Russia, Turkey’s interest on collision course in Balkans – analysts

Western Balkan states are offering low-cost opportunities for both Russia and Turkey to undertake political and economic measures undermining the EU, wrote Alon Ben-Meir and Arbana Xharra in an analysis for the Washington-based online magazine Globalist.

Noting that the political tension between Kosovo and Serbia is creating a perfect environment for Turkey and Russia - both vying to lure the two Balkan neighbours into their respective spheres of influence - in the region, the article stressed that it is only a question of time when their interests in the region clash.

Serbia’s refusal to recognize Kosovo’s borders has put Russia and Turkey’s propaganda machines into full throttle, the article said, noting both countries ‘’spread false reports that the United States threatened to withdraw its troops from Kosovo if the tax is not suspended.’’

Serbia and Kosovo, both generally vulnerable to fake news online, have become pawns in the feast feeding both countries in their efforts to control the Balkans, it said.

Noting that Putin and Erdogan have been working hard to strengthen their own ties with the Balkans, the article highlighted that they are ‘’investing in major national projects strategically calculated to have the greatest economic and political impact throughout the region.’’

‘’Trade between Turkey and the Western Balkans has dramatically increased, from $430 million in 2002 to $3 billion in 2016,’’ it said, which is approximately one-third of this trade was with Serbia.

Russia’s interest in the region rests on two considerations, the article said, pointing to the Western Balkans region as a strategic importance as a transit route for Russia’s gas and Moscow’ desire to preserve the Slavic roots and the Orthodox religion in the region.

Highlighting that neither Russia’s nor Turkey’s activities and intentions in the Balkans are hidden, Ben-Meir and Xharra noted that ‘’it is only a question of time when Russia’s and Turkey’s interests clash in the Balkans.’’