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Untangling the Bosnian Security Conundrum: The Bosnian Defence Industry Drifting between Deterrence and Politics

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posted on 2024-06-17, 02:30 authored by Rusmir Ahmic
Summary As the 30th anniversary of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) approaches in 2025, Bosnia and Herzegovina still struggles to contain the old centrifugal nationalistic forces, and to function as a sovereign state. The five-fold increase of the Bosnian Defence Industry (BDI) exports in the period of 2011-20 is perceived either as a security threat, or as an effective deterrent, depending on which side of the ethnic divide the observer belongs to. The research goal of this project was to investigate the circumstances and driving forces behind the rapid growth, and to evaluate the impact of the revitalised BDI on the security and political stability in BiH, and the broader Western Balkan region. This was an interdisciplinary project, which required an amalgamation of theoretical frameworks, and a demanding multi-method research approach. The main finding of this research project is that the BDI renewal is the result of multiple driving forces and geopolitical factors. It is only through their systemic interaction and synergy that unexpected growth for this sector was generated. The initial impetus for the growth was generated by the strikes and demonstrations of the BDI workers, forcing the Bosniak political elites to fund the renewal of production in this neglected sector. The remaining two driving factors were deterrence and political benefits, which were so closely intertwined, that it was hard to determine if the extensive promotion of the new BDI products by Bosniak politicians was intended to counteract the renewed anti-Bosnian secessionist campaigns or to pacify their own ethnic group, which never recovered from genocide and ethnic cleansing executed during the 1992-95 war. The fourth and overarching factor in this group was fear, which actually was recognised as the root cause of the ongoing Bosnian insecurity problems. Additionally, the main factors and conditions, which enabled a positive and nurturing environment for the renewal of BDI, were identified to be economic and personal benefits generated by the BDI at the local level. At the global level, they were the geopolitical situation in the Middle East, which generated high demand for the Soviet type of ammunition, and global Muslim solidarity with the Bosniaks, who were perceived to be unfairly treated by the West during the Bosnian war. It was noted that the personal benefit factor involved various schemes used by the political leaders and their cronies to generate profits from the BDI companies. This conduct is similar and comparable to the military-industrial business model in the Western countries, although it is present only in a rudimentary form. The impact of the BDI recovery on the security of the state of BiH, explored as part of the second research question, was assessed to be positive. The research identified that the BDI might be the only tangible deterrent against Bosnian dissolution left within control of the Bosniak and pro-Bosnian population, following significant reduction and rebranding of the Armed Forces of BiH (AFBiH) under the banner of their reform. To place this into the broader context of the western Balkans, the Republic of Serbia increased its defence budget to above 1 billion USD in 2019, which was six times higher than the Bosnian defence budget in the same year. Additionally, Serbia demonstrates its superior defence capabilities in the region by conducting numerous exercises. These expressions of Serbian military power are attended regularly by Milorad Dodik, the leader of Bosnian Serbs. In the past, any threats to the Bosnian state were quickly ‘dispersed’ by a resolute action of the Western actors on the ground, reflecting a firm bipartisan support by successive American administrations. However, any military intervention in favour of Bosniaks is less likely in the future, following the explicitly Islamophobic and anti-Bosnian remarks of some European leaders, and the humiliating American withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan. The BDI is one of the limited assets left at the disposal for self-defence of the pro-Bosnian population. Particularly, if the current actions for secession of the entity Republika Srpska, and partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina, were not stopped by either the American military forces or NATO. The perception among the Bosniaks is that they would face the risk of another genocide, while waiting unarmed again for some European action on the ground, comparable to what occurred during the 1992-95 war. Many scholars agree with the perception of the pro-Bosnian citizens that the ultimate solution for the survival of the Bosnian state, and prevention of another bloody conflict, is the accession of BiH to the NATO alliance. This move would neutralise any expansionist plans by the neighbouring states, and would enhance the democratic processes across all three ethnic groups, which would elevate Bosnian political and economic standards to the level required for membership into the European Union. As such, the outcomes of this research provide new knowledge in the field of security studies, history, political economy and international relations (IR), and shall benefit the policies promoting a stable and peaceful European political environment.


Degree Type

Doctorate by Research


© Rusmir Ahmic 2024

School name

Global, Urban & Social Studies, RMIT University

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