Bloomberg: This European region could become Putin’s next target

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

“However, there is another very attractive target nearby – the Western Balkans.” This troubled territory is home to four NATO members: Croatia, Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia. However, the Kremlin’s eyes are also on other prizes – Serbia, Kosovo and ethnically divided Bosnia and Herzegovina. How can V. Putin try to expand Russia’s influence and undermine NATO and EU cooperation in this important corner of Europe?” the analyst asks.

Reuters/Scanpix photo/Clashes in Kosovo

According to J. Stavridis, the Russian president knows that if the NATO member states are again involved in maintaining order in the troubled Balkans, they will no longer have time and resources to support Ukraine.

Several thousand NATO peacekeepers remain in Kosovo, which 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 Kosovo government.

“He also seeks to destabilize Bosnia and Herzegovina’s fragile government, which is divided into a strange tripartite presidency with one representative from each of the three main ethno-religious groups.” The most experienced politician is Milorad Dodik, who maintains close ties with Moscow. Ten years ago, he told me that Republika Srpska should secede, which would essentially destroy the country. Then this breakaway part would unite with Serbia and create a large Serbian state, which Putin would be happy to approve,” the reserve admiral noted.

He is convinced that the West has the means to protect itself from this. At the moment, the idea of ​​deploying NATO battalions in Ukraine is unlikely. Therefore, increasing the number of troops stationed in Kosovo now and anticipating 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 adjacent territories (such as Greece and Italy) could focus on this region. Eastern and Northern European countries could lead the effort for Ukraine.

AFP/Scanpix photo/Kosovo Serbs

The major Western countries – France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States – have the 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 create tension beyond his borders. NATO should use its information networks to expose and counter these false narratives,” writes the analyst.

According to Mr. Stavridis, if Russia decided to increase the revs, it could use cyber attacks against power grids and other vital targets in Kosovo and non-Serb parts of Bosnia. This would cause confusion and increase social discontent. NATO can provide Balkan allies and friends with better cyber defense systems.

“There are economic incentives to counter Russian interference. Serbia, like Bosnia and Herzegovina, is desperate to join the EU. Their leaders want to be able to cooperate with the West and avoid sanctions.

“SIPA”/”Scanpix”/President of Serbia Aleksandras Vucic

Serbia’s ambassador to the United States recently wrote a letter stating that Serbia only wants peace. “Serbs can show that they are sincere by rejecting Putin’s manipulations and allowing the West to focus on the main problem – Russia’s immoral actions in Ukraine,” he added.

Some time ago, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said that he had received news that threatened the vital interests of the country.

March 26 an appeal to citizens appeared on his official Instagram account. It says that difficult days lie ahead for Serbia, but they will fight and the country will win.


The article is in Lithuanian

Tags: Bloomberg European region Putins target

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