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Russia lost the Balkan party

Russia lost the Balkan party

July 11 2018
Tags: Greece, Russia, International relations, Politics, Analytics, Diplomacy

The exchange of diplomatic jabs between official Athens and Moscow 11 July 2018 put an end to the "Balkan Party" played by Russia for 317 years, if we consider it the beginning of the Prut march of Peter I, undertaken by the Russian Tsar in June-July 1711.

Recall that today the Greek newspaper "Katimerini" reported on the decision of Athens to expel two Russian diplomats from the country, and to prohibit the entry to Greece of two more representatives of the Russian diplomatic department. According to Katimerini, the diplomats to be deported interfered in the internal affairs and national security issues in Greece, collecting and disseminating information, and also attempting to bribe government officials, in order to frustrate the conclusion of an agreement between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on a new name of the Macedonian state.

The Russian Foreign Ministry promised the same day to take mirror measures and, accordingly, to send an equal number of Greek diplomats from Russia. The Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia refrained from commenting on the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Greece.

As is known, the so-called "name dispute" between Athens and Skopje is the last obstacle to the entry of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into the European Union and NATO. Meanwhile, in June and early July, Macedonian parliamentarians twice ratified the agreement with Greece on renaming the country, overcoming the opposition of the Macedonian president, who was trying to block this decision. At the same time, EU officials, after the first ratification of the agreement in the Macedonian parliament, announced their readiness to begin negotiations on the accession of Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the European Union in June, and probably similar statements will be made at the NATO summit that opened in Brussels today.

Meanwhile, most of the Balkan countries are part of the NATO and EU structures. Since 1952, the North Atlantic alliance includes Greece and Turkey, with 1999 - Hungary, with 2004 - Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, with 2009 - Albania and Croatia, with 2017 - Montenegro. Thus, outside the Atlantic bloc, so far only Macedonia remains (the obstacle to its accession has since been removed), Serbia, whose population, following the NATO bombing of 1999, does not support the idea of ​​joining NATO, although politicians gradually bring the country to this decision, as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina , which is in the process of step-by-step approach to the standards of the North Atlantic bloc and the subsequent accession to this organization.

Approximately the same situation with the participation of the Balkan countries in the EU. Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkey are so-called candidates to the EU, Bosnia and Herzegovina is part of the official program of EU enlargement. Excluding Turkey, which the EU is unlikely to ever agree to join, all other countries, of course, with time, will join the structures of a united Europe.

The successful advancement of the EU and NATO in the Balkan region, of course, puts a final and fatty cross on all the hopes of Russia to enjoy certain influence in the Balkans, relying on historical traditions, ethnic affinity with the Balkan Slavs and the strong positions of the Orthodox Church in these countries.

Meanwhile, Russia's Balkan policy began in these parts once in a very bravura and rather adventurist way. Let us recall the so-called "Greek project" of Catherine II, within the framework of which it was planned to revive the Orthodox Byzantium with the grandson of the Russian Empress in charge, which was given the name of Constant, corresponding to this design, and the territories of the Ottoman Empire divided between Russia, the Austrian Empire and the Venetian Republic.

Everyone knows about the famous British pirate and knight Sir Francis Drake, the cruel pirate of the Caribbean Sea, Sir Henry Morgan, who completed his career as vice-governor of Jamaica, and their literary incarnation to Captain Blade, also appointed by his creator Rafael Sabatini as governor of Jamaica. However, in the history of the Russian Empire, which saw the Balkans as one of the general directions of its policy, similar examples, worthy of the pen masters of the adventurous genre, also there were many.

Since the time of the first archipelago expedition of the Russian fleet, the one that is associated with the name of Count Alexei Orlov-Chesmensky, Italian, Dalmatian and Greek pirates have generously received Russian keeper's patents and achieved great successes in the Russian service.

The privateer Anton Alexiano, having begun with a modest rank of lieutenant, rose to the rank of vice-admiral of the Russian fleet. And the first commander of the Black Sea Fleet, under whose command the great Russian naval commander Fedor Ushakov, Marco Voinovich, was at one time a Serbian count and a Russian corsair from the current Croatian resort town of Kotor, which was then called the Italian manner of Boca di Cattaro.

The Greek pirate Ioannis Varvakis accepted in 1770 the Russian keeper's patent and joined the Russian service. Although he did not attain great sea ranks, remaining only a lieutenant, in 1776 he became Governor-General of Astrakhan Province, and in 1823, when he was already a Russian millionaire merchant, he returned to Greece, from 1821 year battled for his independence from Turkey .

Incidentally, the first ruler of independent Greece in 1827-1831 was the Greek aristocrat Count John Capodistria, accepted into the Russian service by Admiral Ushakov, and at 1816-1822, the former, by no means little, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire. However, from this, the "small Greek project", nothing happened. Times were wild then, and supporters of the French orientation in the politics of the brothers Mavromichali, stabbed John Kapodistriyu right in the church in the morning service.

Let's also note a curious fact from the history of the Greek-Russian relations. At the end of 1853 and the beginning of 1854, the then King of Greece Otto I seriously thought about joining the alliance with Russia and taking part in the war against Turkey, and the people of Greece supported this intention; since at that time Russia was already at war with Turkey, and defeated the Turkish fleet in Sinope, Greek volunteers made an attempt to win back from the Turks a number of historical provinces of Greece, then belonging to the Ottoman Porte.

However, before the Russo-Greek alliance and the Greek declaration of the Turkish war, it did not come to pass - England and France, shortly before the landing in Sevastopol, carried out the sea blockade of the Greek coast, and as a result of the coup d'etat in Greece, a government oriented toward cooperation with the Western allies Greeks then differently, than "occupational", did not name.

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Russia and the USSR sought to lead a great-power diplomatic game in the Balkans, intending to make Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, then socialist Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania in chronological order. However, in the final analysis, it always turned out that the Western countries always possessed greater economic and political influence in the Balkan states than Russia, and Russian and Soviet diplomacy never managed to build relations with the countries of the region to which they aspired.

Even the Romanian dictator-communist Nicolae Ceausescu, who would seem to be both with his own hands for close cooperation with the USSR, in the 1970 and 1980-s without a twinge of conscience, frantically, developing independent economic relations and military-technical partnership with the EU countries and NATO.

It should be noted that besides the Western economic and diplomatic influence that prevented Russia from establishing itself in the Balkans, Russian and Soviet statesmen should also blame themselves, since in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that there was a lot in the Russian Empire interdepartmental and intra-departmental conflicts regarding the policy in the Balkan region, and this did not contribute to the effectiveness of Russia's actions.

The events of the present time, that is, the forced march to the Balkans by the European Union and NATO, on the one hand, signify the complete and final funeral of Russia's historic Balkan policy.

On the other hand, however, one must assume that in the capitals of the Balkan states from time to time there will inevitably be a temptation to use Russia as a situational counterweight to the countries of the West in order to improve their positions in the dialogue with the EU and NATO, as now, for example, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Nikolay Kuzyaev
Reporter
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