Since the end of the Bosnian War in 1995, Bosnia has been the focal point for peace in Europe. Nowhere else has it been more important to prevent a return to conflict. However, now, more than ever since the three decades of peace, the country is looking more and more like falling apart. The tripartite government set up by the Dayton Accord is failing and the ethnic groups are splitting further apart down dangerous lines. Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats, and Bosnian Serbs still live knowing what the war cost, and yet rumblings from inside the country suggest that a collapse is not impossible.
KJ 1: It is highly likely that the Republika Srpska will attempt a full secession in the next 12 months.
- In October 2021, Milorad Dodik announced the RS would withdraw from key national institutions. He proposed that the RS will remove itself from the judicial administration, the tax administration, and the Bosnian military. [source]
- In December 2021, the National Assembly for Republika Srpska voted in favour of initiating the procedure to withdraw from BiH institutions. RS is led by ultranationalist politicians who believe that Bosnian Serbs are being marginalised by the majority Bosniaks. [source]
- The war in Ukraine has delayed plans to secede which had support from Moscow. The political scene in BiH has turned towards the war in Ukraine with Dodik trying to stop BiH from joining sanctions. Dodik’s stance on the war mirrors that of Serbia, neutral. [source]
- However, if the war ends in Russia’s favour, there could be a shift towards more aggressive secessionist moves. With the backing of both Serbia and Russia, if both are free from conflict, they could serve as strong political allies to allow secession to go ahead. [source]
- Riots broke out in several towns in RS when Bosnian Serbs held an unconstitutional ceremony. The ceremony celebrates 30 years since RS’s foundation, but it is seen as discriminatory to non-Bosnian Serbs in RS. Participants of the parade sang nationalist and Islamophobic songs and carried banners of Ratko Mladić. Therefore, Bosnian Serbs felt that they were not allowed to celebrate their identity but many feel that it was a provocation. [source]
KJ 2: It is highly likely that only foreign intervention will prevent deterioration into war in the next 12 months.
- It is well known that NATO intervened to prevent further Serbian massacres and genocides against Bosniak Muslims. However, many Serbs feel that this was an injustice against Serbs and an indiscriminate massacre. Anti-western propaganda is rife in RS and many politicians feel that the west is protecting Bosniak Muslims and attempting a sort of Nazification of Bosnia. [source]
- Many in the west feel that Russia is trying to undermine European Unity. Another European war would distract the international community from Ukraine, stretch NATO and challenge the status quo. NATO’s inability to protect Ukraine and Bosnia, should war in Bosnia happen, could be seen as a weakness and bring about the fall of NATO. [source]
- To prevent war, the international community must invest in Bosnia and have a greater presence there. In the previous 10 years, there has been little investment from the EU, US and NATO, in trying to keep Bosnian politics in check. The Dayton Accord only drew lines and stationed soldiers, but it didn’t resolve the underlying divisions in Bosnian politics. [source]
- There are currently unresolved issues from the war. Croats are unsatisfied with their representations, of them being included in the institutions of the country. Serbs are unsatisfied with the limits on their autonomy. While Bosniaks are unsatisfied with the functioning of the central state. The leaders are unwilling to come together to talk about resolving Bosnia’s collective issues. [source]
KJ 3: It is likely that the war in Ukraine could spill over into the Balkans in the next 12 months.
- Russia has a vested interest in moving attention away from the war in Ukraine. If NATO and its allies must spread themselves to help in another war, then it becomes harder to focus on aid. This military aid has so far made it difficult for Russia to make any great advances into the heart of Ukraine. Weapon systems and huge monetary aid packages have helped Ukraine survive and even launch an offensive. [source]
- The Balkans has always been a highly unstable region. Bosnia currently mirrors Ukraine in its political environment. There is already vast Russian influence in the country and Russian support for RS is common knowledge. Although Russia doesn’t have a border with Bosnia, Serbia does and could be used to help move equipment across the border to help RS. [source]
- Similarly, Russia has threatened a similar move as Ukraine if Bosnia attempts membership to join NATO. Russia’s ambassador to Bosnia Igor Kalbukhov said that Ukraine serves as an example of what will happen to Bosnia if it seeks NATO membership. [source]
- However, The west is making an effort to prevent any such war from occurring. British military specialists have been sent over to counter Russian influence. Germany has sent over more peacekeeping troops after not doing so for a decade. EUFOR almost doubled its stationed peacekeeping troops in Bosnia after the war was declared on Ukraine over fears of a spill-over conflict occurring. [source]
- However, current fears concern the expiry of the UN Security Council mandate of EUFOR that runs out in November. It is predicted that Russia will use its veto to prevent EUFOR from staying in Bosnia. This would create a hugely tense atmosphere in Bosnia and allow RS to secede unchecked, and militarily should it necessitate. [source]
Intelligence Cut-Off Date 20 September 2022