NATO Chiefs meet in Tirana amid growing Russian influence over the Balkans

NATO Military Committee in Tirana, Albania
NATO Military Committee in Tirana, Albania

Tirana, Sept 17 – NATO’s 29 Allied Chiefs of Defence have gathered in Tirana this week under the NATO Military Committee Conference, seeking to boost the region’s Euro-Atlantic agenda as member countries deal with concerns over growing Russian influence in the Balkans.

As the NATO Chiefs thanked Albania for its contribution to NATO’s shared security and the valuable role it plays in promoting cooperation and stability in the Western Balkans, the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama raised concerns over foreign influences in the region, hinting at growing Russian influence in the Balkans.

NATO’s regional map needs to be completed with Bosnia, Serbia, Kosovo and Macedonia‘, said PM Rama adding that ‘this area is organically not included in the European security architecture and presents us with a factor of strategic uncertainty as well as a territory where third party actors see vulnerability and possibilities to penetrate‘.

During the NATO Military Committee conference in Tirana,  the NATO Chiefs of Defence discussed a number of concrete proposals with regard to military contributions to support a comprehensive, systematic and coherent approach. They welcomed the Hub for the South achieving its Initial Operational Capability, the important role it will play in improving NATO’s regional understanding and ability to anticipate crises in the region, and stressed the importance of continued cooperation with other relevant stakeholders, namely the European Union.

Subsequently, the Chiefs of Defence provided guidance to the International Military Staff and the Strategic Commands on the conceptual work done so far on the NATO Command Structure Review, with a view to ensure a fit-for-purpose, robust and agile NCS capable of responding to any threat from any direction.

They also discussed about NATO’s longest running mission, KFOR. For the past eighteen years, NATO has been committed to the security and stability of Kosovo. General Fungo, Commander of the KFOR Mission, addressing the Chiefs of Defence, emphasized that the security situation in Kosovo was stable but fragile, necessitating continued NATO’s engagement.

The Chiefs of Defence concluded the NATO Military Committee Conference by electing the next Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, the Chief of the British Defence Staff. He will take office in the summer of 2018

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