In 1998, Zbigniew Brzezinski argued that "a state that dominates Eurasia would control two of the three most advanced and economically productive of world regions.
One glance at the map suggests that control over Eurasia would almost automatically entail Africa's subordination, making the Western hemisphere and Oceania geopolitically peripheral to the Central continent of the world." His book "the Grand chessboard" has made a truly major contribution to the study of geopolitics. Describing the new challenges of American foreign policy in a multipolar world, Brzezinski identifies the geopolitical Achilles ' heel of the twenty-first century, a territory that he calls the Global Balkans, i.e. "a strip of Eurasia between Europe and the Far East."
Historically the scene of disputes between the United States, Russia and Europe, as well as a source of regional instability, the Balkans are undergoing the transition to a new security architecture, the nature of which is not entirely clear; the increasingly crucial role played by new powers, and old actors are losing their geopolitical influence in the region. The gradual decline of US leadership coincides with the Eurozone recession: the EU is perceived as unable to give the Balkans a new path to some form of pan-European integration and to provide incentives for major structural and economic reforms. This policy vacuum leaves the area susceptible to other active countries such as Turkey and even Israel, but above all Russia.
Confirmation of the mentioned assumptions is updated Eurasianism of Vladimir Putin. Close to the Kremlin and military circles of the Russian political scientist Alexander Dugin recognizes that the ultimate geo-strategic goal of Russia is to restructure the continental block against the Atlantic powers taking advantage of the vast strategic and demographic potential of the Eurasian continent. Following this approach, Russia should follow a multidimensional foreign policy by abstaining from closer relations with the EU, China and regional powers, such as Iran and Turkey.
The post-Soviet space (or 'near abroad' in Russian political rhetoric) stresses the historical and cultural affinities with the Slavic communities and represents a Central focus of foreign policy projects in Moscow. Energy links are the key tools of political influence in the projection of the forces on the near abroad.
The project "South stream" is a cornerstone of this trend – after construction, the pipeline would pump Russian gas under the Black sea to Bulgaria, branching in two directions: North to Austria and South to Italy. Given the projections that the demand of Europe for imported gas in the next few years will increase significantly (reaching up to 2020 80 billion cubic meters and exceeded 140 billion cubic meters by 2030), the project "South stream" will be crucial for the energy supply of Europe.
With the intention to consolidate political orientation on the project "South stream", Russia has signed intergovernmental agreements with several Balkan States, including Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and Bulgaria. Moscow seeks to promote deeper economic integration in the Balkans, agitating on opportunities in the region to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
The near abroad is seen not only as area of natural expansion of Russian interests, but also as a factor in the increasing competition of Moscow with China is currently an active competitor in the Balkans. Uncertainty about the future of the Eurozone was inevitably exported to the periphery of the EU, which was accompanied by a reduction of GDP of the Balkan countries in 2009, at 5.2 percent. Its influence Moscow increases due to the fact that the perceived Balkan States as a reliable partner. The unresolved Kosovo question and the relative (or at least temporary) reduction in the direct role of the EU and NATO in the region are considered by Moscow as an opportunity.
Encouraging Russian companies to invest in the region and raising the flag of cultural affinity, Russia sees the Balkans economic hub, providing more convenient access to European markets. The election of the President of Serbia, oriented toward Russia, Tomislav Nikolic accelerated program of reconstruction of hydroelectric power plants, railway modernization and re-equipment of the Serbian army. In addition to these projects, the Belgrade also needs to receive Russian loans in the amount of $ 800 million.
In 2011, Russia was driven by large investments in the real estate sector of Montenegro, as well as the oil and gas industry in Macedonia. In turn, more than 200 Slovenian companies are working in almost 50 Russian regions. On the background of the above, foreign direct investment of the EU in recent years declined precipitously.
Meanwhile, the shortage of resources and a reliable sources of natural gas are the main reasons why the situation is the flagship project of the EU, the project "southern gas corridor" – Nabucco pipeline gas bridge from Asia to Europe, the main purpose of which, essentially, was to bypass Russia and link the Turkish-Bulgarian border to Baumgarten in Austria via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. In the case of construction power 1300-kilometer pipeline will be in the region of 10-23 billion cubic meters per year, which will represent one third of the actual performance of the "South stream".
Widespread is the notion that as Russia's foreign policy in the Balkans uses the energy of communication as tools for the development of relations in the sphere of diplomacy and security, and Vice versa, the EU may de facto departs from the Affairs of the region.
Europeans remain true to the principle of stabilization through integration, which they have chosen for themselves in the late 1990s in the form of both military and civilian missions. The largest of these is currently EULEX in Kosovo, which aims at facilitating development of legal state through administrative mandate.
And yet, if the European Union is destined to be a serious player in the future, in its enthusiasm for the enlargement process and the construction of the security architecture in the Balkans, Brussels will have to identify new areas for joint activities. This will make possible the promotion of its interests in the pan-European space – and at the same time will lead to economic cooperation with Russia with the best position for bargaining.
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