Russian Embassy’s statement on BiH’s NATO membership aspirations triggers bitter reactions

Russian Embassy’s statement on BiH’s NATO membership aspirations triggers bitter reactions

No third party has the right to intervene against any country wishing to join NATO and such threats are unacceptable to the North-Atlantic Alliance, NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu told N1 Friday, commenting on the recent Russian threats that they would have to react should Bosnia join NATO.

“Every country has the sovereign right to choose its own security arrangements. Whether countries decide to cooperate with NATO – either through partnerships or as full members of the Alliance – is up to each individual applicant and the 30 Allies. No third party has the right to intervene or veto such a process. Any threats in this respect are unacceptable. The time of spheres of influence is over,” Oana Lungescu said.

“NATO and Bosnia and Herzegovina have a long-standing and mutually beneficial cooperation. Cooperation with NATO does not prejudge any potential future NATO membership for Bosnia and Herzegovina. We fully respect the country’s sovereignty and independence and we welcome Bosnia and Herzegovina’s continued contributions to our Euro-Atlantic security.”

The Russian Embassy stated on Thursday that BiH’s NATO membership would be regarded a “hostile act” to which the Russian Federation “would have to react.”

“We call on BiH friends to think carefully, to consider all pros and cons, to take into consideration the opinion of all its citizens who are far from a consensus on this matter,” the statement adds according to reports by Radio Free Europe.

Two of the three members of the BiH Presidency, namely Šefik Džaferović and Željko Komšić, reacted on the Russian Embassy’s statement.

“BiH’s foreign policy goals are defined by the BiH Foreign Policy Strategy. When it comes to its NATO membership, the process is set out by the Law on Defence and the decisions of the Presidency of BiH. Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue on that path, regardless of the views and opinions of the Embassy of the Russian Federation,” Džaferović’s Cabinet announced.

Željko Komšić, the Croat member of the tripartite Presidency, said the Russian Embassy should be well aware of several facts based on the decisions of BiH institutions which the embassy should respect, especially given the recently stated Russian position on the respect of decisions made by BiH institutions.

“Bosnia and Herzegovina submitted an official request for participation in the Membership Action Plan (MAP) for NATO in 2009 in accordance with the decision of the then BiH Presidency. The following year -2010- at the NATO session in Tallinn, Bosnia was invited to the MAP where a condition was set; the registration of military real estate. That condition was lifted at the NATO session on 5 December 2018, when Bosnia was invited to participate in the MAP. I would like to remind you that the MAP, NATO’s plan for countries with membership aspirations, began in 1999 with the aim of preparing those countries aspiring for NATO membership. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania, Croatia, Montenegro and North Macedonia have gone through it,” Komšić said.

He added that, for its part, Bosnia and Herzegovina began its participation in the MAP by submitting the first Reform Program adopted in November 2019, which was immediately submitted to NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

“As for the announcement from the Russian Foreign Ministry, it certainly constitutes the continuity of their activities towards all aspiring countries for NATO membership and, unfortunately, most often such activities are manifested through causing greater or lesser difficulties. This was the case in Montenegro and later in North Macedonia during their journey towards NATO membership. Obviously, a Russian geopolitical game aims to stop the expansion of NATO in Europe. However, this is not only a message to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also to our NATO allies such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and others. Political speech that abounds in ‘twisted’ threats is certainly not acceptable to them, nor to us in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Komšić concluded.

The statement also faced criticism from various international institutions and analysts but not from Serb member and Chairman of the BiH Presidency Milorad Dodik, considered to be the “Russian man on the Balkans” and the main dissenter to BiH’s membership in NATO. /ibna