Understanding Balkan Geopolitics

In his latest interview for Serbia’s National Public Service Radio, Srdja Trifkovic discusses the geopolitical significance of the Balkan Peninsula, through the centuries, in the context of today’s complex strategic equation in Southeastern Europe.

Q: The Balkan Peninsula is an area where empires, cultures and religions have clashed for centuries. For starters, can we define the geostrategic significance of the Balkans, or at least to outline some of its permanent features?

ST: Those permanent features are primarily geographic. The peninsula is the land bridge between Central Europe and the Middle East. At the same time, it is the point of encounter and conflict between various cultures, civilizations and religions. This had been a constant feature of the region even before the division of the Roman Empire [into its eastern and western domains] in the fourth century AD, which was an event of meta-historical importance.

A key feature of the Balkans is that for the greatest part of their history the peoples inhabiting the peninsula have not been the masters of their destinies. The matrix of geopolitical vectors: the Byzantines’ attempt to protect the border on the Danube from the incursions of Goths, Bulgars, Avars, Slavs, and others in the early medieval era, which ended in the late medieval times the fall of Constantinople, Bulgaria and Serbia to the Ottomans. This was followed by the creation of the Hungarian line of defense against the Turks. After the fall of Hungary [in 1526], it was immediately followed by the Habsburgs’ establishment of the Military Frontier in the western heartland of the peninsula in the 16th century.

This has always been an area of chronic conflict and instability. In the modern times it was manifested—as we can say now, 99 years later—in the failed Yugoslav experiment. Yugoslavia was the heartland of what is today known as the “Western Balkans,” in reality the core of the region as a whole. Had unification come about half a century earlier, when Cavour unified Italy in 1859, or when Bismarck unified Germany in 1871, the prognosis could have been more favorable and the outcome less catastrophic. Unfortunately, in the final stages of the Great War, unification based on the linguistic and allegedly racial-ethnic kinship was obsolete. Divergent national identities had been well established. The potential for new conflicts, new destruction and bloodshed, remains undiminished. It is far greater than the potential for cooperation and a happy joint path to some “European” future . . . [ST segment continues at 8 minutes 30 seconds]

A defining moment came with the Crimean War 1853-1856, when Great Britain and France joined the Ottomans against Russia. This was a major development: Russia had been Britain’s ally against Napoleon and had the potential to become Europe’s hegemon after the Congress of Vienna. She had lagged behind [the West European powers]. This war was chiefly a British project. The entire second half of the 19th century was marked by the so-called great game between Britain and Russia, primarily in Central Asia, where the primary British concern was to prevent Russia’s access to the Indian Ocean, potentially through Persia or Baluchistan. Russia’s access to the Mediterranean through the Bosphorus was London’s secondary obsession. Its primary concern was to deny Russia access to a warm ocean. Even if the Russians had succeeded in their long-term design to demolish the four minarets and return the cross to the dome of the Hagia Sophia, they would still be imprisoned in a continental sea controlled by the British at its western entry, Gibraltar, and at its southeastern passage, at Suez.

This “great game” was partially resolved in the aftermath of the Russo-Turkish war in 1878. Tzar Alexander II, following Serbia’s underwhelming performance in its own war against the Turks, decided to create a Greater Bulgaria. The peace of San Stefano [between Russia and Turkey, March 1878] envisaged the creation of a huge Bulgarian state, from the walls of Constantinople, across the shores of Thrace which are now part of Greece, to the entire Macedonia, and even the newly liberated parts of Serbia in Leskovac, Vranje and Pirot. This was overturned at the Congress of Berlin [13 June-13 July 1878]. From that moment on, Serbia’s Prince Milan, later King, adopts an austrophile position, having been disappointed in Russia. With the May coup in 1903, however [when the last king of the Obrenovic dynasty was deposed and killed], Serbia was not explicitly “pro-Russian,” but her policy started leaning to St. Petersburg. Even though Serbia was left high and dry [by Russia] during the Annexation Crisis in 1908, she was eager to join the Balkan coalition put together under the Russian patronage in 1912 which resulted in the successful war against the Turks in the First Balkan War.

The alliance fell apart in the second Balkan war, catastrophic for Bulgaria, and a year later came the July crisis of 1914. Here I need to stress that the key actor in that crisis was Germany, not Austria-Hungary. The Dual Monarchy would not have been able to present Serbia with an unacceptable ultimatum, had she not received a cheque blanche from the Wilhelmine Germany. The Germans wanted to use the Austro-Serbian clash as the cause for a preventive war against Russia. They were greatly concerned that Russia, after the war with Japan and the 1905 revolution, embarked on the path of intense modernization under Chancellor Pyotr Stolypin. Her subsequent growth rates were comparable to those of China after Deng Xiaopig. The Balkan dispute between Austria and Serbia was very niftily converted by the Berlin decision-makers into an all-European war, in which Germany would first destroy France in six weeks—in accordance with the Schlieffen Plan—and then turn to the slower-mobilizing Russia. All along, the Balkans were an object of the games played by the outsiders,

Let me recall some pertinent statements by the greatest statesman of the 19th century, Otto von Bismarck, political genius par excellence. At the time of the Congress of Berlin he warned that Germany should not tie her lively frigate to the old Habsburg barge He also said that the whole of the Balkans was not worth the bones of a healthy Pommern Grenadier. Some years after the Kaiser removed him from chancellorship in 1890, he said that he did not know when the new war would come about, but he knew where: “some damn stupidity in the Balkans.” . . . [ST segment continues at 31 minutes 45 seconds]

Q: Russia’s influence in the Balkans appears to be more strongly felt that before, including the projection of her soft power manifested in the presence of Russian-sponsored media and NGOs. How significant is this?

ST: After three trips to Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Crimea this year, and twelve visits to Russia over the past three years, I can say with some certainty that Moscow does not have a coherent strategy in the Balkan region. There are many divergent policies at play. There’s the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is staffed by many people appointed during the tenure of Andrei Kozyrev in the 1990’s, who now occupy senior positions. They are reluctant to make any proactive moves which would further aggravate—as they see it—Russia’s relations with her “Western partners.” On the other side, you have a circle close to the defense minister Sergey Shoygu and Dmitry Rogozin, who advocate a more active role. You also have the oligarchs, who don’t give a hoot for the Serbs as Russia’s “Slavic, Orthodox brothers” but only care where’s the loot. In any event, they feel more at home in Greenwich Village, or London’s Chelsea, than in Moscow or St. Petersburg.

And of course we have Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, who is not a superior chess master who plans his five or six moves ahead. He has allowed the “Orange Revolution” to hit him in Ukraine under Yushchenko in 2004, and—a decade later—the sequel, with far more significant geostrategic consequences, at the Maidan. The return of the Crimea, and the possibility of some form of autonomy for the Donbass, is scant comfort for the loss of the strategic depth which Ukraine had provided to Russia’s vulnerable southwestern flank . . .

The potential for further bloody conflicts in the Balkans still remains. I greatly fear that nothing has qualitatively changed in the region, that all of the salient features of the conflict in the 1990’s are still present.


Originally published on 2017-12-11

Source: Chronicles Magazine

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

READ MORE!
Who did Fight for Liberation of Bulgaria in 1877-1878?
Russian professor, Doctor of History Sergey Perevezentsev has touched upon a hidden historical and political motive of the scandal caused by the speech of the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow at the celebration of Bulgaria's liberation from Ottoman oppressors. It would seem that Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said everything correctly in his speech - he called to keep memory of the warriors of many nations killed on the fields of those old battles: Russians, Romanians, Finns, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Polacks, Lithuanians, Serbians and Montenegrins. "Historical tolerance" is preserved, and principle of "multiplicity of truths" is not broken. However, as the historian explained, in 1874 ...
READ MORE
The Bush Administration’s Foreign Policy in Kosovo
In 2000, when George W. Bush was elected president in a controversial and hotly disputed election, all the experts and pundits predicted that there would be a philosophical sea change in US foreign policy in the Balkans, and in Kosovo in particular. In my 2000 analysis of the election of Bush and US foreign policy in Kosovo, however, I concluded that the George W. Bush Administration represented the same old same old and business as usual. In my viewpoint, absolutely nothing would change in the US foreign policy stance on Kosovo. In fact, I concluded that the new regime was ...
READ MORE
Britain’s Collaboration with pro-Jihadist Forces in Kosovo
In British mainstream commentary, the 1999 NATO bombing campaign against Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslavia is seen as a ‘humanitarian intervention’. Tony Blair still receives much praise for coming to the defence of the ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, whose plight was surely serious as they were subject to increasingly brutal abuses by the Yugoslav army towards the end of 1998 and early 1999. Yet the NATO bombing that began in March 1999 had the effect of deepening, not preventing, the humanitarian disaster that Milosevic’s forces inflicted on Kosovo. The bulk of the atrocities committed by Yugoslav forces took place after the NATO ...
READ MORE
Thank You, Edward S. Herman (1925-2017) – Tireless Champion of Peace
Edward S. Herman died on November 11, 2017, at the age of 92. Fortunately, it was a peaceful death for a supremely peaceful man. In all he did, Ed Herman was a tireless champion of peace. Ed Herman could be considered the godfather of antiwar media critique, both because of his own contributions and because of the many writers he encouraged to pursue that work. Thanks to his logical mind and sense of justice, he sharply grasped the crucial role and diverse techniques of media propaganda in promoting war. He immediately saw through lies, including those so insidious that few dare ...
READ MORE
What Hillary Clinton has in Common with Communist China
What do Hillary Clinton and the communist government of China have in common? Aside from their shared support for subverting freedom, lack of respect for human rights, and support of invasive surveillance, they both possess armies of trolls who manipulate online narratives. According to a new report from researchers at Harvard’s Department of Government, the Chinese government employs millions of people to make posts praising government on their behalf. The internet mercenaries are deemed, collectively, “The 50 Cent Party,” because of rumors they are paid per post (the report concluded they do not appeared to be paid and most are government employees ...
READ MORE
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and American Nuclear Denial
“To Hell and Back” is a phrase that can bear a pretty heavy metaphorical load when it comes to talking about the atomic bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It’s also the title of a book by Charles Pellegrino. Pellegrino’s book is a moving and grueling close-up look at the horrors experienced by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki both on the day of the bombing and in the days and years afterward. I have the heart of a dried-up raisin but even I got a little teary in places. There are few opportunities for inspiring “triumph of the human spirit” narratives amid ...
READ MORE
Kosovo History – Second Part
Kosovo and Metohia, two central regions of perennial Serbia, are the very essence of Serbian spiritual, cultural identity and statehood since Middle Ages to date. Fertile and clement planes of Kosovo with mild climate, and reach in water resources, with high mountain chains bordering with Albania have been good-blessed environment for a fruitful development of the highest achievements in all fields in medieval Serbia. The cultural and demographic strength of the Serbs is best illustrated by the presence of 1.500 monuments of Serbian culture identified so far. Numerous outstanding noble Serbian families used to live in these regions, as families ...
READ MORE
Putin’s New World Order
Is Vladimir Putin the most popular Russian leader of all time? It certainly looks like it. In a recent survey conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center,  Putin’s public approval rating soared to an eye-popping 86 percent, which is twice that of Obama’s when he left office in 2016.  And what’s more surprising is that Putin’s popularity has held up through a severe economic slump and nearly two decades in office. Unlike most politicians, whose shelf-life is somewhere between 4 to 8 years, the public’s admiration for Putin has only grown stronger over time. And the phenom is not limited to Russia either.  According to a recent survey by the pollster YouGov, “Putin is the third most admired man in Egypt, the fourth in China, ...
READ MORE
Israel is a War Criminal
Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement! Donate to Support Us We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations. Save
READ MORE
The 1878 San Stefano Treaty and the Albanians
After the Russian military victory over the Ottoman Empire in the 1877−1878 Russo-Ottoman War it was signed the San Stefano Treaty between these two states on March 3rd, 1878. According to the treaty, a Greater “San Stefano” Bulgaria, under the direct protection by Russia, had to be established within the borders of the Ottoman Empire. However, an idea of “San Stefano Bulgaria” directly affected three Balkan nations: the Serbs, Greeks and Albanians as some of their ethnic and historical territories had to become part of a Greater Bulgaria. The “San Stefano Bulgaria” was projected by the Russian authorities to cover ...
READ MORE
Hillary Comes Out as the War Party Candidate
On June 2 (2016), a few days before the California primary, Hillary Clinton gave up trying to compete with Bernie Sanders on domestic policy. Instead, she zeroed in on the soft target of Donald Trump’s most “bizarre rants” in order to present herself as experienced and reasonable. Evidently taking her Democratic Party nomination for granted, she is positioning herself as the perfect candidate for hawkish Republicans. Choosing to speak in San Diego, home base of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, on a platform draped with 19 American flags and preceded by half an hour of military marching music, Hillary Clinton was certain ...
READ MORE
How Corrupt America is
The best reporting on the depth of America’s dictatorship is probably that being done by Atlanta Georgia’s NBC-affiliated, Gannett-owned, TV Channel “11 Alive”, WXIA television, “The Investigators” series of local investigative news reports, which show, up close and at a cellularly detailed level, the way things actually work in today’s America. Although it’s only local, it displays what meets the legal standards of the US federal government in actually any state in the union; so, it exposes the character of the US government, such that what’s shown to be true here, meets America’s standard for ‘democracy’, or else the federal ...
READ MORE
Bosnia and Kosovo: Radical Islam, Organ Trafficking and Western Mainstream Media Bias
The conflict that raged throughout the former Yugoslavia was met by a wall of silence when it came to important issues. These important issues apply to America and the United Kingdom supporting Islamists in a brutal civil war in Bosnia and then installing a new nation by ignoring international law in Kosovo. Also, is it credible to believe that the vast majority of major news agencies and national governments did not know about thousands of Islamists in Europe who were sent to slit the throats and behead Orthodox Christians? After all, if the reality of what really happened in Bosnia and ...
READ MORE
Exporting Jihad: Bosnia and Kosovo
Bosnia and Kosovo are two of the biggest exporters of jihadists joining the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria) from the Balkans. As The Cipher Brief reported last month, legacies of the Communist era and the wars of the 1990s – presence of foreign fighters, economic and physical destruction, a lack of funding to rebuild, and the near eradication of moderate Islamic institutions – paved the way for Islamic extremist groups to establish a foothold in both countries. Now, ISIS recruiters are targeting Bosnia and Kosovo, and many Bosnians and Kosovars have left to fight in Syria and ...
READ MORE
The US-NATO Plan for Macedonia: Keep Serbia Down and Russia Out
The role of the United States in the breakup of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is often overlooked by people who are critical of Washington’s intervention in the internal affairs of independent, sovereign countries. For it was in the former Yugoslavia that the precedent was set for future American intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo provided the launch pad for the West’s concept of humanitarian intervention, which, in reality, is a pretext for safeguarding and enhancing US global hegemony. However, intervention by Washington in the Balkans in the 1990s served a more immediate objective for the ...
READ MORE
Behind the Balfour Declaration
Acknowledgements To Benjamin H. Freedman, who committed himself to finding and telling the facts about Zionism and Communism. and encouraged others to do the same. The son of one of the founders of the American Jewish Committee, which for many years was anti-Zionist, Ben Freedman founded the League for Peace with Justice in Palestine in 1946. He gave me copies of materials on the Balfour Declaration which I might never have found on my own and encouraged my own research. (He died in April 1984.) The Institute for Historical Review is providing means for the better understanding of the events of our ...
READ MORE
Why America Needs War
GR Editor’s Note: This incisive article was written on April 30, 2003, by historian and political scientist Jacques Pauwels. A timely question: Why Does Hillary Want War… ? And why do people support her?  *     *     * Wars are a terrible waste of lives and resources, and for that reason most people are in principle opposed to wars. The American President, on the other hand, seems to love war. Why? Many commentators have sought the answer in psychological factors. Some opined that George W. Bush considered it his duty to finish the job started, but for some obscure reason ...
READ MORE
Fall of the Arab Spring: From Revolution to Destruction
From Libya and Egypt to Syria and Yemen, the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region is undergoing unprecedented tumult and chaos. To understand the current breakdown of states and society, examining the so-called Arab Spring of 2011 that laid the groundwork for this ongoing regional anarchy is indispensable. Global Research brings to the attention of its readers the newly released book by Christopher L. Brennan.  Fall of the Arab Spring: From Revolution to Destruction (available here), propounds an incisive and timely analysis. The book views this widespread Arab upheaval, not as authentic grass roots movements for democracy, but as a US-engineered destabilization. Below are ...
READ MORE
U.S. Special Operations Forces Deploy to 138 Nations, 70% of the World’s Countries
They could be found on the outskirts of Sirte, Libya, supporting local militia fighters, and in Mukalla, Yemen, backing troops from the United Arab Emirates.  At Saakow, a remote outpost in southern Somalia, they assisted local commandos in killing several members of the terror group al-Shabab.  Around the cities of Jarabulus and Al-Rai in northern Syria, they partnered with both Turkish soldiers and Syrian militias, while also embedding with Kurdish YPG fighters and the Syrian Democratic Forces.  Across the border in Iraq, still others joined the fight to liberate the city of Mosul.  And in Afghanistan, they assisted indigenous forces in various missions, just as they have ...
READ MORE
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
The Ruling Class Reserve Tag One of the many irritating things about the dominant United States corporate media is the way it repeatedly discovers anew things that are not remotely novel. Take its recent discovery that Donald Trump isn’t really the swamp-draining populist working class champion he pretended to be on the campaign trail. The evidence for this “news” is solid enough.  His cabinet and top advisor circle has been chock full of ruling class swamp creatures like former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn (top economic adviser), longtime top Goldman Sachs partner and top executive Steve Mnuchin (Secretary of the Treasury), and ...
READ MORE
Who did Fight for Liberation of Bulgaria in 1877-1878?
The Bush Administration’s Foreign Policy in Kosovo
Britain’s Collaboration with pro-Jihadist Forces in Kosovo
Thank You, Edward S. Herman (1925-2017) – Tireless Champion of Peace
What Hillary Clinton has in Common with Communist China
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima, Nagasaki and American Nuclear Denial
Kosovo History – Second Part
Putin’s New World Order
Israel is a War Criminal
The 1878 San Stefano Treaty and the Albanians
Hillary Comes Out as the War Party Candidate
How Corrupt America is
Bosnia and Kosovo: Radical Islam, Organ Trafficking and Western Mainstream Media Bias
Exporting Jihad: Bosnia and Kosovo
The US-NATO Plan for Macedonia: Keep Serbia Down and Russia Out
Behind the Balfour Declaration
Why America Needs War
Fall of the Arab Spring: From Revolution to Destruction
U.S. Special Operations Forces Deploy to 138 Nations, 70% of the World’s Countries
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Policraticus

Written by Policraticus

SHORT LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The website’s owner & editor-in-chief has no official position on any issue published at this website. The views of the authors presented at this website do not necessarily coincide with the opinion of the owner & editor-in-chief of the website. The contents of all material (articles, books, photos, videos…) are of sole responsibility of the authors. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the contents of all material found on this website. The owner & editor-in-chief of this website is not responsible for the content of external internet sites. No advertising, government or corporate funding for the functioning of this website. The owner & editor-in-chief and authors are not morally, scientifically or legally responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the text and material found on the website www.global-politics.eu

Website: http://www.global-politics.eu