What is an Austrian doing threatening Bosnian leaders in their own country?
This post first appeared on Russia Insider
Taking over command of EU forces in Bosnia this week, Austrian general Anton Waldner warned he won't hesitate to call up reinforcements and vanquish the pesky natives if "needed".
The European Union peacekeeping force (EUFOR) in Bosnia warned its political leaders on Tuesday it was prepared to intervene at short notice should violence resume two decades after the end of its ethnic war that killed 100,000 people.
"A lot has been achieved but a lot can be lost again," Major General Anton Waldner said at a ceremony in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo marking his takeover of the command of EUFOR, which has 800 troops deployed in Bosnia.
"There is still an executive mandate which allows significant reinforcement at short notice of (EUFOR). I will not hesitate to call (on) these reserve forces if needed," Waldner, an Austrian, said. "You, political leaders, have the most powerful key in your hands."
Somebody versed in democracy may ask, "How come a foreign military officer, commander of occupying forces, gets to threaten local democratically elected leaders?"
But Bosnia is not a democracy, it is a protectorate and a dictatorship.
Since 1997, a foreigner, the so called "High Representative" who is appointed by western powers, has enjoyed dictatorial powers over Bosnia's leaders and the state. These powers including the privilege of sacking and banning from public life any elected official, and decreeing new laws.
Bosnia today is no more a sovereign state than it was during the Austro-Hungarian occupation of 1878-1918. Incidentally, since 2009, both the "High Representative" and the military commander of foreign troops have been Austrians.
On top of all this, in the last decade the most numerous in the foreign occupying contingent have been Austrians, Hungarians and Turks — incidentally the three nations are Bosnia's historic colonial overlords, who obviously are not quite over their "glory days" yet.
Saying EU forces will intervene if there is trouble sounds benign enough until you understand what they're promising to do is intervene on the side of the troublemakers. Antiwar.com has succinct context:
EU and NATO officials are warning against any new moves for secession by autonomous regions within Bosnia, with the EU in particular insisting that they are ready to intervene rapidly if such secessionist ambitions lead to violence in the nation.
The Republika Srpska government, ruling the ethnic Serb-dominated region, has been warning the central Bosnian government against moves against their autonomy, saying that they intend to organize a secession referendum as soon as 2018.
In other words, foreigners are promising to crack down on the Serbs wherever violence comes from.
Serbs are raising the prospect of independence because their autonomy enshrined in the 1995 peace treaty has been constantly scaled back by foreigners who identify with the central government in Sarajevo.
Now foreign occupiers are telling centralist forces that should such a move for independence come, all they need to do is engineer violence at which point EU forces will invariably crack down on the Serbs for them.
Except the truth is that there is no way in hell that is ever going to happen. If serious trouble actually breaks out, foreign troops will hide in their bases like they always have.
Actually if you know your 1990s history you know that this is very much how the war in Bosnia got rolling in the first place. Foreigners (US Ambassador Zimmermann) told Muslims they did not need to negotiate with the Serbs because the US had their back. But when Bosnian Muslims called off the deal (Cutileiro Plan) which would have avoided the war altogether, the US stood by as Serbs scored one victory after another.
Finally, four years and 60,000 Bosnian Muslim deaths later, a ground invasion by the Croatian army forced the Bosnian Serbs into an agreement that was only slightly more favorable for the Muslim-dominated central government than what it could have had all along.
Fortunately then the Bosnian Serbs are not really plotting a move toward independence — not because they're afraid of puny EU troops, but because they understand a de facto independent Bosnian Serb state would be sanctioned, blockaded and made into the next Great Satan — it would be Europe's Cuba or worse.
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