Between ISIS and Putin. Balkans went out of the security zone
The Bucharest meeting of nine Eastern European leaders, held on November 3-4, recalled the already forgotten division of the Bush era on the "new" - the most loyal United States and strong Europe, and the "old" that prefers to negotiate with those with whom the United States consider not necessarily even to speak.
Author: Artom Georganov,
PhD University of Sofia with a degree in "Political Science"
Original article: Evropejska pravda
The meeting was intended to demonstrate solidarity with Eastern European leaders and their common understanding of what "aggressive and unpredictable" behavior of the Russian leadership is a long-term challenge to peace and stability in Europe, which requires consistent and active measures of the Euro-Atlantic community.
Developing concerns voiced at the summit, the Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev to convince Europe that the Russian threat is not just overcame but the contrary, takes frightening quality and looks for new opportunities, including the South East Europe.
"The most effective and safe way of Russia to the destabilization of Europe goes through the Balkans, on what Mr. Putin focuses" - said Plevneliev.
"Our message to the European Union, the General Secretariat of NATO, our partners, and the Western allies is as such: Balkans should be the heart of the European security policy. Do more for us, so that we can do more for ourselves," - calls on the Bulgarian president.
In his explanation of the nature of the Russian intervention, Plevneliev addressed the notorious to Ukrainian reader term - "hybrid warfare". The elements of which the President noticed in the cyber-attack on the servers of the Bulgarian electoral commission in the recent parliamentary elections.
Hinting at Russian involvement, Bulgarian President pointed out - "there are no that much states in the world that are able to organize such an attack."
In general, according to Plevneliev, the leading NATO countries have not shown the proper effort into finding the antidote to Russian tactics of hybrid war, is now directed to the Balkans.
Russia is perceived as the main threat by Eastern Europe again.
Discourse on hybrid war would not be complete if Moscow local politicians have not commented from pro-Russian positions on the recent events. The role of the Russian lawyer took the leader of Ataka Volen Siderov, that exposed what was happening, including the terrorist attacks in Paris, as elements of the anti-Russian conspiracy - murder in France "are intended to shed blood, to set up the Western world against Russia's struggle with the Islamic state."
Next Siderov altogether doubted the reality of what happened, "media reported informed that on November many people in Paris 13 were killed. You've seen those killed? Seen shot? Did you see exploded kamikazes?" inquired a member of parliament, a day before he was arrested on charges of hooliganism.
Pray for Europe
Paris tragedy was met in the Balkans with the situation appropriately sympathetic, but flavored rejection of "double standards" compassion "imposed" the West.
While some citizens painted his profile picture on Facebook of colors of the French flag, others tempted to "double empathy" of the West, where the back of solidarity with France is forgetting the victims of the terrorist attacks in Ankara, Beirut, Russian Boeing and hundreds of other terrorist acts, which have become for some regions of the world of everyday life.
This feeling is familiar, and the Ukrainians, we were not accustomed to, but it's nice to find oneself in the focus of European solidarity after the shooting of hundreds of Nebesna Sotnia, but we would have appreciated yellow-blue photos on Facebook after downed IL-76, or after tragedy in Illovaysk. Are these reasons not enough?
The inhabitants of the Balkans aspire to equality, and solidarity with France, this is a manifestation of the fact that the strike was planned in the collective "we" of the West.
Bulgarian, Serb or Montenegrin with the French flag on the pic, reports that he sees himself as part of this collective we, the assignment by oneself of the European identity to the victims of the civilization which was hit.
Politicians that represent them, tend to exactly the same, to achieve ritually proclaimed, but in practice it is not always realized equality.
Resources of instability
The Balkans, a long time former powder keg of Europe, live in relative peace in the last decade and a half.
The former Yugoslavia seems to have collapsed at all every territory possible. Gradually forgotten national strife, and even the slogan "Косово Je Србиja", becomes more and more a figure of speech, that refers to the problems of the past, rather than a current political agenda.
For a while it seemed that the endless conflicts, poisoning the region's history, became the props of a bygone era, and to new risks, the region which is covered with umbrellas of NATO and European security and defense policy, has a strong immunity.
But a new round of Russian politics of grandeur, testing instruments of hybrid war in Ukraine, the first attempt of projecting military force outside the CIS, all this no longer seems to be a temporary recurrence of imperial syndrome, provoked by Ukrainian crisis, and more likely a long-term strategy of Russia's return to the big politics, in the understanding in which she sees it.
The Balkans is traditionally viewed as the geography of the Russian mentality zone of Russian interests, the region looks really good as a place of effort.
Moscow is involved quite closely in the economy of Balkan countries, indirectly determines the policy of many large regional media, and has an extensive network of clients of right and left parties.
And it seems, has the determination to ignore the price when it is possible to chase phantoms of its former greatness.
This is not the most favorable background, the Islamist threat, apparently directed exclusively to Western Europe, it is beginning to take a real dimension.
Despite the intensity of Muslim immigration to Western Europe, the country with the highest percentage of Muslim population is Kosovo. Immediately behind it: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia.
In percentage terms, the Muslims in Bulgaria are more numerous than in Germany or France.
At the same time, the top three European "leaders" in the number of ISIS fighters per capita, are only the Balkan countries: Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania.
Belgium, hardly recognized as a major incubator of Islamism, is on the fourth position.
In addition, the main stream of Muslim refugees also passes through the Balkans. So far, it is mainly transit traffic, but sooner or later, when the Hungarian border fences will be even higher, and the Austrian police cordons even tighter, they will settle in the Balkans.
In these circumstances, it is difficult to believe that Islamism is only a problem in Western Europe.
Threat number one: Russian or ISIS?
Calls of Plevneviev and other heads of Eastern European States, rhetorically directed primarily against Putin, not least targeted on Islamists.
In terms of preventive measures, both threats largely interchangeable, this boring list repeatedly resounded European politicians: building a common security policy, the improvement of cooperation of special services and the further development of coordination headquarters of NATO (already operating in the Baltic countries, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria) have arisen in the East Europe as a response to the Russian intervention in Ukraine.
The specificity of the situation is that in Europe, Russia aimed at weaker and Islamists aimed at strong.
An informal division of labor between Russia and the ISIS, allowed the Balkans to live in a situation of relatively low threat of terrorism and to consolidate efforts to repel the possible expansion of the hybrid Russian aggression. Paris attacks, and in particular a possible response to them can change a lot.
The fact that Balkans are on the periphery part, to a certain measure is a natural hedge against terrorism. The Balkans were simply not interested in ideological fighters against the West and theorists worldwide Caliphate.
Neither Bulgaria nor any other country in the region do not want to leave the comfort zone of semi-obscurity to global terrorism.
Therefore, the leaders of the region, in a situation where between Eastern border of the EU, which coincides with the eastern boundary of Bulgaria and ISIS there is only one state, do not tend to run ahead of the engine anti-Islam resistance, do not rush to proclaim South-Eastern Europe advanced stronghold of resistance to the new barbarism.
Ring the alarm and remain below the radar, that's what the Balkan countries do, the same carefully listened to the speech in Muslim mosques and the rhetoric of pro-Russian activists.
Yes, now Russia seems enthusiastic with Syria and ISIS targets especially in those who dare "to attack first."
However, the extent of probable European unity in the fight against ISIS is not yet clear, but in case of success of the French initiatives, fanatics can move from precision strikes to intimidation tactics of "carpet bombing".
Then any country within the EU will automatically become their target, and the weaker its security system, the weaker the state is.
Moreover, the purpose can be not only local people, but also tourists. Hotel in Sunny Beach with British tourists, the French aircraft taking off from the airport in Podgorica, where the inhabitants of the town of Primorsko with a Russian passport are not much less than the Bulgarians. The list of high-potential terrorist threat is huge.
And it does not seem that the law enforcement agencies in the region are ready for it.
When in 2002, a suicide bomber blew up a bus carrying Israeli tourists at the airport of Burgas, the Bulgarian authorities, referring to lack of personal experience, immediately called for help in the investigation of the US and Israel.
Blow to tourism may prove to be the strongest destabilizing factor for many countries in the region.
The decline of foreign exchange earnings, the economic crisis and as a consequence - the growing influence of the pro-Russian party, parasitic of not problems of European integration and upbraided the current government of failing to understand the true nature of the threats that they are often derived from the side effects of "failure" of US foreign policy in the region.
Europe resigns to the thought of a great war with Islamism and the Balkans may be lucky enough to be one of its fronts. And this is at the time, when Russia may play the most unexpected scenario of its own interventions.
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