You could hardly get a more sensational headline this week than this: «Montenegro says it foiled Russian-backed plan to kill PM Djukanovic». The dramatic «news» followed the announcement last Sunday by the country’s chief prosecutor that an attempted coup carried out – allegedly – by Russian nationalists had been foiled during last month’s parliamentary elections.
Providing no evidence to support the shock claim, chief prosecutor Milivoje Katnic alleged that a «powerful organization» comprising some 50 Russian, Serbian and Montenegrin nationalists had plotted to crash the elections held on October 16 and trigger a coup by assassinating long-time prime minister Milo Djukanovic.
The alleged coup was claimed to have been busted by Montenegrin authorities on the day before the election. Now the same authorities have concluded that the plot was hatched from inside Russian territory.
Without disclosing the identities of those individuals allegedly detained, the official version lacks credibility.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the accusations of Russian interference in Montenegro. While Montenegrin opposition political parties lambasted the claims as «gross propaganda» aimed at furthering premier Djukanovic’s pro-NATO, pro-European Union agenda.
«It is obvious that the special prosecutor has become a servant of the [ruling] Democratic Party of Socialists», said Milutin Dukanovic, leader of the opposition Democratic Front, as quoted by news outlet RFE.
Indeed, since Milo Djukanovic announced accession plans to the US-led NATO military alliance nearly a year ago, his government has met with stiff opposition among Montenegro’s tiny population of around 620,000.
Many Montenegrins recall that their country was bombed by NATO only 16 years ago when it was still part of Serbia arising from the former Yugoslavia. In 2006, Montenegro became independent from Belgrade, but memories are scarred by NATO’s aerial bombardment in which thousands of people were killed during a campaign that served US-led Western interests to dismember the Balkans into pro-Western states. These states have since bolstered the expansion of NATO forces towards Russia’s borders.
Today, Montenegro finds itself as the latest springboard for NATO aggression against Russia.
It seems more than a coincidence that only three days before Montenegro made its grave accusations of Russian subversion, NATO deputy general secretary Rose Gottemoeller had reportedly visited the country, vowing that it would be elected as the 29th member of the military alliance by as early as 2017.
Montenegro’s accession to NATO must be approved by each of the alliance’s member states. Their votes seem assured in light of the latest claims about Russian «aggression».
Russia has long expressed its official disapproval of yet another eastward expansion towards its borders. And Moscow has openly lent its political support to opposition parties within Montenegro which are against NATO membership.
The Djukanovic government claims that Moscow is bankrolling opposition parties – claims which Moscow and the internal parties flatly deny. The latter say that allegations of Moscow sponsorship are simply dirty tricks by Djukanovic to discredit legitimate opposition to his NATO ambitions.
Ahead of the election last month, the ruling party was apprehensive of the results. Deep disaffection among Montenegrins arises not just over plans to join NATO, but also from grievances with perceived cronyism and corruption around the prime minister. There are widespread suspicions that Djukanovic and his inner-circle have been bought off by NATO interests.
Opposition parties make the plausible claim that the alleged coup was announced the day before the elections on October 16 in order to push electoral support for Djukanovic and his government. As it turned out, the ruling party was not able to win a convincing majority in order to form the next administration. For the past few weeks, it has been trying to cobble together a coalition from among opposition parties.
The latest «bombshell» by the chief prosecutor «concluding» that there was a Russian-backed element in the «coup attempt» is seen as a cynical ploy by Djukanovic to sway some of the opposition to repudiate Moscow and to embrace a coalition with his party.
That outcome would then pave the way for the country to proceed with plans to finalize NATO membership.
This tawdry charade cuts both ways too. Not only does NATO obtain another chess piece in its long-term aggressive game towards Russia. The alliance also fuels its rather empty tank with more propaganda.
The day after Montenegro made its claims about Russian subversion – and a bid to assassinate the premier no less – NATO announced that it was going ahead with the «biggest reinforcement of defenses since the end of the Cold War». Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general, told British media that 300,000 alliance troops were being put on high alert.
«We have seen Russia being much more active in many ways», said Stoltenberg, with a wan vagueness that makes him sound more secretary than general.
Last month, NATO chiefs agreed to boost «rapid reaction forces» stationed in eastern Europe and the Baltic states. As Stoltenberg told British media: «There are a large number of people in the armed forces of NATO allies. We are looking into how more of them can be ready at shorter notice.»
And lo and behold, thanks to its Montenegro partner, NATO acquires a timely excuse to justify a massive escalation of forces near Russia. What would normally be evinced as flagrant aggression towards Russia can now be justified as «collective NATO defense».
Western official claims of Russian expansionism since the Georgian-Ossetian conflict in 2008 and the Ukraine crisis in 2014 have always been prone to sound canned and corny from a lack of evidence. So too are Western claims of Russian warplanes and warships marauding near the territories of Europe. As are claims that Russia is about to invade the Baltic region.
It must be excruciatingly frustrating for NATO planners to find credible justifications that they can present to the Western public for their multi-billion-dollar military escalations and reckless warmongering towards Russia.
Last week, British media were saturated with outlandish claims made by MI5 spymaster Andrew Parker accusing Russia of threatening state security and sowing division in Europe. Such bogeyman stories are in danger of sounding ridiculous and the purveyors of such yarns appearing equally absurd.
But then hold on – what relief! – along comes tiny Montenegro with «news» of a dastardly plot by Russia to overthrow the government and murder its prime minister. And so the whole charade goes on with renewed pace. The crony leaders of Montenegro get to stay in power to milk the country even more, NATO seems assured of another stepping stone to intimidate Russia with, and the US-led alliance gets away with the supreme crime of aggression under the guise of «defending allies».
Oh what a lovely little plaything – er, partner – Montenegro has turned out to be for NATO.