Foreign Policy Implications of the Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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The Balkans hosted the worst genocide since World War II. The Serbs, who were uncomfortable with the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, committed acts unworthy of modern civilizations. Although there are various attempts to recognize the Srebrenica Massacre as genocide, these efforts remain insufficient. It should be noted that the region has extremely troubled dynamics. Serbs, in particular, interpret the new order established after the breakup of Yugoslavia as a system that was created to oppress Serbs. The outcome of this situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina was that Republika Srpska undermined the country’s integration process with the West.

To put things in perspective, the Balkans is a geography that has been home to various conflicts since the past. The demographic structure of the region has been the main reason for these conflicts. In addition, the rivalry of actors seeking to have influence over the region has also led to the escalation of tensions. As a result, it is difficult to say that political stability has been achieved in the Balkan region even today.

As it is known, Milorad Dodik, the leader of Republika Srpska, has been emphasizing independence against Bosnia and Herzegovina for a long time. In addition, Dodik, whose relations with Russia are quite strong, often leads to new polemics with his anti-Western stance. As a matter of fact, Bosnia and Herzegovina seems to want to build both its economic structure and security in cooperation with the West in general and the United States of America (USA) in particular. However, Dodik’s stance makes this difficult.

Apparently, Bosnia and Herzegovina is unable to adopt a common foreign policy stance. Strong disagreements in domestic politics are also reflected in diplomacy. On the other hand, it should be noted that Russia’s interest in the Balkans has increased as its room for maneuver has diminished due to the war in Ukraine.

The unstable structure in the region attracts attention as a potential area of conflict. What should not be overlooked here is that Europe will be directly affected by a possible crisis in the region.

Another issue that needs to be emphasized is that Moscow, which wants to maintain its power against the West, acts with the aim of “Balkanization of the Balkans”. As the far right is normalized in Europe, a favorable environment is created for the spread of the negative effects of nationalism.

Religion emerges as a strong factor in the separation of Balkan peoples. In this respect, Panslavism is at the forefront of Russian foreign policy efforts in the region. The tension in the region is largely shaped by the Serbs. In addition to the tension on the Kosovo-Serbia line, the steps of the Republika Srpska in Bosnia and Herzegovina cause some problems. It is necessary to state that the West will not hold back from both economic and diplomatic sanctions in order to change Dodik’s attitude in the diplomatic tension that continues with increasing momentum.

The decree of the Banja Luka administration not to publish the decisions of the High Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina Christian Schmidt proves that Dodik is moving further and further away from the West.i The decree is considered by the West to represent an attack against the constitutional order and the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All these developments open the door to questioning the legitimacy of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The Genocide Remembrance Day in Srebrenica also triggers crises in Bosnia and Herzegovina from time to time. The main reason for this situation is the inability to find a common position due to Republika Srpska. One of the developments that illustrates this conflict is the failure to reach consensus on the decision to declare July 11 as a day of mourning in Bosnia and Herzegovina.ii

Ultimately, developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina disturb the West. In order to maintain its place in the global struggle, the US is careful not to lose the trust of its allies. In this context, it can be said that it will increase its initiatives to address security concerns in the region. The US Ambassador to Sarajevo Michael Murphy emphasized Washington’s commitment to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.iii

Developments in Kosovo on the one hand and Bosnia and Herzegovina on the other undermine the prospects for an “Open Balkans”. In particular, political instability in the region poses an obstacle to initiatives to ensure cooperation on various issues. At this point, although Albania’s initiatives for political stability in the region are noteworthy, it is very difficult to see positive progress in the short term. This is because the fragile structure in the region persists.

i “Dodik potpisao sporni zakon o neobjavljivanju odluka OHR-a”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 07.07.2023).

ii “Vijeće ministara BiH odbilo proglasiti 11. juli danom žalosti”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 05.07.2023).

iii “Američki ambasador Michael Murphy: Kada se Sarajevo našlo pod opsadom, oklijevali smo”, Al Jazeera,, (Date of Accession: 06.07.2023).