Milorad Dodik, the Serbian member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is bringing wood to the fire of ethnic divisions, which can push the country back to its violent past.
Serbian nationalism and its historic dream of ‘Greater Serbia’ had cost many Bosniak lives alongside Croats and others in the 1990s after the disintegration of former communist Yugoslavia.
No one, mainly Muslim Bosniaks, wants to go back to those terrible days, when the Serbian army under the former President Slobodan Milosevic committed genocide against Bosniaks, killing at least 200,000 people, including 12,000 children.
But apparently, Milorad Dodik, a Bosnian Serb leader, who also happens to be a member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency, has other ideas. Dodik denies the Srebrenica genocide, calling it a “fabricated myth”. He openly advocates the dissolution of the multi-ethnic state established by the US-designed Dayton Peace Accords of 1995.
“Current authorities in the Republika Srpska entity have been propagating secession for more than a decade. The latest attacks on state institutions are not sudden. They are part of a wider project,” says Sefik Dzaferovic, a member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s presidency and a leading Bosniak politician.
Republika Srpska refers to the Bosnian Serb Republic, a political entity inside Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dodik, a Serbian nationalist with autocratic tendencies, was the former president of Republika Srpska.
Dodik has recently disclosed that he wants to disband some crucial Bosnian state institutions like Intelligence-Security Agency, the country’s central armed forces and the constitutional court from Republika Srpska.
“Dodik's policy is just a continuation of the attempt to create a Greater Serbia through the seizure of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. That is the war goal of war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Dodik continues their policy,” Dzaferovic tells TRT World.
Like Dodik, both Karadzic and Mladic were Bosnian Serbs, who collaborated to conduct a brutal campaign against Bosniaks during the Bosnian War. While Karadzic was the former president of Bosnian Serb Republic, Mladic was the former commander of Bosnian Serb forces.
Both men were convicted for committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
While Dodik finds Bosnia and Herzegovina an “artificial” state, he is silent on the description of Karadzic and Mladic, members of a warmonger Serbian nationalist leadership, which was determined to wipe Bosniak Muslims out from the Balkans.
“Dodik is trying to finish what was the plan of Bosnian Serbs during the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 90s when the genocide against Bosniaks was committed,” says Ivan Ejub Kostic, a political analyst and managing director of the Balkan Centre for the Middle East.
“In other words, Dodik is doing everything he can that Republika of Srpska secedes from Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Kostic tells TRT World.
But Dzaferovic says that like the 1990s, Bosniaks will stay steadfast to defend their homeland against any aggression coming from Serbs or their possible allies, protecting the integrity of Sarajevo.
“We will not allow that. We defended Bosnia and Herzegovina in the period 1992-1995. We are ready to defend it again. We are not afraid of Dodik and others like him,” says top Bosniak leader.
By allying with Moscow, the traditional supporter of Serbs, an Orthodox Christian Slavic nation like Russia, Dodik tries every tactic to disintegrate the Bosnian state, much to the dismay of the international community.
"I proclaim the end of this," said Dodik, referring to the international community’s peace-keeping measures in Bosnia after meeting EU leaders last month. Instead, he defends a politically ambiguous secession process from Bosnia and a possible union with Serbia, changing borders of the Balkan state without the approval of the international community, according to experts.
Europe, much of which is under EU leadership, does not want another bloody war in the middle of the continent. The Peace Implementation Council, an international political body, which oversees Bosnia’s peace, urged leaders like Dodik to discontinue their "destabilising and divisive rhetoric" including threats of secession last month.
"Attempting to undo 26 years of hard-won progress and peace is the opposite of what all political leaders have committed to and where Bosnia-Herzegovina needs to go," the ambassadors of the group said in a statement.
“His policies have become a threat to peace and security. Dodik is a factor of permanent instability and he is endangering peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, peace in the region and overall European peace,” says Dzaferovic, who along with Dodik and a Croatian member, Zeljko Komsic, collectively represent the country’s presidency.
While Dodik says that Bosnia and Herzegovina has no future, Dzaferovic thinks that the Bosnian Serb leader has “no future anymore on the political scene.”
“Dodik will have to change his policy or leave the political scene,” he adds.
In the 1990s, under the late American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, Washington was instrumental in creating the Dayton Peace Agreement, which the EU also backed. But Dodik, who has been apparently backed by parts of Bosnian Croat leadership, also wants to break the Dayton.
“Declaratively the EU and US are strongly opposed to Dodik's policies. But in reality, until now, they haven't done enough to stop Dodik from spreading the ethnic and religious hatred and completing the irredentist goals of Bosnian Serbs,” says Kostic.
“The role of the European Union is especially ambiguous. Therefore, now is high time for the EU and the USA to show in reality their commitment to the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to oppose Dodik's chauvinistic and secessionist policies without any hesitation,” Kostic adds.
But if the West looks away to people like Dodik’s conduct as it does in the Ukrainian conflict, then things could get much more complicated, according to both Dzaferovic and Kostic.
“We have seen both during the Bosnian War and in the Ukraine conflict, that the international community is content to pretend that proxy forces of states like Serbia and Russia are but mysterious “Little Green Men,” whose true origins can never be fully ascertained,” wrote Jasmin Mujanovic, a political scientist.
Dzaferovic sternly warns the Western leadership. “If Dodik attacks the barracks of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Armed Forces, as he announces, it is a direct introduction to a new conflict in the heart of Europe,” Dzaferovic sees.
“Dodik must be clearly told that he will bear the consequences. We say that. The United States and the EU will have to tell him that decisively and concretely.”