PRISTINA, Kosovo -- On Thursday, a NATO senior official stated that the war in Ukraine has not posed an imminent threat to Western Balkan nations. They are strategically important to the Western alliance.
NATO's Deputy Secretary-General Mircea Geoana visited Kosovo's capital Pristina to meet local officials and see the NATO-led KFOR force.
Geoana condemned Russia's "illogical, brutal war" in Ukraine as well as its "aggressive, malign influence over Western Balkans."
"We have a strategic concern... in Western Balkans. He told The Associated Press that he wanted to convey a message of optimism to all those who visit the Western Balkans, that eventually all of us will be part of the Euro-Atlantic and European family.
Some countries of the Western Balkans are NATO members, including Albania, Croatia and Montenegro, and North Macedonia. Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina, however, are partners.
Kosovo has indicated that it will apply for NATO's Partnership for Peace membership. This is considered the first step towards NATO membership.
After a war between Serbian and Kosovo's former province, which ended in a 78-day NATO air combat campaign, NATO troops are now present in Kosovo.
Geoana said that NATO members in the region have increased defense spending because it is "a natural response when you see Russia aggressive," and that NATO would "defend every inch of territory and all all allies."
Geoana reiterated the alliance's promise to "stand with Ukraine for the long-term."
They are worthy of our support. He said that this great nation should be a sovereign, free nation in Europe.
Semini reported from Tirana (Albania),