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Montenegrin elite pushing the country into NATO: What’s next?

The former Yugoslav Republic is more and more resembling a pro-American despotic government of Latin America of the second half of the 20th century. The regime governing Montenegro for already twenty-five years boasts of country’s independence amid forced North Atlantic servitude. Meantime, everyone who opposes accession to NATO faces imprisonment over espionage in favor of Russia and “fascism.”

A years-long duet of Milo Đukanović and Filip Vujanović has been treating Montenegro as their own estate and the West does not restrict their endeavors anyhow. It appears that the men have retained their positions for life and faced no blames by Brussels or Washington. Donald Trump has ratified a protocol on Montenegro’s admission to NATO and got the ball rolling. All the countries of the alliance, except Spain, have approved admission of the new member, though Spain is likely to join them soon. Partners and Podgorica are ready, but the opposition Democratic Front (DF) impedes the process by opposing the country’s membership to a bloc that once bombed the country. The opposition advocates for good-neighbored relations with Serbia and Russia. Yet, an “insignificant” factor such as public opinion that has actually split the country’s population. The latest polls revealed that the Montenegrins opposing NATO membership are a little more than those welcoming it are.

However, the Đukanović – Vujanović duet has managed to overcome that “annoying fact”. Montenegro ratified the document in the first capital – Cetinje that was once a center for separatist uprising against the united Yugoslavia, which was not supported by majority of Montenegrins (noteworthy that the president’s administration is located there now). Only 46 parliamentarians voted for the “landmark decision,” while the remaining 35, the oppositionists, boycotted the voting. Vujanović made it clear that once the people voted for his pro-European Democratic Party of Socialists, they have chosen their future (at the last elections, DPS received 40% of votes, while DF received only 21%). That is why he considers it senseless holding a nation-wide referendum on the issue opposed by his political rivals.

Unlike Vujanović, thirty-five opposition parliamentarians gathered in Murino village – on April 30, 1999, that small village was bombarded and eleven children were killed. Yet on April 25, they adopted a decision to conduct a referendum, but it was simply ignored by the authorities. Now, when the issue is actually settled, officials and mass media slam oppositionists and resort to name-calling. Zuvdija Hodzic, the Head of the Montenegro branch of the Organization of Liberation Movement of Veterans, ethnic Bosniak, academician, complains that some forces in Montenegro oppose even the country and seek to replace the country’s flag with the flag of “Chetniks” (historical flag of Montenegro differed from the modern one and was a copy of the Serbian flag with the only difference that the blue line on it had a different shade), as well as the anthem with the prophecy of Metropolitan Amfilohije of the Orthodox Church (meantime, the local authorities stake on the canonically unrecognized Montenegrin Orthodox Church). Hodzic called this nothing but a crime in the multi-cultural country and those opposing the state - fascists.

Mainstream media in Montenegro is flooded with such statements. Noteworthy that in neighboring Macedonia, media call those opposing the country’s reorganization in favor of the West and its Albanian satellites as “nationalists” who started a dangerous game. It appears that soon any criticism of NATO and any mentioning of common roots with Serbia will be considered illegal.

The first steps towards that have been made already. For instance, a young oppositionist Marko Milačić is serving his sentence of twenty days after a guard detained him near the exhibition of the NATO arms in Podgorica only because the guard “recognized” him as a participant in protest actions. It turns out that Marko Milačić did not even raise his poster (if he had any), when he was detained. Afterwards, he was fined for one thousand dollars. The activist refused to pay the fine and was sentenced to administrative arrest. Later, when entering prison, he burnt a NATO flag in front of the entrance.

Needless to recall that many oppositionists were jailed and expelled from the country over what the Montenegrin authorities called “coup attempt with the help of Serbian and Russian forces.”

What is happening in the small former Yugoslav republic is very similar to the situation in Russia in early 1990s when any forces opposing the country’s open split-up much to the West’s delight were called “fascists” and “red-brown.” Such name-calling, along with “occupants” were used against our soldiers in Chechnya too. We have already been in such situation and can suppose how things will be developing in Montenegro.

The two-thousand-strong army of that country is hardly interesting to NATO, unlike its strategic location. Admitting Montenegro, the alliance will take control over entire Adriatic Coast and finally get rid of the fear that Russia may return to the region after economic and tourist expansion into Montenegro a few years ago. The nightmare of NATO admirals that Russian military bases may occur on Adriatic Coast will end (though Russian and Montenegrin shipbuilders cooperated yet under Peter the Great, but the Montenegrin authorities have apparently decided to forget about that undesirable page of history). Actually, NATO will close the ring of its member-states around so far hardliner Serbia that did not join anti-Russian sanctions and regularly manifests its pro-Russian stance.

What will all this result in? The eyes of the people who still welcome admission to the bloc that killed eleven Montenegrin children in 1999 will open sooner or later. Outflow of investments from Russia and rather limited investments by partners, a couple of incidents with NATO sailors at Montenegro ports will put things in their right places. Then it will be hard, even impossible, to reverse the situation, since the Đukanović – Vujanović tandem has perhaps received its profits from the process.

Aleksey Toporov for EADaily

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