- To show what a popular club it is NATO will integrate a country which is actually bitterly divided on membership...
- ...Which just may come back to bite the US-led bloc in the butt eventually
- How long until this Slavic Orthodox country comes to be derided as Moscow’s Trojan horse?
Last weekend NATO and Montenegro signed an accord in Warsaw which will result in NATO membership for Montenegro once it is ratified by parliaments of all NATO states.
It's painfully obvious why Montenegro's leadership, which for the past two decades has been synonymous with one man -- Milo Đukanović, wants to join NATO.
Joining an exclusive Western club is the best assurance his rule will continue to enjoy a measure of legitimacy in Western eyes. An assurance he badly needs given the obvious democratic deficit of his rule.
The 54-year old has been in power continuously as either Prime Minister or President since 1991 and has been the most powerful man in Montenegro since 1997. No European country, aside from perhaps Belarus, so closely fits the description of a one man’s fief as does Đukanović’s Montenegro.
Đukanović will be hoping that NATO membership and overall adherence to Western geopolitical fashions will keep foreign democracy promoters at bay and serve to prolong his rule for years and decades longer.
The interest NATO has in Montenegro is if anything even more obvious. The small and broke country maintains a tiny military, has no money to spend on US arms and sits on no real-estate of any strategic value.
The only value it has to NATO is symbolic. By having Montenegro join NATO the bloc shows there are countries desiring to enter it.
It’s a way for the outdated 67-year old relic of the Cold War to show it is a popular club that countries like Montenegro are clamoring to join and contribute to.
Except it is a bald-faced lie. -- Montenegro, far from clamoring to join NATO is bitterly split on the issue.
Polling shows that if subjected to a referendum demanded by opposition and well-attended protest rallies, membership would only be endorsed by the tinniest of margins and there is a real possibility it would not pass at all.
This shouldn’t be a huge surprise given that the country was, as a constituent part of rump Yugoslavia, subjected to NATO bombing in 1999 during the Kosovo War.
But it is also a very good reason for Đukanović to never hold such a referendum which is exactly his stated intention.
Thus the supreme irony – to show what a desirable club it is NATO will integrate a country which actually does not know if it wants to be a member at all.
If this doesn’t sound like a terribly good idea it’s because it isn’t. The parallels to the Ukraine crisis of 2013-14 couldn’t be more obvious.
At the time a Western club, the EU, was doing its utmost to entice Ukraine’s leadership on a EU path despite bitter divisions over the issue in the country itself. The result was the divided country tearing itself apart and ultimately descending into civil war.
There is little reason to expect anything so dramatic in Montenegro – Đukanović’s influence in Montengro is ubiquitous and his hold on power far stronger than any government in Kiev ever enjoyed.
That said who knows what future brings in the long term?
Today the West basks in the delicious irony of having allegedly demonstrated its moral, political and material superiority over Russia and over the 1990s Yugoslavia to the extent that even Slavic Montenegrins, once bombed by NATO, are supposedly clamoring to hop aboard the NATO’s anti-Russian train.
Yet as we know hearts can change. The fact not so long Montenegro – on the account of Russian backing for past wars of Balkan liberation would have been counted among the most stubbornly pro-Russian places on earth is as good illustration of that as any.
Under Đukanović who has ridiculously accused Russians of being behind the anti-NATO protests the small state can be expected to within the organization reliably line up behind Washington (as opposed to behind the sometimes slightly more reasonable Paris and Berlin).
Yet who can say that must remain true forever?
Should a serious rift emerge within NATO a post-Đukanović Montenegro is along with the likes of Greece, Austria, Italy and France a prime candidate to line up with those powers who decline to court war with Russia. – The decision to invite Podgorica to the table might not look such a bright idea for NATO hawks then.
Actually in the run up to the membership Đukanović is already having to assure the electorate 30% of which identifies as ethnic Serbian and 45% proclaim themselves Serbian speakers that NATO membership is in no way pointed against Russia.