Balkan Countries’ Perspective on the Russia-Ukraine War

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The failure of European countries to develop a collective response to the Russia-Ukraine War has been frequently discussed in the international community. In particular, the fact that some Balkan countries are heavily dependent on Russia for energy has led to some differences of opinion on the sanctions to be taken against Moscow within the framework of the European Union (EU). To date, it is known that the EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries have different views on the Russia-Ukraine Crisis. The Balkan countries can also take different positions on this conflict.

First of all, it should be noted that only North Macedonia and Kosovo were able to fully support Ukraine at the beginning of the war. In this context, North Macedonia argued that NATO should support Ukraine. Similarly, Kosovo declared that “they stand by Ukraine and support its sovereignty and territorial integrity”. [1]

Albanian President Ilir Meta expressed shared concern with all NATO partners over the threat of Russian aggression against the friendly, independent and sovereign country .[2] Zeljko Komsic, Croatian member of the Presidency Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Sefik Dzaferovic, Bosniak member, strongly condemned Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and announced that their country would do everything in its power to help Ukrainians .[3]

Romania declared that Russia’s demand for the withdrawal of NATO forces from Romania and Bulgaria is unacceptable [4]. Since Romania is not heavily dependent on Russian gas and has few economic agreements with Moscow, Romania has been able to take more decisive steps against Russia than other EU members.

Apart from these developments, three countries stood out in the Balkans region. These are Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro . Croatian President Zoran Milanovic stated that “Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, economically stagnant and receives nothing from the EU” [5] . After these harsh statements, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had to apologize to Ukraine.

Serbia and Montenegro refrained from taking an official position for a long time Serbia has perhaps experienced the greatest difficulty. This is because the country generally tries to pursue a policy of balance between the West and the East. Therefore, the dilemma of “Russia or Europe?” emerged in Serbia in relation to the Ukraine Crisis. As a matter of fact, it is frequently stated that Serbs receive open support from Russia throughout the Balkans. In this context, it is known that Russia has decisively supported Serbia, especially in the Kosovo issue, and has similarly supported Serbian leader Milorad Dodik in Bosnia and Herzegovina There is no general consensus on the Russia-Ukraine Crisis in the Balkans. In addition to the countries that openly declare their support for NATO, there are also actors who try to maintain a balance between the two countries. Anyway, due to the pressures in the international arena, it should not be expected that any Balkan state would openly support Russia. Balkan countries are trying to deepen their integration with the EU. Therefore, the countries are generally trying to balance the war. Nevertheless, the EU’s pressure on the Balkans is constantly increasing. . In an environment of weakening Western influence, space has opened up for Russia in the Balkans. This situation also leads to the strengthening of the separatist Serbs. Indeed, Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani accused Serbia of “replicating Russia’s moves in Ukraine and Georgia in Kosovo [6]. Trying to draw a parallel between the situation in Ukraine and Kosovo, Osmani stated that Russia’s actions were not only limited to Ukraine, but also directed towards the Balkans. [7]

As a result, after the Russian-Ukrainian War, the Balkan countries also started to feel threatened. Especially Russia’s support to Serbia in Kosovo makes the people of Kosovo uneasy. Because if Russian influence increases, Serbia will receive more support from Russia. Concerns about the possibility of such a conflict are increasing. In this process, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that “mercenaries” were being sent from Albania, Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina to fight on the side of Ukraine.[8] These allegations have been firmly denied by these countries. Such steps were interpreted as an attempt by Russia to meddle in the Balkans. It seems that the Balkans will continue to be part of the fight between Russia and the West for a long time to come.

[1] “Чија страна ја заземаат земјите од Западен Балкан во руско-украинските односи?”, Press 24,, (Erişim Tarihi: 30.08.2023).

[2] “Başkan Meta, Savunma Yeteneklerini Güçlendirmek İçin Gerekli Tedbirlerin Alınması Çağrısında Bulundu”, Slobodenpecat,, (Erişim Tarihi: 30.08.2023).

[3] “Bosnia’s Komsic and Dzaferovic Strongly Condemn Russia’s Attack on Ukraine”, N1Info,, (Erişim Tarihi: 30.08.2023).

[4] “NATO Dismisses Russian Demand to Withdraw from Romania, Bulgaria”, Balkan Insight,, (Erişim Tarihi: 30.08.2023).

[5] “Ukrayna’dan Hırvatistan Cumhurbaşkanı’nın Sözlerine Tepki”, Trt Haber,, (Erişim Tarihi: 30.08.2023).

[6] “Osmani: Srbija na Kosovu cilja ono što Rusija cilja u Ukrajini”, RTV,, (Erişim Tarihi: 30.08.2023).

[7] Aynı yer.

[8] “Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia Deny Sending ‘Mercenaries’ To Ukraine”, Balkan Insight,, (Erişim Tarihi: 30.08.2023).

Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk TAMER
Dr. Cenk Tamer graduated from Sakarya University, Department of International Relations in 2014. In the same year, he started his master's degree at Gazi University, Department of Middle Eastern and African Studies. In 2016, Tamer completed his master's degree with his thesis titled "Iran's Iraq Policy after 1990", started working as a Research Assistant at ANKASAM in 2017 and was accepted to Gazi University International Relations PhD Program in the same year. Tamer, whose areas of specialization are Iran, Sects, Sufism, Mahdism, Identity Politics and Asia-Pacific and who speaks English fluently, completed his PhD education at Gazi University in 2022 with his thesis titled "Identity Construction Process and Mahdism in the Islamic Republic of Iran within the Framework of Social Constructionism Theory and Securitization Approach". He is currently working as an Asia-Pacific Specialist at ANKASAM.