Bosnia of two persuasions and Russian influence through Republika Srpska
Society in Bosnia and Herzegovina lives between two beliefs.
On the one hand, there are citizens who support the integration of this country in NATO and the EU, while on the other hand there are those who oppose this.
Consequently, by opposing NATO, that part of the Bosnian people acknowledges and welcomes Russian influence in the country.
According to a report by Dr. Rumena Filipova (Chairperson and Co-Founder at Institute for Global Analytics), a large percentage of Bosnian citizens show continued support for NATO integration.
“A majority of BiH’s citizens show consistent support for NATO integration. Yet, opposition has also stayed high (close to 40%). Support for NATO in 2020 reached 57%. Moreover, 38% of the population in 2019 said that full NATO membership would serve BiH’s future best. In 2020, not only did this share increase to 48%, but also the number of those who think that BiH shouldn’t have “any relationship with NATO at all” decreased (from 23% to 20%).”
Based on these statistics, Russia is doing what it can to extend its influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
One of the main areas of Russian influence in the country is the media.
Russian influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina extends through Republika Srpska (RS), which operates under Serbian directives.
“Russia’s media influence in BiH is concentrated in RS. Rather than committing to direct media ownership, Russia relies on its political and economic support for the long-serving president of RS, Milorad Dodik. Dodik, in turn, exerts control over local media outlets through politically-motivated legal attacks against critical outlets and selective funding for loyal ones.” ,the report states.
Pro-Russian narratives can often be seen and heard in some media in BiH, specifically in RS. These media are mainly those that serve divisive and malicious policies and ideologies.
“Sputnik’s Serbian edition represents an outlet that is directly owned by the Kremlin. As a result of language similarities between the countries in this region, Sputnik Serbian edition’s online news and radio shows are freely consumed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
RTRS is the most influential media outlet in Republika Srpska (RS). The outlet’s political ties with Russia are reflected in the close relations between the RS government and Russia, i.e., Dodik and Putin.
Glas Srpske shows no evidence of direct ties, neither political nor financial, with Russia. However, the outlet is owned by Nezavisne Novine, a newspaper of Željko Kopanja, who is considered to be a close ally of Milorad Dodik and the ruling SNSD party.”
The above statistics from Dr. Filipova’s report clearly show the difficulties faced by Bosnian society (in terms of pro-Russian pressure), despite the fact that many of them have a Euro-Atlantic conviction.