The second day of the “Black Sea and Balkans Security Forum 2020” conference began with a panel dedicated to disinformation campaigns and the use of cyberspace in these purposes. The debate was moderated by Alina Bârgăoanu, Senior Associate Expert of the New Strategy Center and dean of the Faculty of Communications and Public Relations of SNSPA. The speakers of this panel were Dragoș Preda, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure and Communications, Corneliu Bjola, Associate Professor of Diplomatic Studies at Oxford University, Florian Pennings, Manager for European Cyber Security Policy at Microsoft, Damien Arnaud, Member senior of the NATO Public Diplomacy Division and Florin Pană, senior cyber security analyst, the Romanian Intelligence Service.
Although misinformation campaigns take place largely online, they can have a major effect on society as a whole. Conspiracy theories promoted in this way succeed for various reasons, such as general fear, sometimes contradictory and confusing information, or sometimes trying to blame someone. Also, in the public space there is now a wide discussion on the development of new technologies, but their implementation cannot take place without outlining ethical rules of these technologies, as well as mechanisms for monitoring and unmasking false messages circulating online.
Another panel addressed the issue of the European Union’s defense industry, PESCO projects in times of crisis and opportunities for Eastern Europe. The panel was moderated by Rear Admiral Sorin Learschi, senior associate expert of the New Strategy Center, and the speakers were Cristian Bușoi, Chairman of the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Simona Cojocaru, Secretary of State within the Ministry of National Defense, Cyrille Bret, Director of Development Naval Group and Cătălin Nae, President of INCAS.
The European Defense Fund aims to strengthen the EU’s resilience and independence from suppliers outside the Union, in order to achieve strategic autonomy, while promoting greater cooperation between Member States. It should be noted that strategic autonomy does not mean isolation, but only a way to increase the efforts made by Europeans for their own defense, while promoting complementarity with other NATO allies. Small and medium-sized enterprises will play a significant role in this project. Romania’s national defense strategy aims to maintain an adequate level of defense financing, of 2% of GDP, with an allocation of 20% of these funds for the acquisition of combat equipment, but also with investments in research.
With Ambassador Gheorghe Magheru, a member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, as moderator, the next debate focused on how the pandemic influences the global order. This panel was attended by Charles Powell, Director of the Elcano Royal Institute, Spain, Ambassador Lazăr Comanescu, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, Christopher Coker, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, Antonia Colibășanu, analyst at Geopolitical Futures and Emmanuel Dupuy, President of the Institute for European Perspectives and Security, France.
It is already noticeable that the pandemic has accelerated some pre-existing trends and cracks. In this post-Westphalian world, globalization is moving towards a focus on regional blocs, multilateralism is deteriorating and aggressive protectionism can be noticed. Although these changes are major, as a result of this pandemic, the global order could turn into a much more comprehensive and inclusive system of international governance, with better prepared global organizations, whose roles will be much more coherent.
The first part of the day ended with a panel dedicated to cooperation between the US and Eastern European defense industry. This panel was moderated by General Lt. (ret) Cătălin Moraru, former deputy of the armaments department within the Ministry of National Defense. Speakers on the panel were Cristian Simu, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Economy, Paul Brinkley, former Deputy Undersecretary of State for Defense, Dennis Goege, Vice President Lockheed Martin, Vasile Boicu, Maero Director General Romaero, Terry Jamison, Director of Boeing, and Mike Lyden, former Director General of the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA).
Romania remains a reliable partner, proving to be a real producer of security. The US desire to relocate production chains from Asia and bring it closer to consumers is favorably viewed by Romania, which even offers to host such industries. NATO’s smart defense concept involves pooling and sharing technology, resources and improving interoperability. Smart cooperation means trust, which can be achieved through communication and mutual support in several relevant areas, serving as a basis for NATO to fulfill its promise to harmonize the defense capabilities of its Member States.
The afternoon of September 5 began with a panel moderated by Greg Melcher, Director of Operations at the Center for the Study of New Generation Warfare in the US, who had as speakers Brigadier General Cristian Bizadea, Deputy of the Director of the Romanian Intelligence Service, Seth Cropsey, Director of the Center for American Seapower at the Hudson Institute in the USA, Johann Schmid, Director within the EU and NATO Center of Excellence for Combating Hybrid Threats in Finland, and Karsten Friis, Senior Researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Relations (NUPI).
The discussion focused on the various manifestations of the concept of “hybrid war” and the actions of this type of different actors in certain areas of interest, from the Arctic to the Black Sea region. When it comes to such methods of warfare, the question is what are the right means and approaches to meet these challenges. Also, given the complex nature of hybrid warfare instruments, inter-institutional cooperation of those with responsibilities in the field of defense and security is needed to act in a complementary and effective manner.
The conference also had a debate on the situation in the Western Balkans, which was moderated by Ambassador Doru Costea, Senior Associate Expert of the New Strategy Center. Along with him, Ivo Josipovic, former President of Croatia, Ambassador Teodor Melescanu, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Victor Jackovich, First Ambassador of the US in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ambassador Mihnea Motoc, Deputy Director of the European Political Strategy Center within the European Commission and General (ret) Sir James Everard, former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR).
Obstacles in this region are both internal, such as the still precarious economy, underdeveloped infrastructure, lack of democratic standards, high corruption, human rights violations and nationalism fueled by fear of terrorism and migration, but also external, such as foreign interference, border issues, relations between states, the involvement of Balkan citizens in the conflicts in the Middle East. Due to the fact that there is a certain fatigue in terms of EU enlargement, which is now more concerned with internal issues and its own future, a solution for this region would be to associate these states with the European Single Market. At the same time, although security in the Western Balkans is not a problem, as the risk of conflict is low, Russia’s actions in this region cannot be ignored. There is no doubt that Russia will continue to prolong and aggravate domestic political instabilities and slow down the European path of these countries.
Another panel focused on the future of the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus, especially in the context of the continuation of Russia’s aggressive behavior in the Black Sea region. The session was moderated by Dan Dungaciu, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, and the speakers were Vlad Nistor, member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament, General lt. (ret.) Viktor Hvozd, former Head of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, Phillip Petersen, President of the Center for the Study of the New Generation Warfare in the USA, Igor Munteanu, Chairman of the Public Finance Control Commission of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, Adam Eberhardt, Director of the Center for Eastern Studies- OSW, Poland and Arseny Sivitsky, Director of the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies in Belarus. The Belarus-Russia State Union project, the talks on the Transnistrian referendum, the aggression in Eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, the constant military exercises leading to economic disruptions, but also the increase of military capabilities in the Black Sea prove that Russia does not give up its aggressive behavior.
“Unmanned Vehicles – a Solution for the Black Sea Naval Challenges” was the panel moderated by Greg Melcher, Director of Operations at the Center for the Study of the New Generation Warfare, with Admiral Mihai Panait, Chief of the Naval Forces of Romania, James Thomsen, former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Christophe Fontaine, Regional Director for Europe of General Atomics and Bo Wallander, Senior Naval Advisor at SAAB as speakers.
The Black Sea is a point of interest for both NATO and Russia. Data collection needs to be improved to better understand the situation, to know when, where and how to react and to discourage detection, which can be understood as constant monitoring. Unmanned vehicles have a multi-field capability and can therefore be used for a wide range of missions.
The last debate of this 2020 edition of the Black Sea and Balkans Forum was dedicated to cooperation between the EU and its neighborhood to increase resilience. This session was moderated by Mr. Iulian Fota, member of the Scientific Council of the New Strategy Center, and H.E. Bogdan Aurescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania and Mr. Lasha Darsalia, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia participated as speakers.
The unprecedented times caused by the pandemic bring the need for further preparation for future challenges, the need for joint efforts to revitalize our economies as well as the need to protect common values and the agenda of international peace and growth.
The pandemic has led to the extension of the concept of resilience to areas such as health or connectivity. Resilience is developed in close connection with reassurance and deterrence measures, in a comprehensive strategy of NATO and Romania, which requires a whole-of-society approach. The interdependence of resilience means cooperation with partners who share the same set of values and objectives. The pandemic accelerated pre-existing trends, geopolitics returned, although it did not really leave the Balkans and the Black Sea region. The illegal annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, the frozen conflicts in the region, the aggression in eastern Ukraine are persistent problems.
We have learned during this period that the protection of international law is essential, that Western values are the basis of a free society. The preservation and promotion of the transatlantic link is more significant than ever. The pandemic has shown us that the EU needs to be more vigilant than ever in its neighborhood, as connectivity and production chains have been deeply disrupted and its vulnerabilities has been shown. Following an initial individualistic reaction from the Member States, the EU mobilized, proposing a coordinated community solution. Our response to this crisis and the lessons learned can be a way to counter the anti-liberal tendencies and return of the geopolitical agendas in our region.
The event was organized in compliance with all measures of prevention and protection against the SARS-COV2 virus (assessment of the temperature of each participant in the registration, open spaces, respect for social distance and mandatory wearing of masks for participants, ensuring distance between speakers, disinfecting surfaces, providing disinfectants each participant).