The Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe has been a tinderbox for the past 120 years. The volatility of the region was interrupted by the Cold War, but after the Soviet Union fell in 1991 it resumed where it had left off.
The first two Balkan wars — in 1912 and 1913 — were prodromal symptoms of the Great War, which followed shortly after them. Some writers refer to the events of 1914-1918 as the “Third Balkan War”. Along the same lines, one might call the period 1991-1999 — from the breakup of Yugoslavia to the Kosovo War — as the Fourth Balkan War.
Is the Fifth Balkan War at hand?
Last night I posted about an old Soviet-era drone that crashed last Thursday in Zagreb after traversing the airspace of Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, and Croatia. I tended to agree with our Croatian correspondent Vortac that the launch of the drone was likely a Russian operation, intended as a twofer: to gather intelligence about the reactions of three NATO member states, with the blame for incident assigned on the Ukrainians. But that was just an educated guess after applying Occam’s Razor to the available information.
Vortac was of the opinion that the drone carried no explosives, based on the diminutive crater it produced upon impact. However, the Croatian defense ministry appears to disagree, according to an incidental mention in this article from Hungary Today about the reaction to the drone by the opposition parties in the Hungarian parliament:
Opposition Demands Answers from Gov’t about Foreign Drone in Hungarian Airspace
DK, Jobbik, LMP, the Everyone’s Hungary Movement (MMM), Momentum, the Socialists (MSZP), and Párbeszéd said in a joint statement that Orbán must answer without delay and without hesitation whether the Hungarian armed forces are able to defend Hungary in view of the fact that on March 10, a TU-141 type drone stayed in Hungarian airspace undisturbed for 40 minutes and, according to the Croatian defence ministry, carried a bomb.
The aircraft had likely crossed over the entirety of Hungary or parts of neighboring countries before hitting the ground.
The parties also asked Orbán whether Hungarian Gripens had been scrambled to intercept the drone and if not, why not.
In case the Hungarian armed forces intercepted the drone, it is an unacceptable explanation that they did not think it posed any danger, the united opposition said.
The defence ministry said a similar incident had occurred again around noon on Friday in north-eastern Hungary.
That little tidbit makes this latest news from Hungary even more interesting. It seems Hungarian fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a civilian plane that entered Hungarian airspace from Serbia while allegedly carrying an explosive device.
Also from Hungary Today:
Serbian Civilian Aircraft Intercepted by Hungarian Gripens
Hungarian Gripen fighter jets were scrambled to intercept a civilian plane on Monday afternoon after air traffic control was told that the plane was carrying a bomb, the defence ministry told MTI.
The Serbian Airbus A-319 airliner travelling from Belgrade to Moscow was turned back at the Hungary-Slovakia border after Belgrade’s control tower told Hungarian air traffic control that the plane had a bomb on board.
NATO’s Combined Air Operations Centre alerted the Gripen fighters of the Hungarian armed forces which quickly identified the Serbian aircraft and escorted it outside Hungary’s airspace towards Serbia.
The Gripens remained in flight near the border until the Airbus A-319 landed, the ministry said.
I don’t know what any of this portends. Who would launch a bomb-carrying plane from Serbia directed at Hungary, and why?
I’ll be keeping a close eye on these ominous shenanigans in the Balkans. They may be intended to affect the outcome of operations in Ukraine in a way that is not immediately obvious.
Hat tip: László.