Montenegro at NATO’s Doorstep: Engagement Costs Steadily Rising
NATO is pressing for control over the Balkan region, with a key role in the architecture in the making being assigned to Montenegro. The guidelines pertinent to the implementation of the Euro-Atlantic project – preventing vassals from ever reaching separate agreements, keeping them wholly dependent on collective security, and enforcing complete subordination – were formulated by Z. Bzezinski and, in the process, have been strictly applied to the small Balkan country (1).
Montenegro’s ruling coalition the Democratic Party of Socialists – The Social Democratic Party regards the integration of the country into the EU and NATO as national priorities, and at the moment Montenegro is a candidate for admission to both. The Third Package of Partnership Goals – a collection of 49 goals to be achieved over the coming couple of years (2) – was passed on March 21, the key part of the package being a complete rearmament of the Montenegro army in line with the NATO standards. On April 1, 2012, a treaty between Montenegro and the EU entered into force which requires that the country should take part in Europe’s crisis control missions with the stated goal of cultivating the cooperation in international and security policies. Montenegro thus confirmed its commitment to the obligations normally stemming from full-fledged EU membership (3). To cultivate the cooperation, the country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Milan Roćen attended the second conference of the Friends of Syria group in Istanbul. Croatia’s diplomacy chief Vesna Pusić was, for the first time, also invited to the meeting. Roćen held talks with the envoys of the new Libyan regime, and a Libyan delegation is expected to visit Montenegro shortly (4).
The Friends of Syria group enjoys a spotty reputation of a gathering of Syrian rebels’ outspoken supporters and is known to be openly pushing for the ouster of Bashar al-Assad. The friends’ agenda – to plunge Syria into a new round of bloodshed that would culminate in the collapse of the independent Syrian statehood – loomed through Saudi Arabian foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal’s recent call to supply weapons to the Syrian opposition (5). Evidently, Croatia and Montenegro blended into the Friends of Syria community due to the Balkan republics’ readiness to unwaveringly trail NATO.
The membership of Montenegro in NATO is materializing in the framework of the Communication Strategy, which includes a series of so-called Action Plans. Eight of them are as of today accomplished, the lengthy list of activities bracketed within the VII Plan being to form a NATO information center in Montenegro, to publish five issues of the NATO Integracije journal, to air twice a month the NATO Info programs via the TV RCG broadcaster, to organize NATO-related talk shows on an array of TV channels, to set up a Society Informing training program at a NATO school based in Germany, to roll out an analysis of the economic benefits of the NATO integration, to deliver lectures about NATO in schools, to organize tours of the NATO centre in Brussels for schoolchildren, to conduct surveys of the public opinion on NATO integration separately for every city in Montenegro, to create a journalist centre, to hold a NATO Dialog conference, to establish a regional security school, to organize “NATO caravans” in five cities of Montenegro, to launch a multimedia Peace Festival, to interact with parliamentarians and state officials, to float a pro-NATO campaign in Facebook, etc. Overall, it is clear that the agenda behind all of the above is to break the public opposition to joining NATO. At the moment, polls show that a third of Montenegrins favor NATO integration, a third are the undecided, and a third radically object to the step.
Propaganda is instrumental in ensuring that the NATO expansion continues, eastwards and globally. The alliance’s promoters rely on the simple truth that the audiences tend to be swayed by repetitive advertising. Curiously, the country being drawn into NATO is supposed to cover the related PR costs which, in the case of the tiny Montenegro, totalled Euro 107,000 in 2011.
The defence ministry of Montenegro is way ahead of the rest of the country in partnering NATO. It implements a sweeping reform aimed at conforming to the NATO standards and has disposed of some 3,000 tons of old armaments and ammunition. The ministry is building an integrated national airspace and maritime control network in line with NATO’s regional approach which requires that all of the regional countries put together fully compatible control systems. Further plans embrace the formation of an army intelligence service with interwoven information gathering and counter-espionage functions, also in the context of the coming merger of Montenegro into NATO.
As a prerequisite for the admission of a country to NATO, the candidate country must submit a comprehensive list of its installations, both military and civilian, which are being offered to the alliance. On October 13, 2011 the government of Montenegro adopted a Partnership Goals program titled Host Country Support. In November, 2011 the administration passed a resolution authorizing the transit of secret NATO freight – documents, materials, etc. – across the territory of the Balkan republic (the government of Montenegro and SHAPE, the European allied command, had signed an agreement on the subject in Brussels in September, 2011). In the process, Montenegro’s military and police must ensure the security of the transit.
Two PR joints – Orion Strategies and Reef Group – were recommended to Montenegro as US lobbyists. Their mission, among other things, encompasses the arrangement of meetings and consultations with the US Administration, the tab over the past four years being estimated at a handsome $4m (6).
The participation of Montenegro in NATO’s international campaigns is indispensable to the integration process. Montenegro’s unit will stay in Afghanistan as a part of the ISAF (which a fairly unnecessary pseudonym for NATO) through 2014 or longer if NATO requests, as Montenegro’s defence minister eagerly declared (7). In the meantime, Montenegro continues to be involved in missions in the Somalian and Liberian territorial waters. The country’s cumulative annual costs associated with the drift towards NATO reach Euro 6m.
Absolute support for the US foreign policy is regarded as the main prerequisite for a country to be issued a ticket to NATO (8). Montenegro’s premier Igor Lukšić met with US Vice President J. Biden and Secretary of State H. Clinton in Washington, and the key US officials praised the progress the country had made on the way to the alliance. Lukšić said in a reference to the fairly low support for the integration into NATO among the population of Montenegro – the modest level of 30.9%, as of September, 2011 – that gradually NATO-skeptics in Montenegro would become a minority, and added that occasionally decisions beneficial for a nation have to be sealed even if the majority of the population disagrees (9). The approach is consonant with the wider US concept of democracy – nations are supposed to bow to denationalized elites putting into practice the designs of their trans-Atlantic patrons.
Upon scrutiny, the NATO membership opens access to privileges of dubious value. Novices get to kill others and to die fighting for the alliance’s objectives, to help overturn other nations’ sovereignty, to train groups of militant renegades in other countries, to host NATO bases, and to shield the Afghanistan – Kosovo – Europe and Afghanistan – Central Asia – Russia drug trafficking routes…
Montenegro saw a protest rally of unprecedented proportions on March 18, 2012. The rally leaders set the number of the people who took to the streets of Podgorica at 20,000, though the police cited just 7,000. “It is time!” was the slogan upheld by student groups, trade unions, and other organizations which charged that corruption was pervasive in Montenegro even compared to other post-Yugoslavian societies. As usual, a taste of an orange revolution was easy to discern amidst the protest outbreak. In Montenegro’s case, the Otpor fist against a yellow background was chosen as the symbol of the rising movement. Formally, the rally was organized by the Network for Affirmation of the Non-government Sector (MANS), whose leader Vanja Ćalović bombarded the crowd with calls to start the countdown of the last minutes of organized crime, to hold watches high in hands as a sign that time for corruption was running out, and to let the government know that spring had come to Montenegro earlier than expected as the people stood up for their children and the future. The crisp slogans, the theatrical character of the marches, the impersonation of leadership, and the advancement to the front stage of an obscure political group altogether fit neatly into the pattern common to orange revolutions (10).
The forces powering the protests – the MANS sponsors – happen to be the embassies of the US, Great Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands, the European Commission, the EU delegation to Montenegro, the UN, the OSCE, the omnipresent Transparency International, Civil Rights Defenders, and Open Society Institute, the legal program for Montenegro operated under the USAID auspices, the Montenegro Advocacy Program, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the National Endowment for Democracy, Microsoft Corporation, International Relief and Development, the Regional Environmental Centre, the Norwegian People’s Aid which is the biggest NGO in Norway, and the Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (HIVOS), an exotic crew advancing civil societies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It may seem slightly suspicious that the public policy heavyweights are in concert preoccupied with curing from corruption a Balkan republic as small as Montenegro. MANS operates a staff of trained lawyers and offers to Montenegrins free legal assistance in solving their problems or in extracting information from government agencies of all levels, and parallelly collects anonymous corruption-related complaints (11).
In the meantime, another international policy grand – the IMF – is out to put the population of Montenegro under tightening pressure. Its account of the country’s economic situation sounding like a catastrophe report, the IMF confronts Montenegro’s government with an austerity program implying spending rationalization, a lower employment rate (!), wage cuts, and serious tax hikes. The majority of Montenegrins are sinking into poverty at the time when various international bodies are eating away at their country’s sovereignty: an average salary in Montenegro measures Euro 500 against the subsistence minimum of Euro 300. An average pension in the country makes only Euro 280 and, moreover, at least 50% of the senior-aged Montenegrins are denied even that, plus 54% of the working age Montenegrins are unemployed and the educated young face a completely uninviting job market (12). Montenegro’s domestic and international sovereign debts stood at Euro 419m (12.3% of the GDP) and Euro 1,054,2m respectively as of January 31, 2012 (31% of the GDP) and piled up to Euro 1,473,2 (43.3% of the GDP), but on March 31 the government further borrowed Euro 230m (13).
Corruption is indeed outrageous in Montenegro, and the country’s economy has long morphed into a weird hybrid of greedy capitalism and gangsterism14. Nevertheless, it is clear that for MANS and its influential backers the anti-corruption drive simply opens up opportunities to unseat the entrenched elite and to propel their own proteges to power. The elites of a new type that would be installed as a result are going to be totally Euro-Atlantist, with no trace of national thinking. As for the nation, it has to deal with the dilemma of choosing between the corrupt old administration and the fresh contenders, the two options being equally destructive.
6. Policy paper NATO i Crna Gora. Januar-decembar 2011. Centar za demokratiju I ljudska prava – CEDEM
8. Policy paper NATO i Crna Gora. Januar-decembar 2011. Centar za demokratiju I ljudska prava – CEDEM
10. D. Marjanović Veliki anti-vladini prosvjedi u Crnoj Gori: potencijali i potencijalne klopke // Advance.hr. 19. Ožujak 2012 http://www.advance.hr/vijesti/veliki-anti-vladini-prosvjedi-u-crnoj-gori-potencijali-i-potencijalne-klopke/
12. Koprivica Veseljko Proljeće prije visibaba // Monitor on-lain. http://www.monitor.co.me/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3333:proljee-prije-visibaba&catid=2254:broj-1116&Itemid=3479
13. Podaci o državnom dugu i izdatim garancijama na dan 31. januar 2012. godine. // Ministarsvo finansija. http://www.mf.gov.me/rubrike/drzavni-dug/112065/Podaci-o-drzavnom-dugu-i-izdatim-garancijama-na-dan-30-decembar-2011-godine.html
14. D. Marjanović Veliki anti-vladini prosvjedi u Crnoj Gori: potencijali i potencijalne klopke // Advance.hr. 19. Ožujak 2012 http://www.advance.hr/vijesti/veliki-anti-vladini-prosvjedi-u-crnoj-gori-potencijali-i-potencijalne-klopke/