Russia "depends on Serbia as its key launching ground"

Russia will continue to try to influence the events in the Balkans, where Serbia is its most important link that serves as a launching ground.

Source: Beta
(Getty Images, illustration purposes, file)
(Getty Images, illustration purposes, file)

This is according to Beta, which quoted Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations Prague, who spoke for Radio Free Europe's Bosnia-Herzegovina/Serbia/Montenegro service.

Galeotti said that Moscow is using "active measures" that include everything that can advance Kremlin's goals, and that the ideology and goals of those carrying out this agenda are irrelevant as long as they serve the Kremlin in "neutralizing Europe and expanding its zone of influence."

Galeotti, who recently produced a report for the European Council on Foreign Relations entitled, "Controlling Chaos: How Russia Manages its Political War in Europe," went on to say that Russia has no single strategy for the Balkans - but will have one "by the end of the year."

He is convinced that Russia will continue to try to influence the events in Montenegro, "but using more subtle methods" - and that it will continue to pressure Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and, Serbia.

Moscow could try to use Montenegro as "some sort of its Trojan Horse in NATO," this researcher thinks.

"For too long, Europe and NATO have neglected the region of the Balkans. I think that we are getting indications that Russia looks at this as a new fight to expand its authority and also create problems for Europe. It turned out that the powerful secretary of the Security Council in Moscow, Nikolai Patrushev, is essentially in charge of the Balkans. It is interesting that after the coup attempt in Montenegro, Patrushev was the one who hurriedly flew to Serbia in an attempt to iron out the situation and pull the Russian agents out of there," Galeotti has been quoted as saying.

According to him, in the region, Russia assigns key importance to Serbia "not only because of longstanding political and cultural ties, as well as a high level of Russian investment, but because Russia depends on Serbia, as a launching ground within the Balkans."

"And Serbia has a dual role, on the one hand it is happy to accept Russian fighter planes and the like, but on the other hand it has a long-standing ambition to become a part of the EU," he added.

Asked "for how long (President Aleksandar Vucic will be able to sit on two chairs" Galeotti said that "it depends on how serious Europe is".

"He is able to do this only because Europe allows him to do it, and he will do it as long as he can... Because that's a way to benefit when you play between big countries and opposed blocs. And in the given circumstances he is doing it relatively well," said the British analyst.

He also "pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin and people around him... want to see Europe divided, countries at odds among themselves and divided internally, each individually" - and also "encourage groups who want to break up the EU or simply generate divisions and neutralize Europe."

"In this respect, everyone knows what Putin wants, but instead of it being one big plan, you have a lot of individual actors who can be ambassadors or political officials, or they can be spies or Russian businessmen, maybe local businessmen who want a good a contract with the Russians. There are many people who are trying to do things they think will help advance the Kremlin agenda," Galeotti said.

Asked about "the role of the media" - Galeotti said that the media was "a battleground through which (Russians) are trying to push forward ideas" - but added that in his opinion "a much more dangerous battleground is that of issues such as the tight balloon of corruption and economic penetration."


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