SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — The United States remains committed to Bosnia and will continue to impose sanctions on individuals who engage in corruption and “sow divisions” in the Balkan nation, which has never fully recovered from its brutal 1992-95 war, a top U.S. official said Friday.
“Across 26 years, the United States has stood by the people (of Bosnia). Initially, back in the day, through war, over this last quarter century through peace, and we stand with you now,” said Samantha Power, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Power, the first U.S. official to visit the Balkan country after the U.S. recently slapped new sanctions on Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, added that more sanctions would be coming against others who engage in corruption and threaten to undermine the U.S.-brokered peace accord for Bosnia.
“We recognize the gravity of sanctions and the impact that they have on individuals’ financial holdings, on their travel and on their reputation,” she said. “On the question whether the U.S. is considering more sanctions, the answer is yes.”
Power spoke at the end of a three-day visit to Bosnia during which she met with members of the country’s multi-ethnic presidency which, alongside Dodik, also includes a Bosniak and a Croat official.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration announced new sanctions against Dodik, who has for years been advocating that the Serb-run part of Bosnia leave the rest of the country and unite with neighboring Serbia.
The Dayton Peace Accord ended Bosnia’s war, which killed more than 100,000 people and left millions homeless amid in the worst carnage in Europe since World War II. The accord established two separate governing entities in Bosnia — one run by Bosnia’s Serbs and the other dominated by the country’s Bosniaks and Croats. The two are linked by shared, state-wide institutions, and all actions at a national level require consensus from all three ethnic groups.
With tacit support from Russia and Serbia, Dodik recently intensified his secessionist campaign, spearheading a Bosnian Serb walkout from shared, multi-ethnic institutions and pledging that Serbs would separate from the central authority and form a separate Serb army, judiciary and tax system. This has triggered fears in Bosnia and abroad of a return to war.
“President Dodik, in particular, has created a climate of tension, one that is vulnerable to miscalculation and the risk of escalation,” Power said. “The United States is watching and (is) very, very concerned about the political crisis” in Bosnia.
Dodik, meanwhile, repeated after the Friday meeting with Power that he and Bosnian Serbs were being unfairly picked on by the U.S. and wrongly accused of corruption. He also indicated some willingness to consider the Serb representatives’ return to work in Bosnia’s shared, country-wide institutions.