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October 16, 2018 No.
7713

Update On Russia In The Balkans

The following is an update on Russia in the Balkans:[1]

Reactions To Bosnia And Herzegovina Elections


Sefik Dzaferovic (the Party of Democratic Action), Milorad Dodik (Alliance of Independent Social Democrats), and Zeljko Komsic (Democratic Front) won seats in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s three-member presidency (Source: Bugojno-danas.info)

Bosnia and Herzegovina held general elections on October 7, 2018. Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik (Alliance of Independent Social Democrats), President of Republika Srpska, won his community's seat on Bosnia-Herzegovina's three-person presidency. Dodik, who has close links with Russia, flew to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On that occasion, Putin wished Dodik success in the elections.

On September 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Republika Srpska. During the press conference with Dodik, Lavrov said: "The policy of some external actors who are attempting to make the Balkan region’s people face the choice – either they are with the West or with Russia – is absolutely unacceptable."

The other two winners are Sefik Dzaferovic (the Party of Democratic Action), and Zeljko Komsic (Democratic Front).

Under Bosnia and Herzegovina's constitution, part of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton Agreement), the country was divided into two entities: the Muslim-Croatian Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serb-populated Republika Srpska.

The country’s presidency - a three-member body serving as head of state - consists of one Bosniak, one Croat and one Serb. The body’s Bosniak and Croat members are elected from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb member is elected from Republika Srpska for a four-year term.

However, the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, selected by the European Union, is the highest political authority in the country. Russia calls for abolishing the High Representative’s office and turning it into an EU mission.

(Tass.com, October 8, 2018)

Russian MFA Spokesperson Zakharova: We Are Open To A Mutually Beneficial Dialogue With Our Bosnia And Herzegovina Partners

Russian MFA Spokesperson Maria Zakharova assessed the following on the results of the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina:

"We are satisfied that the voting was held in a peaceful environment. We praise the work of the country’s Central Election Commission, which held the elections in accordance with democratic standards. We hope the new representative and executive branches of government will be formed soon in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its cantons in the interests of the positive development of stabilization processes and social and economic stability in the region.

"We confirm the Russian Federation’s principal intention to assist the scrupulous implementation of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina of 1995 (Dayton Agreement), as well as the respect for the powers of the two entities established by the agreement and the equal rights of the three state-forming peoples: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. We note that the high level of the organization of the elections again showed the need to revoke the Office of the High Representative (OHR) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which Russia has repeatedly spoken about, and to give the responsibility to the people of Bosnia.

"We are open to a mutually beneficial dialogue with our Bosnia and Herzegovina partners in the political, investment, economic and cultural areas. We believe that the further development of Russia’s relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and its entities will facilitate the improvement of the living standards in the two countries and their mutual cultural and religious enrichment, as well as improve peace and security in the Balkans."

(Mid.ru, October 10, 2018)

Russian Expert Bondarenko: Dodik's Victory Will Strenghten Russia's Position In Bosnia

Oleg Bondarenko, director of the Progressive Policy Fund, states said that Dodik's victory as a Serbian representative to Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidium will seriously strengthen Russia's positions in Bosnia.

Bondarenko said: "It should be taken into account that [Dodik] is the strongest Serbian politician and Moscow's friend, he is an open opponent of European integration and joining NATO. ..Thus [we] may count on him more than on anybody else".

The expert has also stressed that the major task at the moment is to prevent a repeat of the "color revolution" scenario. In the Thursday preceding the election and following it some NGOs connected to Great Britain have already launched street protests.

(Rg.ru, October 8, 2018)

Russia-Greece Relations – Regnum.ru: Greek Minister Of Defense Kammenos Wants To Stop 'Russian Penetration Into The Balkans'


John Mattis and Panos Kammenos. (Source: DoD Twitter account)

On October 10, Greek Minister of Defense, Panos Kammenos, met with the American Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, as well as with US Under-Secretary of State John Sullivan and Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Wes Mitchell, in Washington.

The Russian media outlet Regnum.ru reported that Kammenos proposed establishing permanent US bases in Greece and forming a defense alliance in the Balkans to stop "Russian penetration":

The Greek Minister Kammenos, whose position in the government is uncertain, and whose conservative "Independent Greeks" party risks losing its parliamentary representation in the next election, made a number of "unexpected statements." First, he asked the United States to consider the establishment of permanent American military bases in the Greek cities of Volos, Larissa and Alexandroupolis, in addition to the port of Souda, in the bay by the same name on the island of Crete. Secondly, he proposed signing an agreement on a defense alliance between Greece, Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria with the later accession of Serbia in order to "create an arc of stability on the Northern border of the country". In this way, according to Kammenos, the "Russian penetration into the Balkans" will be stopped, and the "stability of Macedonia" will be protected.

These initiatives sparked a heated debate in Athens. Most of the press began to wonder whether the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tzipras and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias were aware of the defense minister's activities, at a time that he was also proposing an alternative policy to the current government's policy for resolving the Macedonian issue. Giorgos Koumoutsakos, the shadow foreign minister for the Greek opposition party "New Democracy", protested. Addressing Kotzias, he asked: "And who ultimately decides on the country's foreign policy? The Minister of Defense or the Minister of Foreign Affairs?" According to the shadow minister, Kammenos' statements on countering the "influence of Russia in the Balkans" will undermine the goals of Tsipras's planned trip to Russia this winter (in Moscow they say that the visit will take place on December 7) and will dampen the prospects for improved Greek-Russian relations.

Meanwhile, the government of Greece distanced itself from the initiatives of its own minister of defense. So far all the concerned parties – both the Americans and the Russians –have remained silent about the of Kammenos proposals for an alliance and American bases.

An analysis in Regnum.ru by Stainislav Stremidlovsky argued that Kammenos' proposal irritated Warsaw, which has also been pressing the US to build a permanent base in Poland:

Yet, Warsaw too has not yet responded to the Greek Defense Minister, although it is Poland that could be the main "victim" if Washington agreed to deploy new US permanent military bases in Greece. It is to be reminded that, in mid-September, Polish President Andrzej Duda visited the White House, where he was received by the US President Donald Trump. Duda once again urged Washington to place a permanent base on Polish soil. However, the final joint statement of the two presidents did not mention this issue.

"The US Army is not made of rubber. If they create a new facility in Poland, the Pentagon must decide where to relocate the military and the equipment. According to the leadership of the US Department of Defense, they have not shown marked enthusiasm on this issue. Moreover, Warsaw will not be very happy, if suddenly Washington, for some reason, will deploy three additional US military bases in Greece. In our opinion, this is unlikely to happen. Moreover, it is impossible to overlook the fact that the initiative of the Greek Defense Minister creates a new problem for Poland in an unexpected way. And this happens against the backdrop of Athens' competition with Warsaw in the attempt to recover reparations [from Germany] for the Nazis' crimes in Greece. According to the Polish tabloid Fakt, the issue of getting reparations from Germany, today is again coming to the attention of the Greek press. Tzipras recently spoke about the ongoing efforts to restore "historical justice", and, just a few days ago, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos made an important statement, during the ceremony dedicated to the memory of the victims of Nazi crimes, recalling that "Athens' is still claiming military reparations from Germany".

"The Greek and Polish authorities are now acting as competitors. But this is not all. In fact, Minister Kammenos and his "Independent Greeks" party, together with the ruling Polish Law and Justice party (PiS), are creating divisions between their allies both in the framework of Euro-Atlantic solidarity (NATO) and of European solidarity (EU), by stressing the need to 'confront the Russian threat'.

However, they are running after a departing train, which is heading to a dead end. Today, a new geopolitical reality is taking shape, in which the old propaganda slogans do not work any longer.

(Regnum.ru, October 11, 2018)