US concerned about Putin – Dodik links

US concerned about Putin – Dodik links

A document titled “Putin’s asymmetric assault on democracy in Russia and Europe: implications for US national security” and prepared for use in the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate, shows the concern of the US Administration over the growing Russian influence, including Putin’s relations with Serb leaders, such as the president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik.

The authors emphasise that Russia’s “malign influence” has been detected in 19 countries.

“For years, Vladimir Putin’s government has engaged in a relentless assault to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Europe and the United States. Mr. Putin’s Kremlin employs an asymmetric arsenal that includes military invasions, cyberattacks, disinformation, support for fringe political groups, and the weaponization of energy resources, organized crime, and corruption. The Kremlin has refined the use of these tools over time and these attacks have intensified in scale and complexity across Europe. If the United States fails to work with urgency to address this complex and growing threat, the regime in Moscow will become further emboldened. It will continue to develop and refine its arsenal to use on democracies around the world, including against U.S. elections in 2018 and 2020. Following attacks like Pearl Harbor and 9/11, U.S. presidents have rallied the country and the world to address the challenges facing the nation. Yet the current President of the United States has barely acknowledged the threat posed by Mr. Putin’s repeated attacks on democratic governments and institutions, let alone exercised the kind of leadership history has shown is necessary to effectively counter this kind of aggression. Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president”, wrote Benjamin L. Cardin, one of authors.

The document reads that most EU aspirants adopt the foreign policy directives of the European Union as a way to show commitment to solidarity even before they join. The authors give the  example of Montenegro, a country which has adopted a top foreign policy priority of the EU – the sanctions against Russia – even though it is not a member.

Once in the EU, the authors stress, countries are expected to adopt the foreign policies of the block on agreed-upon issues. Serbia has not signed into the EU’s Russia sanctions, and, given its relationship with Russia, it is difficult to see Belgrade agreeing to such measures in the foreseeable future. According to the document, this tension with the EU on a central foreign policy priority for Brussels makes a challenging situation for Serbia even more difficult.

“A similar dynamic is playing out next door in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where parts of the government have expressed a desire to join NATO. In order to move forward, however, all three constituent ethnicities represented in the Bosnian presidency—the Croats, Bosniaks, and Serbs—would have to agree on Bosnia’s NATO bid and make the commensurate reforms. Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS), or Serbian Republic, is one of two largely autonomous constitutional entities in Bosnia. It is majority Serb and maintains close relations with Moscow. An RS objection to joining NATO would collapse any deal. Although the central government in Sarajevo has expressed support for Bosnia’s implementation of a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), the parliament in RS passed a non-binding resolution in October 2017 opposing Bosnia’s potential membership in the military alliance. In recent years, Russia has intensified its relationship with RS Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, which could prove useful in hampering Bosnia’s NATO bid”, the document reads.

The authors remind  that, though Dodik is not the head of Bosnia’s government, Vladimir Putin has met with him on multiple occasions, despite not meeting the central government in Sarajevo—a breach of diplomatic protocol that makes clear that he is Russia’s preferred interlocutor.

“The Russian government has also publicly expressed its support for a 2017 independence referendum in RS, which the Constitutional Court found violated the rights of nonSerbs in the country. If Bosnia were to make significant progress towards NATO, Russia could exert influence in RS to hamper forward progress. The media space is already prepared for that possibility, as RS media outlets rely on anti-NATO and anti-EU content from Sputnik’s Belgrade outlet. Russian influence in Banja Luka, the de facto capital of RS, is pervasive—downtown kiosks are filled with t-shirts, coffee mugs, and other memorabilia praising the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin”, emphasized the authors of the document.

However, there are several inaccuracies in the document. First, Milorad Dodik is not Republika Srpska Prime Minister but president of this BiH entity. Second, there was no independence referendum in RS during 2017, as is implied in the document, and it is not certain what authors had in mind when they included it in this important document./IBNA

Link to the full document: