Why states jump into penultimate NATO train: Montenegrian experience for Ukraine

Author : Yuriy Panchenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

Attempt of a public rebellion, trade war with Russia, continued political confrontation - this is a fee, paid by Montenegro in order to become the 29th member of NATO
17:46, 12 June 2017

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Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada has approved a rule that joining NATO is a strategic goal of Ukraine. And few days ago, there was an important change within the Alliance: one more state became its member.

Attempt of a public rebellion, trade war with Russia, continued political confrontation - this is a fee, paid by Montenegro in order to become the 29th member of NATO.

Its goal is reached, but the question remains - why? Indeed, at first glance, the threat to Montenegro cannot be called high. "Divorce" from Serbia in 2006 passed peacefully, the territorial disputes are either resolved in international courts (as in Croatia), or in consultation with the EU’s mediation (Kosovo).

On the other hand, how many people in Ukraine believed in the reality of Russian military aggression five years ago?

And let us go back to the explanation of Montenegro. Perhaps it is only the historical experience? Or the economic calculations? Because, NATO membership should guarantee a greater level of security for investments and for Western tourists.  Both answers are true, but not the major ones.

Related: Montenegro became NATO member despite Russia's tantrum: Lessons for Ukraine

In order to get the third answer, we had to talk with Montenegrin experts and ordinary residents. Their answers are sometimes opposite – we have communicated with both supporters and opponents of such membership. But they have something in common: the expectation of trouble approaching.

"Yes, we have no conflicts with other countries, but we see that the level of conflicts in our neighborhood is growing. In this situation, it is better to be a NATO member," said Head of the Directorate for NATO Milica Kovačević.

Ordinary people do not carefully pick their words. "You can see for yourself what is happening around. Everybody suddenly wants to conflict again," says a middle-aged woman. "My husband believes that now the Americans will make us fight with the Serbs, and I rather think this (NATO membership) was our only chance to avoid a new war," she added.

Indeed, only last year the probability of a new conflict in the Balkans significantly increased. Bosnia and Herzegovina are under threat, where the autonomous Republika Srpska is said about the inevitability of the collapse and joining Serbia.

Related: Ukraine, Montenegro to cooperate in education, science

The author of this statement is President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik, a frequent guest of Russian TV channels. And on the eve of presidential elections in Serbia Dodik accompanied the then prime minister and election winner Aleksandar Vučić at almost all talk shows.

It is worth mentioning: Bosnia is a candidate for NATO membership. And therefore, Russia might decide to rehabilitate the Montenegrin loss, not allowing NATO accession of other Balkan candidates?

The second candidate for NATO is Macedonia. The country had just emerged from a prolonged crisis, which resulted in the resignation of the pro-Russian government of Nikola Gruevski.

And after this, consortium of international journalists gave the government investigation on strengthening of Russian influence in the country. One of the key elements of this action was the recruitment of former and current employees of the Macedonian army and police in order to "create a critical mass of people with military skills."

It was a script, a blueprint copied from Montenegro last year's rebellion.

Finally, a conflict erupted around semi-recognized Kosovo. The country would soon hold parliamentary elections, and radicals have every chance to win. The ones who do not see sense to find ways for peaceful coexistence with Serbia and border with Montenegro.

Related: Prime minister and speaker of Montenegro banned from entry to Russia

Cocktail of the old and new Russian ambitions could explode at any moment.

Montenegro ha a geed luck that the coup attempt was unsuccessful, and its investigation significantly reduced activity of the pro-Russian forces.

As a result, the Balkan country has had time to jump into NATO train and defended themselves from a new conflict. Mostly - making the right conclusions from the Ukrainian experience.

Will the other Balkan countries use this chance? Not sure.

Russia’s economic constraints in Montenegro show that the Kremlin set on revenge. And it needs an example of what happens to countries that do not understand these allusions.

Related: Russia attempted to hinder Montenegro to join NATO

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