The reports on the upcoming inauguration of US president-elect Donald Trump have mostly been dominated by news of the struggle to find artists willing to perform at the ceremony, of enlisted performers dropping out, of predictions that more people might attend the “Women’s protest march” than the inauguration itself, and of the unusually large number of Congress members boycotting the events.
In a small country halfway around the world, however, the Trump inauguration has been receiving media attention of an entirely different kind, as one of its highest-level politicians has been bending over backwards to prove that he was invited to the official inauguration ceremony.
On January 17, Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska (RS), one of the two entities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), became the target of sanctions by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for obstructing the “Dayton Accords”, the peace agreement that ended the 1992-1995 war and established the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Dodik, who is known for his secessionist politics, apparently crossed the line in September 2016, when he organized a referendum against the decision of the Constitutional Court of BiH.
In his response to the sanctions, Dodik repeated the claims he had made a month before: that the outgoing US administration was retaliating against him for, among other reasons, being invited to the official inauguration ceremony of Donald Trump.
“Their politics were defeated at the November elections and I am still politically active,” Dodik said. “That’s why they retaliated against me. They probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t been invited to the inauguration by my friends who are close to the incoming administration. And that was the hit they launched to prevent me from going, because they simply couldn’t stand to see me there.”
This theory, bizarre enough on its own, is even more farcical considering the fact that Dodik never received such an invitation, in spite of the dramatic story he built around these claims.
The claims were first disputed by BiH’s Foreign Minister Igor Crnadak, who stated that no such invitation had arrived through official channels. Crnadak suggested that Dodik had probably secured an invitation to one of many inaugural side events as a result of his lobbying activities in the US.
Dodik responded that he was “…also invited to the Inaugural Ball, where Donald Trump will be present,” and that he would be seated in the seventh row. “Unless the outgoing administration denies me a visa, I’ll be at the inauguration,” he said.
Soon after the media in BiH and the region reported the story, Dodik stated that he had received a call from Hoyt Brian Yee, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, who allegedly tried to pressure him into “abandoning his party’s policy.” Dodik said Yee called him because he knew Dodik was about to apply for a US visa, and that Yee requested among other things, that Dodik respond to the subpoena issued by the State Prosecutor’s office regarding the referendum.