Frontline Vulnerability: The Strategic Case for the Western Balkans
Read the full study by Janusz Bugajski, published by CEPA.
The prospect of EU and NATO membership has been the key incentive in democratizing and stabilizing several Balkan states. While there have been some positive developments, such as the recent entry of Montenegro into NATO, enlargement is currently not high on the EU’s agenda and receding opportunities for membership undermine stability in the Balkans. Balkan insecurity will have a considerable negative impact on the Euro-Atlantic community at large and enable Russia to become yet more intrusive.
The Kremlin’s vision for the Balkans is quite different from the Western one. Moscow views the region as Europe’s weak spot where competition with NATO and the U.S. can be intensified and uses various instruments to achieve its goals. Putin aims to maintain several “frozen states” in the region to prevent Western integration, which is why Russia for example promotes local nationalism, stirs conflicts, and/or uses propaganda to encourage anti-Western and pro-Russian sentiments. Unresolved conflicts and disputed states empower the Kremlin to claim that NATO has failed to stabilize the region, which undermines NATO’s rationale as a security provider. Therefore, the West should avoid any display of weakness or withdrawal, push for reforms in the Balkan states and help stabilize the region.