The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, also known as the Dayton Agreement, among other things, laid the foundations for the regulation and implementation of the military segments of the agreement. By focusing exclusively on the legal aspect of the agreement, it is possible to distinguish several important acts that we will divide according to their hierarchy, or simply put, to the strength of each other. With that, we will get their legal expression, as well as understand their legal force on an international level.
The Dayton Peace Agreement, in its annexes 1-A and 1-B, determines the framework according to which the process of regional military stabilization will take place, which shows special importance in today’s time of crisis. In order to understand the significance of these annexes, it is necessary to present a few introductory remarks. Annex 1-A defines the obligations that the parties to the agreement had to fulfill in order for the UNPROFOR war mission to cease and for the mandate of the “Implementation Force”, better known as IFOR, to enter into force.
These forces had the task of ensuring a continuous and permanent cessation of hostilities, a ban on the use of force by either side, and a ban on the entry of former warring parties into territory under the control of the other side. In addition, it was ordered that all such actions must be carried out with the consent of the state authorities, especially the Presidency of BiH, with full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH. Also, that annex determined the deployment of the military forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and other military formations in BiH in 3 phases. That included the withdrawal of heavy weapons, the establishment of an inter-entity line (for agreement purposes) and confidence-building measures. In addition to the above, Annex 1-A includes details of the establishment of the IFOR command structure and accompanying parameters, such as the establishment of a joint military commission, regular briefings, prisoner exchanges and other forms of cooperation.
In order to understand today’s military power imbalance of the signatory states of the Dayton Agreement, it is necessary to have an insight into Annex 1-B, which contains clear instructions for subregional arms control. The first three articles of this annex concern the establishment of peace, confidence-building and security and are not of a long-term nature. Article 4 of Annex 1-B stipulates that the parties under the auspices of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) will reach an agreement on balanced arms levels and military size limits.
Adoption of the Subregional Arms Control Agreement
Annex 1-B stipulates the adoption of an Agreement on Subregional Arms Control, which must be based on the criteria of “population size, current military forces, defense needs and relative level of forces in the region”. The agreement was signed in Florence on 14 June 1996 under the auspices and coordination of the OSCE. The goal was to establish a numerical limit on the available means of weapons, tanks, artillery, armored combat vehicles, combat aircraft, combat helicopters and the like. Also, the agreement contains propositions of possible failure to reach an agreement within 180 days of the entry into force of Annex 1-B, where the limits would be set at a ratio of 5: 2: 2. What does that ratio set? The basic level of proportions was defined according to the then military capacities and population of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), where the FRY retains 75% of the basic level, the Republic of Croatia 30% and Bosnia and Herzegovina 30%.
It is envisaged that each party may withdraw from the agreement if it determines that “extraordinary events” have endangered its interests. Simply put, these would be scenarios of rapid armament, for e.g., some of the parties, preparing and conducting maneuvers to conduct war operations and expand military capabilities. As we are witnessing, some of these scenarios, such as rapid armaments and maneuvers, are particularly evident in Serbia, which violates the conditions of the Agreement on Subregional Arms Control.
Considering the real imbalance at the beginning of the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina and the changed positions of power before the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995, several facts should be kept in mind. Bosnia and Herzegovina lags behind the region not only in terms of its defense capacity, but also in terms of modernizing its armed forces. Another fact is that Serbia was involved in armed conflicts in the region several years after the signing of the Dayton Accords by operating in Kosovo, although a period of partial demilitarization had much earlier begun in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. Serbia started reducing its military capabilities only after Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, and since 2008 and Kosovo’s independence, it has very often raised its combat readiness as a kind of regional publicity show.
Based on the Subregional Arms Control Agreement, special envoys have been engaged for each signatory party to improve the process itself. The goal, according to the OSCE, was to establish and balance for each side a stable level of defense forces with the lowest number, and in line with appropriate security. With regard to the regulation itself and what the agreement prescribes, it is necessary to distinguish from a legal point of view a few details such as the subject matter and restrictions imposed by the agreement. Legislation of sovereign states often proves ineffective because a legal act does not provide for a sanction or enforcement mechanism. It is similar with international agreements, except that they emphasize the mechanisms of implementation and cooperation of the parties to the agreement, while sanctions in such cases are a murky field. Such agreements are based on the bona fides maxima, ie. goodwill of the parties. In this agreement, the essential provisions on arms control begin in Article IV, which covers all tanks, armored combat vehicles, artillery, combat aircraft and attack helicopters. Initial restrictions had to be reached 16 months after the signing, as the signatories had more weapons after the war. Another obligation, which is still valid today, is the ban on exceeding the maximum quantities of weapons. The maximum quantities of weapons for each country followed the stated ratio of 5: 2: 2. As an example, we cite the category of tanks where the maximum for the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was 1,025 tanks, 410 for Croatia and 410 for Bosnia and Herzegovina. After Montenegro gained independence, restrictions for Serbia were set at approximately 67% of the core value, while for Montenegro it was 8%. These percentages were calculated on the basis of the entire possession of the FRY from 1996. On July 6, 2007, the Governments of Montenegro and Serbia signed a bilateral agreement in Podgorica on the principles and procedures for the implementation of the Agreement.
In line with the defense reform, powers in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been transferred to the state level after the formation of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to which the full amount now relates. There are interesting data on attack planes and helicopters, where the former FRY retains the right to 155 planes and 53 helicopters, 850 armored combat vehicles, 3750 artillery weapons, while for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia, there’s a symmetry of the previously mentioned 410 battle tanks, 340 armored combat vehicles, 1,500 artillery weapons, 62 fighter jets and 21 attack helicopters.
Mechanisms of the Agreement
The agreement sets out mechanisms to ensure its effective implementation, which is one of its most important provisions. With regard to the mechanisms themselves, the following isdetermined:
1. the obligation to inform and exchange information on personnel and weapons,
2. the right of each party to conduct and accept inspections and
3. the establishment of a subregional consultative commission, whose work will be based on consensus of all parties, with a rotating president.
All these mechanisms and procedures are set out in their respective protocols. Given that the OSCE acted as a supervisor, the provisions implemented had their external control element, however, after 2014, with the adoption of new amendments, the OSCE no longer has that role and today, that role is entrusted to the signatory parties.
All parties, including the OSCE, are extremely pleased with the performance. In its official address on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the agreement, the OSCE leadership stated the following: “During the implementation of the Agreement, 10,292 weapons were destroyed, 476 missions, 776 inspections and 129 reduction inspections were carried out. The number of inspection facilities and the number of inspection quotas have been reduced. Nearly 1,300 assistants and 140 guest observers from 29 OSCE participating States participated in the inspections. “
The uncertain future of the Agreement
Although the rather successful cooperation in the implementation of the provisions of the agreement was pointed out, it is necessary to return to the issues of the current accelerated armament.
First, the evident expansion of the military capabilities of the countries bordering Bosnia and Herzegovina calls into question the viability of the agreements reached. In times of widespread modernization and adaptation of the armed forces to modern forms of warfare (asymmetric warfare, proxy or puppet warfare), we cannot be sure that the current restrictions can achieve the intended control function.
Secondly, the issue of defining modern weapons, especially weapons of greater destructive power, is introduced into the whole issue. Today’s modern warfare involves types of weapons that may not be categorized in the terms of the agreement, leaving room for legal loopholes in defining restrictions. That is ultimately susceptible to various types of malicious behavior and severe abuse. Given the unpredictability of political actors in manipulating the facts, the question arises, how can the controversy over the future classification of weapons such as drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) and other types of autonomous military robots be avoided? The Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina must possess such military capabilities. We are aware that this industry is improving its technological achievements every day. The agreement establishes the possibility of proposing amendments, which could be taken as a chance to regulate these issues. Also, it should be borne in mind that the current agreement is of unlimited duration. However, with possible future amendments, it may be limited in time.
In addition to the military-security segment, the uncertainty arising from the current military power imbalance also depends on the legal and political aspects, without excluding either of these two aspects. By analyzing the legal and political situation, we could react promptly to the imbalance in force. This means engaging experts in geopolitics and security within the pro-state / pro-Bosnian political bloc. Also, all other Balkan states that are not part of this agreement, but are as relevant as the signatories themselves, should always be taken into account.