A portrait of Vladimir Putin hangs inside an abandoned building in Kravica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 2015.
Dado Ruvic / Reuters

After two years of crisis, Macedonia finally formed a new government in June, installing a reformist, center-left coalition committed to rebooting the country’s stalled integration into the EU and NATO. That same month, Montenegro became NATO’s newest member state, after a tumultuous accession process that lasted nearly a decade. These developments are good news for the overall stability of the western Balkans, a region still mired in sectarianism and provincialism.

But they are also major blows to the regional aspirations of Russia, which hopes to keep the still unincorporated segments of the former Yugoslavia “neutral”—that is, outside

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