The Fifth Balkan War?

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.

10 thoughts on “The Fifth Balkan War?

    • Such old drones usually don’t have any comms. They fly over enemy territory, record pictures with cameras and electronic signals (radar activity, enemy radio comms) with antennas. At a predetermined point (with inertial navigation) they turn back to the base, deploy a parachute and land on a friendly territory. After such landing, drone chassis is usually severely damaged and discarded, but surveillance data ‘black boxes’ can be easily recovered and analyzed for intelligence.

  1. Surveillance drones usually carry a small explosive charge (few kgs of TNT) to destroy the surveillance equipment and data, in case a drone is shot down and is in danger of being captured by the enemy. Such explosive charge cannot be considered a warhead and obviously small damage caused by the drone apparently proves that.

    During the first few days after the strike, Croatian politicians were mostly quiet about the drone and some even dismissed it as “not dangerous”. But as of today, they suddenly began to describe it as an “armed drone” and “carrying a bomb”. Their motives are still not quite clear. It’s possible they are trying to trump up the incident, hoping to get some funds and military aid from USA and France.

  2. Explanations in the Hungarian media just do not add up:

    (1) In connection with the drone that fell in Croatia after it flew over Hungary: an official version is that the Hungarian army did not handle it because they thought it was just a Ukrainian provocation, so it was best not to react.

    You know, cool Zen-style: if you do not focus your attention on an enemy drone, it will disappear by itself. I wonder what they would have done if it turned out that it was not merely a provocation and it dropped a bomb or something. Another Zen-meditation session?

    And did the Ukrainians want to provoke everyone, including Croatia? Even Australia, perhaps?

    (2) In the other case the official version is that Hungarian Gripens intercepted the airplane, that carried a bomb, at the Hungarian-Slovakian border; and after forcing it to turn back from the border where it would have left Hungary within seconds, they accompanied it, over our territory, to the south border back into Serbia.

    Of course, because when you see your neighbour’s mad dog rampaging around your house and then jumping out of your garden over the fence to the street, you will stop it and accompany it back, through your garden where your little children are playing.

    • it is amazing that the object was not intercepted during 40 minutes in hungarian airspace.
      This reminded me of an event some decades ago when young Mathias Rust flew a Cessna through russian airspace and landed it in the heart of Moscow totally unharmed by russian air defence. Is this good news about the strike ability of Russia?
      Recently I read news that a 90 feet motor yacht got confiscated in the Mediterranean. The alledged owner is said to be a russian general. How do readers here comment on the military abilities of a person that paygrade able to buy a multimillion vessel?
      A person with this lush a lifestyle( greedy and corrupt to the bone) can hardly intimidate me.

  3. When grown ups are unbelievably stupid and attack people with common sense.
    Common sense is a flower that does not grow in everone’s garden.

    When the whole continent goes mad and brings invaders and killers.
    How could Europe contract such a disease that has never popped up anywhere since eternity.
    When left and right have no meaning. Neither do liberals or conservatives.

    How did we get this insanity. Let alone the develish hatred from Hitler to others.

    And exceeding Hatred towards rusia today. unimaginable hatred.

    Why gas and oil from Iran and Saudia Arabia fine. But from rusia, which is nearer and therefore fitter … is bad as hell.

    Yeah forget we created the killer virus, overshadowed by smokes of war.

  4. Al Stewart: The Roads To Moscow

    They crossed over the border, the hour before dawn
    Moving in lines through the day
    Most of our planes were destroyed on the ground where they lay
    Waiting for orders we held in the wood
    Word from the front never came
    By evening the sound of the gunfire was miles away
    Ah, softly we move through the shadows, slip away through the trees
    Crossing their lines in the mists in the fields on our hands and on our knees
    And all that I ever
    Was able to see
    The fire in the air glowing red
    Silhouetting the smoke on the breeze

    All summer they drove us back through the Ukraine
    Smolensk and Viasma soon fell
    By autumn we stood with our backs to the town of Orel
    Closer and closer to Moscow they come
    Riding the wind like a bell
    General Guderian stands at the crest of the hill
    Winter brought with her the rains, oceans of mud filled the roads
    Gluing the tracks of their tanks to the ground while the sky filled with snow
    And all that I ever
    Was able to see
    The fire in the air glowing red
    Silhouetting the snow on the breeze

    In the footsteps of Napoleon the shadow figures stagger through the winter
    Falling back before the gates of Moscow, standing in the wings like an avenger
    And far away behind their lines the partisans are stirring in the forest
    Coming unexpectedly upon their outposts, growing like a promise
    You’ll never know, you’ll never know which way to turn, which way to look you’ll never see us
    As we’re stealing through the blackness of the night
    You’ll never know, you’ll never hear us
    And the evening sings in a voice of amber, the dawn is surely coming
    The morning roads lead to Stalingrad, and the sky is softly humming

    Two broken Tigers on fire in the night
    Flicker their souls to the wind
    We wait in the lines for the final approach to begin
    It’s been almost four years that I’ve carried a gun
    At home it will almost be spring
    The flames of the Tigers are lighting the road to Berlin
    Ah, quickly we move through the ruins that bow to the ground
    The old men and children they send out to face us, they can’t slow us down
    And all that I ever
    Was able to see
    The eyes of the city are opening
    Now it’s the end of the dream

    I’m coming home, I’m coming home, now you can taste it in the wind, the war is over
    And I listen to the clicking of the train-wheels as we roll across the border
    And now they ask me of the time that I was caught behind their lines and taken prisoner
    “They only held me for a day, a lucky break, ” I say they turn and listen closer
    I’ll never know, I’ll never know why I was taken from the line and all the others
    To board a special train and journey deep into the heart of holy Russia
    And it’s cold and damp in the transit camp, and the air is still and sullen
    And the pale sun of October whispers the snow will soon be coming
    And I wonder when I’ll be home again and the morning answers “Never”
    And the evening sighs, and the steely Russian skies go on forever

  5. Herb:

    This may explain why the Russians are using 40 year old T72A tanks in Ukraine. It is possible that Mr Putin thought his army had rather more modern equipment, but somehow the money ended up in yachts and mansions instead. Some of his generals may be rather nervous right now.

  6. Possibly a false flag incident. Blame the Russians and say they are now attacking a NATO country. Next thing will be some chemical weapons going off somewhere in Ukraine and the Russians will be blamed in order to further justify NATO intervention – which is what the Ukrainians want. Can’t be sure of anything in this situation. It does seem that the Russians are making a mess of carving out eastern Ukraine and re-labelling it South Russia. For a textbook example of how to do this sort of thing we should look at the similar action by NATO to carve out Kosovo from Serbia. Or even Turkey invading and occupying North Cyprus.

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