The former British Foreign Secretary warns: It sounds dramatic, but it is urgent to deploy troops in Brcko and at the airport in Tuzla, Dodik is approaching secession, urgent decisions and actions are needed!
The West must look into Vladimir Putin’s cold eyes and confront his tactics. The Balkans are a key place to start implementing this, says William Hague. Former British Secretary of State and former Conservative Party leader William Hague wrote in an article for The Times about the situation in BiH and stressed that tensions could push the whole of Europe into crisis.
At the beginning of the text, Hague referred to the current relations between European countries and Russia, emphasizing that Germany is one of the countries that has stumbled under Russian influence.
“There are two things I never forgot in my first meeting with Putin. One was that he had the coldest eyes I had ever seen, and the other was that he just wanted to sell us a lot of gas. Some of our allies were not resistant to this strategy. Germany has allowed the construction of Nord Stream 2, and the coalition that should form the new government is struggling in negotiations on this issue as well. Once Berlin agrees, Ukraine and others will be more exposed to Putin reducing pressure on the pipelines on which states depend. Every weak point of Western countries is being exploited.
Poland, alienated from its EU partners, is facing a cruel refugee crisis. Hungary lacks friends in Brussels, but finds them in Moscow. Tens of thousands of Russian soldiers are gathering at the border near Ukraine, and we must ask ourselves what can be done in this regard, writes Hague.
The former diplomat stressed that there are answers to each of these threats that the West can use against Russia. However, the key area for the West, a region in which it is necessary to oppose the disruption of stability, is the Balkans.
“History has shown many times that we ignore the dangers in the Western Balkans. It was the focus of 1914 and the scene of the bloodiest wars in Europe during the 1990s. Here, Russia has tried to thwart the aspirations of millions of people to live in stable and Western-oriented states.
Attempted coup d’etat in Montenegro, interventions in the referendum in Northern Macedonia and increasing pressure on political and business life in Serbia. To round out the chaos, the EU has closed its doors to further enlargement and the UK has lost influence through Brexit, the text said.
Hague stated that the West, including Great Britain, does not have the luxury of ignoring the events in the Balkans.
“Milorad Dodik has been undermining the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina for years with the active support of Russia and Serbia. For Moscow, this serves the purpose of blocking Euro-Atlantic integration. Bosnia would be like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, a country that has no chance of joining NATO or ever functioning as a normal country. In recent weeks, the situation has become serious. Dodik is approaching secession. He said he would raise an army of Bosnian Serbs, the very army responsible for the Srebrenica genocide. He is trying to use the weakness of the West to accelerate the crisis that leads to the redrawing of maps, with the territory that would be annexed to Serbia, according to the former diplomat.
He points out that such threats pose a direct challenge to the Dayton Accords.
“When someone can move the borders of states again on ethnic grounds, there are many more minorities whose location can be used as an excuse to move some other borders. No one should doubt that all this poses a threat to the security and stability of the European neighborhood. As I write this, EU foreign ministers are at least discussing the situation (text written before the Brussels meeting, op. Cit.). Last week, Christian Schmidt warned that BiH faces the greatest existential threat and that conflicts are a realistic possibility. His predecessor Paddy Ashdown did a brilliant job 20 years ago and has shown that deviating from Dayton will not be tolerated. He had the firm support of Western countries. In the years that followed, the EU opted for ‘dialogue’, which means calming down and weakness, the Hague text reads.
At the end of the text, the former leader of the Conservative Party also referred to the announcements that the British Foreign Minister Liz Truss will focus her work on the Western Balkans as well.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that Liz Truss will raise these issues when the NATO Foreign Ministers meet in Riga next month. However, some urgent decisions and actions are needed. Britain and the EU should join the United States in imposing sanctions on everyone who undermines Dayton. The West should reaffirm its support for the High Representative, supporting his legal authority to intervene directly to protect the country’s integrity, Hague said.
In the conclusion, he also referred to the necessity of sending NATO troops to BiH.
Small European military forces, better known as EUFOR, should be reinforced with NATO troops deployed in strategically important areas such as Brcko and Tuzla Airport. That sounds dramatic, but only strength and determination will take us away from the big troubles. The collapse in Afghanistan shows what happens when the West loses attention. The same cannot be allowed to happen within the European continent. The West must look into Vladimir Putin’s cold eyes and confront his tactics. The Balkans are a key place to start implementing this, Hague concluded.