Geopolitical analysis of the Balkans.
Without a long introduction on how the Balkans has always been the focal point of the geopolitical interests of great powers, Antemurale Christianitatis, the site of conflicts between civilizations and a cemetery of monarchies, I will immediately go to the present situation, which is more fluid than ever in modern history, due to growing discontent around the world, which for now has not found an ideological framework that would channel it, especially considering that, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we have been living in a one-ideological, or post-ideological world, or even in a post-historical world, as Baudrillard says.
In the Balkans, the influence and interests of two global and two regional powers are intertwined, the United States and Russia, as well as Germany and Turkey. In addition to their interests, in order to understand the situation, it is necessary to look at the actions and goals of individual local leaders of large aspirations and small capacities.
Although it might be expected we should start with the interests of the only truly global power, the United States, I will leave it for towards the end of this article, because of schizophrenia in the foreign policy which has emerged since Trump came to power. So, let’s start with regional powers. Turkey is openly advocating for neo-Ottomanism, and it is spreading its influence through activities in the east, but also in the west, which is much more important for us. From tiny folklore provocations, such as the opening of a Muslim kindergarten in Rožaje, on the occasion of the anniversary of the unsuccessful coup in Turkey, with all the Turkish flags, to the substantial financial aid that Turkey is sending along the Istanbul-Bihać route, from southern Bulgaria, across northern Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Sandžak, concluding with Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Turks have been increasingly making their presence felt. The Turks are today one of the largest investors, in the tourism and hotel industry, especially in Croatia, and in the financial sector as well. Turkey is a member of the NATO alliance, while at the same time President Erdogan is much closer to President Putin than to any Western leader. This has also been confirmed by the signing of a contract for the provision to Turkey of the Russian S-400 system, which has caused a stir at the Pentagon. On the other hand, the Pentagon will not let Turkey cross over to the Russian side just like that. Five years ago, there were rumours that the US will generously reward Turkey by surrendering its largest military base in Europe – Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo – to the Turkish Army. The US military would officially leave it as a result of the imposed savings measures on the military budget and numerous other missions around the world. If this happens, Turkey would have open hands and routes, especially considering the already completed infrastructure from Ferizaj or Uroševac, to Durres or Drač, to retake the Balkans, at least those parts with the majority Muslim population. Among local leaders, Bakir Izetbegović is the most apparently turning to Erdogan and has had four meetings with him in the last five years, and he was very pleased to support the results of the referendum in Turkey. Unfortunately, it is quite certain that tensions and wars in the Balkans would suit Turkey.
Germany, i.e. the European Union, i.e. Germany, wants peace in the Balkans, which still serves it successfully as a biological reservoir of high quality and healthy workforce, which is necessary for the rapidly-aging German society, but does not want the remaining Balkan states in the EU, at least not yet, so it fantasies about some kind of economic union of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. Vučić, who is strongly influenced by Angela Merkel, is supportive of the idea, especially because he sees Belgrade as the capital city of the newly-established union and himself as the leader of the same. At the same time, the German-American relations are quite bad, and this is reflected on the situation in the Balkans. An example of this is the Three Seas Initiative, which is viewed by Berlin, i.e. Brussels, i.e. Berlin, very suspiciously, while the US administration is firmly supporting it, to the extent that President Trump participated in this year’s summit in Warsaw. The initiative brings together twelve countries, including all EU states in the Balkans. The initiative itself is fully in line with NATO’s policy in central and eastern Europe and a substantial conflict with the EU agenda. In any case, the EU and Germany do not want a new war in the Balkans for obvious economic reasons.
Russia wants to regain its position in the Balkans, and unfortunately for us that can be most easily achieved through Balkans turmoil, and even a local war or two. Geostrategists in Moscow have not accepted the decrease in influence in the Balkans, and while they are partly exercising it through the financial sector and investments in large projects, such as Agrokor, with the closure of the Mediterranean or more precisely the Adriatic NATO ring, the Russian influence has been limited to the Republika Srpska and partly to Serbia, in particular through the issue of Kosovo. The Republika Srpska and Croatia are placed opposite each other as military border districts ready for war at all times. In any case, today’s Putin’s Russia is powerful, decisive and stable, and it would surely take advantage of any kind of collapse of peace in the Balkans to, for example, invited by Milorad Dodik, take its position now in the heart of the NATO Southeast Europe, to which Macedonia is also getting closer, itself at the edge of an internal war. Although there is no need to rush to any conclusions, there is currently no substantial or conclusive evidence that the Russians have been substantially involved in the events in Montenegro during the last year’s elections, as well as in the developments in Macedonia, regardless of the condemnation of Western politicians and the media. It is evident that local politicians, for the benefit of the quasi-NATO shield, are using the fear of the giant Russian bear to spread their own pro-NATO propaganda. However, this does not mean that the Russians would not use the first favourable situation to, after Syria, confirm their substantially stronger position and the popularity as anti-globalisation “heroes” that do not use bombs to introduce liberal democracy but to achieve key victories against today’s only global and universal enemy, ISIS.
The White House, or the Pentagon, has successfully become a bogeyman of the global geopolitics. At this moment, the US is directly involved in at least three wars – in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia – together with well-known operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, as well as possible conflicts in North Korea, Venezuela and Ukraine. That are ten world focal points we know of. The situation in the White House is changing like in the Big Brother reality show, where players come and go led by some invisible conductor’s baton. However, a certain regularity can be seen in this process. Trump’s people Priebus, Spicer, Scaramucci and ultimately the chief strategist, nationalist and great anti-globalist, opponent of American interventions around the world, Steve Bannon, have left the administration. On the other hand, General H.R. McMaster survived all these dismissals and showed the doors to his colleagues. Meanwhile, he has been joined by General John Kelly as Chief of Staff and General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis as Defence Secretary. That is the most militant cabinet since the Second World War. What Putin thinks of that is best demonstrated by his decision to send his own militant Anatoly Antonov to the post of Ambassador to Washington a few days ago. The victory of the defence industry and globalists around Trump is seen by Trump’s recent about face with regards to the mission in Afghanistan, to which he added 4,000 soldiers a few days ago. Basically, it is just impossible to believe that Trump will endure another 41 months in the POTUS position, and with Mike Pence ready to take over the position, who is described as a “free trade” globalist, and with a growing dissatisfaction of Republicans, it can be said that the Trump’s days and months are numbered. They are just looking for votes for impeachment. For now, Trump has not introduced the USA into any new conflicts, even though sparks flew with North Korea, at least through Twitter. The situation with the Russian ejection of 755 American diplomats has been solved in a completely relaxed but effective way, and while Trump is in the White House, which seems to be a very short period, the US will not enter into new conflicts. He is mostly interested in deals and domestic politics. In this sense, the Balkans is not interesting. However, as we said, his days are numbered, and Pence is waiting in a pole position surrounded by selected generals. It is very realistic to expect relations with Russia to deescalate, especially in Ukraine, which would make the Balkans attractive to another proxy war, although there is currently no US direct interest for a war in the Balkans.
Slovenia and Croatia are in the European Union, as well as in NATO, and for the time being, it does not seem they could be soon drawn into new Balkan conflicts. Slovenia is particularly well balanced, while Croatia’s foreign policy needs consolidation because President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović and Prime Minister Plenković disagree more and more every day, with Grabar Kitarović turning towards Trump and the US administration, and Plenković to the EU administration and Berlin, which are growing more distant, as we said earlier.
Montenegro is irrelevant, collateral in any case. Albania, for the time being, headed by Edi Rama, is not apparently a factor causing turmoil. Kosovo’s authorities are a combination of war criminals, profiteers and organised crime groups, and represent the biggest cancer in the Balkans, Macedonia is already split into two parts, Bosnia is divided into three parts, with Bakir Izetbegović looking to Ankara and Milorad Dodik looking to Moscow. Incredibly, the conclusion is that Aleksandar Vučić is the apparent and current element of peace and stability in the Balkans. Deja vu! However, since his vision as a statesman of a major state will hardly be achieved in peacetime, the real Vučić’s face, the one from twenty and more years ago, would once again demonstrate all the insanity of politics of the strategically most important state of the Balkans, Serbia.
The key to opening up new conflicts lies on the part of the aforementioned route between Skopje and Kumanovo, via Priština and Mitrovica, Novi Pazar to Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Bihać. Estimates by certain analysts claim that the Macedonian conflict if allowed, which could be a trigger for the whole region, could start in between six to eighteen months. Given that the conflict would suit Russia and Turkey, and that it would suit America or it would not get involved, there is only the slow, overly bureaucratic European Union, led by Germany and Angela Merkel, who will also face elections soon, to fight for peace in the Balkans, but through the completely irrational idea of a new Yugoslavia.
Anyway, brace for impact!
Translated from javniservis.me.