Bosnian officials on Friday denounced a Russian warning that it would take action if the country takes steps to become a NATO member.
The Russian embassy in Sarajevo had declared a day earlier that “in the event of a practical rapprochement” between Bosnia and NATO, “our country will have to react to this act of hostility”.
It is not clear from the statement what action Russia might take against Bosnia, which has long proclaimed its membership of the Western military alliance and the European Union as a strategic objective.
Zeljko Komsic, a Croatian member of the Bosnian tripartite presidency, said the Moscow declaration represented “a veiled threat” not only against Bosnia, but also against its Western allies, including the United States.
“It is clearly a geopolitical game that Russia is playing to stop NATO’s expansion in Europe,” Komsic said.
The main Bosnian Democratic Action Party said the Russian declaration represented “another inappropriate interference” by Moscow in Bosnian internal affairs.
Bosnia is part of the NATO Membership Action Plan, an advisory and assistance program designed for countries wishing to join the alliance.
Russia’s allies Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia remain the only countries in the Western Balkans that are not members of NATO. Montenegro joined the alliance in 2017 while North Macedonia joined last year.
The Bosnian Serbs, who control roughly half of Bosnia after a US-sponsored peace deal that ended a bloody war in the 1990s, are closely allied with Russia and remain fiercely opposed to it. NATO membership.
NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said each country has its own right to decide how to manage its security and what level of cooperation it might want with the 30-country military alliance.
âNo third party has the right to intervene or oppose such a process. Any threat in this regard is unacceptable. The days of spheres of influence are over, âLungescu said in a statement.
She said that NATO and Bosnia had âa long-standing and mutually beneficial cooperation. Cooperation with NATO does not prejudge a possible future NATO membership. “