U.S. Sanctions Bosnian Serb Secessionist Leader
Milorad Dodik has openly advocated for the dissolution of Bosnia and the secession of the Serb Republic, a step virtually guaranteed to reunite the hostilities of the early 1990s that preceded the Dayton Accords.
The U.S. Treasury Department instituted sanctions against Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik on Wednesday, accusing him and his “Alternativna Televizija d.o.o. Banja Luka” television broadcaster of corrupt and destabilizing practices intended to dismantle the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).
Bosnia’s unusual political and electoral system, established through the Dayton Accords in 1995, divides the country into two halves: one “Serb Republic,” mostly populated by Orthodox Christian Serbs, and one “Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina,” mostly populated by Catholic Croats and Muslim Bosniaks. The united country has a three-person rotating presidency, with one representative from each of the country’s three ethnoreligious groups.
Dodik, who assumed the Serb presidency in 2018 and served as the rotating chairman from mid-2018 to mid-2019 and again from mid-2020 to mid-2021, has openly advocated for the dissolution of Bosnia and the secession of the Serb Republic, a step virtually guaranteed to reunite the hostilities of the early 1990s that preceded the Dayton Accords. Using his authority over the Serb Republic, he has taken several legal steps toward secession, including an attempt to devolve power from the central government in Sarajevo to the Serb government in Banja Luka. Dodik has also threatened to remove Serb troops from the Bosnian military and create an autonomous force within the Serb Republic.
These actions have earned Dodik notoriety within the United States and the European Union, which have objected to attempts to undo the Dayton Accords and weaken the Bosnian central state.
“Dodik has undermined [Bosnian] institutions by calling for the seizure of state competencies and setting in motion the creation of parallel institutions in BiH’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity,” the Treasury Department’s statement read.
“Furthermore, Dodik has used his official BiH position to accumulate personal wealth through graft, bribery, and other forms of corruption.”
The statement also addressed Dodik’s “divisive ethno-nationalistic rhetoric,” claiming that it “reflect[ed] his efforts to advance these political goals and distract attention from his corrupt activities.”
“Cumulatively, these actions threaten the stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of [Bosnia] and undermine the Dayton Peace Accords, thereby risking wider regional instability,” it concluded.
Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson claimed that Dodik’s “destabilizing corrupt activities” were “motivated by his own self-interest,” explaining the Treasury Department’s decision to freeze his assets and those of his broadcaster within the United States.
After the sanctions were implemented, Dodik accused the United States of attempting to interfere in Bosnia’s internal affairs, telling local media that he was unfazed by the sanctions and would continue to push for the Serb Republic’s independence.
“If they think they are going to discipline me with this, they are hugely mistaken,” the president told Bosnian state television broadcaster RTS.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.