Everything seems ready for the start of new crises in the Western Balkans.

The inadequacy of the European Union, America's lack of attention and rising local tensions have combined to make Serbia's nationalist government more powerful in escalating its regional claims.

Unresolved disputes also offer a host of opportunities for Moscow, even as it is losing the war in Ukraine.

The Kremlin considers the Balkans as a strategic asset, where it can undermine the role of Western institutions by claiming that NATO has failed to provide stability.

Putin's main ally in the region is Aleksandar Vučić, with whom Putin has a symbiotic relationship.

Moscow supports Belgrade for the construction of the "Serbian World", according to which all Serbs should live in the same enlarged state.

In return, Serbia allows Russia to increase influence in the region through energy deals, intelligence penetration, military cooperation and disinformation.

Recently, Belgrade has signed another gas supply deal from Russia's Gazprom and continues to allow the Kremlin's RT and Sputnik propaganda TV channels to air, despite their Europe-wide ban.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin's recent visit to Moscow showed Belgrade's determination to support Russian imperialism in exchange for the Kremlin's help in curbing Kosovo's progress.

Some agreements, such as the recent agreement on free movement, may even be reached in EU-mediated talks between Belgrade and Pristina, but without a deadline for interstate recognition, negotiations will continue indefinitely.

Belgrade and Moscow have calculated that fueling the conflict in northern Kosovo will distract Western officials and the fear of an outbreak of violence will prevent them from making any tough decisions about mutual recognition.

Also, Moscow has close cooperation with the head of the Serbian entity in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik, who has openly declared his ambition to separate and create another Serbian state.

Moscow offers him economic, military and propaganda assistance in various forms.

Half-hearted sanctions from the EU have not deterred Dodik, while the ambitions of Croatian nationalists to create a third ethnic entity in Bosnia have given way to him and his patrons in Moscow.

Montenegro is also being destabilized by an attack on its independent institutions by Serbian nationalist parties closely linked to the regime in Russia.

This attack includes recent demands for Serb autonomy in some southern municipalities.

Unfortunately, the confidence of Western governments that staunch anti-corruption activists would make effective governing leaders has waned.

Abazović's government proved short-lived, as it was willing to undermine Montenegrin sovereignty by signing agreements with the Serbian Orthodox Church, an organization that does not recognize the Montenegrin state.

Moreover, claims that the government was fighting corruption lost credibility, as its closest allies were parties and religious leaders corrupted by Moscow.

Albania can also be drawn into a regional conflict through Russian subversion.

The penetration into an Albanian military facility and the attack on three soldiers, recently, is a provocation, clearly, to disturb the country and create more problems for NATO.

The attack on the (military) base was intended to incite conflict between the government and the opposition and divert attention from Serbia's irredentist campaigns.

Tirana's support for the Open Balkans initiative, a geostrategic project designed to increase Serbia's regional influence and Moscow's economic penetration, will not provide Albania with immunity from conflict.

The claims of some EU leaders for Europe's "strategic autonomy" sound absurd, when you consider that they are unable to guarantee security in a region that wants to join the EU.

The European Union has delayed accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, while membership for Bosnia and Kosovo is a distant prospect.

North Macedonia's stability has been undermined by EU member Bulgaria, whose government remains mired in intractable historical disputes.

The EU also takes Vucic to heart, instead saying it will withhold any pre-accession funding to Serbia if its government does not respect the EU's consensus on sanctioning Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine.

The Biden administration, on the other hand, is allowing Russia to penetrate the region by accepting Vucic's statements that he does not want to alienate his supporters by sanctioning Russia.

It is worth remembering how Washington was first deceived by Slobodan Milošević, who claimed to be the guarantor of the peace and integrity of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. The time for balance is over: Serbia is either a European state or aligned with Russia imperialism that seeks to destroy Western institutions.

In order for new conflicts to be avoided, the objectives of Serbia's aggressive policies must be taken fourfold into defense.

Both Bosnia and Kosovo need a path to NATO membership, and pro-Western forces in Montenegro need greater support in order to sideline pro-Moscow nationalists.

If they do not develop a clear plan to guarantee regional security, to disarm the arsonists, Washington and Brussels may be forced to put out many fires.

/Newspaper "Dita"/