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Cooperation on European security issues

14 - Relations with the US on the Balkans and Eastern Europe

Grade: B+
Unity 4/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 7/10
Total 14/20
Scorecard 2012: B (13/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2014: A- (16/20)

The US has sought to support EU attempts to counter Russian assertiveness in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine was followed by increased diplomatic and political assertiveness in Eastern Europe and the Balkans as Vladimir Putin sought to expand his regional influence. The US has reduced its role in the Balkans over the past 15 years but this shift by Russia may result in greater US engagement in support of efforts by Germany and the EU.

Russia’s assertiveness manifested itself in several ways. Russia sought to exploit Eastern Europe’s dependence on Russian gas, it stoked pro-Russian sentiment in Serbia and Slovenia, and, in November 2014, Russia for the first time in 14 years abstained on the vote at the UN to extend an EU-led peacekeeping mission in the Balkans.

Senior European and US officials have gone public with their concerns. At the G20 meeting in Australia, Angela Merkel said that Russian activities could destabilise the Balkans. US Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Victoria Nuland made a series of speeches criticising the “illiberal democracy” model championed by Viktor Orban in Hungary and urging Central and East European leaders to resist Russia’s siren call. Increased US engagement in Eastern Europe and the Balkans is in line with EU objectives to promote and consolidate liberal democracy. The EU will continue to take the lead but the US believes that it may be able to use its leverage as the provider of NATO security guarantees in a way that the EU cannot: it could use military cooperation as leverage to ensure various leaders remain committed to liberal democracy.

Meanwhile, the situation in Bosnia continues to worsen. Riots erupted in early 2014 in response to political dysfunction rooted in the 20-year-old Dayton Peace Accords. The US has been disengaged in Bosnia for the past few years and it remains to be seen whether the increased attention being paid to Europe in Washington will change this.