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The Eternal Balkans
Russia Gets Paranoid About Macedonia

Russia is accusing the West of fomenting an anti-Russian movement in Macedonia, as citizens of the latter country have taken to the streets to protest the government of PM Nikola Gruevski. The Gruevski government is mired in a scandal involving mass wire-tapping and the opposition is demanding that he resign. Protests took place this weekend, largely without incident, in the aftermath of a government police crackdown in the town of Kumanovo which left 18 dead more than a week ago. That police action was billed as an attempt to curb terrorist activities by irredentist Albanian extremists, but was dismissed by many Macedonians as a ploy to distract from the government’s other problems.

Gruevski’s government has been friendly to Russia, so the protests have set the Kremlin’s imagination into overdrive. Visiting neighboring Serbia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gave vent to some speculations. The Fiscal Times:

“Objectively speaking, the events in Macedonia are unfolding against the background of the government’s refusal to join the policy of sanctions against Russia and the vigorous support Skopje gave to the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project, which many people oppose, both in Brussels and across the ocean,” he said.

“So we can’t help but feeling that there is some sort of connection here,” Lavrov added.

Russia’s foreign ministry further seized on the arrest of a Montenegrin citizen for collusion with Albanian extremists in Kumanovo as “convincing evidence … of attempts to push the country into the abyss of ‘color revolution.’” A columnist in the Kremlin-aligned Izvestia noted late last week got even more specific: “Basically, this is our fight with Washington for Europe. Sometimes the saving of Europe begins in the Balkans…”

It’s unclear to what extent the Kremlin actually believes that the West is successfully marshaling forces against their interests in such far-flung places as Macedonia, and to what extent Putin and Lavrov just see an opportunity here to stir up trouble where the Europeans need it least. Regardless of the balance, we’re quite likely to see more Russian activity in the Balkans in the coming months.

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  • Gene

    Is there a country Russia isn’t paranoid about?

    • dawnsblood

      Iran, North Korea and Syria seem to get a lot of positive Russian attention.

  • Fat_Man

    If we really wanted to bog Russia down, we would encourage them to take control of the Balkans. We have no reason to be involved in the Balkans, and they are of no consequnce to the US. They have no economic resources and are a sinkhole of corruption and ingratitude.

    • Felix Keverich

      Yet American army continues to occupy Serbia’s Kosovo even as we speak.

      • Fat_Man

        and your point is?

        • Felix Keverich

          You have no reason to be involved in the Balkans (or Ukraine, or Syria, or Iraq etc). But you are! This is what imperialism is.

          • Fat_Man

            So what?

          • Dan Greene

            “Being involved” is one thing. We, Russia, China and others are involved almost everywhere to one extent or another. Destabilizing governments and stirring up inter-ethnic animosities–which is what I suspect is going on–in order to thwart Russian-backed pipelines is another matter, as is the coerced dismemberment of Serbia (though clearly the vast majority of Kosovars were in favor of it.)

    • Dan Greene

      >>”We have no reason to be involved in the Balkans, and they are of no consequnce to the US.”

      In a connected world, there is no place on earth that is utterly devoid of strategic value. The main point of strategic contention in the Balkans currently is the US attempt to block Russian pipeline access to southeastern Europe and the economic and political influence that a successful South Stream/Turk Stream would provide to Russia. You are thinking rather narrowly when you write of the Balkans because “they have no economic resources.”

      By the way, what is your reference to “ingratitude” supposed to mean?

      • Felix Keverich

        But you’re seeing US-Russia relationship as a simple zero-sum game, in which hurting Russia’s economic interests benefits America somehow. The US government is past that kind of thinking. Or at least this is what they say.

        • Dan Greene

          No, first of all, I am not advocating the actions that I surmise are being generated by the West–the destabilization of Bulgaria and Macedonia.

          I merely pointed out to Fat Man that his understanding of the strategic significance of the Balkans is flawed. That was my only point in that particular post.

          >>”The US government is past that kind of thinking. Or at least this is what they say.”

          The US government is quite clearly not past that kind of thinking, which will eventually be recognized as the strategically self-destructive policy that it is. The Ukraine-Balkans-Pipeline fiasco is a strategic disaster for the West in the long term.

  • Dan Greene

    I wouldn’t call it paranoia. After the elected government of Bulgaria, which supported the South Stream pipeline, was destabilized and then replaced by a new party that just so happened to be obedient to the US/EU desire to thwart South Stream, are we supposed to think that this eruption is just a coincidence? I don’t think so. Macedonia happens to form a corridor, running between Albania to the West and Bulgaria to the East, through which a connector to the new Turk Stream could potentially run, linking Serbia and Hungary and perhaps others to the north to Turk Stream. And now, it just so happens that another pro-South Stream/Turk Stream leader in under seige.

    But of course its “paranoia” to suggest that there may be a link.

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