After Serbia, pressured by the West, implicitly recognizes its secessionist province of Kosovo, the United States and the European Union are expected to focus on suppressing any separatist tendencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unlike the Kosovo Albanians, that were strongly encouraged to separate from Serbia in 1990s, the West is reportedly pushing Bosnian Serbs, Croats and Bosniak-Muslims to live in a unitary state.
Such a Western policy is unlikely to lead to a new war in the Balkans, given that the region has been firmly in the US and the EU’s sphere of influence for at least three decades. However, in the foreseeable future, political crises in Bosnia and Herzegovina are entirely possible. Milorad Dodik, the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s entity of Republika Srpska, recently accused the liberal billionaire Gorge Soros and his Open Society Foundation of planning to destabilize the Serb-dominated Bosnia’s entity.
“Soros is unacceptable here”, Dodik stressed, claiming that the Open Society Foundation will move its Balkan headquarters from Albania’s capital, Tirana, to the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo.
According to the Serb leader, in order to protect itself Republika Srpska will make a law on foreign non-governmental organizations – based on the American law – would allow the entity to designate civil society and non-governmental organizations as “foreign agents.” The US, however, strongly opposes such an idea.
“When Russia expanded its foreign agent legislation in 2020, it claimed that it was just copying the American model. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we saw the results,” the US embassy to Bosnia said in a press release.
In other words, Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi. This Latin phrase is used to comment on double standards, and people of high standing who are able to get away with things other people would not. Thus, it remains unclear if Dodik will dare to make a law that will additionally jeopardize his relations with the United States.
Dodik has recently threatened to cut off contacts with US and British diplomats and embassies in Bosnia-Herzegovina, accusing them of anti-Dayton activities – referring to the 1995 Dayton Agreement, which ended the Bosnian civil war and established an administrative system under which Bosnia remains partitioned between a Serbian entity — Republika Srpska — and the Bosniak-Croat federation connected by a weak central government. The basis of the Dayton Agreement is the division of Bosnia and Herzegovina (51% of the territory to the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, 49% to Republika Srpska), as well as the constitutiveness of the Serbian, Bosniak and Croat nation.
Over the years, Dodik has repeatedly called for Republika Srpska’s secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina, but he was never punished by the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, who has the final say in the country, and is seen by many as a de facto colonial master in the Balkan state. The very fact that the High Representative Carlos Westendorp removed Nikola Poplasen from the Office of President of Republika Srpska in 1999, clearly indicates that the West does have capacity to “politically neutralize” Dodik. However, despite sanctions Washington imposed on him in 2022, accusing the Serb leader of corruption and “threatening the stability and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, the United States and the European Union tolerate his anti-Western statements, as well as his threats about Republika Srpska’s secession from Bosnia.
From time to time, Dodik calls for a referendum on the status of Republika Srpska, saying that the Serbs have a right to decide their own future. To this day, however, he never organized a referendum, quite aware that the West would never recognize the results of the plebiscite.
Milorad Dodik is a politician who verbally opposes Bosnia and Herzegovina’s membership in NATO, although in reality he does not do much to prevent the country’s association in the US-led alliance. Officially, Bosnia and Herzegovina is the only country that is a part of the NATO’s Membership Action Plan, which is a preparatory phase for full membership. The opposition in Republika Srpska claims that Dodik, despite his anti-NATO rhetoric, paves the way for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s NATO membership by not vetoing Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s decisions that draw the Balkan country into the alliance.
Dodik, however, reportedly fears that the United States and the Great Britain could attempt to stage a “color revolution” in Republika Srpska. Even though the West often portrays him as a “pro-Russian” leader, Dodik is quite aware that he can preserve the power only if he maintains good ties with the West, or at least with some Western structures. It is, therefore, not surprising that Republika Srpska’s President is seen as a longtime ally of Israel. Also, Arie Livne, who established the National Cinema Archive in Jerusalem, later named the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, served as an advisor to Dodik, as well as a senator of the Republic of Srpska. Further, Dodik has close ties with Hungary and its leader Viktor Orban. In December 2021, Orban confirmed that the Hungarian government provided 100 million euros in financial assistance to Republika Srpska, describing Serbia and the Serb-dominated Bosnia’s entity as “key to the stability of the Western Balkans”.
Thus, given that Dodik has friends in the West, and his rhetoric does not represent a serious threat to Washington’s plans in the Balkans, it remains unclear why would Soros aim to topple him. That, however, does not mean that the West will not attempt to undermine the position of Republika Srpska, with or without Dodik on power.