As we watch developments in Syria between the United States and Russia with Syrian Dictator Bashar Al-Assad in between we must understand that Russia’s foreign policy does not extend only to the Middle East. The world’s largest country is evidently aiming to become also the world’s most powerful country in opposition to the United States.


Macedonia is one of the countries born out of the splintering of the former Yugoslavia after the death of former Dictator Tito. The splintering was a bloody affair which led to the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s which shocked the world with their cruelty and which led to international intervention headed by the United States to end the massacre in places such as Sarajevo and Srebrenica.

In recent months the presence of Russian troops involved in military exercises with its ally Serbia on the country’s border with Kosovo raises the spectre of these tragedies and fears that the violence would begin once more.

Adding to this situation was the application by Montenegro to join NATO, presumably to supply protection in the case of a new conflict. This news angered the Kremlin which considers Montenegro’s actions as an affront to Russia.

On Friday the BBC reported that a special prosecutor in Macedonia had arrested 14 people suspected of plotting a coup against the country’s government, including pro Russian opposition politicians. What makes the report particularly worrying is the fact that two of those charged are Russians.

At the time of writing the Russian government has yet to make a comment on the matter.

The Ukraine

While President Donald Trump said in an interview in the Wall Street Journal that he was surprised of the complexity of the history between China and Korea explained to him by China’s President Xi Jinping during their recent Summit, the history between Russia and the Ukraine is nearly as old and just as bloody.

The downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over the Ukraine over Eastern Ukraine in 2014 with the deaths of all 298 aboard blamed on pro Russian rebels and the annexation of Crimea by Russia are two of the reasons for the ongoing economic sanctions against Russia by the many countries including the United States and the members of the European Union.

The fighting had never totally stopped in the disputed areas and is still a source of worry for neighbouring countries.

NATO and elections

In addition NATO has recently deployed its troops, including American tanks and soldiers, in a number of Eastern European countries such as former Soviet Bloc countries Bulgaria, Poland and the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in response to the increasingly aggressive policies being enacted by Vladimir Putin.

These deployments have been rebuked by Moscow and NATO has replied that they are purely defensive activities or routine training manoeuvres.

To these must also be added the fears that Russia has not only interfered in the American presidential election and hacked the offices of now Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni while has the country’s foreign minister but may also be attempting to interfere in the upcoming national elections in Germany and France which will have profound effects on the future direction of the European Union.

It can clearly be seen that the ongoing clash in Syria between the United States and Russia is not an isolated incident and those following these developments put the recent Russian activities in Syria in their proper context.

This diplomatic poker game will keep Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Donald Trump busy for the length of the Presidency. They are yet to reach the heat of some incidents during the first Cold War such as over Cuba and during the Korean and Vietnam Wars but they must be closely monitored and appropriate actions to ensure they do not become so. Without doubt this is the greatest challenge now facing the Oval Office.