There Are Reason to Be Cautious About Breaking Up Bosnia

Daniel Berman, who occasionally writes for the Atlantic Sentinel, poses an interesting question at his blog, The Restless Realist: Why not break up Bosnia?

The current situation seems untenable. Bosnia is divided in two: an autonomous Republika Srpska for the (mostly Orthodox Christian) ethnic Serbs and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the (Muslim) Bosniaks and (Catholic) Bosnian Croats.

The federation is itself divided into ten autonomous cantons, five of which are Bosniak-ruled, three Croat and two mixed.

This division, which emerged from the 1995 Dayton Agreement that ended the Bosnian War, has kept the peace but entrenched ethnic divisions. Parties are organized along ethnic lines. Every political appointment must be considered within the context of ethnic politics. Serb nationalists perennially demand more autonomy from a central government that is already one of the weakest in the world. Some dream of one day joining neighboring Serbia, where their nationalist counterparts would be glad to annex the Bosnian enclaves as compensation for giving up ethnic-Albanian Kosovo.

These political obsessions have left Bosnia’s economy in a sorry state. Nearly half the population is officially unemployed. 40 percent lives below the poverty line.

So why not give everybody what they want: states of their own? Read more “There Are Reason to Be Cautious About Breaking Up Bosnia”

Balkans Vulnerable to Russian Meddling, Expert Warns

The Balkans are vulnerable to Russian meddling if President Vladimir Putin wants to put pressure on the European Union, a top Bulgarian foreign-policy expert warns.

Writing in the Financial Times, Ivan Krastev, who chairs the Center for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria and is a founding board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, argues that if Putin seeks to regain the initiative in his standoff with the West, the Balkans would be a “likely hotspot.”

As well as being the EU’s backyard, the Balkans are the underbelly of Brussels’ diplomacy. Their banking systems are fragile. If businesses with large deposits and Russian connections were suddenly to pull their money out, the result could be widespread insolvency and with it civil strife. Pro-Western governments would teeter. This is the place to apply pressure, if Moscow wants to make Europeans feel uncomfortable.

Russia certainly does not “fantasize” about bringing countries like Albania and Bosnia into its sphere of influence, writes Krastev. The Balkan states trade far more with Europe than they do with Russia and those that aren’t in the European Union yet still hope to join the bloc.

But Russia does have influence, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Serbia, to the point that German Foreign Ministry experts said last year they feared Putin could try to prevent the European Union from expanding in the region. Read more “Balkans Vulnerable to Russian Meddling, Expert Warns”

Germany Concerned as Russia’s Balkan Influence Grows

Germany fears Russia intends to block further European Union expansion into the Balkans, according to a confidential Foreign Ministry analysis seen by weekly Der Spiegel.

The magazine reports that German diplomats worry Russia is levering its influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Serbia with an eye toward preventing both countries from fully joining the West. Read more “Germany Concerned as Russia’s Balkan Influence Grows”