Berlin sends 50 soldiers over Serb protests and Russian criticism of “creeping NATOization”
Germany has ordered some 50 soldiers to join the EU-led peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, after pulling out almost a decade ago. The Bosnian Serbs objected and the Russian embassy warned of NATO power games as the first group of Bundeswehr soldiers deployed outside Sarajevo on Tuesday.
According to EUFOR, the Germans will “provide additional capacity” at both the headquarters of Operation Althea and at a network of outposts that provide a link to local governments and communities.
“This deployment is a further demonstration of the EU’s commitment to a stable, prosperous and European future for all the citizens” of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the mission said.
Around 50,000 NATO peacekeepers were first deployed to Bosnia in 1996, to enforce the armistice that ended the 1992-95 civil war between the country’s Serbs, Muslims and Croats. The EU took over in 2004, and Germany pulled out its contingent in late 2012. Presently, EUFOR has an estimated 1,100 troops from 20 countries whose mission is now to assist Bosnia “on its path towards European integration.”
Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb member of the country’s tripartite presidency, said that his people do not support and can’t trust Germany’s military presence in Bosnia, given the recent Bundestag resolution expressing the desire to revise the Dayton Peace Accords.
“This resolution interferes with our constitutional order and represents meddling into another country’s internal affairs,” Dodik told local media on Tuesday. He added that Germany’s history in the region – as occupiers in both world wars – also works against the Serbs having any confidence in Berlin’s actions.
Meanwhile, the Russian embassy in Sarajevo said that the arrival of German troops appears to be part of the US-UK agenda for a “creeping NATO-ization” of Bosnia. EUFOR itself had told the UN Security Council that the country was peaceful and stable, so their sudden call for reinforcements appears disingenuous, while references to the crisis in Ukraine are “particularly unacceptable,” the embassy added.
Russia is mindful of the possible provocations in order to show that EUFOR is weak and needs to be replaced by “NATO occupation troops,” the embassy said, urging all Bosnian factions to “not join an artificially imposed game played with marked cards” but begin discussing internal political problems without external dictates.
EUFOR’s mandate is scheduled to expire in November and its extension will be up to the UN Security Council, where Russia has a veto. Last year, when Russia refused to approve the appointment of Christian Schmidt as the new “high representative” in Bosnia, Western countries appointed the former German politician themselves.