Russia and Terrorism Dominated CIA Chief's Albania Visit

The unexpected visit of CIA director John Brennan to Tirana has prompted claims that  besides Islamic radicalism, concerns about Russian influence in Albania were also on the agenda.

Skender Minxhozi, editor-in-chief of the Java News portal told BIRN on Thursday that expanding Russian influence in the region was an obvious area of concern for senior US officials, although Albania is a member of NATO and one of the most pro-American countries in the region.

"For the moment, Russian influence in Albania is not a real risk although there is a potential one. I believe that Albania's close allies like the US are discussing potential threats," he said.

Fatos Klosi, former director of the Albanian intelligence service, SHISH, told Mapo newspaper on Wednesday that visits of this level are mainly related to regional politics in which Russia clearly has a role.

"This country is seeking to spread its political and economic influence. Albania is the first gateway for Russia to the Mediterranean," he noted.

The risk that Russia could try to expand its influence in the region has also been mentioned by Albania's Prime Minister, Edi Rama.

In an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in November Rama emphasized the need for the EU to remain both secure and open to integration, otherwise gaps could be spotted.

"There are third-party players who can benefit from gaps within the union. I'm talking about Russia and about radical Islam," Rama said.

The US embassy in Tirana said after Brennan left on Wednesday that the CIA director had discussed "a range of issues including regional security, counterterrorism cooperation, intelligence sharing, and other bilateral affairs" with interlocutors.


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