McCain Institute's Farkas: We have responsibility to stay engaged in Bosnia

NEWS 20.01.2023 13:52

In an interview for N1, the executive director of the McCain Institute and former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Evelyn Farkas analyzes the war in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin's chances of winning, the aid that we have seen the West send to Ukraine, but also how the political situation in the US could affect aid Ukraine. Farkas, who has known Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Balkans since the 1990s, also warns of the possibility of destabilization of the Balkans not only by Russia but also by other actors on the international scene.

N1: We know that the first group of Ukrainian soldiers has arrived in the United States to begin training on Patriot systems. Many say that Patriot will change the situation on the field. But you also hear from Ukraine that they want to have more tanks. We have this situation with Chancellor Scholz who is undecided whether to send the Leopards or not. What is your assessment? Would it significantly change the situation if they had, for example, Bradley's and Leopards, other tanks that Europe and the United States promise will come.

EVELYN FARKAS: Well, first of all, I think it's important to recognize that there are two fronts in this war. There is a physical front, a military physical front I would say primarily in the south and east. There's a lot of trench warfare there. Ukrainians need armored vehicles. Honestly, it doesn't matter what brand the tanks are, what country they come from, but they need capable armor in order to take advantage and go on the offensive, and push the Russians out of their positions. It will not be easy to do because, of course, I repeat, when you are rooted, you have some advantage. The other area of warfare, if you will, the arena of warfare is unfortunately, because of the way the Russians fight, in violation of all the Geneva Conventions and human rights laws, that they target civilians. Patriots are extremely helpful in protecting civilians from Russian missile and artillery attacks. This is important because, of course, the Russians want nothing more than to create a huge flow of refugees to Europe and elsewhere, to cripple the will of Ukraine, the will of the Ukrainian people as well as the will of the international community to support Ukraine. So the Patriot missile defense system, any, sorry, Patriot air defense system, any air defense system that we give to Ukraine is also incredibly important to them in terms of maintaining their will and emerging victorious in the end.

N1: We know that the administration has probably the largest possible number of people who are experts on the Western Balkans, starting with President Biden, down the line to the Secretary of State and everyone else who has served, from the Clinton administration, from the Obama administration, now from the Biden administration. However, what we see here in the region, people are a little bit frustrated that middle or lower level officials are coming. We don't see top-level officials, for example, like the secretary of state, come here, or the defense minister come to the region and give some reassurance to people who are afraid that Putin or someone else will try to destabilize the region. Should more of them come here to the region?

EVELYN FARKAS: Well, on the one hand, I'd say it's a compliment that they don't feel an urgent need to come, because they're all showing up in a country, in Europe, where war is raging, which is Ukraine. So I think that's a compliment. But on the other hand, of course, if they could make time in their schedules. However, I don't think you need the Secretary of State or the Minister of Defense, any high official to remind the Balkans that basically countries like Bosnia, that they are part of the community of democracies and we stick together. As a federation, Bosnia agreed to support certain democratic principles and to work on reforming its democracy. In turn, we are also committed to helping Bosnia. Of course, we helped establish your current political system and as much as it needs to be improved, that's also something we should help Bosnia with, whether it's culturally or actually institutionally. So I believe we have a responsibility in the West to stay engaged in Bosnia. We can't ignore Bosnia, but I wouldn't say that a visit or two is necessarily what you need. What we really need in terms of helping Bosnia move forward is real attention from the lower levels, frankly, the middle and lower levels, where there is a real program, real ideas, real efforts, maybe even in the private sector, but real initiatives, even maybe and from the states themselves within the USA, if you will, to work directly with the Bosnians and the Bosnian government. So not necessarily high-level visits, but real work.



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