News Briefs – December 5, 2018


NATO chief says Bosnia set for new move on membership path

Bosnia-Herzegovina is likely to take a major step this week in its ambition to join NATO, the military alliance’s secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said Dec. 3.
NATO foreign ministers are expected Dec. 5 to activate Bosnia’s Membership Action Plan, a reform process that prepares countries for membership. Even though the route to future membership would become clearer for Bosnia, the Balkan country is unlikely to join NATO soon.
Stoltenberg said that he expects the ministers, meeting in Brussels, to signal that “we are ready to receive the first annual national program” from the ethnically-divided country, which was riven by war in the 1990s when the former Yugoslavia broke apart.
“Then it’s up to Bosnia-Herzegovina to decide whether they use this opportunity,” Stoltenberg added.
The anticipated move comes eight years after NATO offered a MAP to Bosnia. However, it declined to “activate” it until all conditions were met with the process held up over the registration of defense property like military barracks and buildings used by the defense ministry. Registration is meant to be made at national level, but one of the three entities that make up modern Bosnia — the ethnic Serb Republika Srpska backed by Belgrade — refuses outright to do so.
Rather than allow the Bosnian Serbs to have a de-facto veto over the membership action plan, NATO allies have decided to move forward regardless, even though the property must still be registered at federal level for the MAP process to conclude.
They also see it as a sign of support in the wake of the Oct. 7 general election, which led to nationalist politicians dominating Bosnia’s three-member presidency; an institution which wields little formal power but that is meant to help heal ethnic wounds.
Bosnian Croat Zeljko Komsic said after his inauguration that Bosnia should join NATO, while pro-Russian Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik insisted that the country should remain neutral. AP

Ukraine calls up reservists amid tensions with Russia

Ukraine’s president on Dec. 3 announced a partial call-up of reservists for training amid tensions with Russia, saying the country needs to beef up its defenses to counter the threat of a Russian invasion.
The Kremlin dismissed the Ukrainian leader’s statement as an “absurd” attempt to inflame tensions.
Relations between the two neighbors have been strained further following a Nov. 25 incident in which the Russian coast guard fired upon and seized three Ukrainian naval vessels and their crews off the Crimean Peninsula that Russia annexed from Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko responded by introducing martial law for 30 days in much of Ukraine. For the duration of martial law, Ukrainian authorities barred entry to all Russian males aged 16 to 60 in a move the Ukrainian leader said was needed to prevent Russia from further destabilizing the country.
Poroshenko said Dec. 3 that some reservists will be summoned for training as part of martial law. He also said that some military units will be redeployed to strengthen the nation’s defenses.
“Ukraine is taking its own steps in response to the threat of a large-scale Russian invasion,” the Ukrainian leader said. AP

U.S. urges Europe to impose sanctions on Iran over missiles

The Trump administration is urging Europe to impose tough new sanctions on Iran over its ballistic missile program.
The U.S. and others condemned an Iranian missile launch over the weekend.
U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook rejected Iran’s insistence that its missile program is defensive. He told reporters traveling to Brussels with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Iran’s missile development and testing is a threat and in defiance of U.N. Security Council demands.
Hook’s comments Dec. 3 were the latest salvo in an escalating U.S. campaign against Iran since President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May.
On Nov. 29, Hook accused Iran of violating U.N. ban on Iranian arms exports by sending weapons to its proxies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. AP