Analysis 28 Jun 16

Black Sea Flotilla Fiasco Worsens Region’s Tensions

Bulgaria’s refusal to join Romania, Turkey and Ukraine in a Black Sea naval patrol has created new tensions in the region and has raised sensitive questions about their security priorities.

Mariya Cheresheva, Marian Chiriac
Sofia, Bucharest
Photo: US Army

On his official visit to Sofia on June 16, Romania’s President, Klaus Iohannis, little imagined that his visit would cause a small political storm in Bulgaria that would also receive broad international attention. 

He was confident of raising the idea of creating a joint NATO fleet aimed at deterring Russian interests in the Black Sea, a topic discussed regularly since Romania launched it in January.

Bulgaria’s public refusal to join the fleet together with Romania, Turkey and Ukraine, caught Iohannis unprepared and has exposed him to criticism at home.

At the same time Bulgaria’s clumsy diplomatic manoeuvrings in the power struggles between Russia and Turkey, although they gained domestic support, have compromised its position ahead of the NATO summit in Warsaw in July.

Apart from underlining communications failures between the two Balkan countries, the controversy over the Black Sea flotilla has highlighted the challenges facing some of the smaller and weaker NATO member states in a tough geopolitical environment. 

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