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Milorad Dodik. Photo: Attila Kisbendek/AFP via Getty Images

The international community's top representative in Bosnia is sounding the alarm over the "very real" possibility of a return to conflict, citing secessionist maneuvers by the Serb member of the country's tripartite presidency.

Catch up quick: The end of the Bosnian war in 1995 was marked by the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which established two regional entities in Bosnia — the Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, linked by a central government.

  • The Dayton agreement also established international mechanisms to protect the peace in Bosnia, which today take the form of a residual E.U. peacekeeping force and a civilian executive peace enforcement mechanism, the Office of the High Representative.

Driving the news: Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader, has threatened to withdraw Bosnia’s Serb entity from national institutions, including the central tax authority, top judicial institution, and — most critically — the armed forces, in order to reconstitute a Bosnian Serb army.

  • The threats are "tantamount to secession without proclaiming it," the high representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, warned in a report seen by The Guardian.
  • Dodik is no stranger to inflammatory, secessionist rhetoric, but this time is different, says Jasmin Mujanovic, a political scientist who specializes in the region.

In addition to laying out a clear — though legally dubious — plan for how he plans to accomplish secession, Dodik is enjoying the backing of Russia in his efforts to undermine the country's central institutions.

  • Dodik's premise that a regional assembly will act unilaterally to overturn national laws is problematic. As Mujanovic puts it, "There's no country on Earth where this happens."
  • Meanwhile, Russia successfully threatened to veto the annual renewal of the EU's peacekeeping mission at last week's United Nations Security Council meeting unless references to the international high representative were removed, per Foreign Policy.
  • The removal of those references deals a major blow to the power and influence of a critical post-war institution.
  • Russia also succeeded in blocking Schmidt from presenting the findings of his recent report in person to the council, another blow to the OHR.

The big picture: The international community's response to the crisis has been "completely rhetorical, which is completely unacceptable," Mujanovic told Axios.

  • "At this juncture, both the EU and the U.S. are failing in their own commitments to the Dayton Peace Accords," he added.
  • By letting the situation continue to degrade, the U.S. and EU are risking a conflict in Bosnia that could boil over to include Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia, and involve both Russia and Turkey, Mujanovic explained.
  • "I don't think Europe can handle this," he said, pointing to conflicts from Ukraine to Syria to Afghanistan already vying for the international community's attention.

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The first U.S. case of the Omicron variant was detected in California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Wednesday.

Driving the news: The confirmed case was detected in a traveler returning from South Africa who was fully vaccinated and has mild symptoms, the CDC says.

Supreme Court appears likely to roll back abortion rights

Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Wednesday seemed likely to weaken abortion rights and perhaps to let states ban the procedure altogether.

The intrigue: The court seemed likely to throw out the framework established in Roe v. Wade, but it wasn't clear whether a majority of the justices were inclined to overturn the court's precedents entirely.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

How to meme a painting

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

How can a physical artwork become an NFT? One new company has just spent $12.9 million on a Banksy in an attempt to try out a new way of converting the real into the virtual.

Why it matters: The art market globally sees volume of about $60 billion per year, almost all of which is trade in physical objects. Art-world insiders including former Christie's c0-chair Loïc Gouzer are on the lookout for ways to monetize physical paintings without necessarily giving up physical ownership of them.