Western observers warn that peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is threatened.
It was mentioned that proximity to Russia could lead to Putin moving to BiH if there is no success in Ukraine, Radio Sarajevo writes.
While Moscow is waging war in Ukraine, it is fueling a conflict with pro-Russian separatists in BiH. Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik did not hide his closeness to Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin. It goes without saying that Moscow will support him in his separatist plans. Western observers warn that the hard-won peace in the Balkan country is in danger, Deutsche Welle writes.
The last alert came from the United States (U.S.) Senator Chris Murphy. “If Putin (in Ukraine) is cornered, he will look for other places where he can win. And one of them could be Bosnia,” he told CNN, referring to “a very worrying time for Bosnia.” In March, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called Bosnia a possible target for “further Russian intervention”.
About 100.000 people died in the interethnic war in BiH from 1992 to 1995. Since then, the country has been divided between the Federation of BiH (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS), where the majority feels very close to “big brother” Russia. That is why BiH has not joined Western sanctions against Russia over the attack on Ukraine.
For centuries, Russia has maintained deep fraternal ties with Serbs in the Balkans – because of their common Slavic and Orthodox heritage and alliance during the world wars. The Kremlin saw NATO intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s – first in BiH and later against Serbia during the Kosovo war – as a humiliating provocation. Since then, Moscow has been trying to increase its influence on Bosnian Serbs.
In statements similar to Putin’s rhetoric ahead of the attack on Ukraine, Russia’s ambassador to Sarajevo warned of Moscow’s “reaction” if BiH joins NATO. The Kremlin does not recognize the international community’s High Representative for BiH, who monitors compliance with the peace agreement. Russia recently condemned growing attempts to rewrite the principles of the “agreement” in favor of the European Union (EU) and NATO and to the detriment of Bosnian Serbs.
“It is obvious that Russia has now openly broken with the West in BiH,” noted Florian Bieber, an expert on the Balkans at the University of Graz. The West’s “passivity” has contributed to the country’s instability, allowing Serbian leader Dodik to cross the red line several times over the years.
Washington imposed sanctions on Dodik in January, and then London followed (in April). The EU has refrained from taking punitive measures but has almost doubled its military presence in BiH to about 1.100 soldiers.
”A precaution,” as their commander, Austrian General Anton Wessely, explained. The Berlin Foreign Ministry is also considering re-sending Bundeswehr troops to BiH. Coalition circles recently said the Bundeswehr contingent could support the EU’s stabilization mission, EUFOR Althea, ahead of elections scheduled for October.