Stephen Karganovic

Donald Trump’s electoral victory and impending Presidency has on the whole reverberated positively in Southeastern Europe, which is a not very clever euphemism for the Balkans. In most Balkan countries (with the notable exceptions of Muslim Bosnia and Kosovo) broad sections of the public have actually been sold on Trump for some time, visibly fatigued by hegemonic micromanagement of their nations’ affairs, which made pretensions to sovereignty a pathetic joke. Most of the local rulers (again, with the exception of those that publicly made a bad call on the outcome of US elections) for understandable reasons are also absolutely delighted by Trump’s victory and commitment to discard his predecessors’ “regime change” policies. Both rulers and ruled, exhausted from constantly having to invent new responses to incessant imperial arrogance and meddling, are now looking forward to a period of relatively calm relations with Washington. That is a blessing they could put to good use to rebuild their mostly battered economies and societies.

However, expectations are often at variance with what in a given situation might be reasonable to expect. That may prove to be the case with Donald Trump as well. F. William Engdahl is notably less sanguine than the bulk of Balkan observers about the new Administration:

“A new President, one with no political experience, takes office in some days having promised to ‘make America great again.’ He has promised to ‘drain the swamp’ of special interest corporate influence in Washington yet has chosen his cabinet from the banks of those special Wall Street interests, has chosen his national security and Pentagon figures from US military generals, and has chosen no fewer than five cabinet members who are billionaires, and seeks counsel of geopolitical architects of war such as Henry Kissinger.”

Of course, Engdahl has the immense advantage of being a well-informed American with an intimate knowledge of the inner working of his country’s political system, something that few Balkan observers and even analysts can seriously boast.

Perhaps the fundamental naiveté of the view from here is best illustrated by widespread faith that the direction of a complex country like the United States, with not just strong institutions specifically designed to transcend an individual but also an entrenched Deep State which now often transcends traditional political institutions, can be changed profoundly and quickly at that.

Chances are that the Balkan political class and their publics will fairly soon come to the realization that much will remain the same regardless of the new president’s statements, and even intentions, and that the mechanisms that under his predecessors were making their lives complicated – and often miserable – will continue to operate, albeit perhaps a bit more discretely in some respects.

One of the facts of life the locals will have to absorb is that there are transnational concentrations of power quite capable of rivaling and on occasion even undermining the new president. That reality was brought home just the other day in Paul Craig Roberts’ January 10 columns, “Is Trump Bending?” and “Is Goldman Sachs Taking Control of the Trump Presidency?” Balkan policymakers would do well to read them. 

In the final weeks of Obama’s presidency they have been busy setting the stage for continued influence by introducing new measures or intensifying the effect and extending the reach of existing ones, with the single objective of making the thrust of their policy largely irreversible, pending their finding a solution to the problem of a new and not fully reliable occupant in the White House.

So instead of  euphoria, Balkan governments and publics would be better advised to engage in some sober analysis of what probably awaits them. In the short term, with near certainty it will be, at best, but a lighter version of more of the same.

That means continued pressure from the same institutional actors in Washington, their satellites in Brussels, and their transnational instruments – George Soros again comes to mind – even if President Trump does manage to put a measure of restraint on some of their activities.

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski 24 April 2016, in Skopje,

Macedonia’s long-time prime minister and winner in the recent parliamentary elections in the country, Nikola Gruevski, himself last year a victim of a Soros inspired color revolution, has evidently grasped that change at  the top in Washington does not remove the danger of further political convulsions.

In an extended interview with Skopje weekly Republika on  January 3, Macedonian prime minister-designate Nikola Gruevski spoke in detail about his plans to rein in the George Soros funded “Open Society Foundation”. Gruevski said that this wide-reaching group of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be allowed to continue working in Macedonia, but will no longer be allowed to monopolize the civil society network and abuse it for their political purposes. He is the first Balkan leader so far to refer openly to a process of “de-Sorosization” of his country’s civil society sector. And he takes a very sober view of the subversive potential of the Soros-directed NGO behemoth:

“Take, for instance, Soros’ emails that were released on ‘Wikileaks’ and everything will become clear. The man is giving clear instructions on what is to be done, and they are accepted without debate or checks and balances. Other released emails show that he can go visit top leading American officials whenever he wants to, arranges meetings day in day out and has significant influence.

“His foundation, judging by its financial and personal potential, is the strongest politically oriented foundation in the world. He has decided to use his wealth toward ideological goals – the creation of these so-called open societies, and for financial gain, where he speculates on pre-determined political outcomes in certain countries which brings him profits in the stock exchanges. This influence extends to entire institutions, ministries, governments infected with his ideology and points of view.”

All true. But the fundamental problem of targeted countries are not Soros’ machinations in furtherance of the policies of his hegemonic masters but their institutional fragility, which is what makes them susceptible to these machinations. Balkan countries’ varying responses under pressure offer clear proof for the thesis that there is a correlation between institutional stability and the capability to successfully resist the hybrid war assault of Western-backed NGOs.

Viktor Orban

Hungary is a prime example. Though it is a member of both EU and NATO, it has strong and stable political institutions and a coherent social structure. Its prime minister, Viktor Orban, managed to beat back a Soros inspired “color revolution” incited against his maverick policies (including support for and participation in the Russian South Stream project) a year and a half ago. He then proceeded to put Soros’ remaining organizations in Hungary under tight control, after expelling most of them. As a result, he no longer has to deal with subversive challenges from that quarter.

At the other end of the institutional stability and social coherence continuum is Bulgaria. If we take South Stream as a litmus test, anarchic and corrupt Bulgaria turned out to be the weak link in the Russian conceived project, in contrast to the stable, sovereignty and rule of law minded Hungary. The Bulgarian political class got too used to theft of Brussels allocated funds, and on a grand scale, a well-known habit that made it a convenient object of blackmail and manipulation by Western overlords. These indiscretions are, of course, tolerated while being filed away in the corrupt leaders’ dossiers in anticipation of the moment when the compromising information can be used to impose policy choices, often extremely detrimental to their country’s interests. The Bulgarian government’s made a last minute renunciation of its commitment to South Stream, presumably because of the damning information accumulated in these dossiers. That is an illustration of how the system is supposed to work. Personal political survival is put by blackmailed leaders ahead of the huge economic advantages that would have accrued to their globalist devastated country.

Most other Balkan countries fall somewhere in between these two extremes. Where classical financial corruption is not the main issue, induced internal instability can be, and the end result is strikingly similar. Gruevski’s Macedonia is an example of the latter. American policy-makers’ preference for the “Albanian factor” throughout the region has had the consequence not just of the creation of narco-statelet “Kosovo” under their patronage, but also generating seemingly irreconcilable internal ethnic fissures between majority Macedonians and the sizeable, but aggressive and Western-protected and controlled Albanian minority. It is foolishly lured by the promise of a Greater Albania that would be cobbled together with chunks of neighboring Slavic countries (including a sizeable portion of non-Slavic Greece). This particular source of instability is right now Gruevski’s  main problem and the chief obstacle to turning his recent electoral victory into a functioning government. Still short of the parliamentary majority he needs to form a government, Gruevski must now negotiate with Albanian parties whose support would help him reach the mark, except that their consolidated platform – fully coordinated with their foreign backers – calls for the practical disintegration of Macedonia.

Serbia’s leadership is experiencing similar difficulties. The dilettantish prime minister and his utterly corrupt retinue are easy (and provable) corruption targets and extremely vulnerable to blackmail and NGO induced social turmoil. Like Macedonia, they are at risk from Western-managed secessionist projects in the unlikely case that they chose to be intractable and should insist on safeguarding their country’s national interest. Unlike feisty Macedonia, in Serbia there is no thought whatsoever on the official level of reducing the pervasive and deleterious influence of foreign-financed phony “NGOs”. An unmistakable warning shot was fired at the regime just a few days ago in the Report adopted by the European Commission, replete with critical references to Serbia’s endemic corruption, rule of law problems, and media restrictions. The unfavorable Report was submitted by EU special rapporteur in Serbia, and former British ambassador and pro-consul in Belgrade, David Mcallister, a message within a message, if ever there was one.

The position in the political vulnerability index of lesser lights, such as Montenegro’s crooked long-time leader Milo Djukanovic, or Bosnia’s pathetic Bakir Izetbegovic, hardly requires special elaboration. At the helm of institutionally unstable and internally fractured societies, they can be toast at any moment. And the only reason the well-deserved moniker of “last dictator in Europe” was pinned on Belarus’ Lukashenko instead of Djukanovic is the latter’s slavish willingness to play ball with the moniker’s copy right owners. But his jig may well be up, regardless of the ultimate direction of Trump’s presidency.

This regional survey illustrates the grave potential for mischief in the Balkans, independently of the intentions, or even the instructions, of the new President. Institutional forces which will remain predominant for a long time in the mid- to lower levels of his administration will have all the mechanisms they need, including ostensibly “non-governmental” assets with a deeply entrenched infrastructure, to wreak more havoc in the Balkans, with or without his prior knowledge or consent.


 Stephen Karganovic is an American lawyer, and founder of the Srebrenica genocide inquiry NGO known as “The Historical Project Srebrenica” (Istorijski Projekt Srebrenica). 

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