Comment 08 Feb 17

Russia Never Went Away from the Balkans

If the West now has to compete with Russia for influence in the Balkans, that might not be a bad thing.

Marcus Tanner
Vladimir Putin, Russia's President. Photo: Sergei Ilnitsky/Pool Photo via AP/Beta

Amid feverish talk of a possible Russian lunge at the Baltic states, Russia’s quiet but steady return as a player to the Balkans has attracted little notice. If any Western leaders are panicking about the election of pro-Russian presidents in Bulgaria and Moldova, they have yet to say so.

Aside from developments in Bulgaria and Moldova, the Kremlin has been busy elsewhere in the region.

Russia is firming up its ties to nationalist Serbia, has emboldened the Bosnian Serbs in their struggle for more – or total – independence in Bosnia, has given heart to the Kosovo Serbs to press for the same result vis-a-vis Kosovo and - through its support for the opposition in Montenegro - has kept that country on the boil.

If Russia seems determined to get back into the Balkans, it is because it is not used to being shut out.

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