: NATO and Georgia work closely on protecting the Black Sea region
Politics15:58 Apr. 1, 2016

NATO and Georgia work closely on protecting the Black Sea region

Georgian Armed Forces chief says due to Russian occupation of Crimea, security in the region is key

The Black Sea is a bridge that connects two continents. It's also the gateway between Europe and the Middle East. It is strategically important and hotly contested. NATO works closely here with Georgia to monitor the waterway.

Radm Giorgio Lazio, Chief of Staff, Allied Maritime Command: "In order to see how important it is, just look at the map. You can see the Black Sea is bordered by Allies, by partners and the Black Sea is connected to the Mediterranean, which is connected to the wider ocean and waterways."

Read also Hybrid Solutions for Security in the Black Sea Region

As well as dealing with problems like illegal fishing and human trafficking, the Georgian Coast Guard is part of an international effort to provide security in areas such as counter-terrorism. But it also has another issue to deal with.

Lt Badri Shengelia, Georgian Coast Guard: "One of the challenges that Georgian Coast Guard is facing is the maritime space bordering the occupied Abkhazia and where Georgia is not eligible to conduct its law enforcement activities."

Read also Russia holds military drills in occupied Crimea

Abkhazia is one of two breakaway Georgian regions alongside South Ossetia. Their claim to independence is not recognised by the international community. Russia's backing for the territories was cemented during a 5-day war with Georgia in 2008. Moscow said at the time it was intervening to protect Russian speakers. It made similar claims when it annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014. A weak response by the international community to the Kremlin's actions in Georgia has been credited with encouraging Russia to seize the Black Sea region.

Mg Vakhtang Kapanadze, Chief of General Staff, Georgian Armed Forces: "Because Russia occupied Crimea, the military balance in the Black Sea absolutely changed, and now Black Sea countries need additional and different kind of format for Black Sea security."

Watch also 'Borders cannot be changed through military means in the 21st century' - Pyatt

Since Russia's aggression began in Ukraine two years ago, NATO has stepped up its presence across Europe. Its exercises here in the Black Sea are only temporary. But for the Georgian coastguard protecting the strategic waterway is an ongoing challenge.

Watch also 'Russian aggression in Ukraine is security threat for the entire European continent'




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