A new Berlin Wall? US is see-sawing Europe in half by trying to isolate Russia - experts
Last week the Balkans, aka "the powder-keg of Europe" came into the international spotlight after a border incident. The leader of Kosovo, the breakaway part of Serbia recognized as a sovereign state by Western nations, made a show of force by sending troops into a predominantly Serbian part of the province. Serbia responded by putting its army on high alert.
The spike in tensions between Belgrade and Pristina came nowhere near the power games of great powers during the 19th century, which eventually led to the First World War. But it was a chilling reminder that the Balkan nations carry a burden of internal differences and latent conflicts stemming from a power game.
Paraphrasing Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, the first head of the primary tool of this game, its essence is to "keep Russia out of Europe and the US in Europe", journalist Neil Clark told RT. It may have started when Moscow was still the capital of the Soviet Union, but Russia's painful transition from communism to capitalism did nothing to change the goal.
"In the 1990s there was great pressure on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which was becoming smaller and smaller with breaking away of its parts, to support its members to move towards the EU. The pretext for bombing Yugoslavia was humanitarian, but it was really bombed to hasten this process," he said.
The prospect of eventual EU membership and the prosperity and other benefits associated with it is widely used to convince the population in targeted countries that being part of the EU is what they want. The proposition, however, comes with strings attached – EU membership usually goes hand-in-hand with NATO membership and both have to be paid for by relinquishing national interests, especially if they mean keeping good relations with Russia.
"This whole strategy from the US is about isolating Russia. It's all about trying to lock the countries into 'Euroatlantic structures' from which they would never escape. Locking the countries which would, for geographical and historical reasons, want to have very good ties with Russia," Clark said.
The ploy is quite successful too. Bulgaria was forced by the US and European bureaucracy to withdraw from a gas pipeline project with Russia, which would have made it a major transit country. The Baltic nations, which eagerly broke up with Russia and jumped on the NATO bandwagon during the bloc's fifth expansion wave, are now finding Russia rerouting trade flows away from them and to its own facilities.
The latest big "You’re with us or with Russia" divide came in Ukraine in 2014. It too started with the bombardment of Ukrainians with misinformation such as that opening its markets to the EU was almost the same thing as becoming a full-fledged member. As a result of the crisis, Russia reclaimed Crimea and received a never-ending stream of Western sanctions and Ukraine lives by sending workers to other nations and paying off loans from the International Monetary Fund by borrowing more from it.
But the EU's bite-by-bite integration project accumulated its share of problems, as evidenced by the rise of nationalist forces in countries like Poland, Hungary and, lately, Italy. And Brussels' Russia policy plays a part in this too, believes Aleksey Mukhin, the head of the Moscow-based risk management consultancy Centre for Political Information. The European nations have to foot the bill for punishing Russia as demanded by the US.
"Russia is part of the organism of Europe. Europe is divided now, because the US is see-sawing it in half with what you may call a new Berlin wall," he told RT. "And Europe feels what a man would feel while being cut in two."
Mukhin believes that countries that want to preserve their national identity, and not be told by Brussels what they should be in political, economic and even cultural terms, would welcome Russia's help, if offered. "It's not about fighting against the US for influence in Europe. It's about fighting to save Europe's life," he said.
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