NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed concerns about secessionist rhetoric in Bosnia and highlighted the influence of Russia in the country. The statements made by Serb leaders who are increasingly advocating for separation from Bosnia and joining Serbia have raised alarm within the alliance. Stoltenberg addressed the media in Sarajevo during his visit to the Western Balkans region.
Bosnia, a country that emerged from a devastating war between 1992 and 1995, is currently structured as a federation bringing together a Serb-dominated republic with a federation of Croats and Bosniak Muslims. Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Serbian entity, has recently intensified his calls for secession, fueling tensions within the country.
Stoltenberg emphasized that the secessionist and divisive rhetoric, along with foreign interference, including Russia’s involvement, undermines stability and obstructs reform efforts. He called on all political leaders to prioritize unity, the establishment of national institutions, and reconciliation.
Despite nearly three decades passing since the war that claimed 100,000 lives, Bosnia remains deeply divided, grappling with a stagnant economy and a significant emigration rate. In the aftermath of the war, NATO deployed approximately 60,000 troops in Bosnia, later replaced by the EU peacekeeping force, EUFOR, in 2004. Last year, EUFOR’s presence was nearly doubled to 1,100 troops due to concerns that the Ukraine conflict could spill over into the Western Balkans.
Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s strong support for and collaboration with the EUFOR mission, emphasizing that a security vacuum in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not acceptable. He conveyed this message after a meeting with Christian Schmidt, the international High Representative in Bosnia, whose position is not recognized by Bosnian Serbs due to their claims that his appointment lacked endorsement from the UN Security Council. Stoltenberg warned that any attack on Schmidt’s position would hinder the progress of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
NATO has repeatedly issued warnings about the risks stemming from foreign interference, specifically Russia’s role in Bosnia. The alliance has committed to helping bolster Bosnia’s defense capabilities to ensure its ability to protect itself. Stoltenberg reaffirmed NATO’s dedication to supporting Bosnia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, emphasizing that every country has the right to choose its security arrangements without any outside intervention. However, despite the initial commitment by the country’s leaders to NATO integration, the Bosnian Serbs, who favor closer ties with Russia, have withdrawn their support, effectively thwarting Bosnia’s ambitions to join the alliance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is secessionist rhetoric in Bosnia?
Secessionist rhetoric in Bosnia refers to the expressions and beliefs of certain political leaders in the country who advocate for the separation of specific regions from Bosnia and their integration into neighboring countries.
What is the concern about Russian influence in Bosnia?
The concern about Russian influence in Bosnia is rooted in the potential destabilization it may cause within the country. It includes political, economic, and societal influences that may disrupt internal unity and hinder the progress of reforms.
Why is unity important in Bosnia?
Unity is crucial in Bosnia because the country remains deeply divided along ethnic lines after the devastating war in the 1990s. The establishment of unity fosters stability, economic growth, and reconciliation among different ethnic and religious groups.
What role does NATO play in Bosnia?
NATO’s role in Bosnia is to support the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration and ensure its security. Following the war, NATO deployed troops to Bosnia, later replaced by the EU peacekeeping force, EUFOR. NATO continues to collaborate with EUFOR, aiming to prevent any security vacuum in the region.
What is the significance of the Bosnian Serbs’ withdrawal of support for joining NATO?
The Bosnian Serbs’ withdrawal of support for joining NATO halts Bosnia’s Atlantic integration ambitions. It reflects a shift in preference towards closer ties with Russia, which poses challenges to the unity and future trajectory of the country.