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Bundeswehr in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Return to the Balkan state

Status: 16/08/2022 12:28 pm

The Bundeswehr is sending soldiers back to Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first time in ten years. Why is it necessary? And what does this have to do with the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine?

By Kai Küstner, ARD Capital Studio

It is the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine that has led the federal government to rediscover the Balkans. Berlin wants to prevent Moscow from expanding its influence in the region and fueling tensions on the EU’s doorstep. The fact that Germany is now sending soldiers to Bosnia and Herzegovina for the first time in ten years fits into this strategy. This was confirmed by a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence ARD Capital Studio.

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contact with the population

When the Bundeswehr returns to the Balkan country, the mission is very similar to what it was then: On the one hand, the Germans must support the training of the armed forces of the capital, Sarajevo. On the other hand, maintaining contact with the population and acting as a kind of early warning system would escalate tensions. This is done by having the soldiers become part of the EU Liaison and Observation Teams, also called “Liaison and Observation Teams”. They should not just hide behind barrack walls, but should be the people’s point of contact. And can also rent civilian houses for this purpose, where it is accessible to the population.

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A German team will also be sent to the Republic of Srpska. In other words, in the difficult region that is considered a kind of Achilles heel of the fragile peace in the Balkans: Here is the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, Milorad Dodik, in the process of seceding this region and joining it with Serbia, which he sees as the “motherland”.

Russia’s ruler Vladimir Putin is accused of supporting exactly these efforts: The German government sees the danger that Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine “could be used as a catalyst for further destabilization of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” as the text called for the Bundestag mandate for the German deployment.

elections in October

In addition, there are elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina in October. It is to be feared that the already tense situation could deteriorate further in the run-up to the vote.

The German mission is initially planned to last until the end of June 2023. About 2,000 soldiers from more than 20 countries are involved in the EU mission “EUFOR Althea”. So now the Federal Republic is part of it again.

Even if the mission of the Bundeswehr is relatively small with a maximum mandate of up to 50 soldiers and will certainly not be fully exploited – its symbolic importance is enormous. This should send the signal that Germany and the EU will not stand idly by when the conflicts in the Balkans erupt openly again.

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