The situation in Ukraine and the crisis in Bosnia can not be compared because Russia has a different goal in the Western Balkans - to destabilize Europe in its “soft underbelly”, former foreign ministers of Croatia and BiH, Vesna Pusic and Zlatko Lagumdzija, told N1.
Pusic said that it is “neither politically nor diplomatically wise” to ignore Russia, a huge and important power in Europe and Asia. She argued that Russia’s behaviour in the Balkans and its extreme activities regarding Ukraine are the results of a desire to re-establish itself as an unavoidable factor.
She said that the political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Ukraine crisis are very different due to the geopolitical situation.
“The realization of the plan of semi-autonomous regions in Ukraine is something that has been discussed and decided, it is the usual Russian modus operandi,” she said, arguing that Russia has already done this in Moldova and Georgia.
Pusic said that Russia is working towards the destabilisation of the Western Balkans and that it has the “players” that it supports in BiH, Montenegro, Serbia and North Macedonia.
“The Balkans is the soft underbelly of Europe, it is surrounded by Europe. The purpose of their meddling here is to emphasize their importance as partners in talks and agreements with the West. They have no ambition to appropriate the Balkans in any way as they do with the countries they border,” she said.
Pusic argued that no former Yugoslav republic was in the sphere of Russian interest in such a sense but that, given that the geographical position of the region, “it is the only place where they can act so directly because these six countries are not members of the EU but can truly destabilize Europe,” she said.
She also argued that talks on stability in BiH should rather be conducted with Russia as a party as opposed to the leaders of the strongest ethnic political parties in Bosnia and that this should be done by key EU countries.
The efforts by BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik to withdraw Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity from state institutions and to set up parallel ones are only possible due to Russia’s support, she said.
“There is no Dodik without Russia, there is nothing to talk about with him,” she said.
Lagumdzija said that a solution similar to the one in BiH would be absolutely unacceptable for Ukraine, arguing that Kyiv would never agree to have entities similar to Bosnia’s Republika Srpska, which has veto powers under the Dayton Peace Agreement and Constitution.
“The possibilities for the secessionists here and there are very different, although the methods are the same. They can't do anything here, and even where there are 150,000 troops they can’t do anything,” he said, arguing that even 2,000 western troops deployed in Brcko in Bosnia would represent a “nightmare” for Dodik.
He argued that the moment Dodik loses power, “his main goal will be to get to Mahovljani airport and go to Moscow.”
The former Bosnian Foreign Minister said that it is now very important that the West – the EU and the US – show unity, and that the next item on their agenda after the Ukraine crisis should be resolving the issue of the Western Balkans.
“This is the right moment to bring all this to an end,” he said, referring to Bosnia’s Euro-Atlantic integration process.
“We need a more active role of the United States here, and above all, of the EU,” he said.
The most important thing now is that the international community makes it clear that there will be no war in BiH and that “whoever starts a war will violate the Dayton Peace Accords and the NATO pact will stop anyone who embarks on such an adventure,” he said.
However, Lagumdzija said he fears that the “semi-warlike atmosphere” in the country could be created deliberately in order for those in power to win another mandate in the upcoming general elections, which are set for October.
“That is why it should be stopped in every way possible,” he said.