On Wednesday, January 22, CEPA hosted a roundtable event with experts from the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) to discuss State Capture Through Economic Dependence: The Kremlin's Balkan Strategy. The conversation featured insights from: Janusz Bugajski, Senior Fellow at CEPA, Ruslan Stefanov, Director of the Economic Program at CSD, Martin Vladimirov, Analyst in the Economic Program at CSD, and Brian Whitmore, Russia Program Director at CEPA. The conversation was moderated by CEPA Fellow-in-Residence Corina Rebegea.

Russia's presence in the Balkan region is nothing new: the Kremlin has tried to influence politics since before the fall of the Soviet Union. However, its tactics are changing, using what the Kremlin has learned in waging non-kinetic "hybrid" warfare to develop economic tools to influence governments in the region. Through investments in Balkan infrastructure, the energy sector, communication fields, finance, and retail, the Russian government is increasing its control over decision-making, also known as state capture.

A recent brief produced by the Center for the Study of Democracy dives into the Kremlin's tactics to influence policymakers in the Balkan region through private sector investments. During the roundtable discussion, CSD and CEPA experts considered: is Russia using its own version of the "debt-trap" to commit governments to long-term economic projects that have significant political ramifications; what sectors are the most vulnerable for state capture in the Balkan region; what must the West do to prevent further Russian economic influence in domestic affairs; and how can the United States and the European Union assist the Balkan governments to prevent further state capture by the Kremlin?

This event was held with support from the National Endowment for Democracy.











Janusz Bugajski

Brian Whitmore

Corina Rebegea