In the analysis entitled “Send NATO troops to help stabilize Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH),” experts Leon Hartwell, Hikmet Karcic, and Josephine Mintel warn of the possibility of canceling EUFOR’s mandate in BiH, but also of the weakness of that mission in case of any activities that would lead to the destabilization of the country.
As one of the main reasons for concern, they cite the initiative of Milorad Dodik, a member of the BiH Presidency, by which the Republika Srpska (RS) entity would “sever ties with the centralized military, judicial, and tax system” of the country, which led to speculation that the entity could secede.
In addition, they state that the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, is now “juggling his allegiance to the East and the West.”
”Although he wants to support Serbs in BiH, unwavering support for the secession of RS would be a death sentence for Serbia’s European Union (EU) aspirations. However, if Russia gets the upper hand in Ukraine, both Dodik’s and Vucic’s calculations will change. Western allies must act now to contain them before that happens,” the analysts warn.
”Recognizing that the structural factors that led to Dodik’s secessionist moves are still present, the United States (U.S.), the EU, and the United Kingdom (UK) should urgently take measures to transform this frozen conflict. Russia’s war in Ukraine made sending NATO troops to BiH vital to maintaining a secure environment in the Balkans,” they emphasized.
Increased militarism in the RS
Analysts agree that “the need for effective peacekeeping forces in BiH is growing as Russia increasingly supports paramilitary groups in RS and supports Dodik’s plans for an independent army in the majority Serb entity.”
”By supporting the increased militarization of RS, Russia seeks to establish a client state where it can undermine the credibility of Operation Althea and weaken the transatlantic alliance. If it is destabilized, BiH will be prevented from working on further integration with the West. This can be seen as part of Russia’s broader strategy to disrupt and reshape the international order,” they warn.
The need to deploy NATO troops
Analysts explain that both the EU and NATO currently have operations in BiH, and that Operation Althea has primary responsibility for peacekeeping with 1.100 ready soldiers, but that it can call on NATO to increase the number of troops through the Berlin Plus agreements.
They explain that BiH joined the NATO Partnership for Peace program in 2006, and joined the Action Plan for NATO membership in 2010. NATO also has its military office in Sarajevo with the primary mission of assisting the BiH authorities in reforms and obligations related to the Partnership for Peace. The secondary task of the NATO mission in the country is to provide logistical and other support to the forces of the EU.
”For BiH, however, joining NATO is a long way off. Gaining NATO membership cannot be relied upon to resolve the country’s current precarious position. However, NATO’s deployment of several thousand soldiers would greatly deter Russian interference, the separatist moves of the RS, and other types of violence and destabilizing endeavors,” the authors write.