British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Thursday that the United Kingdom would be deploying UK military specialists to bolster NATO’s mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In response to a request from NATO Headquarters Bosnia, a UK military counter-disinformation expert and a civilian strategic defense adviser will be deployed to support and train the Bosnia and Herzegovinian Armed Forces.
The counter-disinformation expert will support NATO HQ and Sarajevo’s efforts against “malign influences” from Russia and its clients seeking to sow mistrust and undermine democracy in Bosnia and the Balkans. Meanwhile, the strategic defense adviser will work with Sarajevo on its defense reform agenda, helping bring up the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina to NATO standards.
In addition to dispatching the experts, London is also providing £750,000 to establish a cyber-security centre of excellence within the University of Sarajevo, bolstering the country’s future defenses against cyberattacks. Additionally, the British government will increase its collaboration with Bosnian media and institutions, giving them the tools to identify and mitigate the effects of lies and disinformation.
The Prime Minister added:
“We cannot allow the Western Balkans to become another playground for Putin’s pernicious pursuits. By fanning the flames of secessionism and sectarianism Russia seeks to reverse the gains of the last three decades in Bosnia and Herzegovina, gains that have brought more stability to our whole continent.
That is why we are stepping up support to Bosnia and Herzegovina, answering the call from our friends to help protect the peace they so rightfully deserve to enjoy.”
The aid to Bosnia follows warnings by the international peace envoy to Bosnia late last year of an “existential threat” to the country posed by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, who triggered a secession crisis by threatening to withdraw Bosnian Serb representation from Bosnian institutions including the nation’s joint military, and reforming a Bosnian War-era paramilitary group found guilty of genocide in response to the passage of a law banning genocide denial. The United Kingdom and United States subsequently imposed sanctions on Dodik and his political allies, although regional observers have called for additional actions to limit the Moscow-backed Dodik’s room for maneuver.
The announcement of the aid was welcomed by Željko Komšić, the Croat member of the Bosnian presidency, as well as Bosniak member and presidency chairperson Šefik Džaferović. Dodik has instead lashed out, claiming that the United Kingdom has no legal basis for sending the experts to Bosnia.