As NATO confronts the implications of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the Black Sea region has been thrust into the global spotlight. Taking into consideration Russia’s continuing and aggressive maritime and regional expansionism in the Black Sea—home to three Allies and two partners—this Capstone project argued for the need to elucidate a comprehensive NATO strategy for the region. 

 Based on extensive research and dozens of discussions with experts, the Capstone team produced a report for the State Department identifying the following initiatives to inform discussions on enhancing NATO’s cohesion, resilience, readiness, and deterrence and defense capabilities in the Black Sea, while addressing Russian expansionism: 1) establishing a NATO Joint Force Command for the Black Sea; 2) conducting a Logistics and Infrastructure Strategic Review to assess potential shortcomings with rapid deployments to NATO’s eastern flank; 3) carrying out a “Four Thirties” Readiness Assessment; 4) standing up Cyber Rapid Reaction and Resiliency (CR3) Teams to address hybrid threats; 5) resolving disagreement with Turkey regarding the S-400 system; and 6) creating a legal advisory board and a database of maritime law violations to build legal resilience against hostile actors. In addition, the team proposed language on NATO’s strategic goals in the Black Sea to inform deliberations on the 2022 NATO Strategic Concept.  Finally, the team identified four major “hot zones” along the Black Sea’s northern rim that it assessed as potential targets for future Russian aggression.