Generally speaking, the Balkans are comprised of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Greece, and Slovenia.
The Western Balkans refer to Albania and the territory of the former Yugoslavia (except Slovenia). These include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.
In the Western Balkans in particular, politics are unstable, corruption is rampant, and ethnic tensions run high. As the United States develops a smart strategy for the U.S./Balkans relationship, something that we have never really had, we need to keep a close eye on Russia.
Already, Putin exploits the region’s vulnerabilities to destabilize these countries and gain a stronger foothold, as he tries to keep these countries far away from the influence of the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). His goal it to insert himself into the economic and political bloodstream of the Balkans, destroying their democracies and making them completely dependent on Russia.
We have to look no further than 2017, when Putin tried hard to disrupt Montenegro’s elections and its parliament to prevent them from entering NATO (which they finally did). Good for you, Montenegro! To other Balkan states, forget Putin and his shady ways. We’ve got your back!