It always amuses me how much the US claims to have done for The Balkans, but in reality, how little it really is. The great mantra of these ex communist countries in the early 90s was ‘The Americans will save us,’ and although a few polite words were spoken about the British, in general the US was the official gold medallist.
What happened in reality, was that although many Americans appeared on the scene after the changes, they were all paid for by Uncle Sam. Very little cash emerged into the respective Balkan economies, and while a great deal of hot air was expelled, a considerable amount of US publicity was accrued into the bargain, and little else.
Many of these imported US democracy brokers were constantly being accused by the locals of being ‘spooks,’ which was laughable in most cases. The expression, intelligence officer, is often regarded as a contradiction in terms, and most of the so called consultants, according to me at least, were hardly in the Mensa stream of political consciousness. But one thing became very clear, that America’s largesse was exclusively devoted to the many US citizens living in the Balkans, and no one else.
In the end, after all the initial excitement, it was the EU, which came to the rescue, with Great Britain as the inevitable back marker. The indifference of the British Embassy at the time, was legion, and very little happened. One bright spark even renamed the British Know How Fund, as the Not Know Fund, and it was occasionally referred to, as The Got No Money Fund. But, enough of that, because things have changed dramatically over the past twenty years, and the British are now held in considerable esteem within the Balkan communities.
The US mainly likes to talk about NATO, and even though EU member countries are seen to subscribe to it, the Americans have the greater presence. They also have the greatest say, and within the past few years have even been called the aggressor, as NATO assets have been lined up close to Russia in Eastern Europe. Seen as a ‘chicken and egg,’ scenario, it matters little who made the first move, when ratcheting up the stakes in this unnecessary game of poker. Because in the end, even with detente, there can only be losers.
Trumps position is still unclear, although he has announced that he wants to be friends once more with Russia, and in particular with Mr. Putin. But the question remains of how much of this is true, or even possible, under present US internal political conditions. Nevertheless, there has been a sea change in the Balkans.
Balkan nations are now turning back to their old compatriot Russia, in many ways, because despite 25 years separation, there still remains a sneaking regard for Russia and particularly its hard man Putin. Not simply due to the complexities of history, nor the enormous wealth of Russia’s natural resources, it is also because of the character of the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe, and their capacity to change sides.
Europe does not need any further conflict, and despite the present EU economic disturbances, it is the only real hope for most of the member countries future development. With trade comes peace and prosperity, one hopes, but there is some real fear in the offing. Starting with Trumps contempt for the EU itself – don’t underestimate the Nigel Farage connection – and his protectionist views on American trade, it is clear he regards the EU as rubbish. How he views the political stability it brings with its fatherly embrace, is another matter, or couldn’t he care less?
It would be a very myopic politician who ignores the possibilities of a negative outcome for the EU, and with an American President who intends to build a wall between the US and Mexico, he may also be intending to build a wall around the United Sates as well! In the words of Rhett Butler, from Margaret Mitchell’s epic tale of the American Civil War, called Gone With the Wind –Trump might easily say – ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ Which makes him a very dangerous man.