Interview with Former Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Russia Enver Halilovic (Part 1)
The Geopost: What is the cooperation between Russia and far-right parties in Europe, how do you see it and how do you comment on it?
Halilovic: There is no close or official cooperation between right-wing parties in Europe, European Union countries on one hand and Russian right-wing organizations and political parties on the other, and I make a very serious remark here. It is very difficult to say which political parties in the Russian Federation are mainly right-wing, because the ruling party in Russia is a kind of right-wing nationalist orientation. So these strained relations between Russians in one hand and the other the right-wing European parties on the other, develop in a way that feed each other with opposing views.
Right-wing parties in the Russian Federation, on the one hand, develop a Euro-skepticism, by developing the idea of Russia’s self-sufficiency by finding and seeking support for such an attitude among right-wing parties in the European Union.
One party that is right-wing in the Russian Federation, but which does not have the right-wing name, is the Liberal Party, led by Zhirinovsky, a very extreme political party whose echo, ideology and attitudes that are programmed and represented, clash with the opposite person on the other hand, and very often a political stance, the stance of mutual disapproval is manifested in this way.
The Geopost: What is Russia’s influence in the Balkans throughout history?
Halilovic: It is a long history, where it can be said that today’s Russian Federation is the former Tsarist Russia. Since the period of Tsarist Russia and the Ottoman Empire, Russia has a presence in the Balkans. In that context it may be necessary to mention as a historical fact, the famous peace treaty reached by Tsarist Russia with the Ottoman Empire, which gave Tsarist Russia the right after that agreement to represent the so-called Slavic Orthodox people in Balkans in the Ottoman Empire. This can be taken as the beginning of the presence of the present Russian Federation in the Balkans. This agreement came after the war between then Russia and the Ottoman Empire and that war was subsequently lost by the Ottoman Empire, and as a result of that, a forced peace treaty was made, and the Ottoman Empire granted a certain kind of patronage over the Slavic Orthodox people in the Balkans in terms of representing the expression of attitudes and their position in the Ottoman Empire.
Later, it all expanded and all the wars in the Balkans were supported by Russia, where the orthodox states in the Balkans were in the war against the Ottoman Empire, the slogan was then very pronounced “For the honorable cross and the holy freedom”, was a form of orthodox war in the Balkans against the Ottoman Empire.
Russia’s defensive attitude towards Slavic peoples, mainly Orthodox, is present and continues from history to the present day. This is a constant prove that the relations between the Russian Federation and the Balkans exist. Russia played a very important role in the liberation of Serbia from German rule and thus entered Belgrade and liberated almost all of Serbia.
The Russian Federation has been present in the Balkans since ancient times and the reason for this should be sought in the fact that since then Russia has seen itself as the third Rome and an entire doctrine of Russia as the third Rome has been developed, as a successor of the Byzantine Empire and on this basis Russia even today almost claims to have the right to protect the Orthodox population in the area that was once under the Byzantine Empire. In connection with all this, it is very important to point out one fact and that is that Slavic orthodoxy survived, largely thanks to the Ottoman Empire.
Russia has often used Serbia and Serbs to provoke wars in the Balkans.
The Geopost: How do you think history will flow now?
Halilovic: Interests are always what determine politics, and they can not be excluded or eliminated when it comes to Russia and Serbia, Russia’s internal affairs can not be excluded through Serbia’s own politics.
I do not think it is a matter of deception that Russia is trying to drag Serbia into a conflict so that it can take advantage and then back off from it all. Russia has a centuries-old positive attitude towards Serbia, there are centuries-old ties between Serbia and Russia. If you observe any historical event regarding Serbia or the Balkans as a whole, you will see that in every situation there has always been a Russian presence in the Balkans.
Today, this doctrine is present through two concepts – through the concept of the Russian world and through the concept of the Serbian world, these two concepts were created by two writers. In Russia, the term was coined by Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn with his essay “Reconstruction of Russia”, which he wrote after returning from exile from Western Europe to Russia, and that was the year when Putin took power in the Russian Federation, when the collapse of the Soviet Union happened and when many variants were opened as to which direction the Russian Federation should go further. Stolzhenitsyn’s position prevailed that the Russian Federation should focus mainly on the so-called Russian world and on the under Russian world which means Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and the Russians in Kazakhstan. The Russians in Kazakhstan are an important entity of the population. Later on this doctrine was based on an agreement between Belarus and the Russian Federation, like this war, the new occupation of Ukraine in Donbas, Donetsk and Crimea, because especially Donbass and Donetsk are the area of Ukraine where a large number of inhabitants live, who declare and feel like Russians, it is in fact the Russian occupation of that area, the creation of that unique Russian world.
The Serbian idea in the Serbian world is nothing but a copy of the Russian idea in the Russian world. The interest of Serbian politics is directed towards Bosnia and Herzegovina. The strategy that was adopted in 2011, when it was the government of Boris Tadic, then the document entitled “Strategy of relations between Serbia and the Serbian people in the region” was adopted. It does not matter which party is in power in Serbia, the doctrine of Greater Serbia is something that is constant in the Serbian government as a whole. This relationship has occurred to date, in a special way in Serbia’s relations with neighboring countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo.
The Geopost: How do you explain the closeness of Dodik and Putin?
Halilovic: In 2006, I participated in the Petrograd Forum as the ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Moscow, which was also attended by Lavrov and Dodik, who was then acting Prime Minister in the Government of Republika Srpska. I also published it as a document in my book, which proves that Dodik was then empowered, encouraged, supported in the separatist projects of Republika Srpska in 2006, and since then these relations have become very close. Since in their meeting I expressed disagreement and dissatisfaction with their conversation, which was contrary to the interests of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I was not invited to these meetings anymore, although it is a mandatory diplomatic rule, a mandatory norm that the ambassador of the country whose citizen or official comes to visit the country in which the ambassador serves, is obliged to be present. I have not been to those meetings since then, but it is seen that this relationship is now very pronounced. The Russian Federation has a very serious experience when it comes to supporting such formations, i.e. for communities such as Republika Srpska.
The Geopost: What happened that Lavrov accepted Dodik and the whole policy towards Bosnia and Herzegovina changed?
Halilovic: It is only a consequence of all this history and all this explanation of mine, with all these reasons I mentioned, it is necessary to add one more fact, and this is that the Russian Federation must keep the tensions in the Balkans at those points wherever it is possible because of the European Union, so that these areas do not enter the European Union and the NATO alliance, destabilize it politically and stop the enlargement of the European Union, because Russia sees the enlargement of the European Union as a danger in itself and that is why it is an additional reason why the Russian Federation supports conflicts and separatist processes wherever possible in the Balkans, not only in Bosnia, but also in Montenegro. Russia has its own diplomatic reasons, it seeks to create a new order.
It is working with China to create a multipolar system, to emerge as a single world, not just a regional, political, military and economic player, but a world player to stop the presence of liberal capitalism in a part of the European space, in the so-called Eurasian space, to which Russia has a special right. This is the diplomatic factor and reason, the basic fact from which all this emerged, this last era, especially after the arrival of Putin and the subsequent establishment of Putinism as one of the models of leadership and political action. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Russian Federation, thanks to some conflicts that existed in oil-rich areas, exported large amounts of energy to Europe and in a short time provided money to repay all debt to the internationals, ie The World Bank and the International Fund. It managed to repay the funds owed by the Soviet Union to the International Bank. There was indeed economic development during Putin’s first two terms. This gave a new strength to the Russian Federation. Economic power has produced a new impact.
At that time, a barrel of oil cost from 120 to 140 dollars, those were high prices, oil was bought in large quantities, then the special fund was created in the Russian Federation from the sale of oil, and which of course influenced and encouraged military development , the development of the military industry in Russia. Russia has a tradition of technical development, that has created a force, it produced a new political and social and geopolitical situation. China has become competitive with the United States.