If the war in Ukraine and broader tensions between the West and Russia were to escalate to other fronts, the Balkans might provide fertile ground for its unfolding. Though it is not as close to the conflict zone as other potential flashpoints, such as the disputed region of Transnistria, the Balkan region harbors deep-rooted cultural and ideological divisions that pivot around the recent memory of Yugoslavia’s civil war, and maintains a security dependency with key players in this current conflict.
Russia’s war against Ukraine has also severely impacted government stability across the region. The largest Western Balkans state, Serbia, is widely expected to continue a careful balancing act, so as not to alienate a predominantly and historically pro-Russian voter base behind the country’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of President Aleksandar Vučić. This comes as the recently installed new SNS-led government vows to advance the country’s European aspirations.
Amidst a looming economic downturn and a cost-of-living crisis, Russia’s war has also amplified energy security risks. Multiple governments in the region source their energy from Russia, with countries such as Bosnia & Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Serbia among the most impacted. While smaller regional countries are less impacted, Belgrade is also gearing up for an upcoming EU ban on Russian maritime oil shipments, which could pose sever concerns for supply security, which is already pushing other countries in the region to look for supplies from other sources.
Below, Aretera takes a deeper look at the impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine on the Western Balkans, the geopolitical and security consequences, the economic and energy security fallout, as well as at implications for political stability in the region.