Possible Reflections of the Russia-Ukraine War on the Balkans

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The Russia-Ukraine War, which is on the agenda of the world, is also closely followed by the Balkan countries struggling with various crises. While statements condemning Russia came from many Balkan countries; The uneasiness of the war in Ukraine began to be felt in the Balkans as well. The European Union (EU) Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Johann Sattler, announced on March 2, 2022, that 500 additional soldiers, consisting of EUFOR forces, will be deployed in areas where tensions are experienced in the country. In Kosovo, the Security Fund was established by the Ministry of Finance for the development of the army. However, after Russia’s attacks on Ukraine, many Balkan countries applied for urgent membership to the EU. One of these countries was Bosnia and Herzegovina. Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic called on the EU to give Bosnia and Herzegovina candidacy status.

Experts, who evaluated the possible reactions of the Russia-Ukraine War on the Balkans, to the Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM), state that there will be no tension in the region in the current situation.

ANKASAM Advisor Assoc. Prof. Nuri Korkmaz: Sanctions against Russia will cause serious problems across Europe.

Evaluating the economic reflections of the Russia-Ukraine War on the Balkans, ANKASAM Advisor Assoc. Prof. Nuri Korkmaz said that sanctions against Moscow could trigger an energy crisis in the region. Stressing that the harsh sanctions of the world countries, especially Europe, against Russia is a radical decision, Korkmaz said that this situation will not continue long, otherwise, it could cause serious problems in Europe.

Korkmaz said, “Eastern European countries Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and Hungary will suffer from sanctions against Russia. Considering that the trade relations of the relevant countries with Russia may come to a deadlock, it seems difficult for them to turn to different markets. However, it is thought that the sanctions were made to overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration. If the restriction in the SWIFT continues for a long time, it can be said that the Russians may revolt against Putin and the protests may increase.”

Korkmaz said, “It is predicted that this development will also pose a danger to the Balkans if the Russian military units take Odessa under control. Because if events break out in Moldova and the Russian Army enters from Transnistria, there may be a great disturbance in Romania.” said.

Süleyman Demirel University Faculty Member Assoc. Prof. Erjada Progonati: Serbia’s attitude towards Russia should be questioned.

Stating that the Balkan countries supported the Kyiv administration in the Russia-Ukraine War, Süleyman Demirel University Faculty Member Assoc. Prof. Erjada Progonati touched upon Serbia’s stance in the war. Progonati said, “The Belgrade administration was mostly defending the Russian side. However, even if there are minor changes in Serbia’s attitude, its attitude towards Russia needs to be questioned.”

Claiming that Serbia is considered an extension of Russia in the Balkans, Progonati said, “The example of Ukraine has ended the tradition that conventional wars will not happen again. Therefore, the possibility of the ongoing tensions turning into conflict should not be ignored.” she said.

Pointing out that Albania deployed a symbolic military unit to Kosovo after the Russia-Ukraine War, Progonati said that the possibility of removing the borders between the two countries has strengthened and that if the possible Greater Albania Project is implemented, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-Russia conflict will became true.

Retired Ambassador Ali Engin Oba: Panslavist views lost their influence in the Balkans.

Retired Ambassador Ali Engin Oba, who stated that it is difficult to establish a relationship between the Russia-Ukraine War and the developments in the Balkans, said that he did not expect a conflict situation in the region. Oba said, “The Balkans are the back door of Europe. Balkan countries are demanding to join the EU. On the other hand, we see that Bulgaria, Greece and Romania have joined the EU. In addition, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia became members of NATO. In this environment, the revival of Pan-Slavist views does not make sense,” he said.

Claiming that Panslavist views have lost their influence in the Balkans, Oba stated that Serbia cannot afford to escalate tensions in the region. “Serbia wants to join the EU. It worked too much for it. Now the consensus is forming on Kosovo. It did not recognize its independence, but it is no longer possible for it to think that can keep this state established under control. Because Albanians are an effective power in the region. Serbia will not want to destroy own economically unstable structure with a war economy. In addition, it will not be able to openly support the Serbian separatists in Bosnia and Herzegovina because he wants to be a member of the EU.

Retired Colonel Ferhan Oral: Serbia is not in a position to escalate the crisis in the Balkans.

Retired Colonel Ferhan Oral, referring to Serbia’s attitude in the Russia-Ukraine War, said that Serbia seems to be in a position to support Russia; however, he stated that Serbia refrained from expressing this openly.

Stating that the reflection of the war on the Balkans should be addressed in the context of Serbia’s energy dependence and EU membership, Oral said, “Serbia cannot express its reaction or support to Russia, considering that it is a potential member of the EU in the future and the aid it will receive from there. Therefore, I do not think that Serbia will act in a way that will cause a movement in the Balkans and will openly support Russia.” he said.

Journalist Medin Halilovic: There are security concerns in the Balkans. However, the tension will not rise.

Journalist Medin Halilovic, who said that the Russia-Ukraine War was followed closely in the Balkans and was one of the hottest topics on the agenda, stated that Russia-supported protests were held in Belgrade.

Stating that security concerns are felt in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Halilovic emphasized that EURUFOR has deployed additional soldiers to the country. “EU membership is expected in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is a thought in the public that they can be accepted into NATO because of the country’s security problems,” he said.

Stating that Serbia voted yes to the resolution condemning Russia at the United Nations (UN); however, it did not participate in the sanctions against Russia, Halilovic said that Serbia would refrain from escalating tensions in the region due to Serbia’s EU membership demand; however, he stated that it will continue to support Moscow in the meantime.

“Some countries in the region, especially Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, want to take advantage of this crisis to become members of the EU and NATO. However, there is a security concern in the region.” said.

Lisans eğitimini Gazi Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi'nde tamamlayan Sibel Mazrek, yüksek lisans eğitimine Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli Üniversitesi Lisansüstü Eğitim Enstitüsü'nde Gazetecilik Ana Bilim Dalı'nda devam etmektedir. Çeşitli medya kuruluşlarında muhabirlik, spikerlik sunuculuk görevlerini üstlenen Mazrek, ANKASAM'da Medya Koordinatörü olarak çalışmalarına devam etmektedir.