NewsRussia's distraction game: Stirring conflict in the Balkans to sideline NATO

Russia's distraction game: Stirring conflict in the Balkans to sideline NATO

The admiral described Putin's strategy. He pointed to two countries.
The admiral described Putin's strategy. He pointed to two countries.
Images source: © East News, PAP

5:38 AM EDT, April 4, 2024

Russia is actively trying to distract NATO from the conflict in Ukraine, according to James Stavridis, a retired United States Navy admiral and former NATO commander. He highlighted the Kremlin's efforts to destabilize the Balkans, stating, "Vladimir Putin is encouraging Serbia to pressure Kosovo and is instigating religious conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Stavridis warns.

In his analysis for Bloomberg, Stavridis pointed out that the Balkans house four stable NATO members: Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, and North Macedonia. "That's exactly why the Kremlin is focusing on Serbia, Kosovo, and the ethnically divided Bosnia and Herzegovina," he explained.

He reminded readers that the Balkans were a hotspot for Russia-NATO tensions even in the 1990s. "Putin seeks to exploit this unresolved history," he cautioned. Stavridis believes that if Russia could draw NATO into a new conflict in the region, it would distract the alliance from Ukraine.

"By encouraging Serbia to challenge the NATO-endorsed government of Kosovo and destabilizing Bosnia and Herzegovina's precarious government, represented by a tripartite presidency, Moscow is playing a disruptive role," Stavridis analyzed.

Should NATO bolster its presence in the Balkans? Stavridis suggests

Stavridis offered a strategy to counteract the Kremlin's endeavors in the Balkans. "It might be strategically sensible to increase the NATO forces in Kosovo to counter the turmoil being incited by Putin," he suggested.

He argued that NATO possesses the necessary capabilities to address challenges in the Balkans and Ukraine simultaneously. "Eastern European and Scandinavian members could take the lead in Ukraine, allowing sizeable Western countries - France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the USA - to focus on both fronts effectively," Stavridis maintains.

As the supreme allied commander, Admiral James Stavridis oversaw global NATO operations from 2009 to 2013, including operations in Afghanistan, Libya, the Balkans, Syria, anti-piracy efforts, and cybersecurity.

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