ISSN 2330-717X

Major Power Rivalry In The Black Sea – OpEd


By Luke Coffey*


The Black Sea sits at an important junction between Europe, Asia and the Middle East.  The region is home to important energy and transit routes. Oil and gas pipelines, as well as fiber-optic cables, run along the bottom of the sea, while on the surface hundreds of ships crisscross it daily, moving people and goods.

The Black Sea region also serves as one of the geopolitical fault-lines in the competition between great powers such as Russia, the US and the Europeans. Each has competing economic and security interests at stake.

For the US, the Black Sea’s strategic importance is derived primarily from the fact that Washington has treaty obligations under NATO with Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania. Meanwhile, Russia depends on the region for energy, trade, security and economic reasons. For Russia, its domination of the region has always been considered a matter of national survival.

For Europe, the Black Sea is an important region for a variety of reasons, from economics and security to energy and transportation. Hundreds of kilometers of pipelines and fiber-optic cables crisscross the bed of the Black Sea. Major European ports are an important source of economic activity in the region. The largest port in the Black Sea, Constanta, is in the EU member state Romania.

Even for a region like the Middle East, hundreds of kilometers away, the Black Sea is important. For example, Russia uses its military presence in the Black Sea to project power in places like Syria. The US and Europeans plan to invest billions of dollars in new infrastructure projects to improve connectivity in the region through an investment fund that offers investment opportunities for government and private investors.


The Black Sea will remain an important region for the great power competition for the foreseeable future. As the incoming Biden administration seeks to craft its European, Russia and NATO policies, the Black Sea will play a central role. Due to its importance to the US and Europe, it is likely that in the near term Russia will keep the region simmering.

Policymakers in the Middle East must not ignore the Black Sea either. Ultimately, if the Black Sea is safe, secure and prosperous, the broader region will be, too.

  • Luke Coffey is director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation. Twitter: @LukeDCoffey
  • This is the executive summary of Luke Coffey’s research paper for Arab News Research & Studies. To read and download the full report, click here.

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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