GEOSTRATEGIC BATTLE FOR THE BALKANS:Dodik is a mere pawn for the Kremlin, he is standing thanks to the oligarchs

Žurnal in English

GEOSTRATEGIC BATTLE FOR THE BALKANS: Dodik is a mere pawn for the Kremlin, he is standing thanks to the oligarchs

Milorad Dodik and Republika Srpska are just Russia's convenient tools for opposing the West. Dodik's political adventure called the return of state competencies to Republika Srpska serves to protect the promise he made to the Russian tycoons with whom he has much stronger ties than with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Dodik is a mere pawn for the Kremlin, he is standing thanks to the oligarchs
M.Dodik and V. Putin



“I'm not sure that Dodik has the support of the Kremlin, his status is more based on the connection with the Russian oligarchs through whom he gains the status of an important Russian player”.

According to reliable Žurnal's sources, this was said by the President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, during a meeting with one of the delegations of the international community. It is no secret that Vučić does not like Dodik’s numerous commendations of Putin’s great support, with which he is trying to cover up numerous scandals, from the sale of the Brod Refinery to the placement of Republika Srpska bonds through the stock exchanges in London and Vienna.

In mid-November, Žurnal released a story
about the probable background to the non-transparent sale of Republika Srpska bonds, where the buyers could be Russian tycoons and even Dodik himself. Let’s keep in mind that in late April this year Republika Srpska sold bonds worth EUR 300 million through the London Stock Exchange, with a five-year repayment period and high interest rates of 4.75%. The sale was made by direct agreement with an unknown buyer. Three years ago, through the Vienna Stock Exchange, Republika Srpska sold bonds worth 168 million. The details of this transaction are also secret, and some Russian tycoons, such as Konstantin Malofeev, who is close to Milorad Dodik, are also listed as buyers. A possible reason for this veil of secrecy around the bond sales, which was already subject of Žurnal’s reports, is Dodik’s possible provision of natural resources as a guarantee of debt repayment, and that this is the main reason for his uneasiness over the BiH Constitutional Court’s decision that agricultural land and forests are owned by Bosnia and Herzegovina and not the entities.

Increasingly frequent appearances of the European official, questioning the sale of those bonds and illicit provision of BiH property as a collateral, indicate that Žurnal's story is well-founded. The last person to emphasize it was the Vice-President of the European Green Party, Thomas Waitz.
“The Prosecutor's Office for Corruption and the Financial Market Supervisory Authority could be involved in the case of RS government bonds on the Vienna Stock Exchange, as it is unclear if investors have been notified. In the case of bonds on the London Stock Exchange, there are indications that the investors are Russian. Security and political issues are also raised here, particularly if you are familiar with the geopolitical relations between Republika Srpska and Russia, and one of those could be if this is an attempt to exert influence or an attempt to bring RS into political dependence.”, said Waitz for the Austrian DerStandard.


Tomas Waitz (photo N1)

Rashid Serdarov, Evgeny Zotov, Konstantin Malofeev are Russian tycoons who were involved in businesses with Republika Srpska, i.e., with Milorad Dodik, about which Žurnal wrote. It is also a mystery who are the co-owners of the company Neftgazinkor, which is the buyer of the Brod Refinery. Apart from the state-owned Russian company Zarubnezhneft, other co-owners are unknown legal and natural persons, and Milorad Dodik is listed as a possible "secret partner". 

Aleksandar Vučić most certainly knows it all, and therefore he utters the statements from the beginning of this text. Vladimir Putin needs Dodik to maintain the tension in this area and to measure his strength in the Balkans against the United States of America primarily, as well as against the European Union to a lesser extent. That is why he had allowed the Russian oligarchs, with whom Putin has "active and peaceful coexistence", to occasionally do business with Dodik. However, Dodik had "crossed the line" a bit by initiating reinstatement of national competencies to the entity level, which represents an introduction to secession. Russia does not need an independent state of Republika Srpska, but a politically and economically unstable Bosnia and Herzegovina, as proved by  obstructions within the Peace Implementation Council and non-recognition of the current High Representative, Christian Schmidt.

“Moscow is not as committed to the crisis in BiH as it is to its rivalry with Washington and to the fight against Western influence in the Balkans. From that point of view, Moscow considers the OHR to be a mere lever of influence aimed at Western domination and Euro-Atlantic integration, and not at the implementation of the peace agreement. Given that Russia considers itself an important guarantor of the peace process, and Milorad Dodik his close interlocutor, it would be logical to call on him to exercise some restraint, especially in statements that can be interpreted as undermining BiH's territorial integrity. But that will not happen, because Moscow is interested in a completely different dimension, i.e., the obstruction of the Western agenda in the Balkans .... Although Dodik's rhetoric is gradually developing into political action, Russia (even if it wants to) cannot help him become independent, let alone at its own expense. Russia may like Dodik's accordion, but it will bear no responsibility for his politics.”, wrote Yulia Petrovskaya, a journalist and a political analyst, for AJB.

That is why Dodik's recent trip to Russia was thunderously announced and the meeting with Putin turned into a fiasco. Not only did Putin not agree to take photos with Dodik, but there was no usual press release prior to the meeting. According to unofficial sources, Dodik asked Putin's secretary Dmitry Peskov to announce the meeting. A day later, the InterFax agency released a short piece of information, one sentence long, saying that the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir (no last name !?) met with the member of the BiH Presidency. 

“That was a message of Russia, and there are no coincidences, particularly in that connection between the state and the media. It was a message to their partners, the EU and the US, that the stories coming from  Republika Srpska's ruling figures before their departure for Russia were not true - that Russia would defend them, that it would deploy its defense forces, which certainly raised significant  concern in the world ... Russia has simply shown that there is nothing to that. Russia did not just fail to give any particular importance to that visit, but had simply ignored it entirely.”, said Draško Aćimović, the former BIH Ambassador, for BN.


Draško Aćimović

Žurnal wrote about the role of Milorad Dodik in fulfilling Russia's interests as well as about the dilemma of had Russia chosen Dodik as its "player" in this part of the Balkans or had he imposed himself, showing a desire to be "Putin's errand boy" more than the president of Serbia. Draško Aćimović is of the opinion that self-proclaimed "players" of Russia essentially do not affect it at all.

“People need to be aware that Russia has its own plans and its own strategic positions. When Russia says that the OHR is illegitimate, that they are not in favor of BiH joining NATO, then these are its official positions that have nothing to do with who is the president of RS and who is a member of the presidency. These are their official positions regardless of who is in power over here”, said Aćimović.

And the official positions are conveyed by the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to BiH, Igor Kalabukhov. He still does not see a problem in Milorad Dodik's aspirations for an "independent Republika Srpska within BiH", assessing that everything was initiated within the democratic process. He reiterates that "all decisions must be made through a dialogue, in communication between the entities." Kalabuhov, translated from the language of diplomacy, does not advocate the secession of BiH, but he also does not want to condemn such intentions of Milorad Dodik. 


Igor Kalabuhov and Milorad Dodik

The vice president of the SDP of BiH, Vojin Mijatović, reacted with a letter to Ambassador Kalabukhov, reminding him that BiH is an independent and sovereign state and that friendly Russia should not interfere in the internal affairs of BiH in this way.
“If you are a friend of our country, make sure that the tax debt of the Oil Refinery in Brod, which is owned by a Russian company, is paid. It is a debt that exceeds hundreds of millions of KM. I believe that if you do not pay taxes, you cannot do business in Russia either”, wrote Mijatović, inviting Russia to decrease the presence of its intelligence officers throughout BiH.

Vojin Mijatović

Žurnal wrote
about Russia's attempts to influence the security and intelligence sector in BiH, as well as it attempt to exert economic influence, complete control over imports, oil refining and distribution on the BiH market through the privatization of Brod Refinery, with a monopoly on gas imports to Bosnia and Herzegovina. These are the main trump cards of Russia used to maintain its influence that Dodik abundantly uses in politics.

“Meanwhile, Dodik's plan is fairly simple. Once the OHR becomes irrelevant and European judges are removed from the BiH Constitutional Court, he can continue to dismantle or take full control over the BiH institutions that are not under his control. This is the perfect outcome for Russia: a broken legacy of US foreign policy, chaos in the European Union's neighborhood or, at best, the evolution of BiH into a confederation that will forever remain unable to pass any foreign policy decision unfavorable to Russia - whether it be on Crimea, Ukraine, fulfillment of BiH aspirations towards NATO or any other issue that might arise”, analyzed Majda Ruge, expert of the “European Council for Foreign Affairs” for the US political magazine "Foreign Policy".


Majda Ruge

Dr. Nerzuk Ćurak, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences, had in an interview for Žurnal, some ten years ago, detected the perniciousness of the non-existence of a unified BiH diplomacy. Ten years later, Professor Ćurak underscores the situation regarding the relations between Russia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Moscow has not only encouraged anti-European players within the European Union, but has configured an allied network of Russia on the edges of the EU, in the Western Balkans, at the center of which is Serbia, whose dominant political and intellectual elites are much closer  to Pan-Slavic and sacral-Orthodox ideas then to the European liberalism. And while the West was asleep, convinced of the planetary power of its democratic-liberal ideas, the European Union lost the Western Balkans, the Western Balkans lost the European Union and as a result of that mutual geopolitical loss we got Russia in Pale and Banja Luka”, wrote Ćurak for tač


Nerzuk Ćurak

"Russians are deep in the societies of Serbia, Bosnia, and even Croatia, in the Balkans...Therefore, that is the reality. The West had to face it up. I believe that the mission of the international community in BiH has not been destroyed. It is important to have the new political actors more oriented towards Bosnia and not towards their narrower communities in the time ahead, as it is holding back any progress towards the EU and NATO. It should be borne in mind that Russia will continue to have an influence on what will be happening here. Yes, the West had to back down in a way, but it has not been completely defeated", said Sonja Biserko, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, for radiosarajevo portal.

Apparently, Milorad Dodik and Republika Srpska are just Russia's convenient tools for opposing the West. Dodik's political adventure called the return of state competencies to Republika Srpska serves to protect the promise he made to the Russian tycoons with whom he has much stronger ties than with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. On the other hand, "little brother of big brother", Serbia prefers to flaunt Russian weapons, introducing another method of instability.

“Vučić is pursuing Russian foreign policy towards his neighbors, because it pays off, and the rattling of weapons and the constant threats of escalating conflicts only contribute to the general state of unrest. How this reflects on the Serbian world and BiH is perhaps best illustrated by a sentence uttered by the aforementioned Vulin, while he was Minister of Defense: "Republika Srpska does not have its own army, but the Serbian people do." It is a direct threat and a blow to BiH's sovereignty”, said for Žurnal Tomislav Marković, journalist and writer, editor of XXZ portal.


Tomislav Marković

Marković is of the opinion that Vučić's support helps Dodik to remain in power, and the President of Serbia shares that support generously, politically, financially, and through the media.

In any case, Russia ended 2021 as a disruptive factor in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is its ultimate goal. How much it will be able to keep that position depends on many factors. Bosnia and Herzegovina is just one of the offers on the "menu" of the global geopolitical buffet . A possibly firm and consistent position of the United States, in line with recent announcements, will be a largely decisive factor so as to at least partially remove the shadow of Russia over Bosnia and Herzegovina.