If the West removes its focus from Bosnia, then the region could easily be embroiled in conflicts in which Russia would be involved on as a mediator.
This is stated in an analysis by the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC), an organization that has played a key role in the US foreign policy debate for four decades.
“The situation is fragile and burning. Bosnia is being held together by a peace deal that was not meant to last this long, and last-minute diplomatic efforts made in emergencies are unsustainable.” AFPC writes, TheGeopost reports.
If Washington and Europe leave Bosnia unattended, according to the analysis, this could result in a catastrophic reversal of the Dayton Accords, potentially leading to another major escalation of ethnic tensions and violence.
“It would also leave a window of opportunity for Russia to intervene and mediate a ceasefire, a scenario reminiscing the events in Nagorno-Karabakh a year ago, where Russia took over the mediation process between Armenia and Azerbaijan. “The end of that six-week war demonstrated Russia’s determination to maintain its central role in the conflicts near its border and its success in presenting itself as the only player capable of ending the war.”
The analysis concludes that “without control and balance from the West, there is no doubt that Russia will do the same in Bosnia.”
Otherwise, last month marked the 26th anniversary of the Dayton Accords, a monumental and controversial peace agreement that ended one of the most violent wars in the history of Southeast Europe. On November 21, 1995, the United States mediated the agreement that ended ethnic violence and the three-year genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina that exploded after the break-up of Yugoslavia. The Dayton Accords, signed by the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, set new conditions for the people of Bosnia, including a tripartite presidency that would represent each of the three main ethnicities: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. The agreements resulted in a relatively lasting peace.
For the first time since the signing, that peace is being severely threatened. Bosnia is now seeing its worst political crisis since Dayton in the form of secessionist threats from Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik. In recent weeks, Dodik has threatened to withdraw Bosnian Serbs from all central state institutions, including key ones such as the central tax authority, senior judicial institutions and, most importantly, the armed forces.
US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gabriel Escobar flew to Sarajevo in early November to meet with Bosnian presidents in a attempt to stabilize the situation. While the meeting itself seemed successful, as one anonymous senior Bosnian official noted, “it remains to be seen whether Dodik will fulfill his promise to stop his separatist initiative”.
“Bosnia and the Balkans,” the Bosnian official added, “need more than last-minute diplomatic offensives to achieve long-term stability; The region, long neglected by the West, is increasingly being used by Russia, China and Turkey for their geopolitical chess games. ”
While the mention of Russia is brief, the AFPC says it is a reference worth paying attention to.
“After all, it is no secret that the Kremlin considers Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs as allies. Immediately after the provocative announcement of Dodik’s secession, Russia threatened to veto the annual renewal of the EU peacekeeping mission if the references to the High Representative are not removed.”
Established as part of the Dayton Accords, the Office of the High Representative was intended to represent an EU peacekeeping force and a civilian executive mechanism for implementing peace in Bosnia. The High Representative was also tasked with supporting the Dayton Accords and defending Bosnia against extreme nationalism and secessionism.
The UN Security Council agreed with the Kremlin’s demands, reflecting increasingly divisive views on Dayton’s legacy and its effectiveness. By demanding the disbandment of the mission, Russia has not only eliminated a significant obstacle for Dodik and other secessionists, but has also undermined the implementation of a US-orchestrated peace deal.
According to the AFPC, Russia’s demands – and its success in achieving them – seem small, yet they represent a dangerous movement that threatens Western influence in both Bosnia and the rest of Eastern and Southeastern Europe.
“The lack of attention from the West in recent years, especially to Bosnia, has given powers like Russia more room to exert their influence. The break-up of Bosnia is also taking place against the background of two other important crises that are taking place in the region: the increase of migrants on the Polish-Belarusian border and the inexplicable military rise of Russia on its common border with Ukraine.”, states AFCP.