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Could the Emerging Balkan-Israeli Strategic Alliance Alter Energy Security in the East Mediterranean Basin?

Sigurd Neubauer

‚ SOS International Ltd, USA


Following what has widely been described as the collapse of the Turkish-Israeli strategic partnership over Ankara’s support for the 2010 Gaza-bound “Freedom “Flotilla, the Jewish state began forming alternative alliances with several countries in the Balkans. In particular, ties with Bulgaria and Greece have blossomed over mutual concern over an increasingly assertive Turkey, while Israel has also significantly increased bilateral defense and intelligence cooperation with Cyprus, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Croatia as part of a wider effort to deter international jihad and terrorist networks from establishing a foothold in the Balkans. In the case of Bulgarian-Israeli relations, Prime Minister (PM) Boyko Borisov requested a special meeting with Mossad Director Meir Dagan while on an official visit to Tel Aviv in January 2010. Borisov also received assurances from his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu that the two countries would increase joint air force cooperation. Similarly, following last year’s flotilla incident, Greek PM George Papandreou chose to reverse course from Athens’ longstanding “pro-Arab policies “to deepening military cooperation with the Jewish state. Meanwhile, as both Bulgaria and Greece feel particular threatened by Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s “aggressive foreign policy,” 2011 has become a significant milestone for the Greek-Israeli strategic partnership. As a testimony to that relationship, PM Netanyahu successfully persuaded the Athens government from preventing this summer’s “Gaza-flotilla” ships from departing Greek ports. On all accounts, the “personal romance” enjoyed between the Israeli leader and Papandreou should be considered a significant foreign policy victory for Netanyahu. On a strategic note, following Erdogan’s 2010 “flotilla support,” Ankara’s policies were arguably not only perceived as a threat to the Jewish state but also to its former Ottoman colonies. Hence, it was perhaps not surprising that Israel sought to establish herself as a “patron” to the Balkan states against Erdogan by deepening bilateral military and intelligence cooperation with Greece and Bulgaria in particular.


About author:


Sigurd Neubauer is a Washington, DC based defense and foreign affairs specialist. Sigurd Neubauer has several years’ experience in strategic communications, public diplomacy and research focusing on American foreign policy towards the European Union and the Middle East from both to the U.S. defense industry and from the NGO sector. Currently, Neubauer covers global defense and Israeli security related developments for SOS International Ltd., a privately held operations support company providing information engagement, intelligence solutions and stability operations support to U.S. government and commercial clients. Neubauer is a graduate of Yeshiva University in New York where he studied modern Jewish history (MA), Political Science (BA) and French literature (BA). The views expressed at the Belgrade Security Forum are solely those of Sigurd Neubauer.