Ukraine FM says it’s time to turn Black Sea into ‘sea of NATO’

NATO should play a bigger role in security in the Black Sea, and integrate Ukrainian air and missile defenses with those of its allies, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba said on Thursday.

“The Black Sea is instrumental for making the whole of Europe peaceful and future-oriented,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba, speaking via video link, told a Black Sea security conference in the Romanian capital Bucharest.

“Sadly, it is also a showcase of how rapidly things can deteriorate if one neglects threats. It’s time to turn the Black Sea into what the Baltic Sea has become, a sea of NATO.”

The Black Sea and its Ukrainian coast have been crucial theaters of war since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.

Both Moscow and Kyiv rely on the sea for exports including supplying world grain markets. A Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports threatened to cause global famine last year until the United Nations and Turkey brokered an agreement to keep ports open, still the focus of intense diplomacy.

“We need to address the common Russia problem together. For instance, I support the expert idea to integrate the air and missile defense systems of Ukraine with the ones of the Black and Baltic Sea NATO allies,” said Kuleba.

In the north of Europe, the security map around the Baltic Sea has been redrawn in the past year by Finland and Sweden’s decision to apply to join NATO, leaving Russia soon to be the only coastal country outside the Western military alliance.

Applications by Ukraine and Georgia to join the bloc would have the same impact on the Black Sea, where Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey are already members.

Kuleba said an upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius was an opportunity to move forward on Ukraine’s long-sought NATO membership “to show that the door is not only open but that there is a clear plan on when and how Ukraine will enter it.”

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