Between Russia and the Black Sea. Even Italy in the Thracian Star 2019

(To Stefano Marras)
29/05/19

From 8 to 17 May the military exercise on an annual basis Thracian Star under the guidance of Bulgaria, as well as the host nation, Italian Eurofighter fighters also participated Typhoon, together with the F-16 of Greece, the Mig-21 and the F-16 of Romania, as well as of course the Bulgarian aircraft, the Mig-29, L-39 Albatros and the Mi-24 helicopters and the Eurocopter As-532. Main objective of Thracian Star, the increase of interoperability between the air forces of the respective participating nations, as well as the improvement of tactics, maneuvers and procedures in complex war scenarios.

The Italian Eurofighters who took part in the exercise are the same as those deployed at the Mihail Kogalniceanu military base in south-eastern Romania and placed under the mission "Enhanced Air Policing", prepared by NATO allies following the Russian annexation of Crimea in the 2014 with the aim of reinforcing European air defenses in the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea against what would be perceived as a renewed Russian military threat to regional peace and stability. As part of the North Atlantic alliance, Italy has already deployed its military aircraft in Bulgaria, the Baltic countries and Iceland. The Italian mission in Romania would therefore not represent anything other than the "normal" continuation of an international policy of deterrence towards Moscow.

The whole region around the Black Sea continues to remain one of the hottest geopolitical faults in the context of NATO-Russia relations. Following the events on the Crimean peninsula and the incident in the Kerch Strait, both sides increased their military presence in the region. The tactical advantage, at least in the short term, seems to be in Russian hands, having in recent years strengthened its A2 / AD system in Crimea (Anti-access / Area-denial), by increasing the air component and installing it of various anti-missile batteries like the dreaded S-400. Furthermore, Moscow can boast of being able to keep its military ships in the Black Sea - equipped with the powerful anti-ship missiles Kalibr - to time indefinite and to be able to anchor them in the base of Sevastopol.

Ship permanence limited to all the marinas of those countries that do not overlook the aforementioned sea up to a maximum time of 21 days (Treaty of Montreaux of 1936). The tonnage is also severely limited, thus preventing larger units such as American aircraft carriers from being deployed in the area. Hence the need for greater integration and strengthening of the military forces of the regional countries as in Thracian Star 2019, in which powers such as Bulgaria and Romania, still in possession of the old Soviet planes and both with access to the Black Sea, have the opportunity to conduct high-level exercises and additions with the most modern Western air forces. Nevertheless, even the NATO forces (United States and United Kingdom in particular) have reinforced their naval and air presence in the region, with the periodic and alternate sending of war units both as operational support but also and above all as a symbolic signal towards Moscow.

Having ascertained the rearmament and the conflictual situation of the two military blocs, however, the basic question remains on how structural and long-term this confrontation is (intrinsic divergence of geopolitical interests, logic of political realism, geographical and historical reasons, etc.), or whether it is a historical contingency mostly given by a wrong and stereotyped geopolitical reading of the parties, bringing them to the classic case of "security dilemma". Unfortunately, this issue is often ignored, due to intellectual negligence or political will, but it should probably be investigated more thoroughly.

Photo: NATO - Italian enhanced Air Policing detachment / MoD Fed. Russian