“Won’t Relinquish to Moscow”

Foreign Minister Baerbock travels to Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to roll back Russia’s influence there. In Bosnia, old tensions are currently on the verge of escalating.

BERLIN/SARAJEVO/BELGRADE (Own report) – With her trips to Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is initiating new steps to roll back Russia’s influence in Southeastern Europe. She will “make it clear that we will not relinquish this region in the heart of Europe to Moscow’s influence,” Baerbock declared before embarking on her trip to Sarajevo and Belgrade. Her talks will be taking place today in Serbia almost exactly 23 years after NATO’s invasion of that country in violation of international law, costing the lives of numerous civilians. US Senator, at the time, Joe Biden, had even called for the occupation of the country while the invasion was still in progress. Today, Serbia refuses to comply with the West’s sanctions against Russia, with which it has been having a growing cooperation for years. This is why the European Parliament is now threating that country with additional obstacles hindering its aspired EU membership. Already yesterday, Baerbock arrived in Bosnia-Herzegovina, to threaten Bosnian Serbs with sanctions. They also feel comparatively close to Russia and demand greater independence from the Bosnian government.

No Carrot

Bosnia-Herzegovina, where Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock held talks yesterday, finds itself still in a desolate condition, 26 years after the signing of the Dayton Agreements in late 1995. The EU’s promises to ensure better living conditions in its direct neighborhood, have, in Bosnia’s case, turned out to be pure propaganda. The economy cannot get on its feet; the working conditions in low-wage enterprises producing, for example, shoes for markets in prosperous nations, are miserable; poverty and corruption are fomenting growing discontent within the population. In spite of all this, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, with various powers, is still residing in Sarajevo. Since August 1, 2021, the CSU politician Christian Schmidt has assumed this function. He EU, on the other hand, still has troops stationed within the country. Just recently the number of troops was raised from 600 to 1,100. Insiders explain this increase not as a response to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, but rather the recent heightening of domestic tensions. Should the situation deteriorate further, bringing in another 2,000 or more troops, is in discussion.[1]

The Stick

The specific reason for the troop-buildup is that the Bosnian Serbs are increasingly questioning the status quo of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the fall of 2021, the most influential political leader of the republic of Bosnian Serbs, Milorad Dodik, announced, he intended to reclaim political competences from Sarajevo back to Republika Srpska. February 10, the National Assembly of Republika Srpska passed a bill allowing Banja Luka to appoint its own judges and prosecutors. That bill could become law in April.[2] Other steps have not been ruled out. They could be aimed at the secession of Republika Srpska. Western powers strictly reject this – also because Bosnian Serbs are close to Russia. The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Schmidt, recently spoke of imposing sanctions against Dodik and some people in his close entourage. In the meantime, the European External Action Service (EEAS) has presented a paper calling not only for sanctions against individuals but also withholding EU financial support from Bosnia-Herzegovina.[3] Unwilling or unable to considerably better the living conditions in the country, the Union is now reserving itself the right to impose punitive measures.

A War of Aggression Violating International Law

Following yesterday’s talks in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, Baerbock is today, Friday, traveling on to Serbia for negotiations. That country had been attacked by NATO on March 24, 1999 in a war of aggression in violation of international law, with the original intention of emerging victorious in only a few days.[4] The war lasted until June 10, 1999. According to human rights organizations, around 500 civilians were killed in the airstrikes; Serbian sources place the actual amount much higher. Between 90 and 150 civilians were killed by cluster bombs, including the case when used against a crowded market.[5] Sixteen media workers were killed when a TV station was bombed in Belgrade. Three persons were killed in the attack on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade. Obvious war crimes were never prosecuted. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) Joe Biden, at the time, a senator, gave massive support to the attack on Yugoslavia and, at times, even called for NATO ground troops: “We should have a Japanese-German-style occupation of that country,” demanded Biden during the bombing campaign, in a talk with the US broadcaster NBC.[7]


For years, Serbia has been aligning itself more closely with Russia – even in its armament and military policies. For example, it buys regularly Russian weaponry and participates with growing frequency in joint maneuvers with Russa, and occasionally with Belarus. The alignment with Moscow is embedded within Serbia’s population. A poll taken last year showed that 54 percent of the population consider Russia to be a true “ally” of their country, with only 11 percent, for the EU, and a mere 6 percent for the USA.[8] It is also because of this that although Serbia had voted in favor of the resolution condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine in the UN General Assembly, it does not support western sanctions against Russia and Belarus. At the beginning of March, the European Parliament had strongly criticized Serbia for its preference and threatens negative consequences for its officially aspired membership in the EU. Dodik, the influential Bosnian Serb politician, likewise rejects the sanctions, which has also led to massive criticism by the West.[9] In general, the unrestrained escalation of the power struggle between the West and Russia gives rise to apprehension in Berlin and the EU that the entire situation in Southeastern Europe could escalate – possibly into armed conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The EU’s “Open Flank”

Already prior to her departure for Southeastern Europe, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had declared that she intends to “make it clear that this region, in the heart of Europe, will not be relinquished to Moscow’s influence.”[10] It is true that Germany and the EU have ”disappointed and neglected” many of those countries over the past few years. “Actors, like Russia, are pushing into this open flank.” Now the urgently needed “priority” should be given to Southeastern Europe. Yesterday, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, she demanded that the Bosnian Serbs immediately cease their efforts to reclaim competence from the central government to Republika Srpska. If they do not, they must expect that there will be no future German state subsidies or German investments.[11] In Sarajevo, Baerbock also met with High Representative Schmidt, who holds extensive powers, without ever having been democratically elected. Schmidt was in agreement that action must be taken against anyone who “wants to see Bosnia-Herzegovina broken up,” which is a reference to Bosnian Serbs. Today, Baerbock seeks to continue her attempt to roll back “Moscow’s influence” in Serbia. However, Berlin’s politicians have been making this announcement regularly for years, without any consequential action following. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[12])


[1] Srecko Latal: EU Doubles Bosnia Peacekeepers as Global Security ‘Deteriorates’. balkaninsight.com 24.02.2022.

[2] Djordje Vujatovic: Bosnian Serb MPs Vote to Form Parallel Legal Authority. balkaninsight.com 11.02.2022.

[3] Robin Emmott: EU Should Consider Sanctions On Bosnian Serbs If Crisis Worsens, Document Says. ibtimes.com 14.02.2022.

[4] Marc Felix Serrao: Deutscher Spitzendiplomat Ischinger: „Es ist schädlich, wenn westliche Politiker öffentlich darüber spekulieren, ob und wie man Putin eliminieren könnte“. nzz.ch 07.03.2022.

[5] Jeremy Scahill: 1999. NATO Bombing of Serbia and Montenegro. theintercept.com 27.04.2021.

[6] See also Die zivilen Opfer der Kriege.

[7] Jeremy Scahill: 1999. NATO Bombing of Serbia and Montenegro. theintercept.com 27.04.2021.

[8] See also "This is our Backyard!" (II).

[9] Paul-Anton Krüger: Europas offene Flanke. sueddeutsche.de 10.03.2022.

[10] Außenministerin Baerbock vor ihrer Abreise nach Bosnien und Herzegowina, Kosovo, Serbien und Moldau. auswaertiges-amt.de 09.03.2022.

[11] Johannes Leithäuser: Baerbock kündigt stärkere Präsenz auf dem Balkan an. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 11.03.2022.

[12] See also "This is Our Backyard!"