Balkan affairs expert David Phillips says Russia is trying to bring the Balkans within its sphere of influence, so the United States needs to increase their engagement in this region where there are still fragile democracies.
Phillips is Director of the Peace and Rights Program at Columbia University in New York and has served as a Foreign Affairs Advisor to the State Department during Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations."Of course, the region is likely to move towards a wave of social discontent, to a large extent, as political leaders have no indication that they are capable of leading these countries during their transition. But there are also external factors that promote a lack of stability and should be taken into consideration," said Philips in an interview to Voice of America.
Philips says Russia's recent efforts to influence Western Balkan countries have already been materialized.
"Russia is systematically supporting anti-Western regimes, trying to undermine American influence; Russia's goal is to darken the eyes of the West, to hinder the path of Euro-Atlantic integration in the Western Balkans and finally to reverse the status of Kosovo as a sovereign and independent state," he said.
Focusing on the recent statement by Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, who allude to a possible union between the two countries if the chances of these countries toward EU path will beaken, Phillips says "this is a normal Albania, there are already issues that connect the two countries; If Albanians want to cooperate more closely, they must do so."
"The EU's failure to visa liberalization for Kosovo has raised serious issues if Europe wants to integrate Albanian territories, or wants to exclude them. If it were to expel them then the ethnic Albanian territories would unite, serve their national interests and protect their common security ... Russia's objective is to provoke a conflict between Serbia and Kosovo and then use that conflict as a pretext for Moscow to demonstrate strength in the region.
The US can prevent it through a deeper diplomatic and commercial engagement with Kosovo and Albania. The Serbian people should not be deceived, Russia is not acting in its own interest, but only for its narrow interests, using it to start a war with Kosovo and use it as a pretext that Russia demonstrates its strength in Region," said David Philips.
He is speaks also about the recent political crisis in Macedonia, saying the problem in Macedonia is not interethnic tensions, but that "the problem has to do with the government and the failure of Macedonians to respect election results, to form coalitions and to Going in a direction to benefit everyone, to advance the interests of everyone in Macedonia. "
"The Macedonian government has failed to serve the interests of citizens, has polarized ethnic Albanians and created a dangerous situation that enables fragmentation and conflict. It is the time when political leaders in Macedonia should set aside their personal and provincial interests and serve the interests of the state, implement the Ohrid agreement, which provides minority rights, and stop the small conflicts that are risking a major degeneration of Macedonia," said Philips.
Meanwhile, for Serbia and its strong ties with Russia, Philips says this country should choose whether to approach the EU or remain loyal to Russia, but according to him," Seerbia should choose one of these roads.
In the end, he says the United States has neglected the Balkans during the last years of Obama administration./Oculus News
Phillips: Albanian territories must get united if Europe excludes them Sunday, April 30, 2017 Rating: