In advance of the 2016 Warsaw Summit, Bogdan Aurescu, foreign policy adviser to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, offered his assessment of the new security challenges on NATO's Eastern Flank. CEPA Senior Fellow Janusz Bugajski moderated the discussion.
“There is no more important question than national security, especially when Putin’s Russia is resurgent in the region, the EU is suffering a prolonged multidimensional crisis, NATO’s future is being questioned—even in Washington—and the danger of an even more isolationist America looms on the horizon,” said Bugajski.
“Moscow is determined to turn the Black Sea into a Russian-controlled lake, following its annexation of Crimea, its intervention in eastern Ukraine and its longstanding division and destabilization of Moldova,” he continued. “Russia’s objective is to neutralize Romania from challenging the Kremlin’s foreign policy goals. Will the NATO summit rise to the challenge?”
Aurescu argued that Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea has irrevocably changed Romania’s security calculus for the Black Sea.
“Romania has a de facto maritime border with Russia, since it now controls the waters off Crimea,” he said. “We also face major challenges from the south, especially terrorism and migration. Against this backdrop, we need to have a coherent response from both the EU and NATO.”
To that end, said Aurescu, Romania has established a regional naval maritime framework for security cooperation along with neighboring Bulgaria and Turkey. The new multinational brigade will become operational July 1.
“We are pleased to see that more attention is being dedicated to the Black Sea, but it’s not enough. It is important that all partners have the same assessment of threats in the Black Sea region,” he said. “We need to show regional cohesion. NATO is not just a military alliance; it is a community of values. If NATO is strong, then our values are better protected.”
Looking to next week’s NATO summit, Aurescu said a more concrete U.S. presence in Romania “is extremely important from a psychological point of view” since it “shows we will never go back under the Russian sphere of influence. This is why Russia is so upset about our Aegis offshore missile defense system.”
He added: “The Black Sea is the most complex security environment on NATO’s doorstep. We must go from reassurance to deterrence. It’s obvious we need more NATO presence in the Black Sea, and we have the full support of the U.S. for this initiative.” Asked about Brexit, he suggested that Britain’s June 23 vote to leave the EU will have no real impact on regional security.
Aurescu said Bucharest will boost its defense budget from the current 1.7 percent of GDP to 2 percent in 2017, “a figure we have committed to keep for the next 10 years. I hope our efforts will be an example for other allies.”