Bosnian Serb leader Dodik bold over sanctions as stress flare

United States sanctions troubled Milorad Dodik recently have actually highlighted the moving viewpoint about the Bosnian Serb leader in western capitals — and the resurgent risk of ethnic stress in the Balkans.

Dodik was very first chosen as Bosnian Serb leader more than 20 years earlier, in the wake of peace treaty that ended Europe’s most dangerous dispute considering that the 2nd world war. He was seen in the west as a figure efficient in assisting Bosnia — divided in between a Serb-managed entity and another controlled by Croats and Bosniaks — move beyond its sectarianism.

But the progressively nationalist political leader has actually depicted the 1995 Dayton peace treaty as a car of western interests. He has actually boycotted Bosnia’s organizations considering that July and wishes to end Bosnian Serb co-operation on matters such as defence, tax and judicial affairs. The possibility of what in result would be a quasi-secession has actually stimulated global cautions of the danger of restored ethnic violence.

Last week, Washington relocated to freeze possessions connected to Dodik in the United States for declared “destabilising and corrupt activities” jeopardising the Bosnian peace procedure. This week, the EU threatened to do the same with its own punitive procedures, condemning “inflammatory rhetoric” at questionable events kept in Bosnia’s Serb-controlled area on January 9.

Bosnian Serbs commemorate an outlawed vacation with a parade in Sarajevo on January 9 © AP

Dodik, who has actually drawn closer to rulers consisting of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, has actually reacted with defiance.

“If they think they will discipline me they are hugely mistaken,” he informed state tv RTRS after the United States sanctions. “I even have a new motive to fight for the rights that are being wrestled from us for 26 years.”

The Dayton arrangement split Bosnia into the self-governing Serb Republic and the Federation, controlled by Croats and Bosniaks, with the 2 connected by a weak main federal government. Serbs comprise about 1.3m of Bosnia’s 3.3m individuals. International oversight has actually avoided violence for years, however with time the construct has actually solidified ethnic departments that are being made use of by leaders such as Dodik, experts state.

Dodik’s hazards likewise followed Valentin Inzko, Bosnia’s global High Representative, enforced a genocide rejection restriction in July, right before leaving workplace. The High Representative’s workplace was developed in the Dayton accords to assist keep peace and establish democratic organizations.

Bosnia and Herzegovina map showing the Bosniak-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska areas

Haris Silajdzic, previous Bosnian prime minister and president, who assisted to broker the accords, thinks that Dodik desires the Serb Republic to wrest public lands and residential or commercial property from the control of the nationwide federal government.

“They want . . . to get the resources of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” stated Silajdzic. He and other political leaders and experts stated this would in result mean control for Dodik.

Valery Perry, a senior partner of the Sarajevo-based Democratisation Policy Council, stated there was a major danger of corruption. “It is troubling that the international community have not pushed back against this more,” she stated.

Dodik did not react to ask for remark.

Majda Ruge, senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, called Dodik’s secession move a “desperate escalation”, including that the separation of tax alone would cost the Serb Republic a yearly $360m in lost budget plan profits, compared to gdp of $7bn.

Elections are due in Bosnia in October. The opposition in the Serb Republic states its gains are motivating Dodik to eliminate on concerns such as identity.

“Dodik is a good bluffer,” stated Branislav Borenovic, chair of the opposition PDP celebration. “He is trying to keep a crisis on the agenda. That’s the only way for him to stay in power. He has no real answers to the economy challenges, the pandemic, corruption, emigration, rule of law challenges.”

Borenovic likewise stated the genocide rejection restriction had actually assisted Dodik. “When Inzko imposed this law, he gave [Dodik’s party] new fuel, a crisis — and they will use it as long as they can, until the elections if possible,” he stated.

Inzko stated he had actually looked for to do the best thing, calling Dodik “a man without character” who “tries to destroy Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Dodik, Inzko stated, “was pro-west, now he is ridiculing the west. He once said [wartime Bosnian Serb leader and convicted war criminal Radovan] Karadzic was a war criminal and had to be delivered to The Hague, now he is glorifying him”.

Dodik’s hazards of secession come as the west is fighting for impact in the Balkans with Russia and China. Since 2006, Dodik has actually enhanced relations with Putin, whose primary tactical objective in the area is to obstruct additional growth of the EU and Nato. Dodik went to the Russian leader in December and stated Putin had actually ensured his assistance versus the “liberal west”.

A Bosnian Serb soldier returning to his home in 1996 as part of the Dayton peace agreement
A Bosnian Serb soldier going back to his house in 1996 as part of the Dayton peace arrangement © Reuters

However, Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s president, has actually distanced himself from Dodik despite the fact that his own Serbian nationalism has actually drawn criticism from the west.

“The international community made thousands of mistakes in Bosnia,” Vucic informed the Financial Times in a current interview in Belgrade. “Taking competencies and authorities out of the Serb Republic, not listening to the people . . . But you have to be 100 per cent strict in obeying the Dayton peace accord and the Bosnian constitution.”

Sources in Bosnia and western diplomats state that while the United States relocations might declare harder sanctions, the west is likewise keeping the door open up to talks with the Bosnian Serb leader. “That is one of the reasons why we have not been as escalatory as people want us to be,” a senior United States state department authorities stated.

The ECFR’s Ruge stated she was positive that a unified western action may require Dodik to alter course on secession. “It can be prevented,” she stated, “if all important western capitals get on the same page.”


News and digital media editor, writer, and communications specialist. Passionate about social justice, equity, and wellness. Covering the news, viewing it differently.

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