BFP Exclusive-The Breakdown in NATO’s Balkan Expansion Strategy: The Case of Montenegro

The NATO's Balkan expansion project has come to a standstill

Since its independence in 2006, Montenegro is being pushed into NATO membership by its corrupt ruling elite. The key political figures in this geopolitical and ideological project have been a long-time prime minister Milo Djukanović and the speaker of the Montenegrin Parliament Ranko Krivokapić. In my previous BFP articles, I have chronicled many of their efforts on this front.[1] Notwithstanding their undemocratic methods of holding on to political power, both Djukanović and Krivokapić have received a great deal of concrete material support from the US and NATO Establishments. This is just one of the countless examples of the US-NATO rhetoric on "human rights" and the "rule of law" being unmasked as nothing more than a cynical deception spouted for geopolitical reasons. The control of territories and resources is the real name of this game. This is as true in the Balkans as in the other colonized regions of the world.

In recent years, there have been two particularly egregious instances of the US-NATO representatives' meddling into the Montenegrin internal political dynamic. The first instance took place after the last parliamentary elections in October 2012 when the Djukanović-led coalition lost the absolute majority in the Parliament and it seemed as if the opposition parties were on the eve of forming a municipal government and electing a mayor in the second biggest municipality in Montenegro, the municipality of Nikšić.

Had this occurred, it would have provided enough political momentum for the overwhelming opposition victory on the presidential elections in April 2013, the victory of such a scope that it would have been impossible for the regime to rig the election results (as happened many times in the past). Knowing full well that this democratic political turnaround could be a likely outcome, the US-NATO operators embedded in Montenegro swung into immediate action in order to protect their political puppets.

According to the public statement by one of the leaders of the Montenegrin opposition, Nebojša Medojević, as well as several reports communicated to me by credible non-political figures, an official of the US Embassy in Montenegro, Andrej Popov, was instrumental in pressuring the leadership of one opposition party not to make the common cause with the rest and form an opposition-led municipal government in Nikšić.

Medojević went so far as to claim that Popov was the CIA resident in Montenegro, the claim denied by the US Embassy for obvious reasons.[2] However, Popov's interventions (whatever form they took, whether that of the "carrot" or of the "stick") were successful and the opposition's negotiations fell apart. As the lasting political consequence, Djukanović's party was able to hold on not only to political power in the municipality of Nikšić, but also to steal the April 2013 presidential elections victory from the opposition candidate Miodrag Lekić in a particularly brazen manner.[3] No US-NATO official condemned the illegitimacy of the (re)election of the new-old president Filip Vujanović and, in fact, it appears that, for all intents and purposes, they all breathed a sigh of relief. Not for long, however.

It is one thing to legislate from on high to the corrupt and servile elite, it is another to convince the people of Montenegro that corruption and servility is the only way of life. No self-respecting citizen will accept that and this goes for the majority of Montenegrins. Their dissatisfaction with Djukanović and his cronies was building up again in the anticipation of the municipal elections in the capital city of Podgorica in May 2014. However, just as the public opinion polls began showing the possibility of the regime change in Podgorica, the Montenegrin government received a high-level visitor from NATO headquarters in Brussels.

It was none other than the NATO secretary-general at the time, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Rasmussen came to Montenegro just three days before the elections in order to give explicit political support to the ruling coalition and confer on them the so-called international legitimacy.[4] He disregarded the mountains of evidence on the regime's intricate electoral manipulations, collected by independent media and various objective researchers, and declared that Montenegro is a democratic country which shares "Euro-Atlantic values" and whose membership in NATO is imminent.

Rasmussen's statements exposed as false the frequent claims of the NATO propagandists in Montenegro that NATO membership would have beneficial effects on the institutional democratization and the overall economic wellbeing. The truth is, however, that the government of Montenegro is run by a corrupt political clan tied to the regional and global networks of organized crime, and the publicly expressed support by NATO officials only serves to augment and justify its authoritarian practices of political and cultural discrimination and abuse. When, not surprisingly, the election results in Podgorica turned out to be in favor of Djukanović, it became clear that, yet again, he succeeded to push the massive citizen discontent under the rug with the help of his US-NATO "partners".

However, the discontent did not and will not go away, and Djukanović has recently been dialing up NATO for assistance again. And so, a few weeks ago, on June 10, 2015, the new NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, former Norwegian prime minister, visited Montenegro. [5] Stoltenberg replaced Rasmussen at the helm of NATO after the 2014 Wales Summit.[6] However, his attitude toward Djukanović and the rampant political corruption in the country was essentially the same as Rasmussen's.

Even though Stoltenberg spoke of the rule of law and institutional reforms, his pronouncements remained at a highly abstract level.[7] He did not mention any of the various concrete government scandals exposed in the last several years, including the most recent revelations about the falsification of the level of public support for NATO membership by both Djukanović and the minister of foreign affairs, Igor Lukšić.[8]

Djukanović and Lukšić knowingly lied to the public about the results of the opinion poll the government itself commissioned and which showed that the public support for NATO has been decreasing and that the majority of the Montenegrin citizens support the policy of military neutrality. However, due to the courageous efforts of the journalist Marko Milačić, director of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro, all the reports, including the secret communications from various Montenegrin embassies, saw the light of day and were published in the Montenegrin daily newspaper Dan.[9] This created a major public outcry against the government and NATO itself, but was conveniently ignored by Stoltenberg and his Montenegrin "partners".

During his press conference with Djukanović, Stoltenberg claimed that those countries in Central and Eastern Europe which have entered NATO since the end of the Cold War "have strengthened their democracy, improved their security, [and] made the lives of their citizens safer".[10] He offered no confirmatory evidence for this claim and, in fact, the truth is the exact opposite.

NATO military-intelligence intrigues have actually corroded the democratic procedures and mechanisms in the new members. In regard to the overall security and citizen safety, even if one does not take into consideration the current renewed militarization of Europe under NATO's auspices, it can hardly be said to have improved in the last decade.

In other words, Stoltenberg's rhetoric was a prepackaged PR product directed at those Montenegrin citizens who may not have made up their minds about whether or not they would support NATO membership. But, as they say in the Balkans, the number of these is so small that one would need a flashlight to find them in the broad daylight.

In order to try to undermine the increasingly well-organized and vocal opponents of NATO in Montenegro, Stoltenberg addressed what he was told by his hosts to be the main criticism of NATO: the widespread negative public attitude due to the 1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which also affected Montenegro and resulted in civilian casualties, including the deaths of children. In contrast to his predecessor Rasmussen, who, in a typically arrogant imperial fashion, told a Montenegrin TV audience that, basically, they were bombed for their own good, Stoltenberg stated that he regretted the civilian loss of life and expressed his condolences.[11] However, he immediately added that the goal of the mission was to "defend the civilians" and that this mission was successful. He did not explain how the "defense of civilians" could involve killing hundreds of them, unless (and this is a persistent "Euro-Atlantic" prejudice) "Western" lives are more important than others and the geopolitical desire for territorial expansion justifies the use of all the means at hand, including deadly force. Stoltenberg claimed that NATO attacks made a lasting peace possible, whereas the true state of affairs is that NATO bombing (which wrecked both the UN Charter and the US Constitution) and the subsequent construction of the US military base in Kosovo have made this part of the Balkans the perpetual source of instability for many years to come.

In addition, Stoltenberg stopped far short from admitting the guilt and taking the responsibility for the civilian deaths, the enduring health hazards caused by the bombs, and the billions of dollars of property damage. In this respect, it is revealing that, while the Balkan media covered Stoltenberg's "statement of regret" extensively, there is no mention of it in the report on his Montenegro visit provided on the official NATO website. This leads to the conclusion that the 'statement of regret' was made only in order to make a positive impact in the internal political debates in Montenegro. After all, it remained unclear whether Stoltenberg regretted only the civilian victims in Montenegro or his regrets also extended to Serbia, where a far greater number of civilians were killed. And what about the deaths of Chinese diplomats and journalists?

However, Stoltenberg's "bluff" was immediately called by those progressive political forces in Montenegro which reject the imperial dictates either in domestic or foreign policy. They refused to accept Stoltenberg's regrets and exposed his behavior as "a desperate attempt" to increase the percentage of NATO supporters in Montenegro and help the Djukanović regime avoid having to organize a referendum on the question.[12] Still, the percentage of those who demand a referendum is firmly above 80 percent, of whom more than a half would say 'No' to NATO. This means that no matter what NATO does in the coming period, its strategy to have the majority of Montenegrin citizens on its side has failed. The NATO's Balkan expansion project has come to a standstill.

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Filip Kovacevic, Boiling Frogs Post contributing author and analyst, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco, and can be contacted at


[1] See, for instance, and





[6] It is not a coincidence that both the former and the current NATO secretary-general come from the NATO Scandinavian contingent (which, it must be remembered, excludes the militarily neutral Sweden and Finland). Traditionally, it is precisely the countries from this contingent that have been most in favor of the antagonistic relations with Russia, in addition of course to the NATO Baltic states, which, it appears, are not as yet "trusted" enough for such a high post by the US (the CIA).











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