If you're Montenegrin and against Milo Djukanovic and NATO membership - well you must be a Russian agent
Originally appeared at Forbes
The double headed eagle on the coat of arms maybe inspired by the old Russian Empire , but that’s where it ends. Montenegro is the latest country to blame the Russians for supporting protests against its government.
Thousands took to the streets in the national capital city of Podgorica starting in mid-September and then repeated their anti-government campaign in October and again in November.
Protesters were holding signs calling Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic a thief. Others waved the red, white and blue striped flag of the Russian Federation, while a few old timers, reminiscing of the old Socialist days pre-1991, actually held up pictures of Vladimir Putin.
The blame game is similar to what is currently taking place in eastern Ukraine. The industrial hub cities in the Donbass region of that former Moscow ally is locked in a stalemate between pro-Russian forces and Kyiv. Political unrest there has nearly destroyed Ukraine’s industrial base and led to sanctions against Russia by the U.S. and European Union.
The argument? Russians are invading in order to create a “frozen conflict” designed to keep Ukraine, and now Montenegro, out of NATO and the European Union.
Prime Minister Milo Dukanovic probably likes the focus turning to the eastern bad boys as he tries to take the former Yugoslavian enclave to the western world.
Dukanovic has his own problems at home. He’s been investigated by the Italian anti-mafia commission for cigarette smuggling and was only let off the hook because of diplomatic immunity.
A Russian billionaire named Oleg Deripaska sued the government in 2013 for an expropriation of assets, an aluminum smelter he bought through his Cyprus based firm now called the Central European Aluminum Company. It’s now defunct in the country, thanks to Dukanovic.
Meanwhile, NATO recently urged Montenegro to put into practice the reforms it adopted hoping to join the military alliance in the former Yugoslavia, along with Slovenia and Croatia. A decision is due in December over what Reuters reported as the “objections of Russia.”
Dukanovic has gone on the record blaming the Russians for the protests.
“Following the two press statements issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry saying that the Russian politics is in favor of the organizers of the protests, I guess there is no doubt that their political objectives are identical – preventing Montenegro from joining NATO,” he told a local broadcaster on Oct. 21, a few days after the second wave of protests against him turned violent.
“Preventing NATO enlargement into the Balkans is an official objective of Russian state politics, and that is why we have to conclude that the organizers of the protests in Montenegro have a very strong base in certain political, economic, security and other centers outside of Montenegro,” he said.
“We have no other choice but to follow our Euro-Atlantic path. It would be tragic for the country and the entire region to move in a wrong direction given our earlier experiences with religious and ethnic hostility among the nations. We will do our best to overcome the last resistance to the Euro-Atlantic path.”