Milorad Dodik, the president of the BiH entity Republika Srpska, seems to be free to do whatever he wants, says David Kanin, a former senior analyst at the US Central Intelligence Agency and a former policy analyst at the Interagency Task Force on the Balkans during the wars of the 1990s.Kanin, however, believes that moves on the referendum or the secession of the RS entity from BiH, which Dodik has been talking about for a long time, would certainly provoke sanctions from the European Union.“Part of it will depend on his assessment of what the West is prepared to do, but it is also important to know that part of it will depend on what happens in Ukraine and how strong Russia is, and whether Orban will continue to support Dodik within the EU to prevent Brussels from taking certain steps,” Kanin said in an interview with Radio Free Europe (RSE).RSE: Milorad Dodik continued to challenge the central authorities in BiH, but also the international community. The latest laws passed by the National Assembly were aimed at ignoring and not applying the decisions of the Constitutional Court and the Office of the High Representative, but were stopped and annulled by the High Representative Christian Schmidt.Kanin: Two things. First, Dodik can do whatever he wants. The High Representative has indeed shown that he has no intention of stopping Dodik from doing anything. His statements mean nothing.Remember, too, that this is the High Representative who changed the electoral law in order to help the Bosnian Croats, just as he helped the Bosnian Serbs.He has moved away from that a little, but that does not matter, it has had its effect.Dodik’s laws were intended to seal off and separate Republika Srpska from the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina as hermetically as possible. That is what it is doing.As for independence, he has been threatening an independence referendum for years, but he never takes that step.He talks about secession, but he does not put it into concrete law.Now he has said that there could be a referendum on the status of the entity by the end of the year. That could happen this time.The pattern so far is that he is not aware of this last step. So far, he has not even had to, no one has called his bluff.Step by step, Republika Srpska is the only functional part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, remembering that it is a strongly Serb, nationalist entity within BiH, which has a weak, frankly dysfunctional central government, and a Bosniak-Croat entity, which is also dysfunctional and made up of two peoples “entangled” together, without either of them wanting to be with the other.Let Dodik do what he wants. There is no evidence that this is not the case.‘There is no sign that the West will do anything’RSE: What will happen if Republika Srpska does indeed hold a referendum on its status by the New Year? Will Washington allow full secession? What happens in this scenario? How do you think the US will react?Kanin: I don’t know. My belief is that the United States is not prepared to send troops. My belief is that the Europeans are not prepared to send troops. I think that if he really takes this step, if he organizes it, then he can keep it, probably with the result that he wants, and then he will have to decide whether to go through with secession or not.Frankly, there is no sign that the West is prepared to force it not to take the steps that it has taken so far, or the steps that it is threatening to take.Without a credible threat of force, sorry, but here we are, Dodik can do what he wants.The problem for Dodik is that, in this case, he will have to decide whether he really wants to separate completely from Bosnia and Herzegovina, or whether he really wants to take the step of imposing on himself the sanctions that the Europeans would certainly impose on BiH. RS.Part of this will depend on his assessment of what the West is prepared to do, but it is also important to remember that part of this will depend on what is happening in Ukraine and how strong Russia is, and whether Orban continues to support Dodik within the EU to prevent the EU from taking certain steps.There are many unpredictable things, but for the moment the situation on the ground is that Dodik has a choice.He decides how far to go. He decides on the balance between his rhetoric and his actions, without any threat that the West will do something, because there is no sign that the West will do anything.The question of the foundations of Bosnia and HerzegovinaRSE: The situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the moment seems somehow impossible, because whatever the High Representative or the Constitutional Court or anyone from the central government does, it seems that Dodik and the RS Assembly can question, deny, challenge. their authority.What is the solution in this situation, since Schmidt has given more powers to the judiciary with his latest expansion of the Penal Code for offences against the constitutional order, and we see that the Public Prosecutor’s Office does not seem to be dealing with these matters or acting effectively. What is the way out, is there a way out?Kanin: There is no way out within the Bosnian constitution. It is important to know, at least in my opinion, that this is not just a question of current events, but it goes all the way back to the building of Bosnia and Herzegovina.The Dayton agreement with Slobodan Milosevic was a diplomatic victory in the 1990s. On the basis of the 1974 Yugoslav constitution and the ten-year transition period in Yugoslavia after Tito’s death, it created a completely unworkable system.Building Bosnia and Herzegovina is impossible in itself.Dodik has managed to exploit the differences in the way the Republika Srpska is organised as a single, clearly Serbian, national entity, regardless of things like the Sejdić-Finci judgment and various laws, like the fact that Bosnjak has to be the Vice-President and all those things.The RS is clearly a Serbian, national entity.The rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina has no identity, no functioning government and no quarrelsome politicians.Even if they are not fighting, they have no chance of working effectively because of the structure of Bosnia and Herzegovina.In my opinion, there is no solution within the existing Bosnia and Herzegovina.The role of Serbia and the Kosovo issueRSE: What is actually the role of Serbia, Belgrade or, to go further, Russia in these moves by Dodik?Kanin: The Serbs have a functional link with Republika Srpska. Let us remember that Dodik and the Serbian President (Aleksandar) Vucic were not very close. Dodik supported (former Serbian President) Boris Tadic against Vucic.When things changed in 2012, Dodik established a functional relationship with Vucic. On Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vucic really does not have to do much. Dodik has the situation pretty much under control.This is very different from the situation in Kosovo, where, in some acute sense, things are much more out of control than in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including in that country.Russia is focused on Ukraine, but they are happy to see that the instability in the Balkans is having an impact on the West’s ability to act and on the perception of that same ability.Neither Serbia nor Russia has to do much, as things stand in Bosnia and Herzegovina, because Dodik is so successfully doing what he wants day in, day out, when it comes to his relationship with the dysfunctional rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the West.RSE: You mentioned Kosovo. With the situation as it is in the north of Kosovo, what would a new hotspot in the region mean not only for the security of the Balkans, but also for Europe?Kanin: It would certainly be much more dangerous for Balkan and European security. There is no indication that the West will be proactive enough and have any idea what to do to stop this.Not only will the West not react, but I believe that the West has no idea how to act. The EU and the US are full of rhetoric, they usually talk about constitutional reforms and all sides are at the table …But the West really does not know what to do. So there is a danger here.I really don’t know how far Dodik wants to take this, how far he wants to go, but, honestly, at the moment it seems that he can do whatever he wants because nobody is stopping him.The RS turns to China and RussiaRSE: He is one of the few European officials to have visited Putin in Moscow since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and officials of the RS entity are turning to China for funds and possible investment. How do you see the RS leadership’s view of the East?Kanin: Why not. China is an emerging power. They have certain advantages in the region that the US had a hundred years ago, if you look at history. China is far away and exotic and they are not a threat to anyone in the region.However, they are not the central player here.With the Russians, again, everything depends on Ukraine. The fact that Dodik is one of the few more famous people to be seen with Putin may be a bad thing if Russia loses the war in Ukraine, but it did not lose that war, however badly their army turned out.If Putin gets a piece, something like Dayton, or wins at the peace negotiating table, which he could not achieve on the battlefield, then both Putin and Russia win.This would be defined as an agreement that gives Russia control over a larger part of Ukraine than it had before February 2022, but the rest of Ukraine would not be able to join NATO.If these two things were part of the deal, especially if the parts that it had taken were given a special status, such as Donetsk and Lugansk, the parts that it took in 2014, if that happens, Russia wins, no matter how weakened it is by military action.If that happens, Dodik wins too.The events in Ukraine will have a real impact on Dodik’s relationship with Putin and on the wider issue of security in the Balkans.Sanctions as a tool of weaknessRSE: You mentioned in the interview that Dodik is under sanctions. He is on the US and British list, but not on the European Union list.Do you expect Brussels to follow Washington and London after the latest attacks on the Dayton constitution, and how do you view European officials such as the Hungarian President Viktor Orbán, whom you mentioned, who is actively opposed to sanctions?Kanin: Sanctions are a tool of weakness. That is all we are doing. It is what we do when we do not want to do anything else. Everybody knows that.I do not think that Dodik has been seriously affected by the sanctions to which he is subjected. If the EU were to impose sanctions, I do not think that would affect him very much either, because so much of his power comes from informal dealings, and the sanctions do not touch him that much.Again, as I have said, and as you have said, Orban has the option of staying in the EU if he wants to. What happens in Ukraine will also have an impact on how Orban behaves.He’s behaving very measuredly, I’d say. Although he said Ukraine could not win and all that, he did not do everything it could to cause problems in the EU. If it starts to look like Russia is going to win, Orban will have more options.The same applies to Dodik.