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Montenegro NATO membership: "to be or not to be?"

02.12.2015 22:16

Alexander Prokopiev, member of Russian State Duma (Parliament)

During the summit in Brussels on December 2, 2015 NATO member states' foreign ministers have decided to invite Montenegro into the Alliance. But that doesn't mean an immediate membership for the Balkan republic. NATO Secretary General J.Stoltenberg concentrated his attention on the issue saying: "It's just the beginning. Montenegro has to continue intensive reforms, especially in the sphere of fighting corruption and strengthening people's support for Montenegro's NATO integration."

Now, after a meaningful dialogue between Brussels and Podgorica has begun, NATO member states' authorities need to answer two important questions: is NATO ready to accept Montenegro, and another - is Podgorica ready to join. One should clearly understand that this historical decision for a small Balkan country came amid a sharp escalation of protest activity in the republic, largely provoked by the country leaders' intention to drag Montenegro into NATO ignoring public opinion.

For over two months Montenegro has been suffering a series of mass protests. Citizens demand resignation of the country's prime-minister M.Djukanovic and his administration and the forming of a transitional government which should conduct fair and transparent elections. Also the protesters are against joining NATO. The majority of Montenegrins clearly understands that NATO membership will dramatically worsen their traditional relations with Russia, which will cause damage to the country's economy. Montenegrin tourism sector and the real estate market will suffer severe damage, not mentioning that almost 30% of country's factories are owned by Russian citizens.

It is worth mentioning that only 50 Montenegrins expressed their desire to join NATO. Not 50 percent of the population, but exactly 50 people – it's the number of Montenegro parliament members that in September 2015 voted 'yes' for NATO integration.

While one third of the lawmakers voted against integration. Public opinion was ignored, and the country's government provided their Western "colleges" with a few falsified opinion polls' results that were supposed to show a high level of support for the integration. Meanwhile, most of unbiased surveys and independent experts show that up to 70 percent of citizens do not approve integration.

Besides that, the republic's army is few in numbers and poorly equipped. It requires significant investments, which Podgorica can't pro-vide itself. It means that Montenegro is of no use to Alliance's collective security, if not an additional pain in the head for Joint Armed Forces Command. At the moment, only four NATO member states keep their military spending at a necessary level of 2 percent GDP. And Montenegro is not likely to become the fifth.

Besides the financial aspect, the small Balkan state can bring damage to Alliance's image, and become a source of destabilization of the military-political situation. Should the Alliance invite a state headed by a criminal authority, well known by his records both in Montenegro and abroad? NATO leadership is already having severe difficulties because of another member state's reckless actions, namely Turkey, that has been accused of aiding terrorists.

According to Russian and foreign media sources, the weapons used in a terrible terrorist attack in the capital of France, were acquired by terrorists from military supply depots in Montenegro. This insight makes one think of whom the Europeans want to see as an ally in the fight against terrorism - M.Djukanovic? He is ready to house a "Muslim ghetto" comprised of the refugees from the Middle East. Practically he's planning to legalize the participants of radical Muslim organizations, fleeing along with the real refugees, in Europe.

Therefore, one cannot say that Montenegro is a desirable partner for NATO. The United States are the ones mostly advocating the republic's integration. But the leading European countries disagree with Washington on that matter. This is evident from the statements made at a seminar dedicated to France and NATO relations, conducted by Paris Institute for Policy Studies on November, 27. The perspective of Montenegro joining NATO received negative assessment during the event, mostly because of nontransparent and corrupt leadership and lack of public support to Euro-Atlantic integration process. Besides, it was considered inappropriate to invite Podgorica to NATO at this time, because it will inevitably complicate relations between Russia and NATO. Meanwhile it's an alliance with Moscow that is considered by Paris to be the single right way of fighting against terrorism. At least, as it became clear from the devastating terror acts in Paris, NATO cannot protect Europe against terrorist attacks.

Eventually, despite the decision, announced on December, 2 by J.Stoltenberg, the question stands: will the Alliance risk accepting 50 Montenegrin politicians along with M.Djukanovic and his criminal elements? For whom the Alliance carries out this "open doors" policy?

Even before the starting of the NATO summit, the opposition coalition of "Democratic front" had announced their will to hold another rally in Podgorica on December, 5. This makes at least one thing clear: if Montenegro authorities continue their way into NATO while remaining deaf to its own citizens – tens of thousands of people will once again take the streets and their demands will transform into ultimatums.

Thus "to be, or not to be" a NATO member state is the main question for Montenegro. Do other European countries need it – is a question for the international society.