Where is the nuclear threat from Iran? It is nowhere. And yet the construction of a missile defense system goes on.”[50]

Senior Russian diplomats like Mikhail Ulyanov, who directs the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, reinforce Mr. Putin’s denunciation. “The basis is unclear for alleging Iran’s missile program poses a threat,”[51] Mr. Ulyanov said, adding that Iranian missiles have insufficient range to reach United States forces based in Europe. The intended target of NATO’s ABM system in Romania, he maintains, is obvious: Russia. “Experts contend it is wholly implausible to assume Iran will bomb Rome or Warsaw. Iran’s leaders understand that would trigger Article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty,” said Russian Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko.[52]

Is there any merit to the Russian argument? Perhaps, though the mission to defend against an attack by (say, Russian) cruise missiles and the one to defend against (say, Iranian) ballistic missiles are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The Aegis Ashore system now deployed in Romania—a land-based version of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System—is designed to do just that.[53] It represents a significant upgrade of Aegis’ capabilities. Most (30 of 33) of the United States’ ship-based Aegis BMD systems can defend at any one time against an attack by ballistic missiles or by cruise missiles, but not against both at once. Of course, a land-based ballistic missile defense suffers the limitation that as a fixed site, it immediately becomes a target for attack. We will revisit this important point in a moment.

The Russian government claims Aegis Ashore is directed against its strategic missile force. However, when Konstantin Bogdanov asks rhetorically, “How does all this [Aegis Ashore] affect Russian missiles?” he answers, “Ironically, hardly at all.”[54]

“The projected trajectory of Russian ICBMs launched from the European part of the country toward the ‘main enemy’ passes over Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea, and the Norwegian Sea. The response time and dynamic characteristics of [Aegis Ashore anti-ballistic missiles] precludes their use against Russian strategic missiles. It is a greater worry for Iran, which is their stated target. Russia neglects an essential point: no one promised the European component of the U.S. global missile defense system would perform only one function (such as target either Iranian medium-range missiles or subtly degrade Russia’s nuclear missile shield).”[55]

“Then what’s the problem?” he asks.

“Aegis Ashore provides the means to control SM-3 [Aegis’ anti-ballistic missile] launched from vertical launchers that are similar to the Mk 41 VLS [the Tomahawk cruise missile capable Mark 41 Vertical Launching System]. Not only does the presence of such weapons in Romania pose a serious threat to Russian military sites and critical civilian infrastructure in the country’s southwest (including Crimea) it also directly contravenes the 1987 INF Treaty.”[56]

Mr. Bogdanov warns this makes Romania “a priority objective for a Russian strike in the event of a hot conflict between Moscow and the West, possibly a preventive one. In any case, it creates for the United States fewer opportunities than the number of challenges that are entailed in defending it.”[57]

Creating a Black Sea Maritime Frontier

“Whomever holds Crimea can rule the Black Sea. Whomever fails to hold it cannot.”[58]

Gheorghe Brătianu elaborated his geopolitical neologism “secure space” (in Romanian, paţiul de securitate, sometimes translated as “safe space”) as “the regions and places without which a nation cannot fulfill its historical mission or achieve in full its destiny.”[59] There were two “key positions” (poziţii cheie) for Romania, the Turkish Straits and Crimea, respectively. “The concept of secure space,” he wrote, “means we cannot be indifferent to what is happening in these two key positions.”

Basil Germond argues that “to grasp the geographical and geopolitical nature” of the defense-security distinction, one has to go beyond the notion of borders—understood as a legal line of demarcation—and discuss the notion of a frontier. He defined it as a wide buffer-type zone “enjoying a high-security value.”[60] The maritime frontier is not a linear line of demarcation but instead an elastic and dynamic one: “The maritime domain enables states to extend the frontier.”[61] Thus the interest in maritime frontiers in domains like the Black Sea for the strategic depth they offer.

So while as Corbett wrote, “the sea is not susceptible to ownership,”[62] it can be controlled. How far might a NATO maritime frontier extend in the Black Sea? One answer is suggested by Columb’s late 19th century maxim: “The British frontier is the enemy’s coast.”[63] The United States and NATO, Russian leaders believe, seek to do likewise, using Aegis Ashore to establish a de facto maritime frontier that extends to Crimea (and some argue, beyond). The geopolitical implications of Aegis Ashore have been obvious for a decade—as a Romanian Defense Ministry official wrote in 2005:

“The fact that Romania and Bulgaria, along with Turkey, now are NATO outposts on the Black Sea, and the fact that the United States wants to place bases in these countries, makes it clear that a chess match for mastery of the Rimland is going on, in which Romania represents an important chess piece. Locating military facilities inside Romania and Bulgaria, beyond the need to support counterterrorism and to defend a possible attack by Iran, can boomerang and is a serious concern for Russia.”[64] 

Aegis Ashore incorporates the Standard Missile-3 (“SM-3”), the current version of which is the SM-3 Block 1B. The next-generation SM-3 Block IIA scheduled for deployment in 2018 has a “larger rocket motors that will allow it to defend broader areas from ballistic missile threats and a larger kinetic warhead.”[65]

Range of NATO SM-3 Block 1B (green circle) & SM-3 Block IIA (red circle)
Naval Support Facility Deveselu

Range of NATO SM-3 Block 1B (green circle) & SM-3 Block IIA (red circle) Naval Support Facility Deveselu

From a Russian perspective, what other concerns does Aegis Ashore raise? Two come to mind immediately, escalation dominance[66] and Russia’s somewhat idiosyncratic view of the principle of territorial integrity. As to the first, Russia calibrates its use of force (for example, in theatres like eastern Ukraine) to avoid triggering external intervention while maintaining a credible threat of escalation. The objective of escalation dominance “often has more to do with exploiting the enemy’s asymmetric vulnerabilities than with developing unique means of attack.”[67]

“In all limited operations, prudence requires anticipating what the outcome would be if the incident escalated to higher levels. Thus, ideally, one should enter a nonbelligerent demonstration with the ability to prevail if it evolves into a limited war and limited war with the confidence of winning any larger conflict that might result. This is the preferred condition for dominating the process of escalation, even if in practice states frequently act on a riskier basis.”[68]

Russia has invested heavily in escalation dominance, both as a means of sderzhivanie—deterring and constraining the enemy—and as a tool of de-escalation.[69] Contemporary Russian military writing emphasizes the use of advanced non-nuclear capabilities—for example, theater-range precision strike systems (ballistic and cruise missiles)—as instruments of escalation management. The goal is to counter NATO’s advantage in high precision standoff weaponry by disrupting efforts to respond to Russian aggression. It is meant to signal heightened risk for NATO member-states and weaken their political will.[70]

Turning to the second concern, territorial integrity and independence together constitute one of the main values of the Russian state order. Russia’s Constitutional Court in July 1995 acknowledged the use of the armed forces to protect not only the state from external threats, but also to protect its territory and territorial integrity. The December 2014 Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation enumerates several “main external military risks” including this key one—”the deployment (and enlargement) of military forces of foreign states (and groups of states) in the territories of the states contiguous to the Russian Federation and its allies as well as in adjacent waters, including for the purpose of exerting political and military pressure on the Russian Federation.[71] [Emphasis added]

In late July 2014 Mr. Putin addressed the Russian Security Council on “the issues of sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.”

“The most important guarantor of Russian sovereignty and territorial integrity is our Armed Forces. We will have a capable and proportionate response to the approach of NATO’s military infrastructure toward our borders, and we do not fail to notice its deployment of a global anti-missile capacity and reserves of strategic non-nuclear precision weapons.”

“We are often told the anti-missile system is a defensive system. It is nothing of the sort. It is offensive system, part of a larger United States offensive anti-missile system deployed at the periphery [of NATO]. No matter what our foreign colleagues say, we are well aware of what is really happening: the deployment of NATO troops in the territory of Eastern European states has increased demonstrably, including in the waters of the Black and Baltic Seas, as has the scale and intensity of operational and combat training. In this regard, we must ensure the full and timely implementation of all planned measures to strengthen the defense capability of the country, including, of course, in the Crimea and Sevastopol, where we actually have to rebuild the military infrastructure.”[72]

Russia’s position is unambiguous on the question of NATO enlargement:

“It’s every country’s right to decide what form its security should take, but one must understand that if [NATO’s] military infrastructure moves closer to Russia’s borders, we of course will have to take the necessary military-technical action. It’s nothing personal, it’s strictly business.”[73]

An influential Russian defense think tank military called for the nation to “reboot Russian foreign policy in the face of rising external threats…Russia’s position in any foreign policy matter should be proactive and preventive—in a word, strategic”[74] Foreign Minister Lavrov had this to say, alluding to Bismarck’s aphorism that capability is more important than intention:

“NATO has already violated a 1997 agreement, which stipulates that significant military forces will not be deployed permanently in new members. […] It says it has no intention of doing anything detrimental to Russia’s security. But if NATO has no such intentions, why position military infrastructure on our doorstep? In such a situation, we cannot act on the basis of someone’s stated intentions, but instead must act according to the reality we see with our own eyes.”

Not a “NATO Lake”

Russia’s permanent representative to NATO, Alexander Grushko, in late May told the Russian government-owned newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta:

“I don’t want to say we’re in a ‘cold war’ in our relations with NATO, but the Alliance has reverted to Cold War-style confrontational tactics…This is alarming, because now it’s not just political but extends to a military buildup. […] NATO is scheming to expand the confrontation to the Black Sea. Recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said we cannot allow the Black Sea to be transformed into a ‘Russian lake’. But NATO countries are well aware that the Black Sea will never become a ‘NATO lake,’ and that we will take all necessary measures to neutralize possible threats and efforts to exert pressure on Russia from the south.”[75]

That “pressure” comes from the direction of Romania and Turkey. In late April, the Russian Foreign Ministry accused Romania of “doing its best for many years to push for an expansion of US and NATO presence in the Black Sea region” and “positioning itself as an ‘outpost’ for deterring Russia on NATO’s ‘eastern flank’.”[76]

The remilitarization of Russian security policy is evident in the introduction of advanced air defense, cruise missile systems, and new platforms intended to provide the capability to project power into the maritime domain. The United States and NATO claim “this is a sea denial strategy to hold at risk maritime forces” operating in the Black Sea (and elsewhere) and to “deter NATO operations.”[77] It is certainly true that Russia’s 2015 withdrawal from the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe (it had suspended its participation in 2007) leaves the country free to militarize Crimea at will. This reportedly includes the deployment in early 2015 of the Iskander mobile ballistic missile systems [NATO reporting name: SS-26 Stone]. According to General Philip M. Breedlove, USAF (who at the time was the supreme commander of NATO and U.S. European Command):

“These weapon systems—from air defense systems that reach nearly half of the Black Sea to surface attack systems that reach almost all of the Black Sea area—have made the platform of Crimea a great platform for power projection into this area.”[78]

Mr. Lazrov elaborated to Rossiyskaya Gazeta:

“A few months ago, the United States European Command published a new edition of its military strategy. That document states in black and white that the Command’s objective is to promote American interests ‘from Greenland to the Caspian Sea, and from the Arctic Ocean to the Levant.’ The question arises: where is the US and where is the Caspian Sea? And where can Russia promote its national interests? When they say Russia is strengthening it military, remember, we do so first of all on our own territory.”[79]

Russia’s Maritime Doctrine

“The Black Sea Fleet is responsible today not only for Russia’s control over the Black Sea but also for the presence of Russian warships in the Mediterranean Sea.”[80]


Source: topwar.ruSource:[81]

In July 2015 President Vladimir Putin approved a new Maritime Doctrine for the Russian Federation that establishes policy in the five maritime domains identified as geostrategic theatres—the Arctic, Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, and the Caspian Sea—for the five-year period 2016-2020.[82] It “introduced a number of fundamentally new provisions which have become relevant [to] doctrinal documents delineating the country’s military and naval activity,” according to the Security Council of the Russian Federation.[83] In the Atlantic Ocean:    

“National maritime policy…is determined by the growing economic, political and military pressure from NATO countries, the promotion of NATO’s eastward expansion, and by a sharp reduction in capacity of the Russian Federation to implement its maritime strategies. National marine policy in this region is based on a long-term solution to problems in the Baltic, Black and Azov Seas, as well as in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.”[84]

The Atlantic Ocean is a main focus of the new maritime doctrine, underlying which is the suggestion that it is the most likely venue for a maritime conflict between Russia and NATO in the next five years. One significant change is that the Black and the Mediterranean Seas are now contextually (and doctrinally) part of the Atlantic geostrategic theatre. An analysis published in Voyennoye Obozreniye (a Russian language news portal focused on military and security topics) concludes that:

“[T]he Atlantic region is linked with plans for the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. With the return of Crimea and Sevastopol, Russia must take all necessary measures to ensure their rapid integration into the national economy. Furthermore, Russia should strengthen its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, which is part of the Atlantic region.”[85]  

As to the Black Sea, the 2015 Maritime Doctrine emphasizes “the preservation of the city of Sevastopol as its main base” and “ensuring the protection of the sovereignty, and the sovereign and international rights of the Russian Federation.” The government-controlled news portal RIA Novosti highlighted the new Maritime Doctrine’s “emphasis on Crimea,” stating “the basis of Russian policy in the Black Sea will be the rapid recovery and strengthening of strategic positions, as well as the maintenance of peace and stability in the region.”

“In many ways, the special role assigned to the Black Sea Fleet under the new doctrine is explained by expanding the range of tasks assigned to the Fleet after the return of the Crimea to Russia. In particular, the Maritime Doctrine establishes the need for ‘adequate Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean region on a permanent basis.’ Of course, an critical part of the work will fall on the shoulders of the Black Sea Fleet, which will be helped as the newest warships and submarines began to arrive.”[86]

To answer the title question, it has to be parsed into two parts, one addressing the role of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and the other addressing the Black Sea theater, which takes in both its maritime and littoral spaces. Regarding the Black Sea Fleet,

“In many ways, the special role assigned to the Black Sea Fleet under the new doctrine is explained by the expanded range of tasks assigned to the it after Crimea’s return to Russia. In particular, the Maritime Doctrine establishes the need for ‘adequate Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean region on a permanent basis’. Of course, an essential part of the work will fall on the shoulders of the Black Sea Fleet, supported by the arrival of the newest warships and submarines.”[87]

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is comprised of some 2,700 surface and subsurface vessels of assorted types and some 25,000 personnel operating from bases in Crimea and Novorossiysk.

Russian Black Sea Fleet Bases

Russian Black Sea Fleet BasesSource: Argumenty i Fakty ([88]

An unsigned analysis published in October 2013 by the Academy of Geopolitical Problems argued that Russia’s foreign policy doctrine “is dominated by liberal and pro-Western ideas and clichés” like ‘soft power,’ which Russia must reject in favor of concrete strategies and actions that fully meet the national interests.” Here is one new foreign policy doctrine “contour” recommended in that report:

“Russia must not lose sight that it is imperative to hit the brakes on such ‘chronic’ problems as the installation of a United States missile defense to the east or the militarization of Kosovo. Acting on the principle Carthago delenda est, Russian leaders must relentlessly hammer world opinion with reminders and warnings about the aggressive nature of the United States’ military expansion. And since the ‘Iranian threat’ was the pretext for installing US missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic—and just recently, the West has begun to rebuild relations with Iran—Russia must raise the question of dismantling these systems.”[89]

No to a NATO-vski Fleet: Bulgaria Balks

On 16 June, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov announced his government’s opposition to a regional naval partnership with fellow NATO member-states Romania and Turkey. “I do not want war in the Black Sea. We shouldn’t be deploying troops there in ships and aircraft, especially during the tourist season.”[90] He added that President Rosen Plevneliev concurred although some Romanian news agencies reported otherwise.[91]

Mr. Borisov’s statement came in response to a reported proposal by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis to form a joint naval “flotilla” among the three Black Sea NATO member-states, with NATO-aspirant Ukraine also expressing interest. Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Nenchev denied outright that any such proposal existed formally, dismissing reports to the contrary as “an intense propaganda war with elements of hybrid attacks,” presumably coming from the direction of Russia.[92] Turkey that same day unilaterally suspended cooperation with Bulgaria on refugee readmission, though Mr. Borisov denied the two were connected and claimed his government had received no formal notice of Turkey’s action. A scathing commentary published on the Bulgarian portal suggested sarcastically that Turkish President Erdoğan “was probably the victim of a hybrid war, too, because he gave Bulgaria a direct ultimatum: participate in the flotilla or he’ll release more refugees to Europe.”[93]

According to Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Miltov, “Bulgaria has always supported the idea of an enhanced [NATO] presence and conducting exercises in the Black Sea under a NATO flag. But we have undertaken no commitment to participate in any regional format.”[94] He added “it is absolutely unnecessary for aspects of this debate [over a stronger NATO presence in the Black Sea] to be turned into an occasion for public showboating…we need to de-dramatize the conversation and return to a more rational one.”[95] In late May, Mr. Miltov said Bulgaria was talking with Romania and Turkey about “supplementing [NATO] capabilities in the Black Sea.”[96]

What prompted Mr. Borisov’s action? One published report quotes an anonymous Romanian Defense Ministry official who denied there was any misunderstanding when Mr. Borisov and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis met in Sofia. Afterwards, however, “something happened. We don’t know why. We weren’t given a good reason.”[97] President Iohannis quickly disavowed the idea:

“Where there is likely a misunderstanding is over the concept of a NATO fleet. No one wants to create a NATO fleet; that’s foolishness. NATO cannot and does not want to keep a fleet in the Black Sea.”[98]

Armand Goșu speculated about what happened:

“It’s murky, not just a matter of communication. I think decision makers are in a fog and don’t know what they want. There might not be any plan, and they’re horrified by this prospect. In fact they tossed out the fleet idea, which sounded good, and the world caught it. But was it officially announced? Well, we thought so, but then we heard it wasn’t. And I’m afraid there’s nothing there. That’s the tragedy: there’s no plan for Warsaw [the July NATO summit]. There’s no fleet, just some joint exercises, perhaps like those held in the Baltic in the 1990s. But that’s already happening, which is why I say it seems like there’s nothing to it. It existed only in our minds, a great sham. Externally, it’s a catastrophe. It’s not a question of whether the President understands some words, it’s that he’s going back and saying that a project he guided and discussed doesn’t exist. And now the President tells us there’s nothing there.[99]

Officials from the previous Romanian government admonished Mr. Iohannis.  Former Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu said, “It lacks professionalism to come out and say, ‘hey, wait a minute, you’re stupid and didn’t understand.’ A forward presence in the Black Sea isn’t exercises. Let’s not take each other for idiots.” Former President Traian Băsescu called Mr. Iohannis “an embarrassing failure.”[100]

Mr. Băsescu’s former National Security Adviser, Iulian Fota, was less harsh. He believes the Bulgarian government, not Mr. Iohannis, bears most responsibility for creating the impression of a rift among the allies.[101] He dismisses as implausible a suggestion that the Romanian government went to Sofia with a fleet proposal, only to see it rejected:

“I know the Romanian government went to Bulgaria with a proposed framework for cooperation among Black Sea navies within the structure, so to speak, of NATO. Romanian officials did not propose a fleet. I believe it was the Bulgarian president who came out with this idiosyncratic position. On the other hand, [Prime Minister] Borisov has a very fragile parliamentary majority that depends on support from a pro-Russian bloc.”

“We are witnessing an uncertain political contest in Bulgaria, one threatening to harm the North Atlantic alliance, that confirms there’s a pro-Russian camp in Bulgaria, whether or not we can speak of it in Romania. It must be said that we see the Black Sea from a Romanian perspective, in which Russia is a problem. Bulgaria sees it otherwise, and has said in recent months at various international conferences that Russia is not a threat, that Bulgaria is more worried about threats coming from the Middle East than from Russia. So Bulgarians see the Black Sea from a very different perspective. They changed, something has happened in the final 100 meters to make them unreliable.”[102]

Pro-Romania Moldovan news portals were unanimous in criticizing Bulgaria’s action. Radio Chișinău declared, “Bulgaria seems to have succumbed to Russian threats.”[103] According to

“Bulgaria changes its position from day to day about the proposed Romanian-Turkish-Bulgarian initiative…Even taking domestic political considerations into account, Bulgarian President Plevneliev’s overnight change of mind in inexplicable, especially considering Iohannis was still in Bulgaria at the time, visiting the town of Grivita.”[104]

Mr. Borisov was having none of this. He pointed a finger squarely at Turkey:

“Not a single friend or ally spoke in my defense when President Putin admonished me in Erdoğan’s presence in Ankara, saying Bulgaria had lost everything. We’ve been involved in contentious disagreements before, and when we had to defend our national interests…I was more than firm. There’s nobody like us in Europe.”[105]

He also said he would be “very unhappy” should it turn out Bulgarian Foreign Minister Miltov and Defense Minister Nenchev committed to the NATO Black Sea fleet proposal.

“I always said in any case, Bulgaria won’t be attacked by Russia because they’re involved in other activities, mostly economic, on Bulgarian territory. We’re Orthodox Christians, we have a common religion and culture as well as other things. Russia may be somewhat concerned about the others, but will be very shocked in Bulgaria does this.”[106] 

A commentary by Bulgarian political analyst Ognyan Minchev[107] puts the blame squarely on Turkey, “which during the 1990s and the first decade of this century exercised functional hegemony over naval matters in the Black Sea.” Now, he writes, “Russia’s occupation of Crimea and modernization of its Black Sea fleet has reversed the balance of power” and Russia “has seized the strategic initiative. He dismisses the idea of a “junior NATO” Black Sea flotilla involving naval vessels from member-states Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania—and NATO aspirant Ukraine—as “propaganda fireworks that conceal hegemonic nationalist ambitions behind a mask of NATO legitimacy.” It is “a new form of an old ambition: Turkish naval hegemony in the Black Sea.” The answer, he writes, is to revise the Montreux Convention so as to authorize “NATO forces in the Black Sea, on the model of the Mediterranean and the Baltic Seas.” However:

“This revision is in the hands of Turkey—Ankara has categorically vetoed efforts to revise the Montreux conditions [governing the presence of non-riparian state naval vessels] in order to preserve Turkish hegemony in the Black Sea basin, which Russia today is successfully challenging. […] Turkey seriously considers itself a country that has a legitimate right to exercise hegemony on our region—naval, military, cultural, political. What a coincidence—so does Russia, only squared.”[108]

The leader of Bulgaria’s Patriotic Front party, Valeri Simeonov, disagreed with Mr. Borisov’s action, saying, “I would prefer to join a unified Black Sea fleet to deter possible Russia aggression than to break the readmission agreement with Turkey.”[109]

Expanding NATO’s Black Sea presence would be “destabilizing,” said Russian diplomat Andrei Kelin, who added the Black Sea “does not belong to” and “has nothing to do with NATO.”[110] President Putin went further when he spoke with a group of journalists:

“The threat (of a nuclear Iran) is gone and yet the missile defense system (in Europe) continues to be built, so we were right when we said they were trying to deceive us, to cheat, with insincere references to a supposed Iranian nuclear threat while building a missile defense system. […] If one country develops a missile defense that is better than the other, it becomes an advantage, an obvious temptation to use [offensive] weapons first. That’s why arrangements to [curb] missile defense systems are a cornerstone of international security.”[111]

Mr. Putin’s gravamen is well summarized in a May 2016 commentary published in the Italian communist daily Il Manifesto:

“The function of this so-called ‘shield’ is actually offensive. Were the United States to implement a reliable system capable of intercepting ballistic missiles, it could keep Russia under the threat of a nuclear first strike, relying on the ‘shield capacity’ to neutralize the effects of retaliation. […] What, then, is the capability of the Aegis system now deployed in Europe, which the United States is currently upgrading? Lockheed Martin explains it. A discussion of the technical features of the MK 41 vertical launch system—the one installed on Aegis missile ships and now at the Devaselu land base—stresses it is capable of launching ‘missiles for every mission: anti-air, anti-ship, anti-submarine, and to attack ground targets.’ Each launch tube is adaptable to any missile, including both interceptor and offensive nuclear missiles. So no one can know which are really deployed in the vertical launchers at the Devasalu base or onboard vessels sailing in Russian territorial waters. Unable to verify which it is, Moscow must assume they include offensive nuclear missiles.”[112]

Primacy and Missile Defense

It is worth re-asking a question from the beginning of this essay: rather than deter threats, will Aegis Ashore and a postulated NATO Black Sea naval presence instead trigger a spiral of insecurity, adding to instead of diminishing the set of challenges to Black Sea security?

Primacy—the notion that “only a preponderance of U.S. power ensures peace,”[113] as Barry Posen and Andrew Ross defined it—has been a fundamental tenet of American grand strategy for much of the post-Cold War period, animating such principles as command of the commons.[114] It goes hand-in-hand with the idea of coercive diplomacy, which the political scientist Alexander George defines as “efforts to persuade an opponent to stop and/or undo an action he is already embarked upon.”[115] Its intent is “to create in the opponent the expectation of costs of sufficient magnitude to erode his motivation to continue what he is doing.”[116] Thomas Schelling and others maintain that an asymmetry of power (us) and vulnerability (them) are both critical to whether coercive diplomacy succeeds.[117]

The fundamental justification advanced for Aegis Ashore (which applies in general to effective limited missile defense[118]) is its claimed deterrent effect vis-à-vis Iranian intermediate-range and/or intercontinental missiles. Aegis Ashore is meaningfully coercive, proponents argue, by virtue of its asymmetric advantage over Iranian missiles and NATO’s unambiguous commitment to use it. Fair enough. But restraint is another indispensable element of coercive diplomacy: Iran must recognize that any use of force (and its objective) by NATO was intentionally limited but remains subject to escalation. But all that is easily sidestepped were Iran to confine its actions in the first instance to regional threats. After all, Iranian coercion is much more potent directed against achievable endpoints than the chimera of striking targets in continental Europe. 

Any number of sound arguments might be advanced in support of Aegis Ashore. They include: the possibility of a deterrence failure; the coercive value (to Iran) associated with merely threatening to attack; and the technical challenges associated with executing a successful preemptive attack against hardened Iranian missile launch sites.[119] To this we might add the possibility that the Iranian regime will act in an irrational manner against its own apparent interests (a set of actions covered by the collective caption “desperation or revenge”[120]).

While none of these arguments is implausible or outright wrong, each is prone to counterargument.[121] Regarding a possible deterrence failure, Iran’s missile development program has substantial ground to cover before it can field an intermediate-range ballistic missile force that poses a credible threat, and no intercontinental one is foreseen within the next decade. Moreover, if the Iranian government’s nuclear weapons program has in fact been curtailed as the Obama administration claims [note: the author questions this contention] then the Iranian missile threat is further diminished. One or all of these contentions could, of course, prove wrong. But the record so far is that Iran’s abilities in the intermediate-range and intercontinental missile realms have been notably (sometimes abjectly) overstated. Moreover, the United States and NATO have at their disposal “a variety of conventional, nuclear, and diplomatic policies to reduce the probability of [Iranian] aggression.”[122]

The deterrence value of Aegis Ashore (or any effective limited missile defense) “depends on the probability of the most dangerous scenarios, especially how much the United States can influence them,” and proponents are prone to “exaggerate the probability of deterrence failure.”[123] It is unlikely Iranian missiles would deter the United States and NATO from intervening to counter Iranian aggression elsewhere since any argued deterrence effect depends on the survivability of Iranian launch sites (whether fixed or mobile) and command & control systems among other technical factors (none of which favor Iran). Were the United States to act in such a scenario (either unilaterally or with its NATO allies) to counter Iranian aggression and restore the status quo ante, its “limited war aims would not depend on its having [an Aegis Ashore-type missile defense] although [having one] might “reduce the expected damage of rogue escalation.”[124] Plus, such threats rarely materialize overnight: a credible missile defense could be deployed in an emergency, for example, by positioning Aegis naval vessels (it is unlikely the United States and/or NATO would be deterred in an emergent crisis by such niceties as the Montreux Convention). 

The author suggests the relevant question is this: under what scenario, all else being equal,[125] is the United States and NATO better off with an effective limited missile defense in the form of Aegis Ashore in Romania than without it? Its intended effect is to “diminish the coercive influence that Iran hopes to gain by continuing to develop these destabilizing capabilities.”[126] That is a curious choice of words: coercive against whom? Aegis Ashore’s stated purpose is to defend against an Iranian IRBM attack against continental Europe (as well as a hypothesized future threat to the United States mainland from Iranian intercontinental missiles). So Aegis Ashore leaves Iran free to coerce regional adversaries. Does it in some meaningful way stiffen European spines and/or America’s commitment to collective defense? Those effects are easy to claim but harder to sustain. And are they on balance greater than the harm in the here-and-now to regional security coming from a decidedly not-reassured Russia?

Charles L. Glaser and Steve Fetter make an intriguing argument in their 2001 article that merits reconsideration in the aftermath of Aegis Ashore going operational.

“To further reduce the threat posed by limited NMD [nuclear missile defense], the United States should unilaterally decrease the counterforce threat it poses to Russian [strategic nuclear] forces.”[127]

Russia makes just such an argument, viz., that Aegis Ashore can be readily adapted to threaten Russian strategic missiles. This claim, vigorously disputed by the United States and NATO, is that Aegis Ashore launchers are Tomahawk cruise missile capable. The “threat” is a function of the (claimed or actual) vulnerability of Russia’s strategic missile force. Unilaterally decreasing the counterforce threat would be a bold gambit, vitiating Russia’s narrative that the United States de facto has abandoned the INF treaty specifically and bilateral arms control generally. As Glaser and Fetter argued a decade ago:

“[R]educing the U.S. counterforce threat should make NMD [nuclear missile defense] more acceptable to Russia, especially to military planners responsible for judging Russian forces against demanding scenarios. Second, U.S. willingness to pursue these measures, combined with the asymmetry allowed by the integrated offense- defense agreement, should indicate to Russia that U.S. NMD is not intended to undermine Russian retaliatory capabilities.”[128]

Any such suggestion faces a challenging political climate. The National Security Strategy signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on 31 December 2015 reiterates the role of nuclear deterrence in Russian security strategy. Russia’s new intercontinental ballistic missile, the RS-28 Sarmat,[129] is intended to ensure the long-term durability of Russia’s nuclear deterrent. Called the shchita Rodiny or “the shield of the Motherland,”[130] Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said the RS-28 “is a unique weapon, the mission of which is to overcome missile defenses and to have sufficient range so that it can fly over either the North or the South Pole.”[131] The latter point means it can deliver warheads to a given target from directions other than the expected one, “forcing the other side to establish a circular anti-ballistic missile defense” according to one Russian expert.[132]

Is Antimissile Defense the New Gunboat Diplomacy in the Black Sea?

In the mid 1970s Barry Blechman offered this definition of the role of maritime forces:

“A nation’s navy not only defends its coastal waters and protects national interest aboard; it also signals overall military potential and political intent to influence world affairs. Changes in relative naval strength among the leading powers have always been watched closely in other nations on the assumption that the size of a country’s conventional naval forces reflects its willingness—and ability—to affect political events. This assumption prevails even today when more potent weapons are available. […] And great powers frequently have relied upon warships to impose their will upon lesser states. There is even a term for this: gunboat diplomacy.”[133] [Emphasis added]

Since then, new platforms have emerged to supplant more traditional military ones such as attack aircraft and naval gunfire as the primary means of delivering force to achieve political gain. In the 1990s, it was the Tomahawk cruise missile:

“After a century of ‘gunboat diplomacy’ and a half-century of manned aircraft as the delivery system of choice, the cruise missile ship has arrived as a preferred choice to accomplish a political objective by military means. Despots around the world have taken notice. That lone American cruiser or destroyer patrolling the nearby seas can be as lethal as an aircraft carrier conducting flight operations a few hundred miles away.”[134]

Today, the Aegis Ashore missile defense system gives rise to the newest form of gunboat diplomacy. A group of defense analysts associated with the German think tank Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik wrote in an April 2016 report:

“At the 2010 Lisbon summit, the NATO allies decided to develop a joint missile defense system as a core element of collective defense. Since then, the security environment has changed fundamentally. The hopes of cooperating with Moscow on missile defense have been shattered, while the nuclear deal with Iran reduces the threat from the south and thus undermines one of the central justifications for the proposed system.”[135]

They raise several questions about Aegis Ashore, at least some of which remain wholly or partly unresolved:

“From the security perspective the threat analysis needs to be clarified. At the moment, there are different opinions about what NATO intends to defend against. It must also be asked whether the successful implementation of the Iran agreement would not offer sufficient reason to re-evaluate the scope and timeframe of the project.”

“From the military perspective, the performance of the system should be assessed from different perspectives. Experience has already been gathered with intercepting short-range missiles. Defense against medium-range and intermediate-range missiles has only been tested in a handful of cases, and these were rarely based on realistic conditions. In this context, it is also important to ask to what extent Germany and other European NATO allies would be included in decisions to deploy or use missile defense systems in times of peace or crisis.”

“From the alliance perspective, it should be considered whether and how NATO allies can better reconcile the different objectives associated with the creation of a missile defense system…In particular, the question needs to be asked what influence Europe would have on the possible use of such capabilities in times of crisis.”

“The deployment of effective missile defense systems could have positive repercussions for arms control, if it reduces the political and military importance of nuclear weapons. But at the same time, the danger of new arms races grows.”[136]

The long-term effect of Aegis Ashore on NATO cohesion is uncertain. What is not uncertain is that Russia “justifies resumption of development work on new nuclear warheads and delivery systems by the necessity to overcome US missile defense systems.”[137] As argued earlier, the effect is to create opportunities for miscalculation, but at the same time, to open the door to a renewed effort at bilateral arms control.

It is worth remembering the United States is a relative newcomer to the Black Sea region, occasional hubristic declarations to the contrary notwithstanding. Russia, however, is not, as Isaac Babel wrote in his short story “Odessa.”

“And I think to myself: the Russians will finally be drawn to the south, to the sea, to the sun! ‘Will be drawn,’ by the way, is wrong. They already have been drawn, for many centuries. Russia’s most important path has been her inexhaustible striving toward the southern steppes, perhaps even her striving for ‘the Cross of Hagia Sophia’.”[138]

A final reminder for anyone who doubts the indefatigable drive of Russian expansionism: that object resides in Istanbul.


The title of this essay is adapted from a July 2015 commentary “Putin’s maritime doctrine aims to make the Atlantic Ocean the new Black Sea” (“Morskaya doktrina Putina prizvana sdelat’ Atlantiku takim zhe svoim domom, kak Chernoye more”) published on, a pro-Russian government news portal taking its name from the eponymous Turgenev novel (“The day before”).  The translation of all source material is by the author unless noted otherwise.

[1] Milan Vego (2007; 2009). “The Factor of Space.” Joint Operational Warfare: Theory and Practice. (Newport, RI: Naval War College, reprint, 2009) III-7.

[2] “Morskaya doktrina Putina prizvana sdelat’ Atlantiku takim zhe svoim domom, kak Chernoye more.” [published online in Russia 27 July 2015]. Last accessed 30 May 2016. Colonel Anokhin a retired military officer and a political scientist who serves as vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Issues in Moscow. This commentary was republished under the same title on [published inline in Russian 28 July 2015]. Last accessed 30 May 2016.

[3] The 1936 Montreux Convention regulates the “transit and navigation in the Straits of the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmora and the Bosporus,” which are referred to by the collective term “the Straits.” The treaty imposes significant limits on naval vessels of non-Black Sea riparian states, i.e., all countries other than Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Article 10 limits their passage during a period of peace to light surface vessels, minor war vessels and auxiliary vessels only, excluding other classes of ships, e.g., submarines and aircraft carriers. Article 18 imposes further limits on the total tonnage of non-Black Sea riparian state naval vessels in the Straits or the Black Sea at any given time. In time of war in which Turkey is a non-belligerent, warships of non-belligerent states have freedom of transit and navigation in the Straits allowed under peacetime conditions. No belligerent state’s warships may pass through the Straits. If Turkey is a belligerent, the Turkish government may act freely at its discretion regarding passage of vessels of war. Article 23 regulates transit by civil aircraft over the Straits, with authorization for military aircraft to fly over the Straits is left to the discretion of the Turkish government.

[4] Igor Delanoë (2014). “The Ukrainian Crisis and Security in the Black Sea.” Atlantic Voices. 4:4 (April 2014).

[5] Tetsue Kotani (2013). “China’s Fortress Fleet-in-Being and its Implications for Japan’s Security.” Asie.Visions. 62 (February 2013) 8.

[6] The 19th century naval strategist Philip Columb elaborated the concept as “what, in naval affairs, corresponds to ‘a relieving army’ in military affairs, that is to say, a fleet which is able and willing to attack an enemy proposing a descent upon territory which that force has it in charge to protect.” [Vice Admiral Philip H. Colomb (1891). Naval Warfare: Its ruling Principles and Practices Historically Treated. (London: W. H. Allen). The quoted text is from the 1899 third edition reprinted as Columb (1989). Classics of Sea Power, v.2. (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press) 550] Julian Corbett elaborated the concept as a “counterstroke” tool. [Corbett (1911).  Some Principles of Maritime Strategy. (New York: Longmans, Green & Co.). Reprinted as Corbett (1989). Classics of Sea Power (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press) 224–25]

[7] James R. Holmes (2010). “A ‘Fortress Fleet’ for China.” The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations. 11:2 (Summer/Fall 2010) 124-125. Last accessed 21 June 2016. Holmes, channeling Corbett, describes it as “a hybrid fortress-fleet/fleet-in-being strategy for strategically defensive aims.”

[8] Kotani (2013), op cit.., 9.

[9] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev used this term in a 31 August 2008 television interview broadcast on Russia’s Pervyy kanal (“Channel One”) speech referring to “regions [that] are home to countries with which we share special historical relations and are bound together as friends and good neighbors.” [] Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also used the term in a 10 September 2008 commentary that was published in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, in which he wrote: “In conducting our foreign policy, we invariably observe principles formulated by President Dmitri Medvedev, including paying particular attention to regions where Russia has its privileged interests. […] We call our partners to follow Russia’s example and acknowledge the new realities. We believe that the statements, made by some countries’ leaders, about Russia’s ‘imperialist’ and ‘revisionist’ policies are completely wrong.” [Reprinted in Russian by the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry 15 December 2008. Last accessed 20 June 2016]

[10] Xu Qi (2004). “Maritime Geostrategy and the Development of the Chinese Navy in the Early Twenty-First Century,” Andrew S. Erickson and Lyle J. Goldstein, trans. Naval War College Review. 59:4 (Autumn 2006) 47. The translators write, “this article, published in 2004 in China’s most prestigious military journal, China Military Science, merits special attention…”

[11] Duncan A. Robinson (2003). “The Strategy Hypercube: Exploring Strategies Space Using Agent-Based Models.” In David Hales, Bruce Edmonds, Emma Norling & Juliette Rouchier, Eds. Multi-Agent-Based Simulation III. 4th International Workshop, MABS 2003, Melbourne, Australia, July 14, 2003. Revised Papers. (Berlin: Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg) 182.

[12] Xu (2004), op cit.

[13] Peng Guangqian and Yao Youzhi, eds. (2005). The Science of Military Strategy [English edition]. (Beijing: Military Science Publishing House) 62-72. The Chinese edition was first published in 2001. Peng and Yao identify four elements of strategy: national interest, military force, geography, and culture. For its part, the United States uses an expansive definition of the term maritime domain: Joint Publication (JP) 1-02, DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines the maritime domain as “the oceans, seas, bays, estuaries, islands, coastal areas, and the airspace above these, including the littorals.” [ Last accessed 10 June 2016]

[14] “Vladimir Putin: “Kuban’ – odin iz samykh dinamichnykh regionov v strane.” [published online in Russian 19 September 2003]. Last accessed 16 June 2016.

[15] The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation (2014), subparagraph II.8(c). Published online in Russian Last accessed 26 May 2016. Author’s translation of the original Russian language text. The official English version published by the Russian government reads as follows: (c) deployment (build-up) of military contingents of foreign states (groups of states) in the territories of the states contiguous with the Russian Federation and its allies, as well as in adjacent waters, including for exerting political and military pressure on the Russian Federation.

[16] It even has its own Facebook page (

[17] Charles L. Glaser and Steve Fetter define this as having “some capability against rogue-state missile forces.” See: Glaser & Fetter (2001). “National Missile Defense and the Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy.” International Security. 26:1 (Summer 2001) 66.;jsessionid=5600B04E0603BAF4140C7E8E42FB285D?sequence=1. Last accessed 16 June 2016.

[18] “MID RF: napravlennost’ PRO SSHA protiv Rossii ne vyzyvayet somneniy.” TASS [published online in Russian 26 April 2016]. Last accessed 20 June 2016.

[19] “Karakayev: ugrozy so storony YevroPRO SSHA ogranichenny i ne snizhayut boyevyye vozmozhnosti RVSN.” TASS [pulbished online in Russian 10 May 2016]. Last accessed 20 June 2016.

[20] Dmitriy Drobnitskiy (2016). “Pust’ SSHA stroyat svoyu PRO. Vechno.” Vzglyad [published online in Russian 14 June 2016]. Last accessed 20 June 2016.

[21] The group’s deputy chair, Stanislav Stanilov, said the group’s priorities are “resisting anti-Russian sanctions, the struggle against the expansion of NATO’s presence in the country, and categorical opposition to any suggestion that Bulgaria participate in NATO’s anti-Russian potential aggression.” Its chair, Nikolay Malinov, claimed 35,000 signatures on a petition opposing the deployment of NATO missiles in Bulgaria. Both leaders were quoted in a statement published by the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies,  [“Ekspert RISI prinyal uchastiye v s”yezde rusofilov Bolgarii.” [published online in Russian 15 June 2016]. Last accessed 20 June 2016] The Russian Institute of Strategic Studies (sometimes called by its transliterated Russian acronym, RISI) functions as a Kremlin think tank and is part of the Presidential Administration; it was formerly part of Russia’s external intelligence agency, the Sluzhba vneshney razvedki (SVR).

[22] “Ucheniya NATO v Pol’she ne sposobstvuyut atmosfere doveriya i bezopasnosti, zayavil zhurnalistam press-sekretar’ prezidenta RF Dmitriy Peskov.” RIA Novosti [published online in Russian 7 June 2016]. . Last accessed 16 June 2016. Most of the English language translations of the statement by Mr. Peskov, who is President Putin’s spokesperson, regarding the June 2016 NATO exercises in Poland were incomprehensible.

[23] Varvara Pavlovna Adrianovoy-Peret, ed. (1950). Povest’ vremennykh let po Lavrent’yevskoy rukopisi 1377 g. Chast’ pervaya. (Moskva–Leningrad: Izd-vo AN SSSR) 11-12. The text (English: The Russian Primary Chronicles aka Tales of Bygone Years) is a c.1113 C.E. history of Kievan Rus’ compiled by Saint Nestor the Chronicler.

[24] Gheorghe I. Brătianu (1988; 1999). Marea Neagră : de la origini pînă la cucerirea otomană. (Iaşi: Polirom Publishing House) 27. The book’s title in English is “The Black Sea from its origins to the Ottoman conquest.”  Romania’s post-war Communist regime purged Brătianu from his university positions in June 1948 and imprisoned him in May 1950, where he died on 23 April 1953 at the age of 55.

[25] Linguists believe the name “Black Sea” comes from the early forms of the Turkic language, in which kara meant both “black” and “great”.  While kara was translated into Hebrew as “great” (and became the basis for Italian translations during the medieval period) the word slowly lost its meaning as “great” (except in remote areas) and “black” increasingly predominated. The Bulgars—the longest settled of all peoples around the Black Sea (except for the tiny Caucasian tribes on its eastern shores)—also called it Kara meaning “Black”. This translation of kara was picked up by travellers to the region in the latter part of the Middle Ages, which tended to reinforce and standardize the usage of the term “Black Sea”. For a detailed etymological discussion see: Osman Karatay (2011). “On the origins of the name for the ‘Black Sea’.” Journal of Historical Geography. 37 (2011) 1-11.

[26] Gheorghe I. Brătianu (1969). La Mer Noire. Des origines à la conquête ottomane. (Munich: Societas Academica Dacoromana) 173. Brătianu wrote the book in the 1940s, and it was first published posthumously in 1969.

[27] Muzaffer Ürekli (1989). Kırım Hanlığı’nın Kuruluşu ve Osmanlı Himayesinde Yükselişi (1441-1569). (Ankara: Türk Kültürünü Araştırma Enstitüsü Yayınları) 16-17.

[28] The Crimean Khanate (green-yellow stripe) acted as an Ottoman buffer that prevented Russia and Poland from reaching the Black Sea. It separated from the Ottoman Empire under the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarc and aligned with Russia, which annexed it in 1783.

Source: RTSource: Wikipedia

In March 2014, Turkish political analyst Ceylan Ozbudak argued that Turkey in 1991 “acquired the right” to reclaim Crimea because a clause in the Treaty provides for Crimea to revert to Turkey in the event sovereign control ever transferred to a third party. Ms. Ozbudak maintained that just such a transfer occurred in 1991, when Crimea became part of a sovereign Ukraine. See: Ceylan Ozbudak (2014). “Turkey caught in the Russian-Crimea snowstorm.” Al-Arabiya [published online in English 1 March 2014]. Last accessed 3 June 2016. 

[29] Mustafa Aydin (2004). “Europe’s next shore: the Black Sea region after EU enlargement.” Occasional paper no. 53 (June 2004) published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies. (Paris: EUISS) 5.

[30] Sources (left to right):


[31] The Bosphorus Strait connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara, from which the Dardanelles strait connects to the Aegean Sea region of the Mediterranean.

[32] Ian O. Lesser (2007). “Global Trends, Regional Consequences: Wider Strategic Influences on the Black Sea.” Xenophon Papers no. 4 November 2007. (Athens: International Center for Black Sea Studies) 16. Last accessed 4 June 2016.

[33] Maintaining control over the Turkish Straits—it is instructive that Turkey has its own name for what nearly everyone else calls the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles—is a key aspect of Turkey’s Black Sea policy. It has long been wary of proposals to expands NATO’s presence in the Black Sea would be a prelude to losing control of the Turkish Straits, which Turkey has controlled since the signing of the 1936 Montreux Convention. Zeyno Baran (2008). “Turkey and the Wider Black Sea Region.” The Wider Black Sea Region in the 21st Century: Strategic, Economic and Energy Perspectives, Daniel Hamilton and Gerhard Mangott, eds. (Washington DC: Centre for Transatlantic Relations, 2008) 90.

[34] Duygu Bazoğlu Sezer (2000). “The Changing Strategic Situation in the Black Sea Region.” In Jahrbuch für internationale Sicherheitspolitik 2000, Erich Reiter, Ed. (Bonn: Verlag Mittler & Sohn) 6.

[35] Basil Germond (2015). The Maritime Dimension of European Security. (London: Palgrave Macmillan UK) 143.

[36] David A. Baldwin (1997). “The concept of security.” Review of International Studies. 23 (1997) 15.

[37] This argument is developed in an undated essay written by Leonardo de Arrizabalaga y Prado. See: “Culture, Defence and Security.” Undated manuscript published online by The New Security Foundation. Last accessed 5 June 2016.

[38] Contemporary American defense doctrine explains the term defensive as meaning “We must build both our ability to withstand attack—a fundamental and defensive aspect of deterrence—and improve our resiliency beyond an attack.” [United States Defense Department (2008). National Defense Strategy, 12. Last accessed 4 June 2016] China claims its national defense policy is strictly defensive: “China pursues a national defense policy which is purely defensive in nature. China places the protection of national sovereignty, security, territorial integrity, safeguarding of the interests of national development, and the interests of the Chinese people above all else…China implements a military strategy of active defense. Strategically, it adheres to the principle of featuring defensive operations, self-defense and striking and getting the better of the enemy only after the enemy has started an attack.” See: “Defense Policy.” Published online in English by the Ministry of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China. Last accessed 4 June 2016.

[39] Miguel Ferreira Da Silva (2016). “Cibersegurança vs. Ciberdefesa—Uma Visão Portuguesa Da Distinção.” CyberLaw. 1 (2016). Published online in Portuguese by the Centro De Investigação Jurídica Do Ciberespaço. Last accessed 4 June 2016.

[40] NATO (2010). “Core Tasks and Principles. 4.a. Collective defence.” [sic] Active Engagement, Modern Defence: Strategic Concept For the Defence and Security of The Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. [sic] Adopted by Heads of State and Government in Lisbon 19 November 2010. (Brussels: NATO Public Diplomacy Division) 7. Last accessed 5 June 2016.

[41] Arnold Wolfers (1952). “‘National Security’ as an Ambiguous Symbol.” Political Science Quarterly. 67:4 (December 1952), 484.

[42] Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper testified in February 2016 that  “Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD, and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Iran’s progress on space launch vehicles—along with its desire to deter the United States and its allies—provides Tehran with the means and motivation to develop longer-range missiles, including ICBMs.” Iran’s Simorgh rocket (aka Safir-2) is a continuation of earlier missile design and propulsion systems technology jointly developed by Iran and North Korea. It demonstrates two essential technologies for an ICBM — staging (currently two) and clustered engines (the first stage uses 4 Shahab engines). That said, the Simorgh itself is not an ICBM, a key part of which is the re-entry vehicle, which Iran has not tested.

Source: RTSource: RT

An ICBM launched from within Iran would need a range of at least 10,000km to reach population centers in the continental United States. It is highly unlikely that the current iteration of the Simorgh is capable of carrying a first generation nuclear weapon, with a mass of 500-1000 kg, to that range. According to one estimate, “Iran’s past missile and space-launcher efforts suggest that Tehran would probably develop and field an intermediate-range missile before trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. So an Iranian ICBM seems unlikely before 2020.” [Michael Elleman (2015). “Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program.” The Iran Primer [published online by the United States Institute of Peace]. Last accessed 4 June 2016]

[43] Congressional Research Service (2012). “Iran’s Ballistic Missile and Space Launch Programs.” Report R42849 dated 6 December 2012. Last accessed 6 June 2016. Iranian short-range missiles (SRBM) and tactical ballistic missiles (TBM) are excluded from this discussion since the relevant targets here are beyond the range of these systems’ launch sites within Iran.

[44] Ghadr (alt. Qadr) is Iran’s most advanced liquid-propellant medium range ballistic missile. Its range exceeds 2000 km range and it can deliver a single 700-1000kg warhead to within 100 meters of its intended target. It is considered a nuclear-capable missile, defined as one capable of carrying a 500 kg payload a distance of 300km.

[45] Anthony H. Cordesman (2015). “Iran’s Enduring Missile Threat: The Impact of Nuclear and Precision Guided Weapons.” Statement before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa dated 10 June 2015, 7. Last accessed 6 June 2016.

[46] Ibid., 6. According to Dr. Cordesman, “Most such systems still lack advanced guidance systems, do not seem to have had enough tests in their final configuration to establish a high level of reliability or an accuracy based on real-world tests, and have guidance systems present major problems in attacking point targets or high value parts of area targets without being armed with nuclear weapon…Such missiles can, however, hit large area-sized targets, and disrupt military and economic operations, and civil life.”

[47] For example, a 2012 Congressional Research Service analysis offered the following extended caveat: “These intelligence statements serve as the official U.S. basis for assessing the Iranian ICBM threat to the United States and to its friends and allies. These assessments drive U.S. military efforts designed to respond to such threats, such as the U.S. BMD program in general and the U.S. missile defense system in Europe specifically, as well as U.S. diplomatic and other efforts such as sanctions to dissuade or slow down Iranian long-range ballistic missile programs. However, they do not offer a probability assessment for such technological assistance being available. These assessments do not mean that currently universal agreement exists within the U.S. intelligence community on the issue of an Iranian ICBM. According to these same unclassified statements, some within the intelligence community argued that an Iranian ICBM test was likely before 2010 (which did not happen), and very likely before 2015. Other U.S. officials believed, however, that there is ‘less than an even chance’ for such a test before 2015. Furthermore, U.S. assessments are also conditional in that an Iranian ICBM capability would have to rely on access to foreign technology, from, for example, North Korea or Russia. Finally, some argue that an Iranian ICBM could be developed out of the Iranian space program under which a space-launch vehicle might be converted into an ICBM program. In the 1990s, some argued that Iran could have developed and tested such a space launch vehicle by 2010. Iran successfully demonstrated a space launch capability in 2009 with the launch of a low-earth orbit satellite, but the IC has not assessed that Iran has conducted an ICBM test or acquired an ICBM capability. See: Congressional Research Service (2012), op cit., 36.

[48] Emad (the name means “Pillar”) is an Iranian-designed, liquid-fuel IRBM with a claimed range of 1700 km and 750 kg payload. The test launch was conducted in defiance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which states that for a period of eight years, “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

[49] See: Last accessed 5 June 2016.

[50] “Putin: sistema PRO—chast’ yadernogo potentsiala SSHA.” Russkiy Top [published online in Russian 13 May 2016]. Last accessed 4 June 2016.


[52] “V Rumynii otkrylsya pervyy nazemnyy ob”yekt protivoraketnoy oborony SSHA v Yevrope.” Kommersant [published online in Russian 13 May 2016]. Last accessed 4 June 2016.

[53] The upgraded Aegis Combat System Baseline 9.C1 incorporated into “Aegis Ashore” is designed to engage cruise and ballistic missiles simultaneously. Baseline 9 was first tested in November 2014, when the guided-missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones (DDG 53) successfully intercepted a short-range ballistic missile and two cruise missiles. In October 2015, the United States Navy and eight other countries successfully conducted a detect-to-engage integrated air and missile defense exercise in the North Sea, during which the coalition simultaneously intercepted a ballistic missile in space and an anti-ship cruise missile target. This was the first missile defense test of its kind in Europe. [ Last accessed 7 June 2016]

[54] “Rumyniya vstupila v voynu na nashey storone.” [published online in Russian 12 May 2016]. Last accessed 7 June 2016. Konstantin Bogdanov is a military affairs commentator for the Moscow-based online newspaper

[55] Ibid.

[56] Ibid. The United States and NATO vigorously disputes the contention that it violates the INF Treat. It is true, however, that the MK 41 launcher was used during the September 2015 flight test of the SM-3 Block IIA.

[57] Mr. Bogdonov concludes by elaborating the title of his article, “Romania entered the war on our side” (Rumyniya vstupila v voynu na nashey storone»): “In this regard, it is impossible not to recall an old anecdote from the Second World War. Chief of [the German Army General] Staff [Franz] Halder said, ‘My Führer, Romania has entered the war.’ ‘Halder, you could manage this nonsense on your own. Send five divisions against them.’ ‘My Führer, you don’t understand. Romania entered the war on our side.’ ‘That’s much worse. Find ten divisions somewhere to defend them’.”

[58] Brătianu (1941), op cit., 30-31. It reads in the original Romanian “Cine are Crimeea poate stăpâni Marea Neagră. Cine n-o are, n-o stăpâneşte.”

[59] Gheorghe I. Brătianu (1941). Chestiunea Mării Negre, Curs 1941-1942, Universitatea Bucureşti, Facultatea de Filozofie şi Litere, ed. Ioan Vernescu, 11. Brătianu wrote of three spaces, spaţiul de securitate (“secure space”), spaţiul etnic (“ethnic space”), and spaţiul vital (“vital space”).

[60] Ibid.

[61] Leonardo de Arrizabalaga y Prado (undated). “Culture, Defence and Security.” Undated manuscript published online by The New Security Foundation. Last accessed 5 June 2016.

[62] Julian Stafford Corbett (1911). Some principles of maritime strategy. (London: Longmans, Green & Co.) 93.

[63] Philip H. Colomb (1895), Naval Warfare, 2nd revised ed. (London: W.H. Allen,).

[64] Colonel conf.univ.dr. Liviu Scrieciu (2005).”Mării Negre în contextul geopolitic actual” (“The Black Sea’s current geopolitical context”). Securitate şi stabilitate în bazinul Mării Negre: a V-a. Sesiune Internaţională de Comunicări Ştiinţifice: Bucureşti, 21-22 Noiembrie 2005 (Universităţii Naţionale de Apărare “Carol I” Centrul de Studii Strategice de Apărare şi Securitate), 58-66. Last accessed 10 June 2016.

[65] Last accessed 7 June 2016.

[66] The term escalation dominance means “the ability to increase the enemy’s costs of defiance while denying them the opportunity to neutralize those costs or counter-escalate. ” United States Air Force (2007). Strategic Attack.  Air Force Doctrine Document 3-70 (12 June 2007) 33. Last accessed 21 June 2016.

[67] RAND Project Air Force (2008). Dangerous Thresholds: Managing Escalation in the 21st Century. (Santa Monica, CA: RAND) 17. Last accessed 21 June 2016.

[68] Laurence Martin (1985). “The Use of Naval Froces in Peacetime.” Naval War College Review. XXXVII:1 (January-February 1985) 10.

[69] James Sherr (2015). Containment 2.0: Living with the new East-West Discord. Clingendael-Netherlands Institute of International Relations Policy Brief (November 2015) 6. Last accessed 22 June 2016.

[70] This argument is adapted from a longer one in National Defense University (2016). Countering Russia’s Strategy for Regional Coercion and War (March 2016) 5. Last accessed 21 June 2016.

[71] The official English version published by the Russian government reads as follows: (c) deployment (build-up) of military contingents of foreign states (groups of states) in the territories of the states contiguous with the Russian Federation and its allies, as well as in adjacent waters, including for exerting political and military pressure on the Russian Federation. The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation (2010), subparagraph II.8(c). Published online in Russian Last accessed 26 May 2016. Author’s translation of the original Russian language text.

[72] President Vladimir V. Putin (2014). “Po voprosam obespecheniya suvereniteta i territorial’noy tselostnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii” (“On the issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation”). Opening Remarks at the Security Council meeting 22 July 2015. Sovet Bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii website [published online in Russian 22 July 2015]. Last accessed 31 May 2016.

[73] ”Om Sverige går med i Nato kommer vi att vidta nödvändiga åtgärder” (“If Sweden joins NATO, we will take the necessary measures”). Dagens Nyheter [published online in Swedish 25 April 2016]. Last accessed 2 June 2016.

[74] Akademiya Geopoliticheskikh Problem (2013). “K voprosu o perezagruzke Rossiyskoy vneshney politiki v situatsii narastaniya vneshnikh ugroz.” (“The matter of rebooting Russian foreign policy in an environment of rising external threats”). [published online in Russian 18 October 2013].к-вопросу-о-перезагрузке-российской-в/. Last accessed 30 May 2016.

[75] “NATO zovet v proshloye” (“NATO is calling for the past’s return”). Rossiyskaya Gazeta [published online in Russian 30 May 2016]. Last accessed 3 June 2016.

[76] Otvet ofitsial’nogo predstavitelya MID Rossii M.V.Zakharovoy na vopros SMI o ideye sozdaniya «Chernomorskoy flotilii» NATO (“Response by Russian MFA spokesperson M.V. Zaharovoy to a media question about the idea of creating a NATO ‘Black Sea fleet’.”). The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation website [published online in Russian 27 April 2016]. Last accessed 3 June 2016.

[77] “NATO’s Role at Sea.” Speech by ADM Mark E. Ferguson, III, USN, Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples, to the Atlantic Council 6 October 2015. Last accessed 3 June 2016.

[78] ” NATO Commander Breedlove: Imported Russian Missiles Have Turned Crimea into a Black Sea ‘Power Projection’ Platform.” USNI News [published online 25 February 2015]. Last accessed 10 June 2016.

[79] Rossiyskaya Gazeta 30 May 2016, op cit.

[80] “Kak razvivalsya Chernomorskiy flot ot Yekateriny II do bor’by protiv IG” (“Role of the Black Sea Fleet from Catherine II to the fight against ISIS”). [published online in Russian 13 May 2016]. Last accessed 16 June 2016.

[81] Last accessed 31 May 2016.

[82] Morskaya doktrina Rossiyskoy Federatsii na period do 2020 goda. Last accessed 31 May 2015.

[83]  Security Council of the Russian Federation (2015). Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Mikhail Popov commented at the request of the journalists on the new edition of the Maritime Doctrine of the Russian Federation. Sovet Bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii website [published online in Russian 12 August 2015]. Last accessed 31 May 2016. The Security Council of the Russian Federation is analogous to the United States National Security Council.

[84] Ibid.

[85] “Utverzhdena obnovlonnaya Morskaya doktrina Rossiyskoy Federatsii.” Voyennoye Obozreniye [published online in Russian 28 July 2015]. Last accessed 31 May 2016.

[86] “Morskaya doktrina Rossii – Krym i Arktika v prioritete.” RIA Novosti [published online in Russian 26 July 2015]. Last accessed 31 May 2016.

[87] “Vladimir Putin utverdil novuyu redaktsiyu Morskoy doktriny Rossii.” Novosti VPK [published online in Russian 28 July 2015]. Last accessed 31 May 2016.

[88] “Sostav Chernomorskogo flota VMF Rossii.” Argumenty i Fakty  [published online in Russian 13 May 2014]. Last accessed 31 May 2016.

[89] Akademiya Geopoliticheskikh Problem (2013). “K voprosu o perezagruzke Rossiyskoy vneshney politiki v situatsii narastaniya vneshnikh ugroz.” (“The matter of rebooting Russian foreign policy in an environment of rising external threats”). [published online in Russian 18 October 2013].к-вопросу-о-перезагрузке-российской-в/. Last accessed 30 May 2016.

[90] “Premierŭt: Ne iskam voĭna v Cherno more i to prez letniya turisticheski sezon. [published online in Bulgarian 16 June 2016]. Last accessed 17 June 2016.

[91] “REACŢIA lui Iohannis după ce Bulgaria a REFUZAT să participe la o COALIŢIE împotriva Rusiei în Marea Neagră. Borisov: ‘Vreau să văd iahturi, turişti, dragoste şi pace în staţiunile noastre de la Marea Neagră, nu vreau fregate’.” [published online in Romanian 17 June 2016]. Last accessed 18 June 2016.

[92] “Nenchev za flota v Cherno more: Tezhka propagandna voĭna s elementi na khibridni ataki.” [published online in Bulgarian 17 June 2016]. Last accessed 17 June 2016.

[93] “ETO KAK BŬLGARIYA SHTE RAZMAZHE RUSIYA V CHERNO MORE!” [published online in Bulgarian 17 June 2016].ето-как-българия-ще-размаже-русия-в-чер-169640/. Last accessed 18 June 2016.

[94] “Bŭlgariya e za zasilvane prisŭstvieto na NATO v Cherno more.” [published online in Bulgarian 18 June 2016]. Last accessed 18 June 2016.

[95] “Ot·stoyavame ideyata za po-zasileno prisŭstvie v Cherno more, no pod flaga na NATO.” Informatsionna agentsiya ‘Cherno more’ [published online in Bulgarian 18 June 2016]. Last accessed 18 June 2016.

[96] “La o zi după vizita lui Iohannis în Bulgaria, premierul Borisov anunţă că se opune Flotei NATO în Marea Neagră: Nu vreau ca Marea Neagră să devină zonă de conflict militar.” [published online in Romanian 16 June 2016]. Lastv accessed 18 June 2016.

[97] “Cum a ajuns România de la „flotila NATO în Marea Neagră” la „o prostie”.” Gându [published online in Romanian 17 June 2016]. Last accessed 20 June 2016.

[98] (17 June 2016), op cit.

[99] Gându (17 June 2016), op cit. Dr. Goșu is Associate Professor of Russian Studies in the Department of Political Science at Bucharest University.

[100] Ibid.

[101] Ibid. Dr. Fota is Associate Professor at the National Intelligence Academy. He was President Traian Băsescu’s National Security Adviser, and directed both the Defense Section of Romania’s NATO mission and the country’s National Defense College.

[102] “Fostul consilier prezidențial Iulian Fota: „În Bulgaria avem o tabără pro-rusă”.” Digi24 [published online in Romanian 18 June 2016]. /Fostul+consilier+prezidential+Iulian+Fota+In+Bulgaria+avem+o+tab. Last accessed 20 June 2016.

[103] “Premierul bulgar: Nu vreau ca Marea Neagră să devină zonă de conflict militar.” De Radio Chișinău [published online in Romanian 16 June 2016]. Last accessed 20 June 2016.

[104] “Rasturnare de situatie in Bulgaria: Premierul se declara impotriva initiativei Romaniei la Marea Neagra.” [published online in Romanian 16 June 2016]. Last accessed 20 June 2016.

[105] “Borisov: Shte pratya Nenchev i Mitov na korab da voyuvat.” [published online in Bulgarian 16 June 2017]. Last accessed 20 June 2016.

[106] Ibid.

[107] According to a biography posted on the German Marshall Fund website [], “Dr. Ognyan Minchev is a non-resident fellow with GMF’s Balkan Trust for Democracy and the executive director of the Institute for Regional and International Studies, an independent think tank, providing policy analyses on regional and international security and cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. Minchev is also Chair of the Board of Transparency International-Bulgaria, an anti-corruption organization. He is a professor of political science at the University of Sofia-Bulgaria.”

[108] “Bŭlgariya, NATO, Cherno more.” [published online in Bulgarian 16 June 2016]. Last accessed 17 June 2016. This is a reprint of the commentary first appearing on Dr. Minchev’s blog, Otlomki ot ogledalo [published online in Bulgarian 16 June 2016]българия-нато-черно-море/.

[109] “Simeonov: Da priemem flot v Cherno more e po-malkata zlina.” [published online in Bulgarian 16 June 2016]. Last accessed 17 June 2016.

[110] [16 June 2016], op cit.

[111] “Putin: sistema PRO SSHA v Yevrope mozhet ispol’zovat’sya protiv RF.” TASS [published online in Russian 17 June 2016]. Last accessed 19 June 2016.

[112] “Missili Usa anti Russia in Romania e Polonia, caldissimo il fronte nucleare Nato in Europa.” Il manifesto [published online in Italian 17 May 2016]. Last accessed 17 June 2016.

[113] Barry R. Posen & Andrew L. Ross (1996). “Competing Visions for U.S. Grand Strategy.” International Security. 21:3 (Winter 1996-1997) 32.

[114] This argument is derived from one by Sameer Lalwani &  Joshua Shifrinson (2011). “Whither Command of the Commons? Choosing Security Over Control.” Monograph published by the New America Foundation. Last accessed 16 June 2016.

[115] Alexander I. George (1991). Forceful Persuasion: Coercive Diplomacy as an Alternative to War. (Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press) 5.

[116] Ibid., 11.

[117] Thomas C. Schelling (1968). Arms and Influence. (New Haven: Yale University Press).

[118]  Charles L. Glaser and Steve Fetter define this as having “some capability against rogue-state missile forces.” See: Glaser & Fetter (2001). “National Missile Defense and the Future of U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy.” International Security. 26:1 (Summer 2001) 66.;jsessionid=5600B04E0603BAF4140C7E8E42FB285D?sequence=1. Last accessed 16 June 2016.

[119] The arguments are adapted from James M. Lindsay & Michael E. O’Hanlon (2002). “Correspondence: ‘The Case for Limited National and Allied Missile Defense’ by Charles L. Glaser & Steve Fetter.” International Security. 26:4 (Spring 2002) 190-196.

[120] The most extreme argument of this type would claim that the nature of the Iranian regime makes it prone to what Lindsay and O’Hanlon call a “Samson scenario” [“Enemy missile launch could occur for other reasons as well. Even if an enemy leader had already accepted the inevitability of his downfall, he might choose not to go quietly. Instead he might employ a ‘Samson scenario,’ after the biblical figure who pulled down the Philistine temple to kill himself along with his captors, and attempt to kill as many Americans as possible in the process. This possibility is hardly mythical. […] Moreover, even if a country’s top leader did not choose to mimic Samson, his military commanders might.”] The claim is easier to make than it is to substantiate and lacks evidence with which to rate its probability. Beyond this inherent weakness, a “Samson scenario” is subject to the same limits as would apply to a non-suicidal regime.

[121] These are adapted from Glaser & Fetter’s response to Lindsay & O’Hanlon. See: Glaser & Fetter (2002). “The Authors’ Replay.” International Security. 26:4 (Spring 2002) 196-201.

[122] Ibid., 197.

[123] Ibid., 198.

[124] Ibid., 199.

[125] Glass and Ferris wrote presciently in 2002, “Of course, all else may not be equal. For example, NMD could strain U.S. relations with Russia and China, in which case these costs must be weighed against NMD’s benefits.” Glaser & Fetter (2002), op cit., 197.

[126] White House Fact Sheet: U.S. Missile Defense Policy A Phased, Adaptive Approach for Missile Defense in Europe. Published online 17 September 2009. Last accessed 16 June 2016.

[127] Glaser & Fetter (2001), op cit., 79.

[128] Ibid., 80.

[129]  The RS-28 has a claimed range of 6000 miles, and is expected to will weigh at least 100-tons and to carry a 10-ton payload. If so, it will be the largest ICBM ever built. Depending on its mission, the RS-28 will carry up to ten heavy or fifteen lighter independently targeted maneuvering thermo-nuclear warheads, and will use a combination of decoys, countermeasures systems, and speed to overcome ballistic missile defenses and to complicate interception. The missile’s transliterated Russian call name Sarmat is from an ancient place name. The Greek geographer Ptolemy defined Sarmatia Europaea as the area extending from the Vistula River and the Baltic Sea east and south to the Don River and the Crimean isthmus, taking is all or part of modern Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, and western Russia. See: Last accessed 30 May 2016.

Sarmatia Europaea

[130] “V «Energomashe» rasskazali o dvigatelyakh dlya rakety «Sarmat».” [published online in Russian 29 January 2016]. Last accessed 30 May 2016.

[131] “Minoborony RF: Rossiya gotovit otvet na initsiativu SSHA ‘Bystryy global’nyy udar’.” TASS [published online in Russian 31 May 2014]. Last accessed 30 May 2016.

[132] The quoted expert is Major-General Vladimir Vasilenko, the former head of the 4th Central Research Institute of the Russian Defense Ministry. See: “Sarmat gotovitsya k poletam.” Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye [published online in Russian 15 January 2016]. Last accessed 30 May 2016.

[133] Barry Blechman (1975). The Control of Naval Armaments: Prospects and Possibilities (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution) 1.

[134] Vice Admiral Joseph Metcalf, III, USN (Ret.). Quoted in Nicholas Sabos, Jr. (1993). “Weapon of Choice: Surface Warfare Strikes!” Surface Warfare. 18:5 (September-October 1995) 3.

[135] Marcel Dickow, Katarzyna Kubiak, Oliver Meier & Michael Paul (2016). “Germany and NATO Missile Defence: Between Adaptation and Persistence.” SWP Comments 22 (April 2016). Last accessed 21 June 2016.

[136] Ibid., 7.

[137] Ibid., 6.

[138] Isaac Babel (2005). The Complete works of Isaac Babel. Nathalie Babel, ed. Peter Constantine, transl. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company) 79.