Russia is trying to act as a troublemaker in the Balkans, and cannot accept that every country has the right to choose which organization it wants to belong to, including NATO – it was said at the panel discussion organized by the Balkan Trust for Democracy, titled “Beyond Ideology: West-Russia relations and political pragmatism”.
The panellists also agreed that Russia’s policy (in the Balkans) would yield significant results because, fore regional countries, Russia is not an alternative for the EU membership.
Also taking part at the panel was Clarissa Duvigneau, Senior Policy Adviser to the Strategic Analysis Capability Section at NATO in Brussels. Asked whether EU enlargement was replaced by NATO enlargement in the region, she underlined the difference between the two processes, the former one having to last longer due to more profound changes in the country.
Duvigneau stressed that, even if some countries in the region, such as Serbia, do not want to join NATO, cooperation with the Alliance does bring multiple benefits. Russia and NATO have also developed a relatively comprehensive cooperation, although it suffered in recent years, she reminded.
The countries need to have the right to freely chose international organizations they will be part of, without an outside influence, Duvigenau was categorical.
Stefan Lehne, Visiting Scholar at Carnegie Europe and lecturer at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna, focused on Russia’s activity in the Western Balkans. According to him, the notion that the region will be a future geopolitical battleground between West and Russia is unfounded.
“Russia is obstructing EU’s goals”
Western Balkans is much more firmly in the Western sphere of influence, assessed Lehne, although he called EU a “reluctant magnet”. Nevertheless, the only significant aspect through which region is connected to Russia is energy.
“In terms of strategic options, Russia has little to offer to the region. Frustration attempts on EU regional policies will continue, though”, stated Lehne, explaining that Moscow’s strategy is to use the minimum of means to cause maximal possible frustration.
“I am more concerned about EU being inactive then Russia being active”, Lehne assessed.
“Russia is not concerned with Balkans’ prosperity”
Pavel Luzin, the founder of Under Mad Trends research startup, stressed that it would be of greatest importance to EU and the West that Russia goes through a full modernization process, becoming more alike to developed European countries. It is an extremely difficult thing to achieve, he reminded, because of the entrenched interests of the state structures, which control 70% of the GDP.
According to Luzin, Russia does not care about the prosperity of the Balkans and it does not offer a model of positive modernization, but only tries to be a troublemaker for Europe, because it cannot adapt to the globalized world.
“Hence, it (Russia) is trying to destroy European and Euro-Atlantic integrity. Modernization would destroy the Russian political elites, they would not survive”, believes Luzin.
This post is also available in: Italiano