OPINION - Political turmoil in the Balkans is more or less comme d’habitude
Political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina is reaching a dangerous point with possible regional impacts
The writer is an expert in contemporary world history, teaching at the International University of Sarajevo (IUS) and Department of International Relations and Diplomacy at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Sarajevo.
Political crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina is reaching a dangerous point with possible regional impacts. The intensification of deepening Serbia’s special ties with one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska, coincided with the political processes in the Western Balkans during the second decade of the 21st century and the establishment of the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) dominated government.
The document Strategy for Preservation and Strengthening of Relations between the Homeland and the Diaspora and the Homeland and Serbs in the Region (Memorandum 2) from 2011, presented to the Bosnian public by the magazine Slobodna Bosna (March 2013) created a necessary caution in the region. Very much like the Memorandum from 1986, this document was based on the Greater Serbia policy of "blood and soil", according to which Serbia is where Serbs live. Thus, undermining the situation in neighboring countries. The goal is to reduce Serbia's damage from war defeats, its guilt, and responsibility, work to equalize aggressors and victims, etc. By doing that, they aim not to confront the past but blame the others.
Destabilizing actors in the region
"Bosnia and Herzegovina is more important, but also much easier case than Croatia and Montenegro, thanks to the Dayton Agreement and the fact that behind the so-called united B&H only Muslims and parts of the fragmented, confused and idealess international community stand united. The fact that certain parts of the international community would have nothing against the division of B&H is an extremely important weapon that must be used to the maximum in the realization of the set goals. It takes several years, at most decades, to realize these goals.” This quote is stated at the very beginning of the document as the leitmotif. It actually sheds light on everything happening in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also in the Western Balkan (WB) countries during the last decade.
By interfering -- with the support of Russia -- in the elections in (Northern) Macedonia (2017), constantly dramatizing the situation as the “Macedonian scenario”,Belgrade is already quietly destabilizing its southern neighbor. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic also strengthened his vastness and settled accounts with the opposition at home by lamenting about it. The two consecutive elections in Montenegro (2016 and 2020) showed even more drastically how strong the connection between Belgrade and Moscow is and the extent to which actions in the WB are being synchronized. A report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) provides valuable insight into malignant interference under the auspices of the protection of the Slavic Brethren, leading to historical reminiscences and the identification of today's Russia with the Russian Empire and anti-Ottoman alliances two centuries ago.
"Serbian pretensions in the region are growing, Serbia feels as if it has won the elections in Montenegro and that cannot pass without consequences for the region, and Vucic's dream of being a Serbian regional leader is fuller," Zarko Korac told the Istinomer portal revealed what everyone is aware of but for some reason, they were not willing to say openly. In this context, one can observe the initiatives that come from Vucic, above all the Open Balkans.
'Open Balkans' initiative is problematic
Precisely based on Memorandum 2, which defines the rise and position of the hegemon in the Balkans, it is possible to detect what this "openness" is for. The narrative of the "Serb World" is beginning to come to life synchronously, so without a doubt, that openness primarily serves as the integration of Serbs in the region. The resumption of full control of Montenegro, the dismemberment of Kosovo, and destabilization until the partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina are the main goals that are being implemented daily.
Interestingly, Moscow is advocating for a "Serb World" as a humanitarian concept "which is justified and in accordance with international law." By looking at the geopolitical level, we can understand Russia’s position. Alexander Dugin, a Russian theorist of Eurasian rise and supremacy, believes that the new axis should be based on the tripartite configuration Berlin-Moscow-Beijing as the bearers of the construction of the future “Eurasian Empire”. According to him, the key country for ensuring Russian influence in the Balkans is Serbia. Under Russian and Chinese influence, Serbia should become a force that will dominate Southeast Europe and secure economic corridors to Germany.
How this theory can be implemented given the fact that there are shifts in geopolitics, is a different question. However, "Serb World" proposed by Serbian leaders is not even a cultural or humanitarian concept. On the contrary, it is all about creating a cross-border military, political, and security body, capable of participating in the creation of a new Eurasian order.
Turkey's role in solving the crisis
The latest actions by Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the Bosnian Presidency, through which he is attacking Bosnian statehood and Bosniak identity as well as peace in the WB is part of Moscow’s strategy to destabilize the region for its own reasons. The dangerous game Dodik is playing has the potentials to inflame tensions to the highest level. In that sense, the role of Turkey and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has crucial importance for security. Here, Ankara should do more than being as one of the mediators. After President Erdogan’s meetings with Bakir Izetbegovic on November 3 and Dodik on November 11, the possibility of a normalization in the region is higher thanks to firm messages given by the Turkish President. But also, thanks to messages sent to Moscow, stating that Dodik is provoking too much recently and this also endangers Russian interests in the region as well as other powers’.
There is no doubt that Belgrade is counting on great changes in the international order. For that very reason simultaneously advocating the "Serb World" and the Open Balkans. Within the integrated region, with the help of Moscow and Beijing, efforts are being made to build a position of hegemon that will primarily satisfy its own interests in the emerging geopolitical realities. What does it mean to Bosnia and to Bosniaks? Let history speak its lessons.
 Heather A. Conley and Matthew Melino (2019). Russian Malign Influence in Montenegro. The Weaponization and Exploitation of History, Religion, and Economics CSIS Briefs. https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/190514_ConleyandMelino_RussianInfluence_layout_v2.pdf
*Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Anadolu Agency.