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Ekaterina Entina

Associate Professor at National Research University Higher School of Economics

Alexander Pivovarenko

Ph.D. in History, Senior Research Associate, RAS Institute of Slavonic Studies, RIAC Expert

The presence of many actors with diverging interests in the fragmented post-conflict Balkan space demonstrates that the situation in the region would be more properly assessed not as part of the "Russia–West" or "Russia–West–China" paradigm, but within the paradigm of multilateral competition that, under certain circumstances, might devolve into the "natural condition of mankind" as described by Thomas Hobbes.

These circumstances prompt a detailed consideration of the actors present in this complicated region and their interests. Such an analysis is needed from both the theoretical and practical standpoints, as it will allow us to outline the entire range of contradictions in the region, determine the points where interests coincide and diverge for expert dialogue, and reduce the likelihood of conflicts recurring in the region. From the point of view of Russia's interests, this analysis will help assess Russia's stance in Southeast Europe with greater precision and help develop a strategy for interacting with the countries of the region.

In 2016, the new Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation was announced. The absence of such concepts as "the Balkans," "Serbia" and "Southeast Europe" in the text of the Concept clearly reflects Russia's influence and opinions on the subject. The Concept only mentions "Europe" and the "Euro-Atlantic region." Calling the Balkans a part of the Euro-Atlantic region is not entirely correct, since over recent years, the economic, political and ideological influence of other important actors in the region, including new ones, has grown significantly. These actors are primarily China, but also Turkey and several Middle Eastern states.

The presence of many actors with diverging interests in the fragmented post-conflict Balkan space demonstrates that the situation in the region would be more properly assessed not as part of the "Russia–West" or "Russia–West–China" paradigm, but within the paradigm of multilateral competition that, under certain circumstances, might devolve into the "natural condition of mankind" as described by Thomas Hobbes.

These circumstances prompt a detailed consideration of the actors present in this complicated region and their interests. Such an analysis is needed from both the theoretical and practical standpoints, as it will allow us to outline the entire range of contradictions in the region, determine the points where interests coincide and diverge for expert dialogue, and reduce the likelihood of conflicts recurring in the region. From the point of view of Russia's interests, this analysis will help assess Russia's stance in Southeast Europe with greater precision and help develop a strategy for interacting with the countries of the region.

Russia's withdrawal from the Balkans means a loss of standing in southeast Europe, which will limit room for action in the Mediterranean. That will result in the European Union and NATO exerting even greater pressure on the Transcaucasian states and Belarus. The loss of the Balkans will narrow Russia's room for manoeuvre in its relations with Turkey, a country that is bolstering its standing in Southeast Europe. Russia's position in its talks with China will weaken; for China, the Balkans is the final point in the New Silk Road and a region that is nearly unknown from the point of view of culture and the reception of the route. Russia will lose a key area on its "playing field," resulting in the shrinking space around its "scoring area."

Contents

The Balkans at the Epicentre of International Developments

Southeast Europe Today

Interests of the Leading Actors

Russia’s Presence in Southeast Europe

Russia’s New Strategy

russiancouncil.ru/en/balkans

Authors — Students at the Higher School of Economics, Ivan Borisov. Regina Mustafina, Marina Maksimenko, Masrur Rizaev, Anna Smirnova, Yulia Tyushkevich, Alena Fedorenko, Klavdia Chernilevskaya.

Team leaders: Ekaterina Entina, Alexander Pivovarenko.

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