Western diplomats urged Bosnian leaders Thursday to continue moving toward NATO membership, saying it could bring security and improve people's lives. But a Bosnian Serb leader says Serbs will not let Bosnia join until the alliance resolves its differences with Russia.
Milorad Dodik, who advocates Serb secession from Bosnia and a new Serb country in the Balkans, told The Associated Press this week that Bosnian Serbs will organize a referendum in their half of the country on whether they want to join NATO and said it will certainly result in a 'no'.
The peace agreement that followed the bombardment divided the country in two autonomous regions — a Russian-backed Serb one that opposes NATO membership and another shared by Bosniaks and Croats that is backed by the West and favors NATO. No decision can be made without consensus.
"NATO officials are nervous and want to get everybody they can on their side ... but we have to protect our own interests," he said. "It is maybe the best to tell them to get back to us once they end their conflicts, and then we can talk about where we want to go."
"I see no alternative to Bosnia's NATO membership," he said, explaining that for small countries such as Bosnia it is dangerous not to be part of a bigger military alliance in a world threatened by nationalism, terrorism, the migrant crisis and the rise of populist forces.