Kosovar Center for Security Studies recently published a report on the Russian presence in Kosovo and how the Russian influence is exercised internally, but also in regard to the country’s international status. The report is part of a growing interest of research community in Europe on how Russia manages to advance its agenda and exercise its influence in European countries.

As described,the report is oriented towards developing a map of evidence and challenges to the political system of Kosovo, and proceeds with a chronological historical analysis as a means to identify what has shaped critical international decisions towards Kosovo and beyond.

Accordingly, the research states that Russia continues to pose a serious challenge for Kosovo’s statehood and undermines the integration of Kosovo in the international community. The report also emphasizes a negative asymmetry in economic trade but also in citizen mobility between Russia and Kosovo.

However, the most interesting, and perhaps the most controversial are conclusions about the Russia’s current role in influencing Kosovo Serbs. Namely, the report indicates that the creation of the Association/Community of Serb Municipalities might offer a chance for a stronger Russian engagement comparing the Association with Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, the report goes even further stating that ‘Russian influence through the Association/Community of Serb Municipalities would pose a challenge for the normal functioning of the state of Kosovo, causing a blockade of the country’s decision-making. (…)Their primary intention is to develop alternative foreign policy tools to be used by the representatives of this body, potentially for Russian interests.'”

“After Montenegro joined NATO, the new Macedonian government expressed a strong attitude towards joining NATO, but also worries about Russian vociferous reaction. Prime Minister of Macedonia Zoran Zaev said that membership in the EU and NATO is the only possible choice for Skopje, and that he expects a strong reaction of Russia when it comes to Macedonian aspirations to become a member of the Alliance. In his interview for Montenegrin radio Antena M, Zaev stressed that the Macedonian government is ready for a counterwork coming from Moscow. ‘We are ready, because my country does not have an alternative, our choice is the EU and NATO,’ said the Prime Minister.

Even though Macedonia has been a Western partner since becoming independent, Russia has increased its influence in the country in last years. “By using the assets and methods of so – called ‘soft power’, as part of the strategy of the Russian Federation in the Balkans, the goal is to isolate the country from the influence of the West”, the leaked documents states, as well as that Russia has increased its cultural outreach in the country, pushing an idea of ‘pan–Slavic‘ identity and shared Orthodox Christian faith.

A large amount of these articles discusses the state of war or imminent war and refers to Macedonia as a ‘powder keg’. It seems like Russia is aware that it is not able to stop Macedonia’s strategic priorities, joining the EU and NATO, especially after the new government was established.

There are several goals of Russian propaganda in Macedonia. One is sowing doubts about joining the EU and NATO, another one is strengthening their own political and economic interests. The third very important goal is creating a public opinion that will have a positive reaction about Russia in Macedonia.

On the other hand, Russia is releasing ghosts from the past by accusing the US and the EU of carving up the Balkans and creating ‘Great Albania’ through secession of a part of Macedonia. The future of Russian propaganda will mostly depend on the political crisis.”

Full article on Kosovo. Full article on Macedonia from European Western Balkans.