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ABSTRACT: In order to answer the question of a feasible NATO enlargement in the Black Sea Region we have to take into consideration various factors: The willingness of NATO to advance in the region, the impact of the enlargement to Russia, the position of Russia in this enlargement and the attitude of the states of the region towards NATO. In this paper we will show that although an enlargement would be feasible in the future there are certain obstacles that impede this advancement. The paper is based in written sources.
As it is explained in the official NATO brochure What is NATO there is an Open Door policy. This became obvious from the very beginning of the founding of the Alliance as very soon NATO extended the membership to involve Greece and Turkey and West Germany. Spain became a member in 1982. After the end of the Cold War another enlargement took place. Central European countries solicited NATO membership as they believed that their security interests were satisfied by joining NATO. So in 1999 the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland became members raising the number of member countries to 19. Seven more countries became members of the Alliance at the end of March 2004: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. This was the most extensive enlargement in the history of the Alliance. In April 2009 Albania and Croatia became members. Every European democracy is welcomed to seek membership under the presupposition that it agrees to comply with the responsibilities and obligations that derive from the membership. The reason why NATO holds its door open is to develop security as well as collaboration that would build peace established on democratic morals. 
On the other hand the governments of the states that constitute NATO are clear on their perspectives. Enlargement of the Alliance is not an end in itself; it is rather a tool to widen security to include distant places, thus making Europe a more stable region. In the Alliance they hold that the candidacy of a certain state would be a motivating influence for disagreements and conflicts between neighboring countries to be resolved. Countries that want to become new members of NATO have also to undergo reforms and democratization and apart from benefiting in terms of security they have to also provide security to other members.
NATO is facing today difficult choices regarding the democratic transformation and security in the Black Sea region. States that wish to be fellow members are investigated as to whether their qualifications are connected and adequate to NATO. As it is easily understood Russia comes on the scene as a decisive component in this discussion. This means that any thought about NATO enlargement would potentially irritate Russia. We have to bear in mind that today’s Russia is stronger and more self-confident. Its influence in particular in the economic field is greater in the Black Sea region. Another contributing factor is that there is a controversy in the very confines of NATO about the “identity” of the Black Sea region countries. For example can we consider Georgia and Ukraine as European countries? And what we can say about Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan? The later countries although have not immediate access to the Black Sea they are considered part of the region.
Another question that arises is if NATO has the aptitude to deal with the future security situations of the current century since for example in Afghanistan, the current NATO’s main priority, Taliban continue to fight without any consequence. Furthermore central and local governments are corrupted thus making the Afghans turn to extremists, something that raises fears of civil war after the withdrawal of NATO forces.
NATO policy in the Wider Black Sea Region
Although till the previous decade the wider Black Sea region was a region of the periphery concerning the Westerns, now has become the next frontier in NATO’s strategy. In the light of the increasing energy prices, a more confident Russia and the instability in the wider area of Middle East, the strategy makers moved their attention towards the Black Sea region as a whole. So from a periphery Black Sea became a central strategic area and an important crossroad. Its strategic significance is a perspective as well as a challenge in the same time. Since there are various disputes in the region they have to be adjudicated in a peaceful way. The various states in the region have to be governed in the rule of law and they have to fight against corruption and trafficking. Another prerequisite is the security of the energy production and transportation and more healthy and well-healed markets. If all these goals can be achieved the region would play the role of a bridge between East and West. If they fail to cope with their problems there is the risk of destabilization of the whole area with consequences reaching up into Europe, Eurasia and the Middle East. Russia currently resolutely impedes former Soviet states from joining NATO. It has military service in some of these countries and the Black Sea Fleet will stay in Ukraine until 2017. So to judge if a NATO enlargement in the area is feasible we have to consider the forces that characterize the wider Black Sea area.
When on February 25, 1991 the Warsaw Pact, a military alliance of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance of eight former Soviet nations, was dissolved, the future of NATO became incertain. At that time a new definition of its role was needed. It was considered that it could follow a new path as a peace enforcing and keeping organization. It could alleviate suffering people in former Yugoslavia or it could help in the founding of peace in the troubled area of Nagorno-Karabakh. A cooperative form with Russia was also considered. But shortly after, Russia withdrew and preferred to be the only actor in the area of the former Soviet Union, because it did not want NATO involvement in the former Soviet Union.
NATO and Ukraine
In Ukraine there was the dilemma of ‘Europe or Russia’. A dilemma that is erroneous as geographically Ukraine is a European country and on the other hand for centuries Europe has become the equivalent of civilization. Ukraine also needs Europe for financial backing and trading if it wants to improve economically. Ukraine’s viewpoint with regard to NATO went through various stages the past two decades. In the beginning, when George H.W. Bush condemned the emerging nationalism during the perestroika period, Ukraine retraced its steps and did not reduce its nuclear stockpile. Since the West was trying to assimilate the new situation, Ukraine out of necessity turned towards Russia. Finally in February 1995 Ukraine entered the NATO’s Partnership for Peace. It held the position that by participating in this Partnership as well as in other Councils it would work out its identity as a sovereign European power and as Western nation.
Throughout the 20th century Ukrainian political culture was shaped round a policy of survival due to its colonial exploitation by superpowers [Russia, Germany, the Entente (especially France), etc. In the post-Soviet period under Kravchuk as well as under Kuchma the Ukrainians, especially when their western supporters asked from them to reform their state, give political freedoms and fight the corrupted country they preferred to cooperate with Russia and in 1998 they even signed a ten-year program of economic and military cooperation and collaboration. In many cases Ukraine shows that vacillates between molding itself according to Western standards and to its Russian/Soviet past. In the recent years under Yanukovych the Ukraine believes that its cooperation with NATO is satisfactory and so the admittance to the alliance was not an immediate or pressing action. In the same time he reasserted the widening of a strategic partnership with Russia.
What is Russia’s reaction to the NATO orientation of Ukraine? In 1994 Russia showed an interest to cooperate with NATO by signing the framework document in order to become a Partnership for Peace. In parallel another protocol was signed that yielded Russia more rights and other allowances that were not granted to other partners of NATO. In the same time Russia expressed its opposition to NATO’s enhancement plans. There are speculations that Russia in its efforts to prevent Ukraine of joining NATO prepared and concluded the Ukrainian-Russian Treaty of Friendship. Also there were implications when in 1997 the US and Ukrainian naval held together the exercise Sea Breeze. In the beginning, Russia which was invited, agreed to participate. Soon this decision was changed by the Russian naval officers and the United States became ‘invaders’ and it became obvious that Moscow would cause troubles if Kiev decided to join NATO.
NATO and Georgia
According to a referendum, that was not binding and was held in Georgia on January 5, 2008, 77% of the voters answered Yes to the question “Do you want Georgia to become a member of NATO?” The results come from Georgia’s Central Election Commission. Already in 2004 Georgia’s Minister of Defense, Giorgi Baramidze, had stated that Georgia was ready to accept in its territory the stationing of NATO armies and to host the NATO office for the countries of the Southern Caucasus. The then German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Joschka Fischer, ventured a guess of 2007 as a probable date of membership. Nonetheless this membership proved to be debatable among the European countries of the Alliance as the territorial disputes continue in Georgia.
Actually in the Bucharest Summit Declaration in April 3, 2008 it was stated in the 23d article that: “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO. Both nations have made valuable contributions to Alliance operations. We welcome the democratic reforms in Ukraine and Georgia and look forward to free and fair parliamentary elections in Georgia in May.” The Foreign Ministers of the state members of NATO were through this declaration entrusted with the first evaluation of progress at their meeting in December 2008.
Unfortunately, some months prior to this evaluation, in August 7, 2008, an encounter took place between Georgia and Russia concerning South Ossetia at the beginning and Abkhazia afterwards, an encounter that lasted five days until its seizure after the involvement of the European Union. But these hostilities initiated a tragedy in which 850 people lost their lives and an estimated amount of 100.000 people were forced to leave their homes. The Allies requested both Georgia and Russia to abide by the international recognized territories and solicited a durable solution to the conflict, without military action, according to the agreements they had both signed under the Partnership for Peace. The Georgian crisis as expected disturbed the NATO-Russia cooperation.
For the present the Georgia’s full integration to NATO has become immobile. Of course there are praises from the side of NATO for Georgia’s cooperation and the Allies continue to support Georgia’s will to become a full member of the Alliance “if it still wants to and when it meets the standards of course” according to the NATO’s commander for Caucasus. Although according to the Secretary General NATO and Georgia are getting even closer together and Georgia’s membership is an open topic, it was not part of the agenda at the Chicago Summit.  It becomes obvious that Georgia’s NATO membership is rather problematic because of its territorial problems and the conflict between Tbilisi and Sukhumi. If the conflict continues it might disturb the NATO-Russia relationships and bring them to a straight confrontation.
In a report from the Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS) “Viitorul” the idea is expressed that there is unwillingness from the side of the political parties of Moldova to back up cooperation between NATO and the Republic of Moldova. It is claimed that there are two principal reasons for this. One alludes to the sense Cold War has left to the Moldovan citizens about NATO. So the parties avoid a discussion about Moldova and NATO fearing the political cost would have such a discussion. The other, as it happens with other former Soviet Union Republics, is the negative disposition of Russia with regard to the NATO enlargement. Nonetheless the writer of the report holds that the engagement of Moldova to the NATO’s framework of international security operation would contribute to the promotion of Moldova’s interests worldwide.
NATO and the Caucasus region
For NATO the Caucasus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan and the Caspian Sea are of important strategic interest. They can greatly support the logistic field for military operation to Afghanistan; they can also participate in stability and security operations in the region as well as during situations of crisis for humanitarian purposes. On the other hand they themselves have unresolved territorial problems which create areas of tensions and can trigger off clashes and provoke instability in the region. Such an area is Nagorno-Karabakh a spot of conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The role of NATO in this area would be to promote security and stability.
Already in 1992 Armenia joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. In 1994 joined the Partnership for Peace program. During the years Armenia contributed in peace support operation, for example, to KFOR in 2004. Armenia troops participate in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. Armenia does not pursue full membership with NATO however aspires a closer relation to the Alliance by the deepening of political and practical cooperation. Currently emphasis is focused on defense reform, professional military education, international and NATO peacekeeping operations, expeditionary medical capabilities, and humanitarian de-mining as Armenia strives to become a security provider, rather than a security consumer, in the international community.
Azerbaijan is also a logistic supporter through air and ground corridors and is also supplier of fuel and troops. It works hard to upgrade the security in the energy infrastructure. It also helps NATO in its effort to perform its operation. The Caspian Sea can be thought of as an extension of South Caucasus and can be viewed as a bridge for accession to Central Asia. So it is important a secure coastal cooperation to be built that would be able to respond to transnational coastal zone dangers.
Russia- NATO relationships
For the time being what Allies of NATO and especially the US want is to succeed Russian support and joint action in European missile-defense system. Even a hesitant agreement from the side of Moscow would be a key stone for Russia’s engagement to the Euro-Atlantic community. This is a very delicate issue as a wrong handling of the situation can torpedo the improvements made regarding the Russia relations with the West until now. 
The crux of the matter is the mutual mistrust between Russia and the US. Russia fears that NATO’s missile defense system will menace its own nuclear deterrent effectiveness. In an effort to ensure that this would not happen asks for binding assurances. Washington makes clear that the only target of the missile defense system would be the Iranian missiles. In any case it does not consent as it is unimaginable for US that Russia would ever impose the features of NATO missile defense program. It becomes clear that both parts have to develop a common ground. A first effort has been the design of a legal framework for the exchange of technology. When this framework is carried out could help in transparency and in the construction of mutual confidence. 
The problem is that no much progress has been made in this regard. Very often Russia threatens to take action against the development of a missile-attack protection in Europe. In the 3d of March this year ambassador Alexander Vershbow, Deputy Secretary General of NATO to the Moscow Missile Defense Conference, in his speech reassured Russia that there are not hidden agendas behind this program. He insisted that NATO wants Russia as a full partner in this Defense program. He highlighted that this cooperation will strengthen the stability and will build confidence and better relationship between the two parts.
Unarguably Black Sea region and Caucasus have been transformed from areas of the periphery to important strategic zones. A consequence to this is that the World Powers started having interests in these territories and want to incorporate them into their sphere of influence. Although NATO wants to play a role in the area, it has to take into consideration the particular dynamics of the region as well as the international correlations. Given that strategic attention is not so focused on Europe but is extended to regions such as Iraq, Iran, etc, enlargement of the Alliance in not as important as in previous years.
Russia on the other hand continues to focus on Black Sea as its key get away to the “hot waters” of the Mediterranean Sea. At the dawn of the 21st century Russia comes back as a great power and wants to play a role of both the rival as well as the partner of Europe and USA. It also appears as the all-powerful neighbor for the former Soviet nations.
Under these circumstances NATO enlargement although technically a feasible task it requires at the same time a very delicate handling. NATO can act in the region as a power of political reformation, as an influence for peace and as a provider of security. In this process NATO has to pay heed to the areas of turbulence such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia and the area of Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan. As Russia withstands to the enlargement of NATO these animosities can fuel instability in the region. USA and the other NATO allies from their part want to involve Russia in the European missile-defense system and to establish a form of engagement of Russia to the Alliance. However decades of Cold War and the distrust it generated make both parties suspicious of one another and of hidden agendas and unwilling to grant concessions.
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