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  • Writer's pictureDaniela Žuvela

Episode 58 - Bosnia: A Peace in Pieces

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Bosnia is sliding back toward ethnic conflict as Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik proposes major reforms that would help even further break down the countries fragile political ecosystem. Whilst the US turn their attention elsewhere in the world the Balkans are once again becoming a powderkeg set to explode on Europe's doorstep.



James Ker-Lindsay

  • Visiting Professor and London School of Economics, focusing on conflict, peace and security in South-East Europe (Western Balkans, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus), European Union enlargement and secession and recognition in international politics.

  • Host of Youtube ...

  • Author of an extensive list of publications, including over a dozen authored or edited books and more than 70 articles and book chapters.

Majda Ruge

  • Senior policy fellow with the Wider Europe programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, based in Berlin.

  • Former fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute / SAIS at John Hopkins University.

  • Previously worked in management and advisory capacities for the Delegation of the European Commission to Bosnia and Herzegovina and the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tim Marshall

  • British journalist, author and broadcaster, specialising in foreign affairs and international diplomacy with over 30 years reporting experience.

  • Author of seven books including “Prisoners of Geography” – a New York Times Best Seller and #1 Sunday Times best seller – and “Shadow play: The Inside Story of Europe’s Last War.”



Part 1: Peace in Pieces

  • Ker-Lindsay helps us understand the complex governance structure in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). He articulates how there is a tripartite presidential system in Bosnia representing the three main population groups in the country: Bosnian Muslims, Orthodox Serbians and Catholic Croatians.

  • We discuss this complex power sharing agreement that was born out of the 1995 Dayton Accords and outline the main interests of each representative of the aforementioned population group in Bosnia.

  • Finally we look at the constitutional issues with Bosnia’s power sharing agreement and the debates within international law on the legality of possible secession within Bosnia as well as within other countries in the Balkans such as Kosovo.


Part 2: The Fallback line (28.32)

  • Ruge begins by highlighting how the renewed threats to Bosnia’s internal political stability are reviving the collective memories of war and trauma for its citizens. She goes on to clarify the misconceptions about what this conflict is and is not about, outlining this more of an issue of corrupt political leaders dividing resources as well as attempting to dismantle Bosnia’s central institutions that are intended to act independently.

  • We overview the complicated constitutional and legal issues of electoral reform within the Croatian nationalist party (HDZ) in Bosnia and the international responses from both the European Union and the United States.

  • Similarly, we discuss the role of Russia in Bosnia and how the interests of both Russian President Vladimir Putin’s align with Serb President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik.

  • Finally, we discuss why Bosnia is making international headlines when nationalist sentiments have long existed in the country. Ruge explains how Bosnia’s domestic rule of law has become increasingly weak and less resilient over the years, which means it does not have the internal mechanisms nor the high-level international attention required to protect its institutions from internal threats.


Part 3: Kicking the Can (47.08)

  • Marshall focuses on the wider geopolitical implications and risks of what changing national borders entails in Bosnia and its ramifications on other Balkan countries with outstanding territorial disputes.

  • We then turn to a discussion on the possibility of Russian peacekeepers being deployed in Bosnia and how Washington would react to such a scenario. Although, supply flights from Russia to Serbia to make a peacekeeping operation viable would have to enter the airspace of NATO partners. However, in Marshall’s view, it is unlikely that Washington would respond overtly in this scenario.

  • Rather, Marshall details the likely response of Turkey, Croatia, NATO and the EU in the event of potential ethnic conflict or even a break-up of Bosnia.

  • Finally, we get Marshall’s view on what the future holds for Bosnia. In his view, meaningful economic development, encouragement to join the EU, and not appeasing to Dodik’s nationalist demands pave the path forward for Bosnia.


The Red Line's Bosnia Reading List

We’ve put together some further reading for those of you looking for more resources to help you get across the geopolitics of Bosnia and the Balkans.


Shadowplay – Behind the Lines and Under Fire: The Inside Story

Tim Marshall

The Dissolution of Yugoslavia: The History of the Yugoslav Wars and the Political Problems that Led to Yugoslavia’s Demise

Charles River

Balkan Ghosts

Robert Kaplan

Then They Started Shooting Children

Lynne Jones


Bosnia and the Dayton (Dis)agreement: 25 Years Later

Luka Bulatović


For episode transcripts, monthly geopolitics Q&A’s, member-only videos and to support the show, check out our Patreon here:

This episode is dedicated to Patreon members Thomas Berkowitz and Peter Perlepes


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