The Russian Factor In Western Strategy Toward the Black Sea Region

by F. Stephen Larrabee

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Because Russia has important economic, political, and strategic interests in the Black Sea region, developing a strategy for managing the "Russian factor" is essential for forging a successful Western strategy toward the area. Although the lack of a unified view within the Russian elite regarding how to deal with the Black Sea region creates problems for the West, there are signs that Moscow may be willing to play a more constructive role in stabilizing the area. The Euro-Atlantic community has three basic options for a strategy toward Russia in regard to the Black Sea region: (1) rapid integration-incorporating the region in Western institutions as fast as possible; (2) integration plus cooperation-modeled on the dual-track strategy pursued by the West toward Central Europe during the NATO enlargement process; and (3) cooperative engagement-seeking to engage Russia but proceeding only if Russian opposition can be overcome. The author believes that option 2 is the wisest choice but notes that developing any coherent policy will depend on the state of U.S.-European relations. He also suggests that there may be a need to create new regional organizations-on the order of the Council of Baltic Sea States-to engage Russia on Black Sea issues.

Originally published in: A new Euro-Atlantic Strategy for the Black Sea Region, pp. 147-156.

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