Splitting the Chimera

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The leader of Republika Srpska, an enclave of ethnic Serbs seeking to break off from Bosnia and Herzegovina and become an independent state or unify with neighboring Serbia, recently met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. As the Associated Press wrote, Milorad Dodik is one of the three presidents of Bosnia – the other two are an ethnic Bosnian and an ethnic Croat – and is seeking reelection when his constituents vote in the Balkan country’s general election on Oct. 2.

Russia has long been sympathetic to the fate of Orthodox Christian Serbs in a country that includes Muslim Bosnians and Catholic Croats. Dodik has publicly endorsed Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Illustrating the fragmented nature of the country’s government and politics, his position stands in total contrast to that of Sefik Dzaferovic, the ethnic Bosnian chairman of the country’s three-person presidency, who recently decried Russia’s war in a speech at the United Nations.

Dzaferovic recalled how, 30 years ago, the world watched as the Yugoslav Army and Bosnian Serbs sought to ethnically cleanse much of Bosnia and Herzegovina, then a former Yugoslav republic. They killed more than 100,000 people in fighting that – until Ukraine – was the worst violence in Europe since World War II. The war ended in 1995 under the US-sponsored Dayton Accords that split the country into two territories, the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Pro-Putin Bosnian Serb politicians are not the only ones unhappy with the arrangement. Croats have also complained that the country’s electoral system shortchanges their community, Reuters wrote. They have threatened to trigger a crisis if the Oct. 2 vote proceeds without the electoral reform they have demanded.

Russia, meanwhile, is attempting to influence the process. Pro-Russian politicians and firms in Bosnia have received a portion of the more than $300 million that Putin has spent in over two dozen countries to influence their internal affairs, reported Bloomberg. Politicians in nearby Albania and Montenegro also received aid, underscoring the region’s importance to Russia.

As the European Council on Foreign Relations argued, Putin has been purposely trying to destabilize Bosnia to retain more influence there while preventing the country from accomplishing the political peace and reforms necessary to join the European Union. The US, meanwhile, has pledged to counter Russian influence, noted Radio Free Europe. And Turkey has sought to play a role there, given its historic ties to the region dating back to the Ottoman Empire, added the Daily Hurriyet News, a Turkish English-language newspaper.

One gets the feeling that fewer, not more, presidents and foreign dignitaries would be a better approach.

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