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Shaheen and Ricketts Host a Bipartisan Roundtable Discussion on Black Sea Security with Regional Ambassadors

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(Washington, DC) -- U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and Chair of the Europe and Regional Security Cooperation Subcommittee, and Ranking Member U.S. Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE) hosted a roundtable conversation with ambassadors from countries in the Black Sea region—including the Ambassadors of Ukraine, Georgia, Türkiye, Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova—after the U.S. Department of State released a comprehensive strategy on Black Sea security. The strategy devised by the Biden Administration is in response to a bipartisan bill Senator Shaheen introduced and got key provisions signed into law last year. The conversation focused on how the U.S. and its allies and partners can play a leading role in combatting Russia’s malign influence in the region, including the importance of restoring the Black Sea Grain Initiative to help alleviate soaring food prices worldwide. The Ambassadors all expressed full support for Senator Shaheen’s proposal to include language requesting an interagency Administration strategy on Black Sea security in the upcoming NDAA. The roundtable comes ahead of a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing that Shaheen and Ricketts will chair on October 25th on Black Sea security. SFRC Chair Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) also took part in the conversation.  

“As Russia continues its brutal war in Ukraine and Putin continues his aggression across the Black Sea region, the United States along with our Allies and partners must work to hold Putin and those malign forces accountable,” said Senator Shaheen. “What happens in the Black Sea does not stay there. By bringing these diplomats together to discuss the Biden Administration’s Black Sea Strategy, we are working to counter Putin’s pattern of aggression and illegal encroachment across the region, and ultimately, stop the potential knock-on effect it would have globally.” 

“Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine has put a spotlight on the Black Sea region. Vladimir Putin is a dictator who wants nothing more than to turn the Black Sea into a Russian lake,” said Senator Ricketts. “We can’t allow that to happen. For too long, the region has remained a lower-priority theater for the U.S. and NATO. This must change and I appreciate the insight shared today from Black Sea countries on how best to do that.” 

In the past, Putin has demonstrated the high strategic value he places upon the Black Sea region by his invasion of Georgia in 2008, his annexation of Crimea in 2014 and his further invasion of Ukraine last year, which is why this discussion was so important. Additionally, the roundtable focused on the prospects for additional economic and political cooperation among Black Sea nations, as well as the opportunity to reassert a NATO presence in the region. Meeting attendees included Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of Ukraine, Hasan Mercan, Ambassador of Türkiye, Dan-Andrei Muraru, Ambassador of Romania, David Zalkaliani, Ambassador of Georgia, Georgi Panayotov, Ambassador of Bulgaria and Viorel Ursu, Ambassador of Moldova.  

Last year, Senator Shaheen introduced bipartisan legislation with U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) that would direct the Administration to develop a strategy toward the Black Sea region, which has increasingly become a critical inflection point for European and global security amid Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war in Ukraine. The Biden Administration has since adopted a Black Sea Strategy based on the push from Senators Shaheen and Romney. The bipartisan legislation follows Shaheen’s subcommittee hearing on Black Sea Security in October 2021, as well as bipartisan Congressional delegations she led to the NATO Summits in Vilnius (2023) and Madrid (2022).