DBullet holes in the skyscrapers along Sniper Alley in Sarajevo have been plastered over and the destroyed airport buildings have long since given way to new ones. A small museum in the Ferhadija shopping street commemorates the more than three-year siege of the town by Bosnian Serb troops. In the early 1990s, there were daily killings in Sarajevo, artillery pounding market squares and residential buildings from the mountains. Serbian snipers fired from afar at anyone trying to cross the street in Sarajevo.
More than 11,000 people were killed during the siege. The attackers received support from Serbia, while Belgrade had support from Moscow for its murderous activities against Bosnian Muslims. Europe watched. By passivity, the UN became an accomplice, for example in the massacre of Srebrenica. Ultimately, the United States imposed a ceasefire in 1995, the Dayton Accords. But then came the separatist Kosovo War, which ended after the bombing of Belgrade and the NATO invasion of Kosovo. Is it all over or is Russia just putting new fuses on Balkan powder kegs? Concerns are growing in Berlin and Brussels.
66 soldiers remained in Kosovo
In any case, tensions have increased significantly in Sarajevo, the former multi-ethnic city. The Serbian Republic threatens to leave the federation of the tottering state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There has been no state budget for two years. Tensions between ethnic groups are rising, alongside Bosnian Muslims and Serbs there are also Bosnian Croats.
The situation is so serious that the still present peacekeeping force EUFOR Althea activated its military reserves in mid-February and sent several armed companies to Bosnia and Herzegovina. They say they want the Bundeswehr to send one or two companies as well. In this situation, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) is traveling to the Balkans for two days. She wants, she says, to make an impression. It can’t be more. Lambrecht has never been to the area, a conversation with Bosnian Defense Minister Sifet Podzic should suffice for the start.
They agreed on the importance of Western values and had a “very open exchange” on the meaning of “peace and freedom”, she said. It doesn’t get any more precise. There is no mention of a request for troops. Later that evening, Lambrecht spoke with High Representative Christian Schmidt. The basis of his office is the Dayton Agreement of 1994, in which Russia was involved at the time, as well as the IFOR protection force. Two weeks ago, the Russian Embassy in Sarajevo expressed no confidence in Schmidt and suddenly questioned the legitimacy of his appointment.
Russian influence in Bosnia and Herzegovina is great
The next morning, Lambrecht stopped at the EUFOR contingent headquarters on the outskirts of Sarajevo. There she wants to know what the plan is, just in case. It doesn’t seem so easy. In reality, the troops have several battalions, a few thousand soldiers, available as reinforcements. Bundeswehr units are not included. Why is Germany asking for two companies then, as we can hear? Above all, the ministry experts who traveled with them have questions for the Austrian commander of the Schutztruppe, Major General Anton Wessely.