Exclusive: Official Washington’s New Cold Warriors are painting NATO’s admission of tiny Montenegro in the stark black-and-white colors of a heroic stand against “Russian aggression” but that misses the real reasons why it’s a bad idea, writes Jonathan Marshall.
By Jonathan Marshall
Any day now, Arizona Senator John McCain promises, the U.S. Senate will vote to approve the incorporation of Montenegro as the 29th member state in the NATO alliance. Though few Americans likely know where to find the tiny Balkan nation on a map, Montenegro has become another dubious focal point of the West’s new confrontation with Russia.
At first glance, the case for extending NATO’s umbrella over a country with fewer than 2,000 troops isn’t obvious. Its seven helicopters are unlikely to make America safer. The Obama administration, which championed this latest in a long line of recent additions to the alliance, actually offered as a rationale the fact that Montenegro had donated some mortar rounds to the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and $1.2 million to NATO’s operations in Afghanistan over three years.
That sum is less than a third of what U.S. taxpayers spend in Afghanistan per hour. One critic quipped, “if the West’s survival depends on Montenegro’s inclusion in NATO, we should all be heading for the bunkers.”
Maybe that’s why hawks are citing the mere fact of Russia’s predictable opposition as a prime reason to support Montenegro’s accession. “Backing Montenegro’s membership is not only the right thing for the Senate to do, it would send a clear signal that no third party has a veto over NATO enlargement decisions,” argues the Heritage Foundation.
And two advocates at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, writing in Foreign Affairs, declared recently that Montenegro will be the key test of whether President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “kowtow to their friend Russian President Vladimir Putin” and “acquiesce . . . in another Yalta” or stand up for “core U.S. goals.”
Raising the specter of Putin and Yalta diverts attention from troubling questions about Montenegro’s political suitability as a partner — and whether it has anything of military value to offer.
NATO ostensibly conditions its acceptance of new members on strict criteria, which include “demonstrating a commitment to the rule of law and human rights; establishing democratic control of armed forces; and promoting stability and well-being through economic liberty, social justice and environmental responsibility.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Carpenter assured the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last September that Montenegro supported NATO’s “values of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.” He must have missed the report from Freedom House, which gave the country a rating of only “partly free” for both political rights and civil liberties.
The organization cited “restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly” and “years of harassment and discrimination against LGBT people.” It also noted “ongoing concerns . . . about the independence of the judiciary and the public broadcaster, as well as numerous failures to effectively prosecute past attacks against media workers.” The country suffers from “a lack of trust in the electoral process among voters,” it added.
Carpenter must also have missed the State Department’s human rights report, which accused Montenegro of numerous violations, including “impunity for war crimes, mistreatment by law enforcement officers of persons in their custody, overcrowded and dilapidated prisons and pretrial detention facilities, violations of the right to peaceful assembly,” and “selective prosecution of political and societal opponents.”
A Bastion of Corruption
As for the “rule of law,” consider that Montenegro’s ruler for nearly three decades, Milo Djukanovi?, was given the 2015 Organized Crime and Corruption “Person of the Year” Award by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), an organization of several hundred investigative journalists who report on corruption in Europe and Central Asia (and are partly financed by USAID).
Citing his success in “creating an oppressive political atmosphere and an economy choked by corruption and money laundering,” the OCCRP said Djukanovi? “has built one of the most dedicated kleptocracies and organized crime havens in the world.”
The organization pointed to his alleged role in cigarette smuggling with notorious Italian crime syndicates; his family’s takeover of a former state bank, which became a money laundry for organized crime; his controversial sale of major stretches of the country’s coastline to shady foreign oligarchs; and his offer of citizenship to a notorious regional drug kingpin.
Djukanovi? knows the money is greener to the west of Montenegro than to the east. That’s why he’s an ardent advocate of joining NATO. (Fewer than 40 percent of Montenegrins in a recent poll agreed — in part because alliance warplanes bombed the country during NATO’s campaign against Serbia in 1999.) President Obama congratulated Djukanovi? on his stand during an official reception in September.
Following national elections in October, Djukanovi? finally stepped down as prime minister, but he remains head of the ruling party. Taking his place as the country’s current prime minister was his hand-picked deputy, Dusko Markovic.
“Markovic, a former state security chief, is considered one of Djukanovi?’s closest confidantes,” reported OCCRP. “He was publicly accused by a former head of the country’s anti-organized crime police last year of involvement in cigarette smuggling, but was never charged.” In 2014, Markovic was also charged by the head of a government investigative commission with obstructing a probe into the murder of a prominent newspaper editor and critic of Djukanovi?.
Western media have large ignored such troubling facts. Instead, what little coverage there is of Montenegro focuses on the government’s sensational claim that Russians plotted to assassinate Djukanovi? at the time of the October election.
Markovic recently told Time magazine that his security services at the last minute uncovered a “criminal organization” formed by two Russian military intelligence agents, who planned on election day “to provoke incidents . . . and also possibly an armed conflict” as a pretext for taking power.
The prosecutor in charge of the case says “Russian state authorities” backed the plot to “prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.” He vows to indict two alleged Russian plotters and 22 others, including a group of Serbian nationalists, by April 15. Russia’s foreign minister called the allegations “baseless,” but refuses to extradite any suspects. An independent expert, citing numerous anomalies in the official story, argues the plot was a “rogue operation” by Serbian and Russian nationalist freelancers.
Russia, which has long considered the Balkans to be in its sphere of influence, has a history of intruding in Montenegro’s affairs. But absent persuasive supporting evidence for the government’s case, outsiders should bear in mind the cautionary observation by Freedom House that “[Montenegro’s] intelligence service has faced sustained criticism from international observers for a perceived lack of professionalism.”
Still, it should come as no surprise that anti-Russia hawks haven’t let ambiguous evidence deter them from demanding the expansion of NATO.
A Wall Street Journal editorial said the alleged coup plot “gives a good taste of Russia’s ambitions — and methods — in Eastern and Central Europe” and concluded with a call for accepting Montenegro’s bid to join NATO: “Western security is best served by supporting democratic governments of any size facing pressure from regional bullies. The alternative is to deliver another country into Moscow’s grip, and whet its appetite to take another.”
Time magazine commented even more breathlessly that “The aborted coup was a reminder that a new battle for Europe has begun. From the Baltics to the Balkans and the Black Sea to Great Britain, Vladimir Putin is seeking to rebuild Russia’s empire more than 25 years after the fall of the Soviet Union.” Trump’s past criticism of NATO, the magazine warned, has “raised flags that the U.S. might accept Russia’s territorial grab.”
Such inflammatory comments are stoking the political fires burning around Trump, including investigations of his campaign contacts with Russians, assertions of Moscow’s interference with the election, and questions about business connections or personal indiscretions that make him vulnerable to Putin. Trump’s stand on Montenegro — still to be determined — will signal whether he remains a critic of NATO or is caving to the New Cold Warriors.
Jonathan Marshall is author of many recent articles on arms issues, including “Obama’s Unkept Promise on Nuclear War,” “How World War III Could Start,” “NATO’s Provocative Anti-Russian Moves,” “Escalations in a New Cold War,” and “Ticking Closer to Midnight.”
Another paid pro-Russian article
First things first: Montenegro’s name is politically incorrect and must be changed to MonteAfricanAmerican before it’s admitted to NATO.
The Bobbsey Twins
I do not approve of everything Russia does. But facing Nation Gang, headed by the biggest killer of people since the end of WW2, and behaving like any other gang; be it bike, Congress, MSM, street, mafia, bank gang, Russia was at least morally correct to protect Donetsk and absorb Crimeans into Russian Federation.
I am also hoping that Bosnia and Croatia would become much more friendlier with Russia. Alas, more than half of Croats hate Russia on account that Russia went to war for Serbs 1914 to establish a Greater Serbia west of Drina River and deep into Croatia.
But Croats should bury the past. They’d be a lot better with Russia and Russians than the racist West.
Montenegro has a large percentage of Serb population; thus, is very vulnerable to Serbia’s wishes to expand its territory all the way to Virovitica, Karlovac, and Karlobag line.
Ruso-Serbian brotherhood, having not gained a cm of land or seacoast west of Drina river, want now to at least absorb Montenegro
int a Greater Serbia.
For the Nation Gang, aka Nato want to prevent swallowing up of Montenegro and establishment of navy base there for Russia.
Save waging wars, Serbia also cannot gain back Kosovo nor N.Albania; which Serbia conquered and held for a brief time early 20th C.
Serbia had to leave Albania because both the Austria and Italy threatened Serbia with wars against it.
Serbo-Russian alliance is undergoing yet another serious shock: Bosniaks are submitting to ICJ a new revision [revizija] of the genocide perpetrated by pan-serbs from early ’92.
Bosniaks claim that since the last hearing by ICJ of the genocide indictment against Serbia they are in possession of new facts; includes using what Karadzic [c=soft ch] had testified to at den Hague.
And because of this new revelation, Croatia may also sue panserbs for genocide against it.
And i’d be very happy. Justice and truth are screaming out for a new try to convict Serbs of genocides against Bosniaks, some Croats of northern Bosnia and Croatians of Croatia!
Croatia had also aggressed against Bosniaks in ’93, but Bosniaks do not call it genocide.
“Greater Serbia” is a canard employed by anti-Serbian racists.
No it is a sick project of the people who has not missed a single war in teh Balkans and actually caused a lot of them. It is 17th century mentality, a sickness
What about the massive killing of serbs by the nazi Ustaše regime? Oh, yes, those crimes were committed prior to the Rome Statute, right? But the estimates range close to 500,000 serbs butchered by pious, Catholic Croats. Is there not room to believe that the frenzy around destroying Yugoslavia was perceived by Serbs as a prologue to a new Serb genocide? Certainly the Bosnian Serbs, particulary Karadzic, engaged in terrible actions against Bosniaks, but the nationalist fanatics from all corners of small Yugoslavia fiercely competed against each other to see who was capable of the worst atrocities against human beings who, until a few months before, had been their neighbors, colleagues, friends. All speaking basically the same language, divided only by religion. A dark chapter of human history, fueled and cheered on by Germany and the US.
“Trump’s stand on Montenegro — still to be determined — will signal whether he remains a critic of NATO or is caving to the New Cold Warriors”.
Trump’s criticism of NATO has always mainly been that other NATO countries do not pay enough into the kitty. Yes, he has called NATO antiquated but that was almost certainly a Trumpian hyperbole.
You cannot claim that his stand on Montenegro is unknown and at the same time aver that he could be caving to the NCW. Ever since Freud we know that to be projecting.
I consider the addition of Montenegro a stupidity. The Adriatic is already a NATO lake and Russia does not want a naval base in Montenegro. It’s only and very minor if not questionable strategic value is that it borders Serbia.
The addition of Montenegro neither strengthens NATO nor weakens Russia. It is a straw-state.
What President Trump really must clarify is his stand on the Crimea. He has at least once stated in the past that Russia needs not return the Crimea to Ukraine. More recently our ambassador to the UN has demanded that the Crimea must be returned to Ukraine. Is that the current policy of the Trump administration and why has it changed? Because the NCW demanded it?
Compared to this issue Montenegro is of a much lower urgency.
The last thing Russia should do is give up Sevastopol base/Crimea. Contrary to the hype by the government, Putin doesn’t want to “return to the empire of the Soviet Union.” There is no evidence of that whatsoever. But once the propaganda is perpetuated by TPTB, ’nuff said, right? Every day on every front, the USA becomes more disgusting.
Every decent social organization needs a yacht club. Montenegro is it. And it’s largely owned by wealthy, civilized people from the rest of the world.
Jonathan Marshall – great report. “The alternative is to deliver another country into Moscow’s grip, and whet its appetite to take another.” Oh, brother! Do these guys stand around laughing as they write this stuff?
“As for the ‘rule of law,’ consider that Montenegro’s ruler for nearly three decades, Milo Djukanovi?, was given the 2015 Organized Crime and Corruption ‘Person of the Year’ Award.” Thanks for the big laugh. OMG, that is so funny. Who needs oil or other resources when you’ve got a leader like Milo? In one door and out the other!
My main point of criticism would be that Montenegro would enter NATO while this is probably not supported by a majority of the population. At least, there should be a referendum. Furthermore, if membership in a military alliance is so controversial in a country, neutrality is probably the better option.
This is a completely different situation than in Poland and the Baltic states. The NATO expansion to these countries can be criticized because it contradicts non-binding promises that were given to Russia when Germany unified, but there, NATO membership really has the support of a vast majority of the population. Therefore, I think that accepting these countries into NATO can be justified, but it should have been accompanied with compensating measures to build trust with Russia. In the case of countries like Montenegro, where a large part of the population – possibly a majority, unless there is a referendum, we don’t know – is opposed to NATO membership, the situation is completely different.
To those who think Russia wants to add Montenegro to its “sphere of influence”, I would say that there is, to my knowledge, no pressure whatsoever from Russia that Montenegro should join the Collective Security Treaty Organization (among whose members are Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia). The most likely alternative to NATO membership for Montenegro would be that the country joins no military alliance. I have never seen any denunciation of countries’ neutral status by Russia. In contrast, NATO expands to countries where a large part of the population is opposed to NATO membership, preventing them from remaining neutral. It seems that the desire to expand the spheres of influence is much more on NATO’s part.
Perhaps it would be good to remember why General, President Eisenhower pushed for NATO. Our nation was twice sucked-perhaps unnecessarily-into two Wold Wars. Both started in Europe. WW1 allowed several European countries to remain neutral while our boys were killed in France and Flanders. Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, and the Vatican City remained neutral in WW2. With NATO that would end. No more beating around the bush. Should Germany attack Poland or France again or Stalin threaten West Germany you go in first before we send troopships filled with our soldiers. Vatican City still excepted. Switzerland and Sweden only hope to make money as they did in WW2. The fact that another World War is unlikely to start today in Europe has changed the European theater hence has made NATO more dispensable but its beginning did have understandable reasons.
HHmmmmm. Russia thinking Montenegro is in its “sphere of influence” is bad. But NATO adding Montenegro to its own, open sphere of influence is A-OK?
NATO gobbles up countries like Pac Man goobles up dots. With every country added, America feels greater vindication in NATO’s existence and the USA’s popularity. It’s like a rap star maintaining his posse. Growing it adds to his fame.
Sure, Montenegro adds nothing to NATO defense. In fact, it’s undoubtedly a liability, but it does add one more trip wire to a nuclear war that Russia must be cautious about and now always must take into account. It Putin pisses off the Montenegrons, they just might suck Russia into a major war based on Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. See, it’s all genius from the American perspective, and potential disaster for the world.
Good article. I’ve been following these strange events in Montenegro for a bit of time. The situation in that nation vis a vis Nato’s expansionist goals are now the norm for Nato. There isn’t a nation on this earth which Nato won’t try to include in its anti Russian and anti democratic, global dominance wars.
The goal is to get rich. And as violence, and war or the threat of war, is the United States’ bread and butter, it is now policy to include any nation to Nato, corrupt, despotic, or which is easily recognized as a government which has no interest in the well being of its citizens, only that of the ruling oligarchs and profiteering.
The American Interest December 8, 2015 : ” To date, NATO enlargement throughout Europe’s East has enhanced security, promoted stability, encouraged investment, fostered inter-state cooperation, and helped protect against future challenges to national integrity. “ ?????????
Now NATO wants to take in tiny Montenegro, a corrupt, poor, Balkan statelet with a total of 2,000 troops. The reason? To get the last country of the EU with direct access to the Mediterranean sea and to open the door to more NATO expansion to Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.
If you Google “Russia Wants War” you see a colored poster of the NATO bases near Russia. Bottom of poster says “Look how close they put their country next to our military bases”.
We need to include the MSM’s silence as one of it’s most frequent forms of fake news. It’s like witnessing a fatal mugging and pretending it didn’t happen. This MSM silence often abets the most serious crimes, often involving thousands of innocent deaths.
NATO is worse than obsolete-it is an excellent way of ensuring there is no chance of peace in an ever-expanding area well beyond the North Atlantic.
‘NATO ostensibly conditions its acceptance of new members on strict criteria, which include “demonstrating a commitment to the rule of law and human rights; establishing democratic control of armed forces; and promoting stability and well-being through economic liberty, social justice and environmental responsibility.” ‘
NATO is a cash cow for the MIC. To continue funding it, scratch that, too inflate NATO spending it needs an enemy, so why not Russia? Every citizen of every country which belongs to NATO should put their foot down, and just say no enough is enough, but then would TPTB listen?
A tidbit from last year which still makes my head hurt:
More recent news has NATO trying to expand into South America.
For some reason, I had never noticed, until reading this article, that NATO’s logo is a sylized version of the celtic cross, a well-known white supremacist symbol, also used by the Zodiac Killer.
Though the celtic cross has a history beyond that, the lower arm of the traditional symbol is longer (like the standard Christan Cross.) When all 4 arms are the same length, however, it is a notably different symbol.
If the logo were based on the compass rose, there would be no reason for it to extend beyond the circle, as a compass is limited to the edges of the circle.
Logos do not incorporate symbols by accident, especially not logos for major international organizations.
In the book McMafia, Misha Glenny gives an extensive description of an important smuggling route, by boat between Montenegro and Italy. It is, for example, a major route for untaxed cigarettes, which turns out to be a big, illicit, business. It will be interesting to see if NATO does anything about curtailing that, or uses it as a bargaining chip, or even expands it to include harder drugs/contraband/human trafficking.
If the EU falls (as it might since Europeans are more and more declaring that the EU does not help them), then NATO will fall. The US likes its controlling stakes in NATO so it can be director of NATO actions. Too much money for war, defending against what? Before too long, there may be no planet to defend, the way we are going, the US always leading with its hypocritical “democracy” exportation. An utter mess! This is the latest best ploy they could come up with, including poor lil’ ol’ Montenegro?
Why? NATO is older than the EU.
This move just piles on another helping of (dangerous) American hypocrisy that Washington’s vassals and America’s foes have come to expect.
Perhaps more important, if Washington thinks that gobbling up more of Russia’s neighbours in order to exploit them by using their real estate to plant some more nuclear-tipped missiles aimed at Moskau is somehow going to save what little is left of pax Americana, Washington has got another think coming. All they’re doing is driving Putin deeper into the arms of Beijing. Equally, if plugging up the South China Sea with another battle group is going to convince anyone that the US is only protecting the freedom of navigation, Washington is even crazier than we thought.
The deployment of the USS Carl Vinson to the South China Sea and the welcoming of Montenegro into NATO are desperate containment measures by a desperate empire choking to death on its own corruption. The only way America is going to succeed is by equalling Eurasia’s economic development projects. Instead, America’s cities are criminalizing their growing homeless populations, and they are led by a president who seems to think that repairing the country’s crumbling infrastructure is by approving pipelines for the transmission of oil and natural gas. Sure: let’s burn some more fossil fuels — how else can Americans speed up the empire’s inevitable end?
“The organization cited “restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly” and “years of harassment and discrimination against LGBT people.” It also noted “ongoing concerns . . . about the independence of the judiciary and the public broadcaster, as well as numerous failures to effectively prosecute past attacks against media workers.” The country suffers from “a lack of trust in the electoral process among voters,” it added.
Carpenter must also have missed the State Department’s human rights report, which accused Montenegro of numerous violations, including “impunity for war crimes, mistreatment by law enforcement officers of persons in their custody, overcrowded and dilapidated prisons and pretrial detention facilities, violations of the right to peaceful assembly,” and “selective prosecution of political and societal opponents.””
A large portion of these two paragraphs could easily be said about the US, so STFU! Nobody in the US has any right to condemn anyone else anywhere for the above. Yes, these things are wrong and should be stopped. But until the US stops doing these things, then we cant criticize others for doing the same thing.
We have NO moral standing, and we are the worlds biggest raging hypocrites!
NATO feeds off Taxpayers dollars:
There is plenty of money for NATO’s war palace
The home of those that plan the war’s of malice
All paid for by the serfs’ compulsory taxes
This Brussels H.Q. is where the warmongers’ relaxes…
[Much more info on NATO at link below]
I believe not only is NATO ‘obsolete’ but there should be a public inquiry into the actions of this taxpayer funded bloody warmongering machine that has spread death and destruction around the world…
[read more at link below]
You are mean….they are sincerely worried about those rogue Iranians and North Koreans. They have nothing against Russia. NATO’s careful piling up of weapons which happen to surround Russia’s borders is just a geographical coincidence!
Why not include Montenegro in NATO? NATO has been bogged down in a quagmire in Afghanistan and needs all the help it can get. It doesn’t say much for Montenegro’s leaders that they want to get involved in that loony bin.
Because it is already our welfare baby, and because it is part and parcel of criminality, from drug trade to weapons trade, across Balkans. We just need more little places that Senator McCain feels we need to plant a flag at. We are run by idiots.