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    A view shows the command center for the newly opened ballistic missile defense site at Deveselu air base, Romania, May 12, 2016.

    Pivot to Balkans: This is Where US Could Build NATO's Next Aegis Base

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    The United States apparently has big plans for Kosovo and the Balkans in general, political analyst Petr Iskenderov told Radio Sputnik. These include increasing Washington's political influence and military presence in the territory that was carved out of Serbia following NATO's military intervention.

    If accurate, this assessment should come as no surprise. NATO recently welcomed its 29th member, the small Balkan country of Montenegro, at a time when the alliance has become increasingly active on its eastern and southern flanks, citing a non-existent threat from Russia as one of the reasons.

    "NATO, particularly the United States, wants to place Kosovo at the center of its military and political plans due to the territory's prime location," the senior analyst at the Institute of Slavic Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences explained.

    Should these plans be carried out, Kosovo could become one of the nodes in Washington's massive missile shield in Europe that Moscow has described as a threat to its security. An element of this system has recently come online in Romania. Another Aegis Ashore base will become operation by 2018 in Poland.

    The United States "is not only interested in maintaining its military and political presence in the central Balkans," Iskenderov added. "Washington also wants to turn this territory into a springboard to develop its military infrastructure [in the region]. For instance, the US could deploy its radars or a missile defense system there."

    In addition to Washington's Kosovo ambitions, the self-proclaimed republic also has to deal with growing radical sentiments.

    More than 300 people of the land's predominantly Muslim 1.8 million population have joined radical groups fighting in Iraq and Syria. This figure might not seem as much, but this is the highest ratio of any European country. Approximately 120 fighters are reported to have already returned to Kosovo.

    "Kosovo has indeed become a staging area for radicals, Islamists and other groups that have taken advantage of the fact that this territory is not controlled by anyone," Iskenderov noted.

    Interestingly, this trend has developed in parallel with Washington's growing influence. The analyst suggested that there might be a link between the two.

    "Since Kosovo Albanians have looked up to the US, it is quite possible that Kosovo authorities and NATO leadership have a secret understanding that these processes 'do not hinder each other,'" he asserted.

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    Tags:
    missile defense systems, saber-rattling, Islamic extremism, radical Islam, military buildup, anti-ballistic missile defense, geopolitics, Aegis Ashore BMD complex, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, NATO, Balkans, United States, Russia, Kosovo
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