Putin Stirs Regional Turmoil As Blinken Arrives In Albania

By Alan Hume | Thursday, 15 February 2024 11:59 PM
1
Views 2.4K

In a bid to underscore Albania's pivotal role in U.S. foreign policy, Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Tirana on Thursday, amidst the most tumultuous period the Balkans have witnessed in decades.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim, during a State Department briefing, highlighted the significance of the visit, stating, "This is really a stop that is going to focus on the future, the future of Albania, the future of the Western Balkans."

A seasoned diplomat with profound understanding of the region informed Fox News Digital that credible sources suggest a high likelihood of conflict in the Western Balkans this year. The diplomat pointed out that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Serbian President Aleksandar Vu?i? have set their sights on Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia, a fact that the U.S. is likely aware of, given the military build-ups and arms sales to Kosovo.

 WATCH: 1940'S FOOTAGE OF THE TALLEST MAN TO EVER LIVEbell_image

Rebekah Koffler, a former defense intelligence analyst, shared her concerns with Fox News Digital, stating, "The risk of ethnic tensions escalating into an actual conflict in the Balkans is increasing. Russia and Serbia, neither of which have recognized Kosovo’s independence, appear to be involved in fueling instability in the region."

 WATCH: THIS IS A TEACHER! LISTEN TO HIM ADVOCATE FOR MORE RACISMbell_image

Blinken's itinerary includes a meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama, where he will reassert the robust relationship between the United States and Albania, a vital partner for stability in the Western Balkans and a staunch ally in supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty in its conflict with Russia.

 TURKISH PRESIDENT'S DANGEROUS GAME: HOW HIS SUPPORT FOR HAMAS IS TESTING NATO'S LIMITSbell_image

The Western Balkans have been navigating through a particularly turbulent period, leading many regional observers to perceive the region as a tinderbox on the brink of ignition.

 ISRAELI MILITARY INTELLIGENCE CHIEF STEPS DOWN FOLLOWING MAJOR OCTOBER 7 FAILUREbell_image

In 2022, the U.S. established a forward operating headquarters in Albania, serving as a base for operations in the Balkans and assisting Albania and other regional allies in countering Russian influence and disinformation. Russia's activities have been particularly noticeable in Montenegro, where it attempted to thwart the small nation’s bid to join NATO and align more closely with Europe.

 TRAGIC TURN: FORMER PHILADELPHIA COP MAKES SHOCKING CONFESSIONbell_image

The diplomat told Fox News Digital, "This might be the start of concrete efforts to contain Serbia, and consequently Russian influence, in the Balkans by shoring up vulnerable NATO allies and countering Russo-Serbian hybrid and disinformation operations in Bosnia and Kosovo."

 CAUGHT ON CAMERA: MICHIGAN GRANDMA ALLEGEDLY ORCHESTRATES SCHOOLYARD ATTACKbell_image

However, Agim Nesho, former Albanian Ambassador to the U.S. and the United Nations, expressed concerns to Fox News Digital about Prime Minister Rama’s diminished influence in Kosovo, particularly with Prime Minister Albin Kurti. Nesho pointed out that Rama's extensive collaboration with Vu?i? on various regional projects has undermined his credibility, making him an ineffective mediator in Kosovo's eyes.

 FROM WHITE HOUSE TO PRISON: OBAMA ADVISER FACES HORRIFIC CHILD SEX CRIME CHARGESbell_image

Rama co-leads the "Open Balkans" initiative, aimed at facilitating the free movement of people and goods across the Balkans. However, the initiative has been met with resistance in Albania and across the Balkans due to fears that it is a Serbian strategy to replace the common regional market of Europe, thereby jeopardizing the Balkan countries' aspirations to join the EU.

Nesho told Fox News Digital, "Secretary Blinken's visit, though ostensibly supportive, comes at a time when the State Department's long-standing backing of the Open Balkan initiative, predicated on the Rama-Vu?i? partnership as catalysts for regional stability, faces scrutiny."

"Currently, Vu?i?'s inclination towards Russia and Rama's diminished stature as a leader accused of corruption, who has seemingly lost the support of the Albanian people, paint a bleak picture," Nesho added.

Albania, once a Marxist country with strained relations with the U.S. during the Cold War, has transformed into one of the most pro-U.S. countries in Europe, boasting a large diaspora community in the United States. It is also a crucial NATO ally and a key strategic partner in resolving the Kosovo-Serbia dispute.

However, some regional experts and observers argue that the attention Albania receives from President Biden and Western policymakers is insufficient for a country grappling with the consolidation of its democracy. The region has also been overshadowed by Ukraine's struggle against Russian forces and the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Blinken is also scheduled to visit Germany to attend the Munich Security Conference as part of the U.S. delegation led by Vice President Kamala Harris.

X