US-Russia Cooperation in Bosnia

Bryce carrying box

Faculty

Associate Professor of History

Project Summary

The Dayton Accords of 1995 ended the Bosnian genocide and stipulated that a peacekeeping implementation force (IFOR) would occupy Bosnia for one year after the agreement. IFOR consisted of soldiers from European countries including Russian soldiers under American command.  It seems unusual that Russia would cooperate with Americans close to its border. My honors history thesis will answer various questions about US-Russia relations while examining the narrative of Russia’s implementation into IFOR. Why did US-Russian cooperation occur when it did? Could this have been a sustainable partnership?

Primary documents accessed through the Freedom of Information Act website and National Security Archives tell the story of the negotiations and provide a lens into detailed policy making. The US-Russia cooperation was not sustainable because it was contingent upon several personal relationships in the diplomatic, executive and military realms. There was no substantial institutional framework that ensured cooperation in the future. In Russia, the opinion of former-Soviet hardliners who were vehemently anti-NATO would dominate the conversation. Their voices were so dominate in the Yeltsin administration that they would replace moderate advisors who advocated for cooperation with the West. Eventually, the Kosovo crisis of 1999 demonstrated the fragility of joint US-Russian peacekeeping efforts.

Funding from the College Alumni Society allowed me to work in Washington DC at the National Security Archives. While I am particularly lucky in having hundreds of documents pertaining to IFOR in online archives, traveling and working at the physical location allowed me to find documents that were not otherwise posted online or that I even intended to examine. For example, when I scheduled the original visit, I intended to examine the Arthur C. Helton Refugee Protection Policy Collection. In my first few visits, I found informative documents in the collection, but the research associate told me about another box of Incoming FOIAs, a miscellaneous collection of documents requested the Freedom of Information Act. Upon further inspection, I found another trove of State Department cables, which helped supplement my research around the initial international and US government response to Srebrenica. I learned that going to the physical archive will most often yield the best results, as one can stumble into a great collection.