Russia: NATO membership of Balkan countries threatens security

senior Russian parliamentarian Valentina Matviyenko | wikimedia

NATO enlargement to take in members from the Balkan countries is undermining security and stability in the region, senior Russian parliamentarian Valentina Matviyenko said on Monday.

Speaking in the upper house of Bosnia's parliament, Matviyenko singled out neighboring Montenegro which recently became a NATO member, but also criticized Macedonia's aspirations to join the US-led military alliance.

"Montenegro's joining NATO against the will practically of half of its citizens has become the harshest violation of the basic principles of modern democracy," the speaker of the Russian parliament's upper house, said.

According to Matviyenko, Macedonia was also trying the "same dangerous experiment.” She added that “this step is leading only towards further destabilization of the situation in the region. It undermines the system of European security."

Western governments see NATO and European Union membership as the best way of preserving the peace and stability in the Balkans after a decade of wars with the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Both Montenegro and Macedonia have expelled Russian diplomats over the nerve toxin poisoning of a former Russian double agent. The British government has blamed the attack on Moscow, though Russia denies any involvement. The Kremlin then expelled a Montenegrin diplomat and summoned embassy officials from Macedonia. Montenegrin prosecutors say a group of Serb nationalists and Russian agents plotted to kill then Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic during a coup attempt at the 2016 election to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO. The Kremlin dismissed such allegations as absurd.

In June 2017, Russia's Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Chepurin said that the Balkans should be a field of cooperation between Europe and Russia, noting that Moscow has never stepped against the Balkan countries' participation in the European integration projects.

"We must turn Europe and the Balkans into a field for cooperation, not battlefield. It is better to leave Russia alone … and not to make obstacles to the positive development of our cooperation with the Balkan states," Chepurin said.