From the Heritage Foundation. Excerpts.

Time for Action: The U.S. and NATO Cannot Afford to Ignore the Black Sea Region

The Black Sea sits at an important crossroads between Europe, Asia, and the Caucasus. For the U.S., the Black Sea’s strategic importance is primarily derived from two issues. The first is America’s treaty obligations under NATO. Three of six Black Sea countries (Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey) are in NATO and fall under the Alliance’s security guarantee. Another two countries (Georgia and Ukraine) want to join NATO. Second, one of America’s biggest geopolitical competitors and adversaries, Russia, is very active in the region, consistently undermining the interests of the U.S. and its allies.

Secretary Austin’s trip to Europe is timely and important. To advance U.S. security interests in the Black Sea region, he should:

Invite Georgia to contribute troops to the U.S.-led multinational battalion in Poland as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP).

Reaffirm NATO’s open-door policy for Ukraine and Georgia.

Think creatively about routes to membership.

Supply more weapons to Ukraine with fewer restrictions.

Encourage NATO to develop a strategy for the Black Sea region.

Push NATO to establish a Black Sea Maritime Patrol mission.

Establish a permanent military presence in Eastern Europe.