İrem UZUN -TDO- Russia will “have to react” if Bosnia and Herzegovina joins NATO, says the Russian embassy in Sarajevo. 

The embassy wrote that in the “case of a practical rapprochement” of Bosnia and NATO, “our country will have to react to this hostile act”. “No new round of the alliance’s expansion has improved Russia’s relations with new NATO disciples,” the embassy added. The embassy also stressed that NATO's main purpose “is to fight Russia and joining it will force Sarajevo to take a side in this military-political confrontation.” 

NATO has hit back to a statement from the Russian embassy. Each country has the sovereign right to choose its security arrangements, NATO said, adding that whether countries choose to cooperate with NATO –through a partnership or as a full member– depends on each individual applicant and the 30 allies.  “No third party has the right to intervene or veto such a process,” Oana Lungescu, NATO spokeswoman, said on Friday.  “All threats in this regard are unacceptable. The time of spheres of influence has passed. NATO and Bosnia and Herzegovina have long-term and mutually beneficial cooperation,” it added.

NATO suspended relations with Russia in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Moscow has been keen to prevent NATO's expansion into the Balkan states, playing up its shared cultural and historical ties with the region and seeking to bolster its commercial presence there. With North Macedonia joining the alliance last year, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia are now the only remaining Western Balkan countries outside NATO. 

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