Making a Killing

Our stories this week reveal the scale of the Pentagon’s Syrian arms buying efforts, in which the Balkans are yet again a key plank, as well as more locally pressing issues, from Bosnia’s turbulent politics to Croatia’s far-right. 

Milos Damnjanovic

Shopping Spree

An investigation by BIRN and OCCRP has produced new revelations that suggest that the Pentagon is on a weapons ‘shopping spree’ for Soviet-style weapons and ammunition to be funneled to allied forces in the conflict in Syria.

The investigation reveals the Pentagon’s $2.2 billion arms pipeline funneling weapons to anti-ISIS rebel fighters in Syria. The demand is so huge that supply is struggling to keep up, with the Pentagon’s contractors increasingly turning to ageing stockpiles in addition to new production. But, as the investigation also reveals, the effort to funnel supplies to the rebels also risks undermining the international arms control system.

Read more: The Pentagon's $2.2 Billion Soviet Arms Pipeline Flooding Syria (September 12, 2017)


Routing Problems

The investigation by BIRN and OCCRP has also uncovered that Germany appears to have become concerned at the amount of weapons being funneled to Syria through US bases on its soil. So much so that it seems that the Pentagon has been forced to find new routes for supplying allies in Syria.

Read more: German Concerns Spark Pentagon Reroute of Syria-Bound Arms (September 12, 2017)

Milorad Dodik, the leader of Republika Srpska's main party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, and Bakir Izetbegovic, the leader of the main Bosniak party, the Party of Democratic Action. Photos: Beta, Anadolu

Hive of Activity

Bosnia’s political scene is such a hive of activity that one might be forgiven for thinking that a general election was just around the corner.

In fact, the general election in Bosnia is just over a year away. However, maneuvering and jockeying to secure the best starting positions is already under way, as our editor Srecko Latal writes. While a prolonged pre-election campaign is nothing unusual in Bosnia, this time around it is being spiced up by intense turmoil within Bosnia’s main political parties, across the entire ethnic divide.

Read more: Bosnia's Old Political Dogs Won’t Learn New Tricks (September 12, 2017)

Russia's Vladimir Putin(left) and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko inspected the final stage of the Zapad 2013 strategic military exercises. Photo: kremlin.ru.

War Games

Russia’s Zapad 2017 military exercises – being carried out in Belarus and Russia (including Kaliningrad) – are raising tensions in much of Eastern Europe, as well as within the EU and NATO. The military exercises are expected to involve tens of thousands of men, yet the Russian side is claiming that the numbers will not exceed 13,000.

This appears to be a manoeuvre to wiggle out of obligations under the OSCE’s Vienna Document which obliges member-states to make it possible for observers to attend any military exercises surpassing 13,000 men. And while the Balkans may be physically far away from all of this, any spike in tensions between NATO and Russia will doubtless be felt in this region, where the two sides are still vying for influence in the handful of countries that still remain outside of NATO.

Read more: Russia’s Big Games Strike Echoes in the Balkans (September 14, 2017)

Vlado Kosic (centre) leading the prayer. Photo: Sisak Diocese

Far Right Champion

Croatia’s far right has a rising, if somewhat unexpected, new star – Vlado Kosic, a Catholic Bishop from the town of Sisak. Over the last few years, Kosic has become (in)famous for his online activism and commentary on current affairs in Croatia.

For the most part, his ire has been directed at the political left, as well as Croatia’s minorities, particularly the Serbs. Kosic increasingly appears to have the ear of the country’s far-right politicians. Last weekend, he even appeared at the concert of far-right Croatian singer, Marko Perkovic Thompson, whose performances have been banned in many European countries.

Read more: Catholic Bishop Becomes Croatian Far-Right Champion (September 14, 2017)

Nikola Tesla. Photo: Wikipedia/Unknown

Moving Worries

Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Museum is one of the city’s most popular museums, both among locals and foreign tourists. Annually, more than 100,000 visitors pass through its doors.

This is why many fans of the Museum are both excited and worried by the government’s plans to move it to a new, if rather old, building – the now derelict ‘Old Central’, a decommissioned thermal power plant. While many see the new location as a fitting place for the museum, there are worries about when it will be ready to house the existing collection, particularly given the poor track record of Serbian authorities when it comes to redeveloping museum space. The situation is all the more urgent as the Museum must move out of its current space, which is due to be returned to its original owners under the Law on Restitution.

Read more: Belgrade's Nikola Tesla Museum Faces Uncertain Future (September 12, 2017)

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