Tribes with Flags might be the Geopolitics of last resort with the EU...and Russia, as far as the CIA shenanigans go....
Amid the plethora of crises, one problem area is struggling for attention and not getting it. The "Annual Threat Assessment," prepared by the CIA and the National Intelligence Council, states that "Bosnia's future as a multi-ethnic state remains in doubt," noting that statements by politicians have "increased inter-ethnic tensions to perhaps the highest level in years."
Inexplicably, the European Union and the United States pursue policies that could all but guarantee Bosnia will revert to war. A new conflict in Bosnia could have unwanted consequences for Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia, and would result not only in loss of life, destruction of property, refugee flows and the abolishment of Bosnia's Serb entity, Republika Srpska, but also would create serious rifts within NATO and destroy all pretense of EU common foreign policy. It could cause Balkan states to turn their backs on European integration and seek closer ties with Russia.
Since the war ended in December 1995, international efforts in Bosnia have borne fruit, albeit gradually. Yet, since 2006 things have slid backwards. Politicians now speak of a possible return to war and discuss redrawing ethnic maps and the possibility of secession. Western diplomats and intelligence personnel whisper that private security companies, veterans' groups and hunting clubs appear to be arming with submachine guns, automatic weapons and grenade launchers.
Republika Srpska's prime minister, Milorad Dodik, has emulated Montenegro's gradual path to independence by blocking state institutions from functioning and attempting to take state-level competencies for his entity, while attempting to claim attributes of sovereignty for Republika Srpska. He has underscored these efforts with repeated calls for a vaguely defined referendum, which most Bosnians assume would be for independence.
But Republika Srpska isn't Montenegro, and the breakup of Bosnia would be violent and probably result in the destruction of Republika Srpska. Bosnian officials have stated that they will not permit the Serbs to take them by surprise again, as happened in 1992. They repeat the mantra that there are 400,000 Bosnians in Sarajevo, and only 70,000 Serbs between Sarajevo and the Drina River - Bosnia's eastern border with Serbia. Others have drawn maps of planned military movements in the event that Republika Srpska tries to secede. They remember that in 1995 their forces were only 11 kilometers from Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serb capital, when the United States forced them to halt. They see that the Serbs no longer have the overwhelming advantage in heavy weaponry.
In response to the escalating threat, the United States has withdrawn its general from NATO headquarters in Sarajevo, while the EU has reduced its peacekeeping force (Eufor) to approximately 2,100 troops, and announced impending withdrawals of 500 more, along with the withdrawal of its only airworthy helicopters. Eufor stopped patrolling in 2007, amid complaints that its troops were bored. France, Finland, Ireland, Spain and Switzerland are all rushing for the exits.
The international community appears to be on autopilot as it rushes to close the international supervisory mission in Bosnia, the Office of the High Representative, leaving only the European Union Special Representative, with an uncertain mandate and weak powers, as the leading international presence. Many EU members seem convinced, and the U.S. appears to hope, that the transition to a weak EU special representative will create momentum and somehow motivate Bosnia's politicians to change their behavior.
The oft-repeated EU catechism is that Bosnia must tackle reform processes on its own, and that after the transition Bosnia's feuding politicians will magically resolve their quarrels. Brussels assumes that the lure of EU membership will somehow induce nationalist politicians to bury ethnic agendas and pass reform legislation guaranteed to weaken their own patronage systems. They fail to note that the current trajectory will remove the last remaining international obstacles to renewed conflict.
They also fail to address a key reason Bosnia slipped backwards: the failure of the EU to create a common foreign policy. The EU has substituted the Stabilization and Association Process for a comprehensive foreign policy toward the Western Balkans and Bosnia, hoping the prospect of EU membership will motive politicians to reform. This has not worked. Local politicians have consistently chosen ethno-nationalist imperatives over the EU. Dodik has openly said that if forced to choose between Republika Srpska and the EU, he will choose Republika Srpska. To further worsen matters, EU ambassadors inside Bosnia regularly contradict the EU special representative and pursue their own foreign policies. This calls into question both the EU's commitment to the stabilization process, but also its commitment to keeping Bosnia whole.
Bosnia's backward slide can be halted with few new resources, but it will take outside-the-box thinking. This will include Washington re-engaging and appointing a special presidential envoy to the Balkans, who can help the Western alliance focus policies and deliver consistent messages. It also requires a robust office of the EU special representative and that the EU take the threat seriously and make Eufor a capable deterrent. Most of all, it requires a long-term commitment to state-building in Bosnia. Too much has been invested and too much is at stake to continue with current policies.