Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




The Parallels of Russian Bellicosity in the Balkans in the Example of Ukraine

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Please join us for a discussion with Balkan experts Reuf Bajrović (US-Europe Alliance), Kurt Bassuener (Democratization Policy Council), journalist Una Hajdari, Richard Kraemer (European Values Center for Security Policy), and Ivana Stradner (Foundation for Defense of Democracies), moderated by Tanya Domi (Harriman Institute).

Just last month, the Russian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina issued issued a startling threat to the Bosnian government’s aspirations to join NATO. “Bosnia and Herzegovina have the right to decide whether to be a member of NATO, but Moscow reserves the right to respond to such an opportunity,” he said. Russia warned Bosnia and Herzegovina that it could be the Kremlin’s next target following Ukraine.

This is not the first time Russia has threatened Bosnia. The parallels to Russia’s threats to Ukraine are unerringly uncanny. Bosnia’s significance to Western powers and to Russia stems from the same fact: The country is located squarely at the intersection of NATO and Russian influence. The West recognizes some of the potential Bosnia could have if it were brought into the NATO bloc, but seems not to understand the ramifications of the country slipping into Kremlin-induced disarray. For its part, Russia is just being consistent: Just as it unsuccessfully attempted to prevent Montenegro and North Macedonia from joining NATO, so too is it trying to halt Bosnian aspirations toward the same goal. Bosnia and threatened Balkan states North Macedonia and Montenegro remain fragile to Russian manipulation of its proxies in all of these countries and in the Balkan neighborhood.



Reuf Bajrović Is the Vice President at the US-Europe Alliance in Washington, DC. Previously, he served as president of the Emerging Democracies Institute in Washington, DC, and president of the Civic Alliance political party in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mr. Bajrovic served as the Minister of Energy, Industry and Mining of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where he oversaw a portfolio of $2 billion. He has served as consultant and advisor in over a dozen countries to political parties, private foundations and development agencies such as USAID, European Commission, EU Police Mission, UNDP, UK Department for International Development (DFID), German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), National Democratic Institute (NDI), International Republican Institute (IRI), Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Twitter: @ReufBajrovic

Kurt Bassuener is a co-founder and senior associate of the Democratization Policy Council, a Berlin-based think-tank established in 2005. His received his PhD in 2021 from the University of St. Andrews’ Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, after successfully defending his dissertation, “Peace Cartels: Internationally Brokered Power-Sharing and Perpetual Oligarchy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia.” Kurt is co-author of the collected volume Sell Out, Tune Out, Get Out, or Freak Out? Understanding Corruption, State Capture, Radicalization, Pacification, Resilience, and Emigration in Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia, a collaborative project of DPC and Eurothink, supported by USAID. He is also co-author and research director for the Diplomat’s Handbook for Democracy Development Support, a project of the Community of Democracies. Prior to studying at St. Andrews, he lived for eleven years in Sarajevo, starting in 2005 as a strategist for then-High Representative Paddy Ashdown. Twitter: @KurtBassuener

Una Hajdari is a freelance journalist focused on nationalism, minorities and far-right groups. She has reported widely from the Western Balkans for the past nine years, and has now shifted her focus to covering central and eastern Europe. She has reported for outlets like The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The New Republic, The Nation and Politico EU, among others. She is a longtime correspondent for the journalist watchdog organization Reporters Without Borders. She was a research fellow focused on the far-right at MIT in 2018, and has had her work supported by organizations such as The International Women’s Media Foundation, The Ground Truth Project, and others.


Richard Kraemer is a non-resident senior fellow at the European Values Center for Security Policy in Prague, Czech Republic. His research there focuses on malign foreign interventions by Russia and China in Central and Southeastern Europe. He is also non-resident scholar for the Frontier Europe Initiative at the Middle East Institute and a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. As board president of the US-Europe Alliance, Richard works to inspire Americans to advocate for a robust and cooperative transatlantic community.


Ivana Stradner serves as an advisor to Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s Barish Center for Media Integrity, where her research focuses on Russia’s information operations and cybersecurity, particularly Russia’s use of advanced forms of hybrid warfare and the threat they pose to the West. Stradner studies Russia’s security strategies and military doctrines to understand how Russia uses information operations for strategic communication. Given the divergence between the American and Russian militaries’ understandings of cybersecurity, her work examines both the psychological and technical aspects of Russian information security. Ivana has been published in academic journals and the press, including The Washington PostForeign AffairsThe HillForeign PolicyNational ReviewThe National InterestRealClearWorldRealClearDefense, and Newsweek. She also lectures on international law, international institutions, and international security.


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