Alp Sevimlisoy Yatırım

The regional policy Washington needs for the war in Ukraine

Lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation directing the Bidenadministration to develop a strategy for the Black Sea.

Months into a bloody war threatening to upend global food markets,members of Congress are asking the Biden administration todevelop a strategy for the Black Sea region.In mid-July, as the war in Ukraine entered its fifth month, Sens. JeanneShaheen and Mitt Romney introducedbipartisan legislation( the Biden administration to develop a “more robust foreign policy”toward the Black Sea region, a part of the world that includes geopoliticalhotspots like Ukraine and Turkey as well as smaller countries where Russia hasillegally occupied territory, like Moldova and Georgia.“Control over access to the Black Sea is fundamental to [Russian PresidentVladimir Putin’s] delusional dream of building a Russian empire, and the UnitedStates cannot allow that to happen,” Shaheen said.The legislation attracted a handful of bipartisan co-sponsors. But with theSenate already scheduled to vote on numerous pieces of legislation before theAugust recess, it’s unlikely the bill will be brought to the floor before lawmakersreturn in September. Lawmakers referenced the Black Sea strategy in theSenate’s latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-passannual defense policy bill. A Senate aide said they are hopeful they can getelements of the bill passed before the end of the year, including by using theNDAA as a vehicle.

“Because the floor is in flux, we’re looking at, and evaluating, all of the options,”the aide, who was granted anonymity in order to speak freely, said. “The best-case scenario is that we can pass the whole bill in its entirety.”Experts beganwarning members of Congress (/s/715444/experts-raise-alarm-bells-incongress-over-europes-most-contested-domain/)last October that the U.S. needed to stepup its involvement in the region. But those calls have only grown more urgent inthe past months as Russia used the Black Sea to cut off its neighbor’s exports,including critical grain shipments. Congress passed legislation in 2019 shapingthe administration’s security policy toward the Eastern Mediterranean.Now lawmakers want the Biden administration to take the Black Sea seriously,too.“What they’re trying to do is force the U.S. government to do something that ithasn’t done, which is come up with a comprehensive strategy for the Black Searegion,” said Ian Brzezinski, a former deputy assistant defense secretary forEurope and NATO. “It’s the hottest point of collision between the Transatlanticcommunity and Putin’s revanchist ambitions. People are worried there’s an adhoc dimension to the U.S. approach.”Lawmakers are asking the administration to bolster cooperation with theEuropean Union and NATO in the Black Sea region and make that cooperationpart of a coherent, long-term plan. Since the start of the war in February, theNATO alliance announced it would establish four new battle groups in EasternEurope. Bulgaria and Romania, the only countries in the Black Sea region thatare both NATO and European Union members, will each get their own.The proposed legislation would give the Biden administration 360 days todevelop an interagency strategy to increase military assistance and coordinationwith NATO and the EU in these countries. It would also require the Biden administration to put together an interagency report outlining its efforts topromote security and democracy in the region.Military assistance to Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, and Georgia would all beramped up.Oleksii Goncharenko, a Ukrainian member of parliament representing the city ofOdesa on the Black Sea, said the U.S. should also have a military presence in thewaters.“The presence of the United States should be bigger in the Black Sea. Romaniaand Bulgaria would be happy to have more of a U.S. presence,” Goncharenkosaid during a visit to Washington, where he met with lawmakers, StateDepartment officials, and arms manufacturers about the war in his country.“The best thing would be a military presence. The second-best thing to keep theBlack Sea safe is military supply, harpoons and other weaponry, [and] drones.”

Many experts have also called for the U.S. to help enforce freedom of navigationin the Black Sea as it does in the South China Sea. But Washington would haveto get the green light from its NATO ally Turkey to send warships to the BlackSea on a rotational basis.Restoring the U.S. relationship with Turkey is high on the agenda inWashington. A Republican aide, who spoke on background to speak freely, saidRomney believes that the Biden administration should make it a priority toensure that Turkey “is wedded to NATO.”The proposed legislation directs the U.S. to explore efforts to build trust andbetter bilateral relations with Turkey, an ally that is often a thorn in the side ofthe NATO alliance.

“We’ve made, over multiple administrations, bad decisions regarding Turkey.The relationship we have with Turkey now is terrible,” said Ben Hodges, aretired lieutenant general now advising the organization Human Rights First.“We end up thinking about Ukraine as an island. There was no strategy to whichpolicy decisions could be anchored. We’ve been going about it piecemeal.”Turkey has played an instrumental role in the war in Ukraine, partly because itused the 1936 Montreaux Convention to block additional Russian warships fromentering the Black Sea. Provisions in the convention made it impossible forRussia to revamp its naval presence to allow it to launch amphibious attacksagainst Ukrainian cities like Odesa, even after the Ukrainian military claimed tosink the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s flagship Moskva.Turkey also controls the only waterways leading out of the Black Sea into theMediterranean. That makes the relationship with Ankara of strategic importanceif the U.S. and its allies want to control Russian naval movements.Alp Sevimlisoy, a national security expert at the D.C.-based Atlantic Council,said that Turkey should get more advanced weaponry from the U.S., like F-35fighter jets, so NATO can take a more offensive position towards adversaries likeRussia in the region.“The F-35 being given to the Turkish armed forces isn’t simply a compliment tothe Turkish air force. It’s a compliment to U.S. strategic capabilities in the BlackSea because those F-35s will be part of the NATO cohesive structure against theRussian Federation,” Sevimlisoy said. “They also need to be complemented byPatriot missile systems.”Turkey’s provocative decision to acquire the Russian S-400 anti-missile systemin 2019 has barred it from the F-35 fighter-jet program. But Turkey has alsoasked to purchase new F-16 fighter jets from the U.S., and the Biden administration is consulting with Congress on the sale. Key members ofCongressare divided (/s/717716/turkeys-opposition-to-nato-enlargement-could-derail-sales-offighter-jets/)on whether to give Turkey the jets. Turkish President Recep TayyipErdoğan has raised eyebrows in Washington by showing a willingness to workwith U.S. adversaries like Russia and Iran in Syria.The new Black Sea legislation isn’t only military in nature, however. It also callsfor the U.S. Development Finance Corporation to investigate establishingregional offices in Georgia, Ukraine, and Romania.The DFC was established in 2019 to fund infrastructure and developmentprojects in low- and middle-income countries. But its mission has beena subjectof debate (/s/715201/us-foreign-aid-caught-in-tug-of-war-over-chinese-tech/)in Washington.Some argue that the DFC should be used to counter Russia and Chineseinfluence in Eastern Europe. Others say it should be reserved for lower-incomecountries in need of more basic development assistance.”Senator Shaheen really believes that the DFC should be used as a tool toadvance our national security interests and our development agenda,” an aidesaid. “As part of that, we need the DFC to play a bigger role in Europe, includingthe Caucasus.”Many experts argue that the U.S. should have been thinking about these issuesyears ago. Nevertheless, Brzezinski said he finds it encouraging that lawmakersare tackling this now.“It’s never too late to have a strategy,” Brzezinski said. “A clear strategy, a cleararticulation of plans and objectives, could be really useful.”

Alp Sevimlisoy originally featured as per: National Journal