According to the Albanian Defence Minister, Olta Xhacka who spoke to reporters on Tuesday, Tirana want the United States to set up a military base on Albanian soil, so that the country could counter Russia’s influence.
“I think we need to send a strong message: that the Western Balkans is a west-facing region, and that we share and must protect the same principles and values,” said Ms Xhacka on the occasion of a meeting at the Pentagon with U.S. Secretary of Defence, Jim Mattis.
“We believe it is time for the United States to establish their presence in Albania. (…) The presence of the United States or NATO would be a very clear demonstration that the region is not forgotten by its allies,” the Albanian minister added.
More specifically, she proposed a United States – Albania run base or an Adriatic Sea naval one under the NATO umbrella.
“We are somewhat concerned about the multiple threats our region faces,” she said. “And we think it is very important that NATO and the United States attach a little more importance to what is happening in the Balkan region.”
Russia was one of the threats mentioned by the Albanian official; one that worries Tirana. “Russia”, Xhacka said, “tries to increase its influence and its destabilising actions, whether by its secret services, its investments (… or even its propaganda).” China, Iran and “even Turkey” are also concern the leadership of the country.
In addition, Xhacka welcomed the European Commission’s decision to open negotiations for Albania’s accession.
“This is something that the Albanian people have been aspiring to for many years,” she noted. This prospect will give them “the hope that if we make sacrifices, if we stay on track, we will achieve our goals and we will go where our destiny lies: in the Euro-Atlantic family”…. / IBNA
Translation from French (AFP) and editing by Lida Filippakis