No, Christian Schmidt did not say that NATO troops should be sent to BiH

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Reporting on an interview with Christian Schmidt, High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the website Novi Standard published an article on 19 December. The title of the article claims that Schmidt said that “NATO troops should be sent to BiH”:

Schmidt: The decision of the Assembly of the Republic of Srpska is dangerous, send NATO troops to BiH

The article presents a series of observations that Schmidt gave to the Süddeutsche Zeitung in an interview originally published on December 16, 2021. NATO troops which the article claims Schmidt wants to “send” to BiH, are mentioned once again at the beginning of the text. However, instead of the term “send”, it is stated that Schmidt said it is good for EUFOR and NATO troops to be positioned in BiH.

Schmidt does not rule out social turmoil and therefore believes that it is good for EUFOR and NATO troops to be stationed in BiH, so that they can react in a timely manner.

Christian Schmidt explained to ZC that Dodik “crossed the line of rhetorical setting the fire” and added that he did not rule out “social turmoil”. He believes that it is good for NATO and EUFOR forces to be stationed in BiH.

The High Representative in BiH gave an interview in the context of the current political crisis in our country, related to blocking the work of state institutions, and the adoption of decisions in the National Assembly of the Republic of Srpska (NARS), which envisages the transfer of competencies from the state to the entity. In one part of the translated interview on Novi Standard, it is stated:

It is nothing new that Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik rejects anything to do with the functioning of the BiH state, but Moscow’s attempt to abolish the OHR, boycott you as High Representative and possible secession of RS gives the situation in BiH a whole new quality. Christian Schmidt says that this is an integral part of Putin’s policy, which Moscow seeks to anger the West, citing as an example what is happening with Ukraine or Belarus. “In any case, it is a severe attack on the Dayton Agreement”, Schmidt replied, adding that Moscow also wanted to abolish the EUFOR mission and that it was very possible that demands for BiH dysfunctionality were based in Moscow.

The article was then published on the website called Iskra, whose impressum states that it is the “electronic newspaper of Andricgrad”, the eponymous project “city in the city” in Visegrad, which is the brainchild of Emir Kusturica.

What are the facts?

For the source of the article, Novi Standard states Deutsche Welle. The link attached at the end of the article leads to the Deutsche Welle website, where an identical article was published on December 18, 2021. The title with which Deutsche Welle provided its text is different from the title of Novi Standard.

Süddeutsche Zeitung: A severe attack on the Dayton Peace Accords

From the title of the Novi Standard website, it is, first of all, unclear which “decision of the Assembly of the Republic of Srpska” refers to, considering that the article does not speak about one decision, but about the institutional activities of Milorad Dodik and SNSD, i.e., several decisions and procedures.

In the introductory part of the text, both Deutsche Welle and Novi Standard state that High Representative Schmidt believes that “it is good that NATO and EUFOR forces are stationed in BiH”. However, DW did not focus its article and title on any troops, unlike Novi Standard, which singled out that part in the title.

The term “send NATO troops” is not mentioned anywhere in the DW article, just as the website Novi Standard is not mentioned in the article. Therefore, Schmidt did not say that “NATO troops should be sent” to BiH, as stated in the title of the website Novi Standard. He said that it is good that NATO and EUFOR troops are stationed in BiH, and that it is good that they already exist in this country.

However, the original interview on the Süddeutsche Zeitung provides more information. In the part of the text that refers to EUFOR and NATO troops in BiH, the original article states that Schmidt did mention “increasing the military presence”. However, it is still clear that he did not say that “NATO troops should be sent” to BiH.

Deswegen ist gut, dass die Schutztruppe Eufor-Althea und die Nato da sind und eines sehr ernst nehmen: die Planung für den Krisen- und Ernstfall i die militaristne Anwesenheit zu steigern.

That is why it is good that the protective forces of Eufor-Althea and NATO are present and take one thing seriously: crisis and emergency planning and increasing the military presence.

Therefore, Schmidt said in an interview that it is good that EUFOR and NATO forces are present in BiH and that they take crisis planning and increasing the military presence seriously. Although he believes that it is good that the increase in the military presence is taken seriously, Schmidt did not express his views in any part of this interview on whether or not troops should be sent to BiH.

The headline on the website Novi Standard suggests such a conclusion – that Schmidt has stated his position on this issue. Also, in this title, only NATO is manipulatively singled out, while Schmidt was actually talking about EUFOR and NATO.

The title also leads to the erroneous conclusion that Schmidt spoke about the need to send troops to BiH that do not exist in our country at all. However, he said that EUFOR and NATO are serious about increasing the military presence – that is, increasing the number of troops where they already exist.

It should be reminded that after the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, on December 20, 1995, a one-year NATO Implementation Force (IFOR – Operation Joint Endeavor) began in BiH, in charge of implementing the military aspect of the Agreement. Following the expiration of this mission, a second successor, the Stabilization Force (SFOR), was launched on 20 December 1996 to “stabilize the peace”. On December 2, 2004, this NATO mission in BiH ended.

According to the statement on the termination of the SFOR mission, “the successful termination of SFOR does not mean the end of NATO’s engagement in Bosnia and Herzegovina”. Namely, after NATO terminated the mission, the European Union decided to launch the EUFOR mission in BiH, as the successor to the SFOR mission. The BBC reports that EUFOR initially had the same number of troops as SFOR, about 7,000 and that about eighty percent of SFOR troops remained in EUFOR.

The EUFOR Althea mission was formed in 2004, according to the official EUFOR website. According to the same source, BiH currently has a battalion of about 600 soldiers from 19 countries, 15 of which are European NATO members. The remaining four countries are Chile, Switzerland, Austria and Ireland.

According to the official NATO website, instead of SFOR, NATO has established a military headquarters with the primary task of assisting in defense reform and other commitments under the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program. NATO Headquarters Sarajevo also provides agreed support to EUFOR in accordance with the provisions of the NATO-EU agreement called “Berlin Plus”, and has retained certain powers and responsibilities in accordance with the Dayton Agreement.

According to the stated facts, the claim from the headline of the website Novi Standard and Iskra, suggesting that Schmidt stated that “NATO troops should be sent to BiH”, is rated as clickbait, since the claim is not mentioned in the article itself.
The same claim is also rated as manipulation of facts, since Schmidt did not express his personal views and said that “NATO should be sent to BiH”, but spoke about how EUFOR and NATO are seriously considering the possibility of increasing the military presence.