Over 800 members of the armed forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina (AFBiH) are this week participating in military drills under the ‘Combined Effort 22’ exercise, for the purpose of assessment according to the NATO Operational Capabilities Concept.
Chief of the AFBiH Colonel General Senad Masovic, highlighted that the exercise, which runs from September 19th-23rd, is part of the NATO operational capability assessment programme, which is aimed at increasing the interoperability and coordination between NATO members and partners.
AFBiH Commander, Major Enis Herić, also pointed out that while program strengthens operational cooperation between NATO and potential participants in the alliance’s operations, it also contributes to the process of Euro-Atlantic integration of the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
While BiH is not a member of NATO, it joined the Partnership for Peace program of NATO in 2006 and signed an agreement on security cooperation in March 2007. BiH’s membership action plan was then launched in 2018, but was stalled due to a veto by Serb Member of the Presidency of BiH, Milorad Dodik, in Republika Srpska (RS), who eventually agreed to a reformed plan in Nov 2019.
RS have also refused to handover military installations on their territory to the central government of BiH, which was originally a perquisite for the membership action plan but has since been decided as unnecessary by NATO.
While much recent focus in BiH has centred on the security threats posed by RS’ secession, the processes and rhetoric of further NATO integration in the current geopolitical climate have also been perceived as threatening and destabilising by RS.
Having observed NATO’s provocation on Ukraine’s borders, failure to adhere to Minsk II, and willingness to sustain a protracted proxy war at Europe’s expense, it is understandable why RS, who still suffer the aftermath of NATO’s use of depleted uranium missile casings in BiH in 1995, may take issue with further NATO integration in the current climate.
For those aware of these realities of NATO’s history and current policy, the veils of European inclusivity and regional stability, in which the Combined Effort 22 exercise comes draped, quickly unravel.
As outlined by Major Enis Herić, the exercise is aimed at improving the ability of the AFBiH to fight alongside soldiers from NATO member states, in NATO’s wars. As President Putin announces the mobilisation of military reservists in Russia, NATO appears to be preparing its reservists in the armed ranks of its de-facto members and partners. These, as the Ukraine example demonstrates, should preferably occupy a border with Russia or its allies, such as Serbia, but more importantly, be far removed from Brussels, scrutiny and accountability.