If it were 1961 today, and not 2021, perhaps Russia’s refusal that the new High Representative for BiH, Christian Schmidt, addresses the Security Council would be the number one world issue. Thus, the interest exists only in Bosnia, some in Serbia and Croatia, and within a small circle of Europeans, Americans and Russians who deal with the Balkans. Punches being thrown in the Security Council by the Russians (Soviets) and the Americans, the British and the French since the end of the Cold War are neither attractive nor too important for world politics. It goes in other directions, and sometimes it just stops by the Security Council to get the seal.
In Banja Luka, but also in anti-Western circles in Belgrade, they say with great joy – “Mr. Schmidt, you are misrepresenting yourself, you are not the High Representative”. This has been going on since the end of May, because his election at the time was being challenged because Russia did not vote for him. However, the reality is that Christian Schmidt is the High Representative for BiH. He has been coming to work in Sarajevo since August 1st; he has had important meetings since then and made various decisions. He will be the High Representative until his term expires or unless his employer, the Peace Implementation Council, decides otherwise. Christian Schmidt is a reality, and his non-recognition does not change anything.
Where did the great celebration because of the Russian brake in the Security Council come from, where did the feeling of triumph in official Banja Luka and the pro-Russian media in Belgrade come from? What actually happened at the UN? Or more importantly – what did not happen? The Security Council did not revoke the mandate of Christian Schmidt, nor could it do so, because it is not his employer.
So, first of all, nothing of what they are looking forward to in Banja Luka has happened. What happened was a small formal game on the line Russia-West, one of the many tensions that we do not register, because they usually concern some topics and parts of the world that are uninteresting to us. A small trade took place on this line; the rivals among the permanent members of the Security Council tightened things a little, relaxed them a little and found themselves at a point that suits both. It was important for the West to extend the mandate of the EUFOR mission in Bosnia. Russia agreed to that, provided that Schmidt did not speak before the Security Council and that any mention of his office was deleted from the resolution. Compromise and move on.
And most importantly, these “me to you – you to me” will not even have any practical consequences in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region. The only consequence will be the recording of scores in the notebooks of America, Russia, Britain, France, who was indebted when and how much in the voting, until the next opportunity for a new “trade”. And it could be about anything, Syria, Iran or the Arctic, for example, if we can predict a new opportunity for Russia’s “nyet” in the Security Council.
Until then, Christian Schmidt will perform his duty in Sarajevo in full capacity. He will not have any obstacles, he may not be able to personally present his report to the Security Council next time, but that text will certainly remain in the UN.
In Serbia and in the Republika Srpska, unfortunately, there are still huge expectations from a big turnaround on the international scene, which will be initiated by Russia, and because of which the world will stop and everything will turn to “our” side. That will not happen, and the case of Christian Schmidt is only the last confirmation. Just as nothing happened when Yevgeny Primakov, then Prime Minister, ordered the famous turn of the plane over the Atlantic, told Bill Clinton that he is not coming to Washington and returned to Moscow. Although “Serbs will never forget that”, as it is being said in the appropriate texts on the occasion of the anniversary of that event, the maneuver over the ocean did not delay, let alone stop the bombing of Serbia. It is similar with ignoring Christian Schmidt, and in the meantime of three decades, there have been many similar situations.
Real politics, the one that should concern us, because it alone has a practical effect on our lives, has not been conducted in the United Nations and within the framework of the international order created after the Second World War for a long time. We can hold symposia on the circumvention of these rules until the judgment day (and Serbia is probably the world champion in terms of their number), but that will not help us to do better and achieve some of our goals.
For a long time, official Serbian politics was a big symposium. It was considerably more important to be right than to be happy and successful. Our ruling sets did not understand that their job was not to organize legal debate clubs, but to do the best they can for their country on the world stage. Even now, some political pensioners, if they had the opportunity, would rather prove whether Schmidt’s mandate is legitimate or not, pretending to be blind to the reality in BiH, which is going the other way.
Aleksandar Vučić received Christian Schmidt in Belgrade a month after the German took office. Although they were not happy in Banja Luka because of that, it was the move of a pragmatic statesman, who knows what his job is. Instead of placing himself in the shell of endless and futile legal persuasion, Vučić welcomed Schmidt as a partner with whom he should work together in the coming years to fix things in BiH and the Republika Srpska. There is no other partner, there will be no other partner, and that is the only thing that Vučić was interested in.
A seemingly routine, even protocol meeting, but in fact a convincing proof of the essential change in Serbian policy in relation to the one from a few decades ago, when it was difficult to find at least one foreign policy success. It’s like that with Kosovo and the European Union, and with relations with America, Germany, with the construction of the gas pipeline, with the creation of a trade union in the Balkans. Today’s Serbia and Serbia not long ago have nothing in common in their understanding of the world and understanding of where we are and what we need to do to succeed. Fortunately, rejoicing over the new Russian maneuver in the UN has not been an official Serbian policy for a long time. This is left to the front pages of the tabloids and the marginal guardians of the old world order, right where it belongs.