The main actors of the global system change in various periods. Today, the United States of America (USA), although it is in the position of hegemon power, is faced with serious tests. In particular, Russia and China stand out as actors challenging the leadership of the USA. Therefore, it is seen that Russia and China are in competition with the USA in various geographies. The Balkans is one of the regions where the said struggle takes place.
The Balkans is a geography where regional and global actors have struggled since the past, due to its geopolitical location and demographic structure. Of course, this is one of the main reasons for the instability in the Balkans.
In this context, due to the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Moscow administration is closely interested in the region in question and displays an anti-American attitude. In this context, the Kremlin is trying to increase its influence in the Balkans with the influence of historical and religious references and pan-Slavism. Because the Moscow administration sees the Balkans as a buffer zone against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Undoubtedly, security concerns of the USA and its European allies increased after the Russia-Ukraine War. Considering the economic cooperation in trans-Atlantic relations, it is very important for the USA, especially for Europe, to address security concerns. There is a strong concern in the European Union (EU) countries that the instability of the region will destabilize Europe as the Balkans is also Southeastern Europe.
Moreover, the USA sees the EU as a tool to maintain its influence in the region and supports the policies of the union. In this context, it is seen that the EU, which wants to break the influence of Russia on Serbia, encourages both Kosovo and Serbia on their way to membership. As a matter of fact, the US Special Representative for the Western Balkans, Gabriel Escobar, considers the negotiations between the parties as positive steps. On the other hand, the United States does not just stay in diplomatic discourses; It threatens Russia by supporting Kosovo.
Moreover, the USA is developing its relations with other regional states in order to break Russia’s influence. In this context, the Washington administration’s supply of 26 armored vehicles to North Macedonia is important in terms of deepening military cooperation. In addition, the USA has revealed that it is seeking to consolidate its presence in the region by conducting an “Emergency Response” exercise with the Montenegrin Army. In other words, the USA is trying to consolidate its presence in the region by using its military deterrent.
At this point, it should be noted that; It is claimed by Western academia that the level of democracy in the Balkans declined after the Russia-Ukraine War. Here, it can be said that the West is trying to build a unity with the emphasis on democracy by strengthening the authoritarian criticisms towards Russia. That’s why Washington puts NATO at the forefront of defending democracies. As a matter of fact, statements about the importance of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s NATO membership stem from this. The challenge for the United States in Bosnia and Herzegovina is the Republika Srpska and in this context, the Serbian leader Milorad Dodik. This is why Dodik’s meeting with Putin was interpreted by the US Embassy in Sarajevo as an absurd and malicious attempt.
In addition, the USA criticizes the Belgrade administration because of its relations with Russia. Particularly, the participation of the Head of the Serbian Security Information Agency, Alexandar Vulin, in the international security-themed conference held in Moscow, drew the reaction of Washington.
As can be seen, while the USA put pressure on the actors in which the Russian influence is felt; On the other hand, it develops its relations with the states close to the West and thus tries to consolidate its influence in the Balkans. In this context, the Washington administration signed a memorandum of understanding with Croatia on the fight against cybercrime. At this point, it is possible to show the exercise called “Defender Europe 23”, which started in Kosovo with the participation of five NATO members, as an example in the context of defense-based cooperation of the USA.
As a result, the USA, which is accepted as the leading actor of the global system, is fighting against Russia, which is challenging its hegemony, in the Balkans with the cooperation of the EU. In this context, it can be stated that the priority of the Washington administration in the Balkans is to break Russia’s influence.
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