Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik said on Sunday it was a mistake to abolish the Army of Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity that he represents in the state-level institutions, stressing that this, as well as the formation of Bosnia’s Armed Forces, happened under the international pressure.
Dodik spoke at a ceremony marking the Day of RS Army and the Day of the Third Infantry Regiment in the northwestern city of Banja Luka, Republika Srpska’s administrative centre.
The Third Infantry Regiment, which is formally part of Bosnia’s Armed Forces, has a “supreme command in Banja Luka,” Dodik said adding that the army of the RS “lives in hearts and souls of the Serbs” and that the Third Infantry Regiment’s members “will always defend the freedom of the RS and its people.”
Eight years after the end of the 1992-95 armed conflict in Bosnia, the country conducted defence reform, merging the Republika Srpska’s and the Federation’s entity armies into one, with the command at the state level.
The reform process was mediated by the High Representative, the international community’s top administrator in Bosnia, installed to oversee the implementation of the Peace Agreement that ended the conflict of the early 1990s.
Soon after the reform, the country was offered to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace, which its authorities accepted. However, the road to the full membership in the alliance has been in a deadlock for years mostly due to rejection of authorities of the Serb-led entity.
The RS Parliament’s decision on military neutrality from 2017, Dodik said at the Sunday’s ceremony, will be fully respected. “We won’t let anyone play with the decisions of the RS National Assembly,” he added.
To start meeting the conditions towards the full membership, Bosnia needs the consent of both of its semi-automatic entities i.e. their governments. While Bosniaks and Croats, two major ethnic groups in the Federation, support the joining of the alliance, the Serb-led Republika Srpska prevents it from happening with its military neutrality decision.
RS decided to be out of any military alliance, said Dodik in the ceremony – either on the west or the east, and that decision need to be respected.
Bosnian Serb leader called on the Regiment’s command to make half of the unit wear wartime uniforms on the next year’s ceremony because, as he said, this is their day.
Alongside the Republika Srpska’s top officials, the ceremony was also attended by the Serbian Army’s Chief of Staff Milan Mojsilovic and Serbian Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin.
“RS doesn’t have its own army but the Serb people do,” said the minister.
“If there had been no persistent and brave army of the RS and the Serb people, as well as the great solidarity of all Serbs wherever they are, the RS wouldn’t have been created,” he added.