Vladimir Putin has the capacity to spark another European conflict military observers have warned, pointing in particular to recent “alarming” developments in the Balkans.
In an article published in Foreign Affairs magazine, retired intelligence officer David Shedd and Ivana Stradner, an expert in Russia’s security strategies and military doctrines, argued that the West must take action to prevent Putin from exploiting the long-running conflict between Serbia and Kosovo.
In late September Serbia deployed heavy weaponry to its border with Kosovo following months-long tensions.
Meanwhile, armed clashes between ethnic Serb paramilitaries and a Kosovan police left four people dead.
According to Shedd and Stradner, Moscow is more than happy to fuel the fire of tension between Serbia and Kosovo.
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They write: “NATO forced Serbia to pull out of Kosovo in 1999, and the alliance has maintained a small peacekeeping force of NATO troops in the latter country ever since.
“As a result, rising tensions between Kosovo and Serbia test NATO’s staying power in the region.
“Backing Serbia also gives Russia a foothold in the Balkans.”
Kosovo, previously a part of Serbia, declared its independence in 2008, a move not acknowledged by Belgrade.
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The majority of the population in Kosovo consists of ethnic Albanians, with a Serbian minority located in the northern region of the country, adjacent to Serbia.
In May, some 30 NATO soldiers were injured in clashes with ethnic Serbs. Peacekeepers were attacked by Serbian demonstrators who retaliated by using tear gas and stun grenades.
The events occurred the day after NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged Kosovo to deescalate the tensions with Serbia, which had arisen due to clashes between Kosovan police and protesters objecting to Albanian mayors assuming office in ethnically Serbian regions.
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