By Selim Ibraimi– Russian President Vladimir Putin was on an official visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates. Russia, isolated from the democratic world and under sanctions, has managed to keep the national economy alive. It has been done with countries like Serbia, Turkey, China, North Korea, the Middle East, and some Latin American countries.

Moscow has not abandoned its ambitions for unrest and starting new wars. This new energy has been gained from natural resources, and economic and military cooperation with states against the West. The current actions of Russia will make 2024 even more difficult for new democracies.

The first one has to do with the Balkans, where together with Serbia, the Serbian leader of Bosnia, and Serbian radicals of Kosovo, Moscow is preparing the terrain for new conflicts in the region. As we know, Serbia openly continues to violate international sanctions and continues to exchange millions of dollars with Russia.

The second commitment is different, it has to do with the Middle East. Russia has economic diplomacy, which is the function of the Russian economic hardship. Despite the obstacles with the war, the Moscow media have reported that the Russian export with the United Emirates for 2022 ties a significant amount of 8.5 billion dollars. While with Saudi Arabia, trade for 2022 reaches up to 1.75 billion dollars.

Russian officials have pledged that by the end of 2023 trade between the two countries will reach 5 billion dollars. The Russian presence in the Middle East has changed in different stages of the XX and after. In the 1960s and 1970s, the former USSR established close ties with all the states of the Middle East and the Maghreb. In this line, Russia’s common ties with the Arab states have a long history. Russia is making some steps that will set a new price of oil with OPEC countries. Here we have some dilemmas about whether the OPEC countries will go under Russian influence.

Russia is not a member of OPEC, but the main one in BRICS, where in August of this year’s BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, Putin invited Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates to join the alliance. Russia and OPEC look to maintain their price of oil relevant and compete with the U.S. Russian diplomatic overture in the Middle East could have a bad end. It is short-term and does not at all provide long-term security for the Arab states. Russia will try to profit from the war between Israel and Hamas and to distract the U.S. from Ukraine and other problems.

In the context of the Russian policy of destabilization, more should watch Russia in the Balkans with pro-Kremlin regimes. Serbia and the Serbs in the region are interested in a military adventure. In such a scenario, Putin’s Russia will take the Serbian side. There is much uncertainty as to whether the EU and the U.S. can reverse this early Russo-Serbian trend in the Balkans.

In recent days, Viktor Medvedchuk, a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has launched a political initiative in Serbia called “Another List”. The initiative has been well received in Serbia by pro-Russian politicians and media. In recent months Belgrade and Moscow also have been using propaganda for an ignitation of local conflicts.

As in the Middle East and the Western Balkans, Russia could take a risk to stir complicated historical problems. Therefore, even though Russian diplomacy may seem weak to the West, again Russia is doing the same thing and everything in its national interests. According to UN ‘Comtrad” data, Serbia’s exports to Russia were $1.1 billion in 2022. The EU also has a plan for the Balkans that goes up to 30 billion dollars.

Regardless of the trade exchange, attention should be focused on Russian actions and building strategies to minimize the effects of Russian diplomacy by various means. The actions of the EU and the U.S. together with the Balkan countries should all be combined. Otherwise, the vacuum will go in favor of the Kremlin and Belgrade. While in the Middle East, the game is a little more difficult for Russia and all regional and global players. (Translated from Albanian into the English language by @CSSDMacedonia)

Ibraimi holds a Ph.D. in Political Science

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