Speaking at the “EU Meets the Western Balkans” forum in Sofia, Tuesday, the British Special Representative for the Western Balkans and former head of the NATO Military Committee, Sir Stuart Peach, said he condemned recent statements and threats made to Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Russian Ambassador to Sarajevo. Igor Kalabukhov.
“NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said that it is the sovereign right of the state to decide whether to join the North Atlantic Alliance. No one at any stage of its history has forced a country to join NATO. The same goes for BiH. I absolutely condemn the allegations of the Russian Ambassador, which shocked me equally. It is obvious that it was a threat and it was aggressive. The fact is that we need BiH institutions to function, including the Armed Forces. I also made it clear that the role of international forces in BiH, whether it is EU or NATO headquarters is for support, they work together in harmony to ensure a secure environment in BiH. That seems more important to my military colleagues and to me than ever. I also welcome and encourage the recent decision to increase the capacity of EU forces in BiH, to provide that strategic reserve and ensure more flexibility for those forces. We will continue to provide that international support, which increases security in your country, just like the NATO forces in Kosovo with almost 4,000 troops deployed with the support of the EU mandate. We must not forget that there are already strong international forces in the region and we must all show the will to support them,” Peach said.
Peach also noted that with his appointment as a special envoy for the Balkans, Britain is sending a clear message that it is paying close attention to security in the region. At the same time, he rejected the claims of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that NATO is at war with Russia, and added that the war on disinformation can no longer be considered a term for discussions for think tanks, but that it is a reality in which we must act responsibly.
Kalabukhov commented, in mid-March, on BiH's membership in NATO in a statement for Federation entity’s Television (FTV).
“If BiH decides to be a member of anything, it is an internal matter. But the other thing is our reaction. On the example of Ukraine, we have shown what we expect. If there is a threat, we will react,” Kalabukhov said.