Balkans: Turkish Gunboat Diplomacy


September 19, 2011: Greece’s dire financial situation remains the biggest news in the Balkans. A Greek default on its outstanding loans could lead to another European wide economic recession. Greece has a GDP of around $300 billion (that’s right at two percent of the European Union’s GDP), so it is not a major economic player. For the record, Greece’s debt is now more than 140 percent of its gross domestic product. The fear is a Greek default could lead to chain reaction defaults in Spain and possibly Italy. Spain and Italy matter. Germany and France claim that they will support Greece, but there is extensive domestic opposition in both countries (especially Germany) to continuing to bail out the Greeks.

September 17, 2011: Kosovar Serbs have blockaded two bridges in the city of Mitrovica (northern Kosovo, a predominantly ethnic Serb area). Police report that groups of Kosovar Serbs and Kosovar Albanians have confronted one another at the bridges, and thrown rocks. So far there is no gunfire.

September 16, 2011: European Union peacekeepers took control of two border crossings between Serbia and Kosovo. On September 14, Kosovar Serbs occupied one of the crossing points and set fire to a border installation. Some Serbs had threatened further violence. Meanwhile, Kosovo’s government lifted an embargo it had imposed on some Serbian imported goods in mid-July. The Kosovo government said lifting the embargo was a sign that it wished to ease tensions with Serbia.

September 15, 2011: NATO leaders are insisting that KFOR (NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo) will not allow the country to slip into ethnic civil war. Violent disputes between Kosovar Serbs and Albanians have increased since July.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while on a trip taking him to three Arab Spring nations (Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia), told an Egyptian television audience that Egypt needs a secular state. Militant Islamist factions of the Muslim Brotherhood were upset by what they regard as interference in Egypt’s revolution. Erdogan surprised many Turks who perceive him as an Islamist who intends to undermine Turkey’s secular state. Time will tell.

September 14, 2011: Turkey is threatening to send naval forces into seas around Cyprus in order to monitor Greek Cypriot and Israeli off-shore natural gas projects. A U.S. energy company is expected to conduct an exploratory drilling program south of Cyprus. Turkey has a diplomatic aim. It insists that Greek and Turkish Cypriots resolve the division of Cyprus before offshore drilling begins.

Romania and Turkey have agreed to participate in NATO’s land-based anti-ballistic missile defense system. Romania will have a missile interceptor base. An American ABM radar station will be built in eastern Turkey.

September 8, 2011: Macedonia celebrated 20 years of independence. It separated from Yugoslavia in 1991.

September 6, 2011: The international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia sentenced a former Yugoslav Army chief of staff to 27 years in prison. General Momcilo Perisic was convicted of committing war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia during Yugoslavia’s war of devolution.

September 5, 2011: The Serbian government said that it intends to reinvigorate its political relations with members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). During the days of Josip Broz Tito, Yugoslavia played a major role in the NAM, which was cast as an alternative to the western and eastern blocs.

September 3, 2011: Bulgaria announced that it will postpone a decision on the purchase of a new multi-role jet fighter until at least 2012. Bulgaria originally committed itself to buying a NATO-type fighter as part of its alliance integration process. However, the economic recession has cut into procurement funds. Bulgaria currently has 16 MiG-29 interceptors.

September 2, 2011: A judge serving with EULEX (European Union law and justice mission in Kosovo) confirmed the indictment of ten Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) guerrillas. The men are charged with committing war crimes against Kosovar Serbs, Kosovar Albanian civilians, and Serb prisoners during the Kosovo War. One of the men charged is a close political associate of Kosovo prime minister Hashim Thaci.




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