Curtis Scaparrotti, a US general and the current Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO Allied Command Operations, said on Wednesday the security in the Balkans was “very fragile” and that the Balkan countries were “main targets of Russia’s damaging influence,” the Beta news agency reported.
That influence, he added, “instigates regional instability.”
Addressing the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, Scaparrotti said the Balkan region had strategic importance, Radio Free Europe (RFE) reported.
“The negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia on normalisation of relations and efforts to reach a deal acceptable to both sides are currently on hold. Russia foments the instability of the region trying to prevent the Balkan countries from progressing towards Euro-Atlantic integrations,” the general said as quoted by RSE.
Scaparrotti added that Russia was against the recognition of Kosovo’s independence and that Moscow was using political, military and economic aid to preserve its influence on Serbia.
He said the NATO-led force KFOR in Kosovo with some 3.500 soldiers from the Alliance’s member states and other countries, played an essential role in maintaining safety and security in the region.
Scaparrotti told the Committee that “Russia was a long-time strategic competitor which both the US and NATO see as a major threat to their geopolitical ambitions.”
“Moscow is trying to spread its influence on borderline countries to undermine NATO and violate the rules based on the international order,” the general said.