The Aspen Institute Romania together with the Bucharest office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States are organizing the third edition of the Atlantic – Black Sea Security Forum, a high level international event, to be held on March 26, in Bucharest.

Background – The Black Sea region is of importance to NATO not only as its Eastern flank, but also as it faces the same challenges its Northern members do, and it may hence contribute to a larger strategy of deterrence in both military and non-military realms. The region and the sea itself constitute an important, albeit complicated, link to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. It is hence crucial for the Alliance’s ambition to (1) have a 360 degree approach to security and (2) to be able to move quickly from one region to another. Doing more in the Middle East depends on a stable Black Sea region as the basis from which NATO can project power into the region. Doing more on regional security depends on the power to adapt to sophisticated, non-military threats in addition to traditional ones.

Within this framework, the 2020 edition of the Atlantic Black Sea Security Forum, organized by the Aspen Institute Romania and the Bucharest office of the German Marshall Fund, will provide a platform for substantive discussions of urgent, current and strategic themes. The event is conceived as part of the Aspen National Defense & Regional Security program, a continuous, ongoing effort to provide relevant, accurate and timely analysis on Allied security and to capitalize on the expertise of the states on the Eastern Flank, in order to provide a more substantial joint contribution to the ongoing processes and projects of NATO. The approach considers the particular point of Romania’s geostrategic position and interest for security and stability in the Black Sea region.

This year’s Forum will bring into debate three major themes: technology, competition and resilience. The three themes will be recurrent in and guiding the major panel conversations, as follows:

From Vancouver to Constanta. What are the main threats and adaptations facing the Alliance in the current context? How does the European (Franco-German) response address these challenges and what is the impact on the region? Why is the Black Sea just as important as the Baltic or the Med?  What have been the key developments?  What does it all mean for the NATO and EU leaderships?  Why do we need to pay more attention? Discussion will introduce both military and non-military threats.

The military challenges in the region and beyond. What does deterrence mean in the region and how similar or different is it from NATO’s other strategic fronts?  Is NATO’s current posture the right one? The maritime/land interface. The role of reinforcements, plans and exercises. What are the regional countries contributing and what do they expect from the US and other allies? Are they delivering?

The non-military challenges. How are the hybrid threats affecting the region? How are they different from the Northern part of the Alliance, how adapted are the responses and how can they be improved? Should the region be concerned with its low resilience, and what can be done? What can NATO do, what can the EU do and what can national governments do?

The Black Sea as the focal point for great power competition. The roles of Russia, China and Turkey. How can the US and the EU countries also be major actors? What are the implications for partners such as Ukraine and Georgia? Can the Black Sea be used to build stronger security partnerships? How can risks be reduced through confidence building and other measures? Especially in the maritime and air domains. How does the economic and technological competition affect security?

Building resilience. How do hybrid warfare campaigns and activities affect economies and societal cohesion in the region? Critical infrastructure protection, cyber attacks, financial sector and disinformation campaigns. Energy security. Is there a danger of technological dependence on China and other foreign suppliers? What are the vulnerabilities and how good are the national and international responses?