WASHINGTON DC – To prevent political radicalization and ethnic polarization that could ignite armed conflicts, a more vigorous Western Balkan strategy led by Washington is urgently needed, stated Janusz Bugajski, Senior Fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) in Washington DC, in his article for Europe’s Edge – online journal covering crucial topics in the transatlantic policy debate.
“The Balkans are returning onto America’s radar screen as threats to regional stability and European integrity mount. To prevent a dangerous spiral of escalation, Washington must pursue a more vigorous strategy to help secure the remaining states within Western institutions and curtail Russia’s spreading subversion.”
Bugajski noted that recently, the region has witnessed several developments, such as “Moscow-directed coup attempt in Montenegro, the creation of a Russian-trained paramilitary force in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the assassination of a moderate Serbian politician in Kosovo.”
He pointed out that these events might have some background strategy.
“It is clear that nationalist radicals and Kremlin operatives directly benefit from the resulting instability,” Bugajski wrote in an article.
Aside from the attempted coup in Montenegro, the creation of a paramilitary force Serbian Honor (Srbski Ponos) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center in Niš, Serbia, Bugajski said that another blow to regional stability was the assassination of Oliver Ivanović.
Bugajski pointed out that it clearly benefits “politicians who want the Belgrade-Pristina talks to fail,” adding that Serbian delegation withdrew from the discussions after news of the murder.
These regional instabilities seek more attention of the U.S., and Bugajski said that such an initiative must be based on three pillars: counter-subversion, national security and regional collaboration.
“Counter-subversion entails monitoring and combating imminent security threats, whether these stem from illegal paramilitaries, terrorist cells, criminal organizations, or Russian-financed networks,” Bugajski said adding that improved intelligence collection, banking transparency, judicial reform, media responsibility, information literacy can reduce sub-military threats.
When it comes to the national security, he believes that each state needs to be brought under the NATO umbrella.
“Washington can take the lead role in unblocking Macedonia’s and Bosnia’s progress toward NATO and offering both Serbia and Kosova dual entry once they establish full bilateral ties and complete the necessary military reforms,” said Bugajski.
Finally, the last pillar of U.S. policy, Bugajski believes should be based on regional security collaboration.
“Countering political and religious terrorism, organized crime and foreign subversion provide valuable arenas for cross-border cooperation,” he said.
Bugajski also added that he is especially concerned about Serbia’s defence links with Moscow and how its acquisition of new weapons systems may affect regional stability.
“The investigation of both hard and soft security threats is the first step in combating the dangers and demonstrating America’s effectiveness in countering Putin’s strategy of destabilization,” he concluded.
Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States