Ukrainian officials must review their general policy towards the Balkans, towards Serbia and of course towards Kosovo. I very much welcome the initiative of the Kosovo government to start a dialogue with Ukraine, says Uliana Bakh, co-founder of the Ukrainian-Balkan cooperation network, in an interview for The Geopost.
Bakh notes that Kosovo already has its spokespersons in Ukraine.
“At the very least, we need to open a dialogue and certainly we as Ukraine and Ukrainians have to think about our attitude towards Kosovo,” notes Bakh.
She emphasizes that many of the problems that the Balkans have with Russia are solved by Ukraine, more precisely by its victory in the war.
“Ukraine’s victory or Russia’s defeat will greatly reduce Russia’s influence in the Balkans, or maybe it will disappear altogether. That is why I think that the leaders of the democratic governments of the Western Balkans must really strongly support Ukraine, first of all because it is in their interest,” she emphasizes.
Also she hopes that the war will end this year, “that is, the victory of Ukraine, which means that Ukraine will regain its territories that we had in 1991″.
Bakh points out that the process of disintegration of the Russian Federation has already begun and that there will be economic consequences for Russia regardless of how long the war lasts.
She believes that a long period is needed for changes to occur in Russia after Putin.
“Now we see that the majority of the population of Russia supports Putin, they are satisfied with what he is doing, which means that even if Putin is not there, there is a very high possibility that someone like him will come to the head of Russia because the majority of the population of Russia is simply looking for such a leader. In order for everything to change, they must go through a generational change to stop thinking in such a way, to really accept democratization,” Bakh assesses.
Full interview below
The Geopost: It’s been a year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. What can we expect this year? In his analysis for Project Syndicate, Richard Haas from the US Council on Foreign Relations predicts that the war will continue and that nothing will be resolved this year. What is your position and do you believe that ultimately Ukraine will regain the borders of 1991?
In prognoses regarding the war, they can refer to what Ukrainian officials are saying, because they are still on the ground and maybe even know some situations better. They still hope that the war will end this year, that is, the victory of Ukraine, which means that Ukraine will regain its territories that we had in 1991.
Of course, we have to understand that everything depends on the speed of reaction of the Western partners, that is, how quickly they will help Ukraine with weapons, because a lot depends on that on the front, but we still hope that we will have a victory by the end of the year.
The Geopost: Do you believe that the Western partners will support Ukraine to the end or can we expect them to give in at some point and agree to give the Russians a part of the territory for the sake of peace?
I hope that the Western partners have learned from 2014, when they took that position and allowed Russia to occupy the territories of Crimea and Donbass without any major consequences. Of course, the aggressor’s appetites never stop at just one territory, if this is realized in some way, then it means that in a few years we will have war again.
So I think everyone is aware of it and understands that the aggressor must be stopped, he must pay for all his crimes and Ukraine must recover all her territories that belong to her.
The Geopost: There are assessments that the longer the war lasts, the more certain the collapse of the Russian Federation. Do you agree?
In general, regardless of how long the war will last, I think that the process of disintegration of the Russian Federation has already begun. And there will be economic consequences regardless of how long the war lasts.
There are already initiatives for the disintegration and separation of some regions, so I believe that this is a very possible scenario, and I think that the whole world is aware that this scenario is possible and is preparing for it.
The Geopost: How do you comment on the statement of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that Ukraine will become a member of NATO “in the long term”. He also invited President Zelensky to the Alliance summit in July.
I think that during this year Ukraine will not become a member of NATO. But after Ukraine’s victory, NATO will certainly be interested in Ukraine, with such strength, being a member of this alliance.
The Geopost: Ukraine did not recognize Kosovo, although Russia repeatedly used Kosovo as an argument for the invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Why? There were several initiatives in the Ukrainian parliament to recognize Kosovo.
The situation with Kosovo is interesting because the Russians manipulate Kosovo very skillfully. On the one hand, they use the example of Kosovo for their own benefit – they put the example of Crimea as if Crimea is somehow connected to Kosovo. On the other hand, Serbia uses the example of Crimea in the same way as Kosovo, but in the sense that Ukraine cannot recognize Kosovo.
Until now, Ukraine has not recognized Kosovo precisely because of some political solutions and the fact that we do not lose Crimea. Currently, the discussion on the recognition of Kosovo is not on the agenda in Ukraine. I think that it should be and that the Ukrainian officials have to look at their general policy towards the Balkans, towards Serbia and of course towards Kosovo. I very much welcome the initiative of the government of Kosovo to start a dialogue with Ukraine.
Prime Minister Kurti sent a touching letter to President Zelensky. I hope that this information reaches the right ears and that actions begin. Kosovo already has some spokespeople in Ukraine. At the very least, we need to open a dialogue, and we, as Ukraine and Ukrainians, must think again about our attitude towards Kosovo.
The Geopost: Russia’s influence in the Balkans is quite strong according to all parameters and relevant assessments. Do you think that the solution to the Kosovo problem, i.e. will the final signing of the agreement between Kosovo and Serbia be the key to freeing the region from the clutches of Russia?
Many of the problems that the Balkans have with Russia are being solved by Ukraine, because with Ukraine’s victory, that is, with Russia’s defeat, Russia’s influence on the Balkans will be greatly reduced or disappear altogether. That is why I think that the leaders of the democratic governments of the Western Balkans must really strongly support Ukraine because it is primarily in their interest.
Secondly, I think that the Balkan countries must understand that now a hybrid war is happening here and that in fact Russia is using all these weak points that we have here – the corruption of politicians, the weak resistance of citizens in terms of disinformation, the very weak systems of government protection against Russian agency. First of all, we must be aware of it, we must work on it and support Ukraine because the main battle is there now and the Western Balkans must stand on the right side of democracy.
The Geopost: How do you see the current policy of the West towards the Western Balkans?
Somehow I have the feeling that the Western partners have taken the position of maintaining peace in the Western Balkans at all costs. Sometimes they make some decisions that may not be right. As I have already mentioned, in 2014 there was an attempt to keep the so-called peace in Ukraine, and the aggressors, the people who attacked a country, were allowed to keep what they took and continue with policies that are anti-democratic, anti-Western and similar.
I hope the same mistake is not repeated here. I hope that the Western partners are aware of what they are doing and that in the end there will not be any bad consequences for the Western Balkans. I believe that everyone is aware that the Western Balkans must become part of the European family and undergo Euro-Atlantic integration. If we are all aware of this then we must work together without any possibility of manipulation by Russian agents, Russian spies who are obviously working for the Kremlin.
The Geopost: There is a lot of talk about the presence of Wagner in the region. There were denials from Wagner’s boss Yevgeny Prigozhin himself and the Serbian authorities. However, the other day, Vucic threatened prison for all Serbian volunteers who fight for Wagner when they return to Serbia.
I don’t think we really need to hesitate about it. Wagner is present here – they announced their presence themselves, although now they are trying to justify themselves. Here, after Vucic’s statement, Prigozhin stated that there have been no Serbs in Wagner for a long time. On the other hand, we have a lot of confirmations that Serbian nationals are now fighting on the side of Russia, regardless of whether it is in Wagner or some other groups.
I think that Serbia must think very carefully about how this is happening, investigate and punish all those who are directly involved in the war and in the recruitment process itself. Because it is obvious that the recruitment process is ongoing and that is not good for the citizens of Serbia or for Serbia as a country that first of all calls itself neutral in some way and secondly has laws that should prevent such acts.
The Geopost: Recently, there has been a lot of talk about Russia after Putin, and we often hear that a new Putin will come after him. What is your attitude?
I think we should understand that not only Putin is the president of his people, but the people also deserve their president. Now we see that the majority of the population of Russia supports Putin, they are satisfied with what he is doing. This means that there is a very high possibility that after Putin, someone like him will come to the head of Russia, because the majority of the Russian population is simply looking for such a leader.
In order for everything to change, they must go through a generational change to stop thinking in such a way, to really accept democratization. How and in what way this can happen is a big discussion and I think that it can be thought about only and exclusively after the complete victory of Ukraine. /TheGeopost/