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Balkan Instability
Balkan Order Looking Shaky

The dream of incorporating the Balkan states into a stable and prosperous Western order is increasingly on rocky ground these days. The Wall Street Journal offers a glimpse:

Now, with stepped-up Russian interference and the prospect of U.S. disengagement under the Trump administration, the Balkans are again setting off alarms.

A political crisis in Macedonia that some fear could revive ethnic conflict, renewed flare-ups between Serbia and Kosovo, and allegations of a Kremlin-sponsored coup attempt in Montenegro have European officials worrying about what European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday called a “destabilization of the region, both from within and from outside forces.”

Those concerns have elevated the region to the top of EU leaders’ agenda at their spring summit that started Thursday in Brussels. Leaders were set to pledge deeper engagement in the region, which encompasses Serbia, Kosovo, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania, and to reassert their desire to offer these governments a “European perspective.”

Some of the Balkans’ problems come from internal ethnic strife or EU leadership failures, but Russia has clearly been exploiting these dynamics to gin up antipathy for Western institutions, while intervening in ways both small and large. By stirring up anti-Western sentiment amid Macedonia’s political crisis, attempting a coup in Montenegro, and backing the nationalist leader of Republika Srpska in his quest for a referendum on independence, Moscow is increasingly making its presence felt.

What the WSJ article doesn’t mention, however, is the impact of Turkey’s anti-Western orientation on the Balkans. While Russia has been vying for influence by appealing to the region’s Orthodox and Slavic populations, Turkey has been positioning itself as the the champion of Balkan Muslims. In recent years, Ankara has notably stepped up its cultural diplomacy by sponsoring Turkish universities, restoring historic Ottoman monuments throughout the Balkans, and heaping investment on Muslim regions of Serbia and Bosnia, for example. It has also pursued economic deals that threaten EU influence in the region. The Turkish Stream gas pipeline, for instance, is a Russian-Turkish collaboration that could give both countries more leverage over the European gas market.

With the cultural and economic clout of both Russia and Turkey on the rise in the Balkans, the European Union faces an uphill climb in regaining its lost luster. And if Russia and Turkey are both acting to destabilize the Balkans, the EU could face a much more explosive situation on its borders.

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  • Suzy Dixon

    Not just the Balkans. look at Austria calling on the EU to punish Hungary for not drowning themselves in Muslim migrants!
    Hungary is the only European state standing up for themselves more or less in unison.
    My family there say “the EU can keep their money, and we can keep our culture and self-respect”

    • Proverbs1618

      How much money is the ability to worship God that you worship is worth? Those who attempt to measure these things in monetary terms simply do not understand and cannot possibly understand people’s motivations and hence their actions.

  • Andrew Allison

    The blame for this unrest (in Ukraine as well as the Balkans) can be lain squarely at the feet of the European Commission, the insane desire of which to expand at any cost has produced predictable results.

  • Fat_Man

    Bismark said the Balkans were not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian Grenadier. He is still right. The area has no economic or natural resources. Its only conceivable use is tourism. If the Russians want it, let them have it.

  • WigWag

    The U.S. may be disengaging from the Balkans as the Wall Street Journal suggests; if it’s true, bravo!

    Guess what? The Russians are the good guys in the Balkans. It’s NATO who made a mess between Serbia and Kosovo. You can’t blame the Russians for that.

    Bosnia is another mess created by the West. Bosnia is about as viable a nation as Iraq is. The idea that Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims will ever be able to live together with a degree of comity is absurd. Bosnia needs to be partitioned. It’s time for the West to get over its bigotry against Bosnian Serbs and not automatically dismiss every idea partisans of Republika Srpska suggest.

    There is a solution to the ethnic problems in Macedonia. The Albanian minority needs to be enticed to move to Albania.

    I know it’s fashionable amongst neoconservatives and liberal interventionists to blame every problem in the world on Russia, but it’s not Russia’s fault that everything the Europeans touch turns into you know what.

    The Europeans want the Orthodox Christians living in the Balkans to follow their lead into civilizational decline. They want their Orthodox neighbors to go quietly into that good night. The Europeans look at religious Orthodox Christians and they are repulsed.

    The Russians want the same group to be proud of their history, their heritage and their culture. And they suggest that they resist the European admonition to drown in a tepid cultural stew.

    The Christians in the Balkans should listen to the Russians, not the EU. The Russians are right; the EU is dying.

    • Andrew Allison

      You nailed it! When, oh when, will the US punditariat stop thinking that it knows best!

  • demboj

    The American Interest has managed to identify the problem for which Yugoslavia was the answer in 1919: the fact that there was no power in the Balkans both powerful enough to keep the Germans and Turks from meddling and allying to make war on the Western states and also to keep the Russians away from the Adriatic Sea. Since the demise of Yugoslavia, in the early 1990s, the Balkan region has been a tinderbox just waiting for a spark to ignite. Indeed, several wars have broken out and tensions are constantly on the boil. The region’s fractious, small, divided, and weak statelets are too easy for outside powers to influence. There is only one power which can form the basis of a strong state in the Balkans: Serbia. If the West wants to have peace in the Balkans it must build up Serbia into the regional hegemony.

  • Attila_the_hun

    EU is going to pay big time for mess it created when it destroyed Yugoslavia. Thanks to slick Willie The U.S is not a innocent bystander in this mess. Between The Balkans and the ME something will explode. And that’s Turkey. When it does all hell will break lose on both ends of Turkey. The south east and north west

  • Che Guevara

    The U.S. and NATO destroyed Yugoslavia and attacked Serbia, but instead of making the place better, they’ve turned it into a collection of failed states seething with nationalism and religious fervor. With time the Albanians and Bosniaks will become an outpost for Islamic violence in Europe. The EU, with U.S. help, has created a huge headache for itself.

    • “With time the Albanians and Bosniaks will become an outpost for Islamic violence in Europe. The EU, with U.S. help, has created a huge headache for itself.”

      And a steady income for a trillion dollar Obama defined “Global War on terrorism” industry funded by the never ending QE these days.

      Tally-ho ..

      For details may I recommend:

      HyperNormalisation is a 2016 BBC documentary by the legendary and much-revered British filmmaker Adam Curtis. In the film, Curtis argues that since the 1970s, governments, financiers, and technological utopians have given up on the complex “real world” and built a simple “fake world” that is run by corporations and kept stable by politicians. The film was released on 16 October 2016 on the BBC iPlayer.

  • BT_usa

    The Albanians in Macedonia, with their lands should partition to Albania. The rest of former yougoslav republic of Macedonia, a fake country, should go to the greeks and bulgaria.

    • NATOcracy

      Albania was created in 1912 by the insistence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to prevent Serbia gaining access to the sea. Montenegro was a state in the 10th century and in the 11th century was recognized as a kingdom by Pope Gregory VII (rex Sclavorum).

      I don’t know if you’re ignorant or simply trolling. What about Texas?

      • BT_usa

        Oh, i’m the ignorant, so the people of Albania didn’t exist before 1912, so the slavs in montenegro have always been there

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