Mark Galeotti Mark Galeotti

Britain’s duty to the Black Sea

HMS Defender in the Black Sea in June (Getty)

With Russian troops massing on Ukraine’s borders, the Black Sea is looking choppy. While that may seem to have little significance for us, in an age of globalised supply chains, international security commitments and Britain’s ‘tilt to the Indo-Pacific,’ that matters more than we might think. However, there is also an opportunity for the UK.

In a report for the Council on Geostrategy that was published this week, I, James Rogers and Alexander Lanoszka, suggest that the Black Sea region is at risk of becoming an anarchic environment where insecurity reigns amid Russian domination.

This matters. Rather than being seen as some distant periphery, at best a ‘flank’ of Europe, the Black Sea region ought to be recognised as a central ‘gateway’ between Europe and Eurasia and between the Euro-Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific regions.

Britain is already involved in a range of military assistance programmes, having already trained more than 21,000 Ukrainian personnel

This is where the UK and its interests come in. Whoever controls the Black Sea can project power that much more easily into the eastern Mediterranean, and 12 per cent of all maritime trade still comes through the Suez Canal. Likewise, to access the Indo-Pacific region — and our bases there — the Royal Navy still has to move along the so-called ‘royal route’ the other way. Ensuring free movement through the eastern Mediterranean is a clear necessity.

But there is also opportunity for the UK. Both Ukraine and Georgia continue to seek membership of Nato, but the reality is that if this is going to happen, it is not going to happen soon. In the meantime, they need to find other ways to shore up their positions. In part, this is through the obvious means, building up their defences against overt and covert threats.

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