The former commander of NATO’s European forces pointed to another Russian target in Europe

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He believes that if Vladimir Putin wins the war in Ukraine, it is logical that he will turn his attention to Moldova, which is the next stop on the road to Eastern Europe and where the Russian separatist enclave of Transnistria is already occupied by Russia.

However, there is another very attractive target nearby – the Western Balkans. This restive piece of territory is home to four stable NATO members: Croatia, Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia. But the Kremlin’s eyes are on other prizes – Serbia, Kosovo and ethnically divided Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Vladimir Putin’s annual speech

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

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Vladimir Putin’s annual speech (photo by SCANPIX)

Would use NATO peacekeepers

According to J. Stavridis, V. Putin knows that if NATO members are again involved in peacekeeping missions in the troubled territories of the Balkans, they will be distracted from supporting Ukraine.

Several thousand NATO peacekeepers remain in Kosovo, a former Serbian region that neither the Serbs nor the Russians recognize as an independent state. Serbia’s military was placed on high alert last year after riots by ethnic Serb protesters in Kosovo left around 100 NATO soldiers injured. This forced the Alliance to send several hundred more peacekeepers there. Putin is clearly encouraging Serbia to put pressure on the NATO-backed government of Kosovo.

“He also seeks to destabilize the fragile government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is divided into a strange tripartite presidency with one representative from each of the three main ethno-religious groups.” The most experienced political figure is Milorad Dodik, who maintains close ties with Moscow.

As recently as ten years ago, he told me about the need for Republika Srpska to secede, which would essentially destroy the country. Then this breakaway part will unite with Serbia and create a large Serbian state, which Putin would be happy to approve,” the US reserve admiral believes.

NATO military exercises in Norway

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises in Norway (photo by SCANPIX)

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NATO military exercises (photo by SCANPIX)

All is not lost

He is convinced that the West has opportunities. At the moment, the idea of ​​deploying NATO battalions in Ukraine is unlikely. Therefore, increasing the number of troops deployed in Kosovo now and pre-empting the unrest that Putin is trying to foment is entirely possible and makes strategic sense.

“This would be an example of effective regional division of efforts within the Alliance. NATO countries in the Balkans and neighboring areas (such as Greece and Italy) could focus on this region. Eastern and Northern European countries could lead the effort for Ukraine. The major Western countries – France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States – have enough resources to go both ways.

Along with stabilization forces, NATO must keep in mind that Russia is using so-called hybrid warfare. Putin is adept at using social media, disinformation campaigns and pro-Russian propaganda to stoke tensions across borders. NATO must use its information networks to expose and counter these false narratives,” writes J. Stavridis.

He believes that if the Russian Federation decided to increase the pressure, it could use cyber attacks against power grids and other vital targets in Kosovo and non-Serb parts of Bosnia. This will cause confusion and increase social discontent. NATO can provide Balkan allies and friends with better cyber defense systems.


The article is in Lithuanian

Tags: commander NATOs European forces pointed Russian target Europe

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