Filip Raunic of Croatia’s Telegram asked
some questions about Bosnia and Herzgovina. I replied:
Q: Republika Srpska celebrated its
National Day, despite the fact that Constitution Court marked it as
unconstitutional. The President of Republika Srpska said a few days
ago that Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH) should disintegrate. How do
you see his actions and his role in BiH?
A: It has been clear for a long time
that Dodik opposes the sovereignty and territorial integrity of
Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is the core of the Dayton agreements.
Respecting court decisions, even if you disagree with them, is vital
to rule of law and democratic governance, not only in BiH but also
here in the US.
Q: If Republika Srpska really decides to
call a referendum on independence, do you see the possibility of the
reaction from Federation and potentially a new military clash?
A: I don’t think you can expect those
who support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and
Herzegovina, which includes most people who live in the country as
well as the international community, not to react in some fashion to
a referendum on independence. But such referenda often are not
fulfilled, since sovereignty requires recognition by other sovereign
states. I would expect an RS that declares independence to end up in
limbo, with minimal recognition, no serious foreign support, and
little ability to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of its people
for security and prosperity.
Q: Do you see some similarity in the
situation and behavior of the political elites in Bosnia in the 90’s
A: Yes, I do. But the circumstances are
different. Serbia is no longer willing to risk its own prosperity
for irredentist political aims, many people in Bosnia and
Herzegovina are far better off than they were at the end of the war,
Europe’s and NATO’s doors are in principle open to BiH, and its
population expects more transparent and accountable governance. The
nationalist fervor is far less murderous, but no less dangerous.
Q: Former English diplomat Timothy Less
wrote a piece in Foreign Affairs in which he suggest disintegration
of Bosnia – Republika Srpska would unite with Serbia and parts of
Hercegovina with Croatia. What do you think about this idea?
A: It is just as bad an idea as it was
in the 1990s. It would result in the formation of a non-viable rump
Islamic Republic in central Bosnia and Herzegovina heavily dependent
on Islamist funding from Iran, Saudi Arabia or somewhere else. Why
would Croatia or Serbia want such a neighbor on their borders?
Q: You mediated between Croats and
Muslims in the 90s and brokered the first agreement of the Dayton
peace talks. How do you now look on these days and Dayton agreement.
Was Dayton a good framework for Bosnia, and is it still good?
A: It was good enough to end the war,
but not good enough to make real peace. It now needs updating, but
how and what to do is now up to the citizens of BiH, not the
Q: Do you think that BiH should enter EU
as quickly as possible?
A: I think BiH should qualify to enter
the EU as quickly as possible.
Q: If Brussels will hesitate with BiH
membership, is there a possibility and danger that Russia and Turkey
will gain more influence in Bosnia and would it mean instability for
A: Yes. Russia is already interfering in
BiH in ways that are destabilizing. Moscow’s aim seems to be
pernicious: to create as much trouble as possible at the least cost.
I don’t see Turkey’s influence in the
same light, but it certainly increases the weight of Islamist
politics and makes it harder to reach mutual accommodations among
Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks.
Q: Croatian president Kolinda Grabar
Kitarović recently said that Bosnia is becoming more radicalized in
terms of more rigid interpretation of the values of Islam. Do you
see Islamic radicalization? Is there a possibility of it if the
situation in Bosnia remains tense?
A: I might not see things quite the same
way President Grabar Kitarović sees them, but there is certainly a
possibility of radicalization if Bosnia and Herzegovina is unable to
succeed in satisfying its population’s aspirations. Tension produces
polarization and exclusion, which are ingredients that will
radicalize at least a few people.
Q: What could we expect from Trump
administration for Bosnia and this region?
A: I don’t know what to expect. The new
administration has said precious little about the Balkans and
nothing to my knowledge about Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are not
high on the priority list these days in Washington. The only clear
statement I’ve seen is from Secretary of Defense Mattis, who
supports the formation of the Kosovo Security Force.
Q: If you would advise Mr. Trump on
Bosnia, what would you tell him to do?
A: I’d say a lot has changed for the
better in the Balkans since the early 1990s. The United States
should commit itself wholeheartedly to finishing the process by
helping all the remaining countries to qualify for EU, and if they
want it, NATO membership. I’d say that is the shortest and least
troublesome route to lasting peace and stability.