By Selim Ibraimi-The Center for Security Studies and Development-Macedonia (CSSD)
Russia’s Foreign Ministry as part of the growing activities in the Balkans, has issued couple statements on recent political developments in Macedonia.
Last year in Montenegro was an attempted coup by Russian officers to overthrow the government and change the outcome of elections.
In comparison with the EU, the Russian Federation in some degree has dominated the sphere of information, spreading propaganda around the region.
But did the Russians have shot at the right point? The epilogue it will be seen whether the opposition leader Zoran Zaev will be able to form Macedonia’s new government.
The parties in the political crisis are staying in different lines in terms of addressing the crisis in Macedonia.Senior officials of the EU after the visit of the High Representative Frederica Mogherini have expressed concerns about developments in Macedonia stressing the growing role of Russia in the Balkans.
In particular in the current political crisis we see two major geopolitical issues which West and Russia is competing.
First, Russia it creates a climate for regional and local authorities that the West is imposing itself in the internal affairs of states and second, gives a open path to nationalist forces in Macedonia to continue the measurement of political power that who might form the government in Skopje, even with tools of others means.In this race, the Russian involvement surprisingly showed that Russian actions might give the public opinion an opposite view on EU diplomacy engagement in Macedonia.
Russian economic activity in Macedonia
Russian economic activity in Macedonia has limited capacity. The geographic location of Macedonia in comparison with other countries of Eastern Europe makes the state less vulnerable and expose to Russian direct military pressure, but the proposed business projects, current companies which already operate in Macedonia and the proposed natural gas delivery system, could change the policies of governments officials in terms of decision making process and put the country in danger and dependable position.
Based on the report of the Strategic Analysis of Russian Business Activity in Macedonia published by “RWR Advisory Group”, U.S. based consulting company “ in March 2015, “Story Trans Gas” announced its plans to construct a 61 km section of a 96.6 km natural gas pipeline in Macedonia linking Klecovce to Negotino, running from near the northern border with Serbia to central Macedonia. “Story Trans Gas” was targeting a June 2016 completion date. A second section is to be built extending the pipeline to Macedonia’s southern border with Greece”.
Russia’s plan is eventually to connect the pipeline with the “Turkish Stream” project, which will be used to deliver Russian natural gas to Europe and probably influence the Western Balkans.
Other prestigious corporations of the oil industry “Lukoil” which is spread throughout the whole Macedonia it has considerable role in the fragile economy.As local media reported on 2011, Russian company “Prodis”, part of the pharmaceutical holding “Protek Group”, has started its investment on the Macedonian market.
Also Russian investors are interested in agricultural products.
Since 2012 Russian investors from the region of Rostov are interested in constructing purchasing centers for agricultural products in Macedonia, for Macedonian fruit and vegetables and other agricultural produces.
The two countries in order to advance the trade relations signed in 1993 an agreement on trade and economic cooperation between the governments of Macedonia and Russia.
Most importantly, Macedonian export to Russia marks a record-breaking increase of 140%, while Russia’s export to Macedonia is nearly 28.7%.
In the 3rd quarter of 2016, Russia’s trade with Macedonia totaled $25,930,819, up 2.70% ($682,641) from the 3rd quarter of 2015.
Beside Russian international news platforms the right winning domestic media outlets in Macedonian language continue to report and develop propaganda.
The expose by SDSM leader Zoran Zaev on Friday and total rejection of program by VMRO-DPMNE, push the political and institutional crisis in other levels of security and leave space for wider hybrid operations.
It is a fact that the intermediary role that Russia is seeking in all conflicts in mixed multi-ethnic societies should be taken seriously by West.
At the EU summit held in Brussels, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May has accused Russia of trying to influence in the Balkans.
In fact the lack of a strong coalition that began to emerge when wire-tapping spread in the public in 2015 could be seen as deficiency on strategy how to deal with Macedonia.
West at that time feared that the situation of democracy in Macedonia could escalate and intervened, with sending to Skopje Mr. Johannes Hahn to reduce tensions and new agreement was signed in 2016 named as “Perzino Accord 2”.
Although three EU senior diplomats visited Macedonia last week, the situation continues to take unclear direction.VMRO-DPMNE to resolve the crisis is insisting on new elections together with those local elections.
The situation in Macedonia is opening door for informative and diplomatic adventures reinforced this year by all interested actors.In addition the U.S must take a different approach on the growing crisis in Macedonia.
March 15, 2017