Bosnian officials slammed the Russian warning, calling it a “veiled threat” against Bosnia and its western allies.
Russia will “have to react” if Bosnia and Herzegovina joins NATO, says the Russian embassy in Sarajevo.
The embassy wrote that in the “case of a practical rapprochement” of Bosnia and NATO, “our country will have to react to this hostile act”.
In an article on its website, the embassy asked “is NATO a mental hospital designed to rid its patients of existing fears and phobias?” adding: “who is Bosnia and Herzegovina afraid of?”
Bosnian officials denounced the “veiled threat” on Friday, which Zeljko Komsic, the Croat member in Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, said was a threat not only against Bosnia but also its western allies.
“It’s clearly a geopolitical game which Russia is playing to stop the expansion of NATO in Europe,” Komsic said.
The main Bosniak Party of Democratic Action said that the Russian statement represents “another inappropriate meddling” by Moscow in Bosnia’s internal affairs.
The Russian statement went on to say no expansion of NATO has improved relations between Russia and the new members, and that “expansion itself weakens regional security and stability”.
Bosnia is part of NATO's Membership Action Plan, an advisory and assistance program designed for countries wishing to join the military alliance, which is currently composed of 30 European and North American countries.
Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia, a Russian ally, remain the only Western Balkan nations that are not NATO members.
Montenegro joined the alliance in 2017 while North Macedonia became a member last year.
Bosnian Serbs, who control about half of Bosnia after a US-sponsored peace deal that ended a bloody war in the 1990s, are closely allied with Russia and remain vehemently opposed to NATO membership.