ISSN 2330-717X

Russia Establishes Its Modus Operandi In Bosnia and Herzegovina – Analysis

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The latest session of the UN Security Council only reaffirmed once again the crisis caused in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the actions of the Serb Member of the BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik (SNSD) with the assistance of the Russian Federation.  At the same time, no concrete solutions and conclusions were offered nor attempts made to prevent separatist actions aimed to annul the Dayton[2] peace agreement and destroy the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There is a silent generally accepted opinion that “an armed conflict of low intensity is possible in BiH”, which is an indication that the strongest global powers have already developed their military plans as well. Once again, aconflict in BiH would be an international conflict- this time with the assistance of NATO and the Russian Federation. In fact, the prolongation of introduction of concrete measures that would provide for political elimination and criminal processing of Milorad Dodik and several of his “executors” is a proof of the seriousness of the situation. Bosnia and Herzegovina could become a new hotspot, which could endanger the security of entire Europe. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) used the last US Presidential elections and introduced the “gas-dependence” of the EU from Russia, initiated an agreement with China and sent Christian Schmidt (CSU) to the position of the High Representative in BiH, knowing that he will not get the support of the sides with which she had just previously made a deal. 

Why would the US now directly engage in “unraveling“ of the position of the High Representative in BiH with Russia, when it had yielded this issue to Germany, supported it, to even sacrifice Ukraine, and gave it supremacy in the management of the West Balkans. “Thanks to” Merkel, the Balkans has been or will be handed over to Russia. Now, it is a major unknown what the US negotiators sent by the US Administration can do in BiH. The “Western powers” and NATO still have a qualified supremacy over Russia with respect to the West Balkans, and particularly in BiH. Direct negotiations taking place in Moscow between Russia and the US, including their intelligence communities, could give in the future the answers for the West Balkans as well.

Russia is establishing its modus operandi in BiH 

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Russia is using Milorad Dodik to lay the basis for its future operations in BiH. In fact, it is currently accelerating its respective efforts being aware that removal of Dodik by the EU and US would mean suspension of such activities for a period of time. The “Russian Humanitarian Center” from Niš (Serbia) has been moved to Republika Srpska (BiH), because Russia has obtained its military representative office within the framework of the Serbian Ministry of Defense. Therefore, the initiated infrastructure construction projects in Republika Srpska for the requirements of Russia are now being intensified. Namely, there are several infrastructure construction projects underway for which it is believe that they could be used in the future as the basis for establishment of a Russian military base in Republika Srpska. On a number of locations in Republika Srpska, the Russian Orthodox Church is establishing its infrastructure, which in many segments reminds of military infrastructure. The respective works are directly managed by the Russian Ambassador in BiH Igor Kalabuhov

Analysts believe that with the arrival of the new Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Porfirije the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church has increased. The “visits” and travels by Patriarch Porfirije all over the territory of the independent and sovereign state of BiH are brought into connection with the activities of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Milorad Dodik’s activities on dissolution of BiH. In BiH, Patriarch Porfirije acts as a host and does not show respect for the legal institutions of BiH and other religious communities, particularly the BiH Islamic Community. It is astonishing that Patriarch Porfirije had organized a reception in the Congregational Church in Sarajevo without having previously met with the local church/religious dignitaries in BiH, Archbishop of Vrhbosna Cardinal Vinko Puljić and the Head of the BiH Islamic Community Reis-ul-ulema Husein Kavazović and established mutual relations with them. The question to be asked is  how would the Republic of Serbia respond if the Archbishop of Zagreb Cardinal Josip Bozanić  and Reis-ul-ulema of the BiH Islamic Community would frequently visit Serbia without communicating with the Serbian Orthodox Church in Serbia and official Serbian authorities.  The silence of the BiH Islamic Community is also surprising. 

For quite some time already, Russia has also been using Dodik to establish an intelligence structure independent of Serbia. The presence of Russian intelligence officers in Republika Srpska has been noted and monitored. Their task is to prepare the ground for separation of Republika Srpska from Bosnia and Herzegovina. The apparatus that has been established is focused, inter alia, on the defense industry in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) – specifically, the research into whether the FBiH has hidden military reserves to be used in case of a conflict. The only unknown for Russia is how NATO would respond, because the Dayton Constitution gives NATO the option to intervene. While Russia can stop EU and the US in the United Nations, as well as make gas-related conditions with respect to BiH and West Balkans, it remains a major unknown for Russia what would be NATO’s immediate response in case of attempt of secession by Republika Srpska, which is the most important assessment for the Russian policy. 

Annexes 1A and 1B to the Dayton peace accords are very clear. Annex 1A, Article I, Item b) reads that it is understood and agreed that NATO may establish a military force, which will operate under the authority and subject to the direction and political control of the North Atlantic Council (NAC) through the NATO chain of command. They undertake to facilitate its operations. The Parties, therefore, hereby agree and freely undertake to fully comply with all obligations set forth in this Annex.

The termination of relations between Russia and NATO further opened the possibility for a military engagement of NATO in BiH in case of implementation of the actions that Milorad Dodik is conducting in accordance with the instructions from Russia. Russia risks disappearance of Republika Srpska not just through a military intervention by NATO, but also a return to the Constitution of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is envisaged by the Dayton peace agreement. The sale of the Russian national Sberbank in the region should be viewed in the context of current developments. 

Strategic move by Serbia in UN

Serbia drew a strategic move through its Ambassador to the UN Nemanja Stevanović, who at the session of the UN Security Council called on Milorad Dodik to return to the institutions of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dodik is drawing Serbia into major uncertainty and positions it as the exclusive player of Russia. 

Analysts believe that in case of a conflict in BiH, Serbia would suffer the biggest damage, because it would be exposed to western sanctions. NATO would deploy its troops to the Drina River and Serbia would not be able to provide any support to Republika Srpska.  However, at the same time it would be under pressure, both internally and externally, to get militarily involved in the armed conflict, which would lead to internal unrests and possible conflicts within Serbia, as well as opening of the issue of Sandžak and the Preševo Valley. The most probable option that could occur this time is that the armed conflict spills over to the territory of Serbia. 

Croatia a Russian hostage 

President of the Croatian Democratic Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZBiH) Dragan Čović, as well as the official Croatian policy are hostages of Russia, which masterfully uses Croatian financial dependence on Russia. 

Analysts believe that the Republic of Croatia is politically closer to Russia than to the US. The Republic of Croatia currently has the strongest connections with France through which it ensures its position within the EU. It is through France that Croatia distributes its (dis)information against Bosnia and Herzegovina and scares EU members with the alleged “Islamic terrorism”, which is purportedly present in BiH. 

The agreement that Čović and Dodik signed under the patronage of Russia and in which they defined their orientation “against unitarization of BiH”, is actually an agreement that is based on the  Karađorđevo agreement from 1991, which had been brokered by Slobodan Milošević (SPS) and Franjo Tuđman (HDZ). Regardless of the Russian arming of Serbia, analysts believe that the Republic of Croatia is more dependent on and has stronger connections with Russia that Serbia does. 

The option of formal establishment of the so-called Croat Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia (HRHB) through the election law is a mission impossible for both Croatia and Russia. Any armed conflict in BiH would hamper tourism in Croatia, which amounts to more than 20% of the GDP of the country. 

Turkish role in resolution of the situation in BIH is “unnecessary” 

Calls by Serb and Croat politicians for Turkey to get involved in the resolution of the crisis in BiH should be observed in the context of the conflicts between Turkey and the US, that is Turkey and the EU. In fact, such an option would suit well the Serb, Croat and primarily the Russian policy. Specifically, to have BiH discussed outside the framework of the Dayton peace accords- without the US and EU. Such calls put Turkey in a position of a neutral observer when it comes to BiH. The goal of the Serb, Croat and Russian policy is actually to involve Turkey in the negotiations without the US and EU, and/or to euthanize the Turkish policy towards BiH with the aim of easier division of BiH. Bearing in mind the power that Turkey has in the current constellation of relations, for the designers of division of BiH a political engagement of Turkey exclusively on the side of “Bosnian forces” would be very dangerous. The so-called “pro-Bosnian force”, which are predominantly Bosniak, are with no idea, concept or a clear friend in the world. The support to BiH that is unambiguous and comes from the US, Great Britain and the strongest EU members is not directly linked to the so-called “pro-Bosnian” forces, but is a product of earlier relations and the current destructive approach by Russia to BiH. The support by the “West” does not mean also support to the pro-Bosnian forces, which do not have an answer for the crisis going on in BiH. The relation of the Islamic world towards BiH is of specific concern. However, the primary concern is the absence of direct communication of the “pro-Bosnian forces” with the strongest Western leaders, who would unambiguously and directly stand in defense of BiH, and not just through conclusions adopted through the UN system and within EU institutions, which essentially mean little other than declarative support. 

According to analysts, in case of endangerment of BiH and the Bosniak-Muslim population in BiH, which includes around 2 million people on the EU territory with a population of almost 450 million, dozens of thousands of fighters- stationed in Turkey and coming from surrounding states- would come from Turkey. Hence, in the future, the barbed wire towards the EU would be crossed by armed “refugees” from BiH, and not economic refugees/migrants with mobile phones and some stashed money, who are beaten up at EU borders. Re-endangerment of BiH and Bosniaks-Muslims in the heart of Europe would once again galvanize parts of Muslim societies not just on the East, but also in EU countries. 

Intensive activities in the background 

According to verified information, the US will try to use the UN system for the prevention of genocide, including the International Criminal Court. (ICC). 

Prevention of genocide implies military actions as well, which would be supported by international and UN courts. “Upstream prevention” will be used as an attempt to avoid the previous situation, such as the one with bombing of Serbia by NATO. Hence, other UN and international mechanisms will be used, including international criminal prosecution and limited military intervention. Specifically, the Dayton peace agreement and the above-mentioned annexes provide for a NATO military operation, which would be combined with actions conducted through the UN. Primarily the use of early warning mechanisms, but also the UN General Assembly -in order to avoid the Russian and Chinese veto in the UN Security Council. In this context, the engagement of the UN and US in the documentation process for the use of mechanisms for the prevention of genocide is now in an intensive research phase. In addition to Dodik, names of individuals known for their previous crime-related and criminal activities, such as Nenad Stevandić (US), as well as some names from the region and the EU, also feature on the lists of leading global powers. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (Fidesz) is currently in the focus of the current US adminsitration. 

Anticonstituional activities 

Milorad Dodik violates the BIH Constitution and his current activities are anti- constitutional. 

Article 3 of the BiH Constitution[3]  reads “Bosnia and Herzegovina shall consist of the two Entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska”, which is not an independent country, nor had it legally existed prior to the Dayton peace agreement. As for the “transfer of competencies”, Article V, paragraph (4), related to the BiH Council of Ministers, deals with the appointment and competencies of the BiH Council of Ministers and stipulates that “the Chair shall nominate a Foreign Minister, a Minister for Foreign Trade, and other Ministers as may be appropriate,” which indicates that the number of ministries in the BiH Council of Ministers can be more than three. 

Paragraph (1), Article III of the BiH Constitution lists the responsibilities of BiH institutions as follows:

a. Foreign policy.

b. Foreign trade policy.

c. Customs policy.

d. Monetary policy, as provided in Article VII.

e. Finances of the institutions and for the international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

f. Immigration, refugee, and asylum policy and regulation.

g. International and inter-entity criminal law enforcement, including relations with Interpol.

h. Establishment and operation of common and international communications facilities.

i. Regulation of inter-entity transportation.

j. Air traffic control.

Article 3, paragraph (5) of the BiH Constitution, is related to additional competencies. It provides the basis for establishment of the existing ministries in the BiH Council of Ministers and agencies at the state level. 

It lists the following additional competencies:  

a. Bosnia and Herzegovina shall assume responsibility for such other matters as are agreed by the Entities; are provided for in Annexes 5 through 8 to the General Framework Agreement; or are necessary to preserve the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence, and international personality of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in accordance with the division of responsibilities between the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Additional institutions may be established as necessary to carry out such responsibilities.

b. Within six months of the entry into force of this Constitution, the Entities shall begin negotiations with a view to including in the responsibilities of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina other matters, including utilization of energy resources and cooperative economic projects.

Hence, the BiH Constitution is very clear. The US and EU should, with the assistance of the BiH Office of the Prosecutor and the opposition in Republika Srpska, which believes that an attempt needs to be made to return to the entity through the prescribed procedure the competencies that had been transferred to the state of BiH, criminally process Milorad Dodik and his cronies for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order of BiH. The empty and political stories by EUFOR Commander, Austrian Major General Alexander Platzer[4], that the Dayton agreement does not envisage the Armed Forces of BiH should be a sufficient cause for his prompt removal, as these are not just political statements, but also statements that undermine the constitutional-legal order of BiH. In the opinion of Russia and Milorad Dodik, at some point EUFOR could be deployed to the imaginary boundary line with the Federation of BiH. 


[1] IFIMES – The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, has a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)/UN since 2018.

[2] Source: Dayton Peace Agreement, link: https://propisi.ks.gov.ba/sites/propisi.ks.gov.ba/files/opci_okvirni_sporazum_za_mir_u_bosni_i_hercegovini.pdf

[3] Source: Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, link: https://www.ustavnisud.ba/public/down/USTAV_BOSNE_I_HERCEGOVINE_bos.pdf

[4] Source: Der Standard »Eufor-Kommandeur Platzer sieht stabile Sicherheitslage in Bosnien-Herzegowina«, link: https://www.derstandard.at/story/2000130860114/eufor-kommandeur-platzer-sieht-stabile-sicherheitslage-in-bosnien-herzegowina?ref=rss

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IFIMES

IFIMES – International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council ECOSOC/UN since 2018. IFIMES is also the publisher of the biannual international scientific journal European Perspectives. IFIMES gathers and selects various information and sources on key conflict areas in the world. The Institute analyses mutual relations among parties with an aim to promote the importance of reconciliation, early prevention/preventive diplomacy and disarmament/ confidence building measures in the regional or global conflict resolution of the existing conflicts and the role of preventive actions against new global disputes.

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