Is Russia preparing a Bosnian trap for Ukraine? 



Zhanna Bezpyatchuk

The self-proclaimed ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’ want to amend the ceasefire agreement in Donbas with a point which would allow them independence from Ukraine, states so-called ‘DNR Prime Minister’ Alexandr Zakharchenko. However, earlier the leaders of armed formations of separatists allegedly insisted that eastern regions remain part of Ukraine, but gain full autonomy and the right to build their own relations with the Kremlin independently. Experts assume that such rhetoric may testify to the will of Vladimir Putin and his regime to execute the Bosnian scenario within Ukraine. Akin to Bosnia, Ukraine would consist of several badly-interconnected parts. Meanwhile the central government would lose its ability to approve important strategic decisions regarding NATO or EU membership. The eastern regions may block them. 

The Balkan country which consists of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serbian Republic has been living in the world throughout the past two decades ever since the Dayton Treaty was signed in 1995 after three years of war. However, Bosnia earned the reputation of a country in constant crisis, in which none of the parts can venture outside of its ethnic boundaries. While its neighbors joined the NATO, the EU and other Western structures or intend to do so, the possibility of approving such decisions is simply blocked in Bosnia because of its complex federative construction.

Such a model is very attractive to Moscow when we are talking about the future of Ukraine, thinks Russia in Global Affairs magazine editor-in-chief Fyodor Lukyanov. 

“An ideal scenario for Russia would be the Bosnian one, this has been discussed numerous times before. The East of Ukraine would have to gain broad autonomy, be practically completely self-governed, but formally remain part of Ukraine’s political and legal fields,” explains the expert.

Expert: the Kremlin needs to ‘mine’ Ukraine’s political system

Head of the Maidan of Foreign Affairs charity fund, diplomat Bohdan Yaremenko thinks that the Kremlin does not give much importance to the status of Eastern Ukraine. What is important for Vladimir Putin is to “place a time bomb” under Ukraine’s political system.

“Russia finds it important not only to chip away some part of Ukraine’s territory, but also to place certain time bombs under the entire political system of Ukraine. Because of this, it will not only be limited to Russia’s strive to gain a certain status for Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Because of this, there will be demands of decentralization, federalization, so the creation of such a political system which would weaken Ukraine in general and allow to put pressure on it in the future,” thinks the expert.

The Kremlin finds the Bosnian scenario more beneficial than the separation of Ukraine? 

Moscow never publicly offered Ukraine to become a free federation of Russian-speaking eastern regions and Ukrainian western ones like Bosnia with its Serbian and Bosnian-Croatian parts. The Bosnian model offers an alternative to the two options that Russia finds unacceptable.

The first the Petro Poroshenko’s decentralization plan, which implies giving some power of central government bodies to the regions. The Kremlin thinks this is not enough to solve the crisis.

Another option is the literal separation of Ukraine as a state, which in itself does not satisfy the Kremlin either.

However there may be more serious reasons as to why the Bosnian model may be attractive and accord with the Kremlin’s strategic interests.

Lukyanov thinks that it is very important for eastern territories under separatist control to remain part of Ukraine.

“Russia’s goal is to receive mechanisms through which in case of necessity or extraordinary circumstances, it would be able to impede Ukraine’s geopolitical movement towards NATO membership, which Russia sees as an existential threat, however erroneously or not,” the experts thinks.

If Ukraine follows Bosnia’s example, the separatist-controlled East may quite possibly have closer relations with the Kremlin than with Kyiv.

“Formally territorial integrity of the country will be preserved, however the status of Eastern Ukraine will be akin to the Serbian Republic in Bosnia, it will have closer ties to Russia than with the rest of Ukraine,” writes Ivan Krastev, head of the Liberal Strategy Center in Sofia in his article for Prospect magazine.

This will mean that in reality Ukraine will be separated, able to approve strategic decisions on the foreign policy and economic policy planes only with the Kremlin’s silent consent.

Political analyst Ivan Lozoviy from Kyiv notes that ‘the red line’ would be if official Kyiv agrees to let go of the sovereignty of part of its territory. Vladimir Putin and his people in the ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’ aim for much more than broad autonomy for individual regions, the expert notes.

Meanwhile, according to Bohdan Yatsenko, the Kremlin is constantly juggling demands, approaches, scenario, names for the territories it wants, therefore there is no need to concentrate on a single scenario of how events would develop.


Source: Radio Liberty 

Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina

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