Milorad Dodik: Apostle of Disunion? by Kait Lee

Milorad Dodik, the Serb representative of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) tripartite Presidency, is pushing for legislation and positions that support further Bosnian Serb and Republika Srpska (RS) independence at the Bosnian federal level. While Dodik claims that these actions are fulfilling the legal framework of the Dayton Accords, many of his Bosniak and Croat colleagues see them as illegal provocative acts that could escalate to violence. Additionally, Dodik is developing ties with Serbia, Hungary, and Russia that have many regional neighbors and international actors concerned about what the future might bring.

Actions and Official Positions

Milorad Dodik and his party the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) have passed multiple laws in the National Assembly of Republika Srpska (NARS) that would withdraw RS from BiH federal institutions. Despite their passage by NARS, these laws have not been adopted by the federal Bosnian parliament, and many have not even been discussed since they are considered unconstitutional acts.

In December 2021, against the advice of the US and other international actors, the NARS voted 49-3 to withdraw from the BiH Army, security services, tax system, and judiciary. The US condemned this vote and stated that there was no constitutional way to withdraw from federal institutions without rejecting the Dayton Accords. But this was not the first bill brought before NARS that would supersede federal institutions. In October 2021, they passed the Law on Medicines and Medical Devices, which sets forth the establishment of a RS drug agency in a direct violation to the Bosnian Constitution. Most recently, NARS proposed a law that would establish a High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council in RS and annul the federal court. International monitors and regional leaders have condemned this act, with Transparency International saying, “The creation of parallel institutions would violate legal security and hinder citizens from enjoying basic human rights and freedoms.” President Dodik claims that he is merely protecting Bosnian Serbs from Bosniak politicians who want to create a Muslim-dominated state.

In July 2021, then High Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, used his executive authority to declare denial of the Bosnian genocide a crime with a sentence between six months and five years. In response, Dodik called for the dissolution of Bosnia saying “BiH cannot function like this, RS needs to respond institutionally…We are forced to start the dissolution process.” Dodik fiercely denies that a genocide took place and believes that this is an attack against Bosnian Serbs. Zeljka Cvijanovic, Republika Srpska’s president, announced in October 2021 that RS would not enforce the law. Between the July declaration and 1 February 2022, RS politicians boycotted the National Assembly of Bosnia, however they returned on 2 February 2022 to propose a law banning the abuse of the term genocide.  According to the new law, “the term genocide cannot be used in any way to insult BiH,” something Dodik claims Inzko’s law does.  Bosnian Croat and Bosniak members of the National Assembly have dismissed the proposal saying that there is not abuse of the term genocide and to adopt a law that says there is, would be “contrary to the verdicts of international and domestic courts that speak of genocide,” according to Semsudin Mehmedovic, MP of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA). The Bosnian genocide is recognized by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, a special tribunal created by the UN, and is an internationally accepted fact.

More recently, President Dodik has been blocking Bosnia’s condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and vetoing Bosnia’s ability to sanction Russia. Dodik believes that Bosnia should remain neutral in the current Ukrainian and Russia war and says that the West is flouting international law by their actions against Russia. Importantly, because of the Bosnian constitution, the government of Bosnia cannot sanction or officially condemn Russia without Dodik’s vote because foreign policy decisions must be unanimous among the three presidents. And while Dodik’s position is officially neutral, many of his supporters have been vocal in their support for Russia, with pro-Russian protests in RS and Serbia. Dodik and many Serbs compare the anti-Russian rhetoric and the US and NATO’s current actions to those in the 90s during the Bosnian and Kosovo wars. Actions where Serbs maintain they were treated unfairly.


It’s not just President Dodik’s actions and official positions that threaten the peace and security of Bosnia, it is also his alliances. President Dodik continues to deepen alliances with Serbian President Aleksander Vucic, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

An alliance between Bosnian Serb President Dodik and Serbian President Vucic is unsurprising. It is the actions rather than the existence of the alliance that concern other Bosnian politicians and Serbia’s neighbors (Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia, and Croatia) whose Serbian minorities are often pawns in pro-Serbian politics. Both Dodik and Vucic support the newly formed holiday Day of Serb Unity, Freedom, and the National Flag which was first celebrated in 2020. During the holiday, Serbs around the Balkans are encouraged to fly Serbian flags. This display of cross-border Serbian unity brings up fears of “Serbian World” for many neighboring countries. “Serbian World” is a rebranding of “Greater Serbia” a concept dating back to the 19th century nationalist movements which specified that all Serbs should be united under one nation-state. While Dodik and Vucic have not made official statements on the concept of a “Serbian World,” Serbian Interior Minister, Aleksandar Vulin, has been outspoken in his views without critique from Vucic, who has often been on stage with Vulin during his “Serbian World” speeches.

But it’s not just alliances between Serbs that worries Bosnia’s neighbors. President Dodik’s relationship with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has many in the EU concerned. Hungary’s place in the EU allowed them to veto EU sanctions against President Dodik in December 2021. Not only did Orban organize a veto of sanctions, but Hungary also supported RS with a 100 million Euro in order to facilitate their withdrawal from Bosnian federal entities. Orban’s actions could foreshadow his position and actions in the future if Bosnia were to break out into another civil war.

Finally, Dodik maintains a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov. In December 2021, Dodik traveled to Moscow to meet with Putin. The official topic of the talks was natural gas imports from Russia to Bosnia, however since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Dodik has also alluded to other agreements made during this meeting, although no additional agreements have been made public. These unknown additional agreements were discussed again on 28 February 2022 on a phone call between Dodik and Lavrov, according to the statement released by the Russian Embassy following the call. Lavrov mentioned the “violation of the Dayton Accords by the EU and NATO” at the expense of RS and the Serb people. Dodik in his statement reiterated the unwavering support that Russia has for RS and their close friendship. Given Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine and the destabilizing role that they play in the Balkans, the recent meetings between Dodik and Putin and Lavrov have many on edge.


The actions, official positions, and alliances of Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Milorad Dodik, continue to alarm not only his Bosnian colleagues but regional neighbors and international actors. Dodik, his SNSD party, and the National Assembly of Republika Srpska promote secessionist proposals that alienate Bosnian Croat and Bosniak colleagues, while stoking fears of another violent nationalist civil war. The continued denial of the Bosnian genocide by Dodik and his supporters has been a persistent source of friction and could easily escalate from rhetoric to violence given the right spark.

Meanwhile, Dodik, Vucic, and Vulin’s support for “Serbian World” ideas and the external support from Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and Russian President Putin show that the Balkans could easily become the next battleground for democratic values against rising authoritarianism in Eastern Europe.

Author: Kaitlyn Lee is an external contributor to Navanti News. She is an expert on the Western Balkans focusing on nationalism, media, and Discourse Analysis.  She holds an MA from the Robert F. Byrnes Russian and East European Institute at Indiana University and a MA in Linguistic Theory and Typology from the University of Kentucky. She has studied and lived in Bulgaria, Croatia, and Serbia and has written for the Center for European Policy Analysis and New Eastern Europe. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlyn_e_lee.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Navanti Group or its partners.