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History is repeating itself: From Bosnia to Ukraine

March 11, 2022 at 2:19 pm

Passengers depart the railway station after disembarking trains from the east on March 11, 2022 in Lviv, Ukraine [Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

On 5 March 1992, Aida woke up to bombing and shooting as the Serbian army opened fire from the iconic Holiday Inn Hotel and killed two women protesting on the Vrbanja Bridge. In order to continue her medical studies, she had to escape from her beloved city Sarajevo to Germany as a result of the Serbian occupation. Today, the trauma which Aida experienced during the siege of Sarajevo (5 Apr 1992–29 Feb 1996) is repeating itself in Ukraine.

Twenty-three years later, while I was working at the Turkish Embassy in Sarajevo, I would live through the trauma of war and see the many bullet holes that were visible on the buildings. In Sarajevo, it is difficult to find a building without sniper holes; the scars of war.  Sarajevo hosted me for over five years even though it was battered and hurt by a bloody war. As the capital city of art during the former Repubic of Yugoslavia, it still inspires and exhibits creativity.

As a journalist and academic, I have focused on energy politics and now cannot ignore or downplay the extent to which the war in Ukraine will affect oil politics and energy prices. But the fate of civilians is far more ominous.

It is incredible that in the 21st century cities are levelled to the ground with bombs while civilians plead to be evacuated. Thirty years after the siege and destruction of Sarajevo, Ukranian cities are suffering the same fate. Sadly, once this war on Ukraine is over, survivors will be left to rebuild their cities like the Bosinians did a generation ago.

READ: Turkey may have a mediating role between three ethnicities in Bosnia, experts say

Meanwhile, we will continue to watch the bombing of Ukraine and debate how the war will affect energy prices. Every bullet or missile that takes the lives of babies, children and other civilians has been purchased with the revenues of Russian gas which is estimated at  €660 million ($727.5 million) per day. This is shocking reality of the current situation in Ukraine. Laurence Tubiana, the CEO of the European Climate Foundation, tweeted recently: “The existing sanctions already puts pressure on our economies, on energy prices & also food prices. This is the new status quo.  So with today’s partial sanctions, we are straining our economies while sending President Putin $700m in blood money every single day.”

By continuing its import of Russian gas, Europe is paying – intentionally or unintentionally – to kill the babies and children of Ukraine. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2021 Russia sold European buyers 177 billion cubic metres of natural gas, nearly all of it by pipeline. Though unannounced, it is clear that this war is clearly becoming a war of “energy” and “fossil fuel”. Therefore, more than ever it seems evident that getting rid of Russian fossil fuels and of fossil fuels, in general, is essential to both the fight against climate change and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Wars can always reset energy economies in a negative way. As an example, after the war, Bosnia was forced to revert back to the use of coal. The state-owned Elektroprivreda in Bosnia-Herzegovina was forced to shut two units at a thermal power plant in Tuzla, in the north of the country, due to the economic problems inherited from the Bosnian war. Just last year Bosnian coal miners went on strike due to the lack of a government strategy. They were being paid less than before the war.

Ukraine may witness a similar fate, with future generations of Ukranians inheriting a country ravaged by war where a sustainable and clean future remains out of reach as it was in a Balkans three decades ago.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.