Russia’s international clout is growing. The country is adamant in its desire to counter the attempts of the United States and the European Union to impose on other nations political, ideological and cultural models that are detrimental to their national interests. It raises concern among Western politicians and media.
Having failed to constrain the spread of euroscepticism, they try to put the blame on Russia accusing it of interference into European affairs while painting themselves as the ones who really care about the interests of the old continent. An article published recently by The Economist serves as a good example. It is devoted to alleged EU membership prospects for such «backward» countries of the Balkans as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia. The article contains examples of the «progress» achieved in the relationship between the European Union and the Balkan states. According to The Economist, the reason is growing sympathy towards Russia among the states of the region.
The agreement signed between Belgrade and Pristina in late August, including on the Community of Serbian Municipalities in Kosovo, the support of the idea to hold snap election in Macedonia and even the decision of Brussels to open the way for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s EU membership – all these steps are taken by the European Union to get the upper hand in the turf war against Russia. To achieve this goal it takes steps to fulfill the aspirations of Balkan nations. The United States, another «big actor», has also discreetly returned to the game. America, which after 1999 gradually disappeared from the Balkans, is now far more active again, often helping the EU with timely diplomatic shoves. It serves the purpose to add some comments here as pro-Western parties and movements in Serbia and other Balkan states welcome the trend.
First, I’d like to say a few words about the reasons for signing the August agreement on Kosovo. The goal is to make Serbia recognize the self-proclaimed independence of Pristina de-facto and then de jure. Pressure and blackmail are going to be used for this purpose. This policy has been continuing since 2008. It would be too naïve to think that this is a reaction to Russia’s actions or a genuine desire of Washington and Brussels to promote Serbia’s EU membership. The idea of snap parliamentary election in Macedonia does not testify to the EU’s goodwill. To the contrary, the situation in the former Republic of Yugoslavia has gone downhill to plunge the region into crisis. It has been caused by the West’s intention to stage another «color revolution» in Skopje. Neither the internal political crisis, nor the solutions offered by the West can foster the Macedonia’s integration into the European Union. This country faces well-known economic, political and inter-ethnic problems that have no direct relation to the ongoing stand-off between the West and Russia.
The problems faced by Bosnia and Herzegovina are not new. The West makes certain concessions as a result of tough stand taken by Milorad Dodik, the President of Republika Srpska. There is no ground to believe that Bosnia and Herzegovina has growing chances to enter the European Union. The European Commission cannot offer a solution to the problem unlike Germany and its big business. But today Berlin has to shoulder the burden of its own problems.
So, what is the bottom line? Russia enjoys solid support in the Balkans. It has local business and public opinion on its side. Moscow can boast concrete achievements. It offers the states of the region a promising outlook for cooperation, including energy projects, a delicate issue for the European Union and the European Commission. According to Alexey Miller, the head of Gasprom, there is a growing demand for Russian gas in Europe.
The West responded to Russia’s initiatives with punitive actions. The European Commission is doing its best to engage the Balkan states into the «sanctions war», including making them share the financial and social burden. If the European Commission did really care about the interests of Balkan nations, it would not increase tensions. Instead it would foster cooperation in all of Europe and engage Russian more actively into the common European process and regional management instead of raising ballyhoo over the putative Russian threat. It has been doing something quite different so far and there is no Moscow’s hand behind it.