peacefare.net- Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been threatening withdrawal from the state's army, its taxation authority, its intelligence and law enforcement apparatus, and its judiciary. Dodik also denies the authority of the international community's High Representative, who under the Dayton agreements that ended the Bosnian war 26 years ago is responsible for their civilian implementation. If passed in the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament, or implemented without formal legislative approval, Dodik's moves would amount to secession, even if no declaration of independence is issued. Dodik appears to have the support of both Serbia and Russia, though there is some dissent within Serb ranks inside the RS.

" /> peacefare.net- Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been threatening withdrawal from the state's army, its taxation authority, its intelligence and law enforcement apparatus, and its judiciary. Dodik also denies the authority of the international community's High Representative, who under the Dayton agreements that ended the Bosnian war 26 years ago is responsible for their civilian implementation. If passed in the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament, or implemented without formal legislative approval, Dodik's moves would amount to secession, even if no declaration of independence is issued. Dodik appears to have the support of both Serbia and Russia, though there is some dissent within Serb ranks inside the RS.

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Western Balkans and EU News
25.10.21 | Opinions

[Opinion] Bosnia and Herzegovina: Time to stop the nonsense


By Daniel Serwer

Washington, 25 October 2021, dtt-net.com / peacefare.net - Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been threatening withdrawal from the state's army, its taxation authority, its intelligence and law enforcement apparatus, and its judiciary. Dodik also denies the authority of the international community's High Representative, who under the Dayton agreements that ended the Bosnian war 26 years ago is responsible for their civilian implementation. If passed in the Republika Srpska (RS) parliament, or implemented without formal legislative approval, Dodik's moves would amount to secession, even if no declaration of independence is issued. Dodik appears to have the support of both Serbia and Russia, though there is some dissent within Serb ranks inside the RS.

Last weekend in a visit to Belgrade Dodik ambiguously backed off his most extreme threats, as he has often in the past, but his overall goal remains clear: sovereignty and independence for Republika Srpska.

How should the US and EU react?

They should not be fooled. Dodik will be back with his threats. The West should not wait until Dodik gets the legislative approval he seeks or acts on his own. Prevention will be far better than cure when it comes to secession. Prevention requires a military move. The EU should move, as many have advised many times, all its 600 or so forces to Brcko, the northeastern Bosnian town that was the center of gravity of the last war and will be also of the next one. NATO should reinforce the EU with a few hundred US and UK troops, which in the Balkans is still an unequivocal signal of seriousness. Without Brcko, no RS move toward secession can succeed because the RS would be split into two disconnected wings and the land line of communication with Serbia cut.

Russia will try to prevent any move of this sort. Its best bet is to veto the UN Security Council authorization for the "Althea" European forces in Bosnia required in November. The US, UK, and EU will need to be prepared to keep their forces in Brcko whatever happens at the Security Council. While Dodik over the weekend backed off from demands that the Althea operation end, that should not fool anyone: NATO needs to make it clear it will stay in Bosnia and Herzegovina no matter what happens at the Security Council, whether in November or in six months. This can be done under authority granted by the Dayton agreements.

But the military move to Brcko will not be sufficient to end secession or the threat of secession quickly. The notoriously corrupt Dodik, already sanctioned by the US, should also be sanctioned by the EU. So too should any and all RS parliamentarians who support his defiance of the Dayton agreements, the High Representative's powers, or the authorities of the state (central) government. Republika Srpska owes its continued existence, after a war in which it faced imminent defeat, to the Dayton agreements. Its full cooperation with implementation of those agreements as well as the HiRep's decisions should be a sine quo non.

The West will also need to be prepared to deprive the RS government of sustenance. A secessionist entity should not benefit from any sovereign financing, including money flowing from the IMF, the World Bank, the EBRD, the EIB, and other lenders. The IMF's Rapid Financing Instrument, the IBRD, and the EU are providing upwards of $600 million to Bosnia and Herzegovina to deal with the consequences of the COVID epidemic. They need to be prepared to make the RS portion of those (and any other funds not yet transferred) evaporate. It will be especially important to zero out institutional budgetary support to the RS. Corridor Vc, a major highway being built north to south through Bosnia, will have to be re-evaluated.

RS withdrawal from Bosnia and Herzegovina's institutions would leave the country in constitutional and legal limbo. The only real options at that point would be reversion to the constitution of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, (which preceded the current constitution), implementation of the current constitution without reference to the RS, or reliance on the constitution of the 51% of the country governed as the Federation (which however has many features in common with the current dysfunctional constitution). I'm not enough of a legal beagle to know which would be best, but somehow the legal continuity of the sovereign Bosnian state would need to be ensured.

In the 1990s, Americans hoped for a Europe "whole and free." The NATO intervention in Bosnia was intended to ensure that hope was realized in the Balkans. But Serbia with Russian support has decided that not even the Balkans will be whole and free. Moscow and Belgrade are working to split the region between autocracy and democracy, or at least to cause instability. Republika Srpska, northern Kosovo, and Montenegro's Serb regions are all trying to peel off, with Russian and Serbian encouragement. If they succeed, they will eventually be absorbed into what Serbian President Vucic calls the "Serbian world," better known as Greater Serbia. This would be a serious defeat for liberal democracy and a triumph for Vladimir Putin. 

RS's independence ambitions, Serbia's territorial aspirations, and Russian destabilization efforts need to be countered. That will not be hard, if done sooner rather than later. It will require a few hundred troops in Brcko, tough sanctions, legal ingenuity, and a halt to RS financing. It is time to stop the nonsense.

(Daniel P. Serwer is a Professor of the Practice of Conflict Management as well as director of the Conflict Management and American Foreign Policy Programs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.  This opinion of his was originally published at his peacefare.net website.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of dtt-net.com )

25.10.21 | Opinions