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Balkan Ghosts
The Reach and Limits of Russian Influence

Everywhere it plays its games, Russia is more an opportunist than a puppet-master. Southeast Europe provides a good case study.

Published on: October 23, 2017
Dimitar Bechev is a research fellow at the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. Excerpted from Rival Power: Russia in Southeast Europe, by Dimitar Bechev. Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press. © 2017 by Dimitar Bechev.
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  • AnonymoussSoldier

    I don’t know. Putin and his oligarchs certainly got what they wanted from Obama, Clinton, and Holder. I mean, Russian money may not be green, but it still worth money (especially several years ago). Bill Clinton took a lot of it. So did the Clinton foundation. So did others involved in the bribery and racketeering. And a lot of uranium changed hands.

  • Otis

    A wonderful little essay that avoids the twin perils of complacency and panic about Russia’s newly assertive foreign policy. Thank you for helping us keep our perspective.

    • Gold Eagle


  • Franco DeCelis

    The point is that many Europeans are seeing America as more of a nuisance or a threat than Russia. Russians after all are fellow Europeans and fellow Christians or lapsed Christians . We see America as more oligarchic than democratic with a mainstream media which rather than informs, educates and entertains, simply exploits and even thinks it has the right to remove a democratically elected president.

    We also do not think that the replacement of a corrupt but democratically elected president in Ukraine with a small clique of even more corrupt Oligarchs and top ministers who are not even ethnic Ukrainians has been a good thing

    • Gold Eagle

      Well, you’re definitely right about the mainstream media here. One giant propaganda machine, pretending to be unbiased.

    • DVader

      Just because Russia is on the borders of Europe does not make them Europeans. Some thing should be obvious after several hundred years.

      “An oligarchy with a media which rather than informs, educates and entertains, simply exploits” sounds like a perfect description of Russia.

  • D4x

    How can Dimitar Bechev highlight Russian domination of oil and gas markets in NATO members on the Black Sea and Balkans without mentioning the Three Seas Initiative? The Atlantic Council-PISM Global Forum was July 6-7 July 2017 in Warsaw, concurrent with the 2017 TSI Summit. July 6, 2017 Three Seas Initiative Summit [Baltic – Adriatic -Black Seas] (image from Government of Poland http://www.prezydent.pl/aktualnosci/wydarzenia/art,653,inicjatywa-trojmorza–three-seas-initiative.html )https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c8e154c80eeb8ba69248fe4f831f171d9507858cf330b12cff3c47ffb3cb35af.jpg

    “The Trójmorz Initiative is a platform for the cooperation of the presidents of twelve states between the Adriatic, the Baltic and the Black Sea. Its aim is to strengthen the cohesion of the European Union by strengthening the infrastructural, energy and economic cooperation of Central European countries. The members of the Trójmorz Initiative are: Austria,
    Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary.
    The aim is to: The stronger Central Europe as part of the EU, the stronger the European Union.”

    >All are members of the EU. All except landlocked Austria is a NATO member.
    >>Trump was the Special Guest speaker on July 6:

    >>>The Atlantic Council thought TSI and American support for TSI was a terrific idea:

    “July 5, 2017 The Three Seas Summit: A Step Toward Realizing the Vision of a Europe Whole, Free, and at Peace? By Ian Brzezinski and David Koranyi

    “A major challenge is to overcome Europe’s divisive infrastructural legacy. …
    In 2015, Croatia and Poland launched an effort to accelerate the construction and modernization of North-South cross-border energy,
    transportation, and telecommunications infrastructure across Central Europe.

    …First, it would establish a powerful set of economic arteries, including energy pipelines, powerlines, highways and railways, and
    telecommunication lines, that would mobilize the economic potential of a region that is home to 105 million people and has a $3.3 trillion GDP.

    Moreover, expanding the energy networks across the Three Seas region would diversify sources of energy for Central European states. This translates into enhanced energy security and is exemplified by the LNG terminal now operational in Świnoujście, Poland, and the one proposed for Krk Island, Croatia. …
    US endorsement of the Three Seas vision would be fully consistent with the vision of a united Europe, as well as Washington’s past advocacy of energy networks that diversify the region’s and Europe’s energy supplies. …” http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/the-three-seas-summit-a-step-toward-realizing-the-vision-of-a-europe-whole-free-and-at-peace

    >>>>Is the EU trying to kill TSI, or just annoyed that Trump and Poland are defying the TechnoBureaucrats of Brussels? “July 5, 2017 Dismissing the Three Seas Initiative is counter-productive for Brussels By Łukasz Janulewicz
    “…keeping the US administration engaged in the affairs of Central and Eastern Europe is a value in itself. … the EU needs to embrace
    the project and promote it as a positive signal of cooperation between EU member states, even though it takes place outside any formal or informal EU framework.

    This will require a change of attitude in Brussels. Negative and dismissive rhetoric from Brussels or member state capitals will be
    counter-productive and just play into the domestic Polish rhetoric about the EU or Berlin trying to hold Poland and the CEE region back. …

    TSI can be seen as the embodiment of the principle ‘Those who want more do more’.
    It falls outside formal EU structures, so is not strictly speaking part of multi-speed Europe, but it clearly is an initiative
    of several member states coming together to collaborate more intensely on matters of mutual interest.
    Brussels should not grumble about separatism, but be happy that its newer member states try to take matters in their own hands.
    It’s a sign of growing up. …” https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/opinion/dismissing-the-three-seas-initiative-is-counter-productive-for-brussels/

    [Bechev needs at least two more edits on “The Reach and Limits of Russian Influence”, for clarity, and to get his words in a logical sequence. He’s on his own as to how deep in the TAI echo chamber he wants to live. Russia! or Trump! or Russia!Trump! has no value.

    ‘Balkan Ghosts’, almost a trademarkwas a terrific travel/history memoir by Robert D. Kaplan, …
    Nice try using it for clickbait]

  • While the West is all focused on Russia, most of us seem to no longer care about the possibility of Chinese interference in Western governments. Russia may indeed be a threat to our interests, but I highly doubt that China is not also playing power games behind the scenes.

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