The U.S. Department of Defense has recently prepared report titled ‘Russian Strategic Intentions’, which reads that Russia is using media, trade relations, direct foreign investments, energy trading, diplomacy, and military posturing, to increase its influence in the Balkans and the entire Europe.

The report, published by the United States-based web portal Politico, analyzes ‘hybrid warfare’ techniques, which Russia is reportedly using to spread its own influence in Europe. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, many of Russia’s activities - including interference in political processes and provoking of ‘frozen’ conflicts - represent direct threat to the United States and its interests in the region.  

When it comes to Russian influence in the Balkans, the report warned about the region’s dependence on the import of Russian gas, and noted that 13 countries in the region of Balkans and Eastern Europe relied on Russia to provide 75 percent or more of total natural gas imports - as many of those countries have no domestic natural gas production - which makes them susceptible to political influence from Russia.

Russia has used this dependence as a tool to affect US partner and ally decision-making, or as a punitive response to decisions made by nations not aligned with Russian interests”, the report explained.

Pentagon also underlined that Russia was capable of promoting societal divisions across the West, weakening civil societies, and undermining the potential bi- or multi-partisan nature of a functioning democracy.

The US Department of Defense also warned about the partnership between Russia and China, saying that those two countries “share an affinity for authoritarian stability”, and “aligned views on opposing international norms regarding human rights, cyber, and space”.

According to the report, one of possible US’ responses to Russian influence is “promotion of political and economic liberalization”. “The US must promote inclusion, tolerance, and a wide variety of human rights across Europe”, reads the report.

European Union could be encouraged to offer better options for membership for some of the countries whereas, at the moment, the prospect of membership is not realistic”, the report concludes.