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Bosnian intellectuals demand urgent engagement of US in Western Balkans

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Bosnian intellectuals who live and work in the US sent an open letter to State Secretary Antony Blinken, calling for stronger US engagement in the Western Balkans before, as they said, “Europe sleepwalks into another war.” They demand imposing of sanctions for those who engage in genocide denial and revisionist history, as well as stronger presence of NATO on border between BiH and Serbia.

“We write to you on behalf of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an organization assembling more than 250 university professors, scientists and researchers, medical doctors, artists and literary figures, who have found refuge and achieved enormous academic success and public recognition in the United States and North America during and after the wars in the former Yugoslavia of the 1990s. We write as concerned citizens of the United States as much as scholars still attached to their homeland in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We write because, once again, as in the 1990s, the threats to sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina and political rejection of its multiethnic fabric pose a potentially violent challenge to people’s lives and livelihood in the Western Balkans but also to the future of Europe and the transatlantic relations,” said the letter signed by the academy’s board of directors.

“We write to you, Secretary Blinken, to urge you to act before Europe sleepwalks into another war. Despite obvious political provocations and actions undermining the complex institutional structure
built on the basis of the Dayton Peace Agreement, Serb but also Croat ethno-nationalist leaders in Bosnia and Herzegovina (and in Serbia and Croatia proper) are still accepted as negotiating partners and their secessionist or expansionist dreams are emboldened,” the intellectuals warned.

They stressed that Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite Presidency Milorad Dodik is creating a “separatist army in Republika Srpska (Bosnia’s Serb-dominated region),” and that Serbia is “using the Open Balkan Initiative as a cover for the transfers of arms to Dodik.”

They also warned that Bosnian Croat political leader Dragan Covic is openly advocating for a “third entity” within Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the politicians in Zagreb are now united behind
“revisionist histories of World War II and transparent treatment of “Croat Herzegovina” as a part of their own state.”

Bosniak leadership, they added, “is weak and, once again, unarmed and dependent on outside support.”

According to the intellectuals, these are the same political dynamics that led to the war in 1992, and that they are not just allowed to fester but empowered through the combination of the EU neglect of the region and the unopposed geopolitical interferences by Russia and China.

“And so, while we understand the delicate position that the United States finds itself in both domestically and internationally at this particular political moment, the time to prevent these dreams from turning into nightmares is now. Bosnia and Herzegovina can be reorganized according to democratic principles of multi-ethnic citizenship instead of the segregationist principles of ethno-territorial division. By stopping the drive to segregation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you can send a strong signal that racism and white supremacy will be stopped elsewhere also.”

They asked the US senior officials to reconsider the following measures:

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1) Impose targeted economic sanctions on corrupt leaders who challenge Bosnian and
Herzegovinian sovereignty and constitutional order and urge the EU to do the same;

2) Isolate and sanction all political leaders who engage in genocide denial and revisionist history;

3) Offer support to civil society leaders who have been actively fighting ethno-nationalist
tendencies on the ground for decades;

4) Dispatch the best US diplomatic team to the region;

5) Reinforce the US commitments to NATO missions in the Western Balkans and protect the
porous borders between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina with additional NATO troops;

6) Prioritize the peace and security of Bosnia and Herzegovina in public speeches and ask
President Biden to do the same.

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