(This posting is a select chapter from Andrew Korybko’s second book that will focus on the geopolitical application of Hybrid Wars.)
The final Balkan country that has yet to be discussed is Montenegro, which just received its official invitation to join NATO during the bloc’s early-December meeting in Brussels. Even before the announcement was ever formally made, Prime Minister Djukanovic (the country’s ruler in one form or another for almost the past thirty years)declared that his country would unreservedly accept NATO membership, prompting anunprecedented display of public unrest. The majority of the 600,000 or so Montenegrin citizens are against their country joining the same military bloc that bombed it 16 years ago when it was still part of rump Yugoslavia, and the political opposition has called for the issue to be put before a referendum. The government refused to accede to their suggestion and instead responded with disproportionate force that suppressed the protests and produced an ever stronger reaction of anti-NATO sentiment.
The result was that the violent crackdown predictably intimidated some of the population and led to a noticeable decline in their outward protest activity. This government interpreted this according its preordained expectations and assumed that this meant that the anti-NATO movement was finished. That wasn’t the case, however, since the form of resistance had simply adapted to the repressive conditions in the country and moved away from large manifestations in the capital in favor of smaller gatherings in the towns and villages. On the one hand, this was a tactical necessity in order to preserve the protesters’ safety, but on the other, it created the deceptive illusion that the population had been forced into complacency and may have unintentionally contributed to NATO going forward with the membership offering, as opposed to withholding it out of fear that extending the invitation would push the country over the edge and result in the overthrow of their long-cherished proxy.
As it stands, it’s expected to take between one to two years for Montenegro for complete the NATO accession process, meaning that there’s a critical last-minute window of opportunity for the protesters to make history and be the first to carry their country away from the organization after it’s already agreed to join. Theoretically speaking, it’s entirely possible for Montenegro to set a new precedent in this regard, but it’s clear that the only way to do this is by overthrowing the government or pressuring it to the extent that it acquiesces to a referendum. Granted, even a public vote might not be enough to stop the NATO machine, since it’s unsure at this time whether it would be just as crooked of a motion as the previous ballots held under Djukanovic’s rule. More than likely, given the donkey-like obstinacy that Djukanovic and his Mafioso clique have, plus their propensity to resort to extreme violence amidst pressure, it’s probable that the only way to reverse the NATO decision is to replace Djukanovic with a sincere opposition figure that will pull Montenegro out of the initiation process before it’s fully completed.
Montenegro’s strategic importance to NATO is disproportionate to its tiny size, and its membership in the bloc is an important step in bringing Serbia more firmly under Atlantic control. Assuming the most negative scenario where Montenegrins are unable to save their country from occupation, then NATO would have succeeded in tightening its noose of encirclement around Serbia and would then feel more confident in making bolder moves against it and Republika Srpska in the future. Keep in mind that Montenegrins are closely related to Serbs and that many Serbs still live in the country. Officially, the government lists them as being 28% of the population, but given Djukanovic’s history of statistical manipulations (be it in the 2006 independence referendum or every election in which he’s ran), the real percentage is likely higher. This is all very important for NATO since they know that they can thus exploit Montenegro as a ‘social laboratory’ for perfecting informational and other strategies for use against the larger Serbian demographics in Republika Srpska and Serbia, thereby giving their campaign in the tiny Adriatic country a heightened strategic importance that is usually lost on most observers.
With all that being said, the anti-NATO and anti-government resistance movements in Montenegro (which are morphing into a unified force at the moment) are indispensably important in pushing back against NATO’s “Drang Nach Suden”. Their success would provide the Central Balkans with strategic breathing space and stunningly put a sudden halt to the strategic plan that the US had taken for granted up until that point. Looked at from the opposite perspective, NATO sees the incorporation of Montenegro as one of the final pieces in completing its geo-military encirclement of Serbia. It also tangentially expects to receive valuable social feedback from this experience that it can then weaponize against Republika Srpska and Serbia, and the critical momentum that Montenegro’s accession would create could turn into a psychological battering ram for diminishing the population’s resistance in these two states and the Republic of Macedonia. Due to the high stakes involved for all sides, it’s doubtful that Djukanovic and his allies would leave in peace if confronted with a renewed opposition movement against them, thus raising the disturbing specter that the country might descend into civil war if its people try to free themselves from impending NATO domination.
Andrew Korybko is the American political commentaror currently working for the Sputnikagency.