United States: Insufficient engagement in Western Balkans causes Russian abuses

United States Capitol; Photo: Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON – Foreign Affairs Committee of the US Senate concluded that the insufficient engagement of the US and its Allies in the region of the Western Balkans has left the space for abuses to Russia, witnessed by the coup attempt in Montenegro in 2016, aggressive campaign against referendum in North Macedonia in 2018 and election of Milorad Dodik as a member of BiH Presidency last year, reports TV Antena M from Podgorica.

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Defense Catherine Wilbarger, responsible for international security, said during the week that Russian actions in the region have caused a wide-spread skepticism towards the Russian government and motivated several countries to join NATO as soon as possible, especially in the cyber area, adding that US and NATO allies cannot be ambivalent towards the region of the Western Balkans.

Wilbarger added that North Macedonia has closely cooperated with United States in suppression of Russian influence in cyber space, including the launch of the system for improving cyber security.

She stated that, after Slovenian, Croatian, Albanian and Montenegrin accession to NATO, the accession of North Macedonia represents a historical opportunity for further expansion of a more stable influence in this region.

“Our allies and partners from the Western Balkans look at the United States as a country that aims to deter Russia and institutionalize the pillars of Western democratic values. NATO enlargement does not serve just for collective defense, but also for the improvement of basic principles of the United States in the context of our national strategy and defense”, she emphasised.

Wilbarger added that Montenegro has helped the North Macedonia in providing valuable directions in preparations for accession, as well as expectations of NATO after the membership is achieved.

“From the Prespa Agreement, relations with Greece have improved, including the area of defense, and Greece has been especially useful and provided air patrols over the air space of North Macedonia”, concluded the Foreign Affairs Committee of US Senate.