Bosnian authorities today denounced Russia’s warning as a “veiled threat” that it will take action should Bosnia Herzegovina proceed with the decision to join NATO.
The Russian embassy in Sarajevo warned on Thursday that “in the event of a rapprochement between Bosnia and NATO”, Russia would react “to this hostile act”.
The Moscow message did not specify the measures that would be taken against Bosnia, which has long expressed its intention to join the Atlantic alliance and the European Union, as a strategic objective.
Zeljko Komsic, the Croatian member of the Bosnian tripartite presidency, said the Moscow declaration represents “a veiled threat” not only against Bosnia but also against its Western allies, including the United States.
“It is clearly a geopolitical game that Russia is playing to prevent NATO’s expansion into Europe,” said Komsic.
The main party in Bosnia, Democratic Action, said the Russian declaration represents Moscow’s “new inappropriate meddling” in Bosnian internal affairs.
Bosnia is part of the NATO Membership Action Plan, an advisory and assistance program designed for countries that wish to join the alliance.
Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia, the latter being a Russian ally, remain the only Balkan nations that are not members of NATO, after Montenegro joined the alliance in 2017 and North Macedonia became a member last year.
Bosnian Serbs – who control about half of the country after a US-sponsored peace deal that ended a bloody war in the 1990s – are close allies of Russia and continue to oppose NATO membership.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said that each country has its own right to decide how to deal with its security and what level of cooperation it wants to have with the 30-nation military alliance.
“No third party has the right to intervene or veto such a process. Any threats in this regard are unacceptable. The time for the spheres of influence is over,” Lungescu said in a statement.
Lungescu also said that NATO and Bosnia foster “long-standing and mutually beneficial cooperation” and that Bosnian cooperation with the alliance does not undermine any potential future membership of NATO “.