Co-written by Andy Mullins, Visiting Scholar, Center for Transatlantic Relations SAIS
In Tito?s Yugoslavia, the defense industry in Bosnia and Herzegovina accounted for more than 50 percent of the entire military capacity among all six former Yugoslav Republics.
During the war in Bosnia in the 1990s, four out of the eight military factories there were completely destroyed. But the knowledge and skills of Bosnian engineers as well as their technical documentation was preserved.
In the last 20 years, despite the devastation, the defense industry in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina managed to recover to some degree. However, steep progress was made in the past few years, where export of military products and services surpassed USD 250 million. For a small country of fewer than four milllion people, this is significant. The products include ammunition, primers, explosives, mortar shells, artillery projectiles from 76 to 155 mm caliber, mortars, cannons, howitzers, and armoured vehicles and tanks.
The United States ranked fifth on the list of countries where Bosnia and Herzegovina is exporting its military products. Only Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, Serbia, and Turkey are higher. Malaysia, Pakistan, Spain, Afghanistan, and Romania round out the top ten. In total, 55 countries have military business cooperation with this small Balkan country.
From small arms, mortar, artillery, infantry, tank and anti-tank ammunition, rockets, air and ground-ground bombs, to fire control systems, artillery fuses, anti-aircraft sighting devices, hand-held rocket launcher sighting devices, sniper optical sights, powders, and explosives and more, military industry in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina is on the rise.
Bosnia recently donated 550 tons of arms to Iraq as part of its support to U.S. – led coalition against ISIS
This year Bosnia and Herzegovina marks the twentieth anniversary of the Dayton Peace Accords that stopped the war and brought peace to the war-torn nation. With all the problems and slow pace of progress, the country is still moving in the right direction, towards EU membership. The EU has unblocked the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) talks with Bosnia and Herzegovina to help the country move forward. Bosnian troops have joined international peacekeeping forces: the ISAF in Afghanistan, the UN peacekeeping mission in Democratic Republic of Congo, and the de-mining mission in Iraq, while police forces from Bosnia and Herzegovina participate in the UN peace mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The country successfully served a two-year mandate as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Recently Bosnia and Herzegovina donated 550 tons of arms to Iraq as part of its involvement in the U.S.?led coalition against ISIS.
As Enver Mujezinovic, Deputy Director of the Directorate for Military Industry at the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina told U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), ?We are committed to building a strong partnership with the United States, to being a reliable partner for the advancement of common political, strategic and security interests in Southeast Europe. We are ready to work together for the benefit of regional and global stability and security.?
And indeed, this year will be honored as a jubilee of peace and cooperation, and an opportunity to open a new, better, and more productive chapter for Bosnia and Herzegovina is looming. In recent decades, the United States has learned the difficulty of ?nation-building? processes, and compared to Afghanistan or Iraq, the Balkans are viewed as a success story. With the possibility to further enhance military cooperation and commerce, Bosnia and Herzegovina may be given yet another boost, to be exactly that: a success story.