Montenegro In, and Georgia?

The 5th of June proved to be a historic day for the small Balkan nation as the country became the 29th member of NATO. Georgia watched with great interest, what with our country’s undisclosed desire to join the ranks of the North Atlantic alliance. How did it come that they were first? What did they do to deserve a MAP ahead of us? These were some of the questions entertained by the more Euroskeptically inclined members of our society. We tried to look for a middle ground and asked these very questions to… A Croatian. Bernard Karakas is the editor-in-chief of the Vecernij List, Croatia’s biggest daily newspaper and he was only too keen to discuss Montenegro’s ongoing NATO adventure with GEORGIA TODAY and Panorama TV Talk Show.

“First and foremost, it’s a preventive measure on behalf of Europe and the West in general,” he tells us. “Its goal is to weaken Russia’s presence in the region and most importantly, to deny Russia access to the Adriatic Sea. This, in the long run, would prevent scenarios such as the one that is unfolding in Ukraine right now happening in the Balkans. Keep in mind that not so long ago, about 10 years or so, Montenegro was quite close to Russia, right before the ex-PM Milo Djukanovic, who is still a de-facto ruler of the country, did a U-turn on the Kremlin to prolong his political lifespan. We shouldn’t forget Serbia, either – the main leverage of the Kremlin in the Balkans.

How are the Russians going to react? They seem rather unhappy with the turn of the events

Of course they’re unhappy- it’s a major blow to Russian interests in the region. It’s, as they like to call it, “A NATO Expansion”. But then what can they really do to stop it from happening? Unlike Georgia and Ukraine, Montenegro was never considered as “Russia’s backyard”. So, we don’t expect major changes. Sure, there might be some uproar, some clashes and so on, but generally we in the Balkans pull these things off just perfectly without Russian intervention. Sad to admit it, but it has become a know-how of sorts for us.

How can Montenegro contribute to international security (since it's a small country with only 600,000 inhabitants)

Funny question, that. Nobody asks Montenegro to contribute anything, really – their prime contribution will be the fact that Russia won’t have a potential access route into the Adriatic Sea, which will save NATO and the West a lot of headache for years to come. So, Montenegro is in there mainly thanks to its geographical proximity.

At the risk of sounding naïve, how fair is that? What is Montenegro doing in the fight against organized crime and corruption? When you look at corruption statistics, reforms, freedom of press, transparency, Georgia will definitely come if not ahead, then at least not behind Montenegro or Serbia

It’s more sad than naïve, really. If you compare democratic standards between Georgia and Montenegro, then the later doesn’t even come close, but Montenegro is, figuratively speaking, a brick in the wall that NATO is building in front of Russia. It’s one small, yet crucial part of the puzzle that NATO has been assembling for quite a while now. Slovenia, Croatia, now Montenegro – this means ensuring the security of the Adriatic, and to a larger extent, the Mediterranean Sea… And mind you, the Adriatic is a lot closer to Western Europe than the Black Sea is. To wrap it up, Montenegro has the luxury to trade over things with NATO, while Georgia is not so lucky. It has nothing to do with Montenegro being democratic or not. Take Albania – this country has nothing to do with democracy whatsoever, yet is a NATO member already, for geopolitical reasons.

So, it’s all double standards and nothing to do with reforms and democracy?

Not exactly. Both are very much needed and welcomed, but at the end of the day, it’s still a political question. Georgia being a post-soviet republic is yet another stumbling block. With Putin being firmly at the helm of Russia and more often than not dictating the foreign policy trends to the whole world, the European leaders are afraid to provoke him. That’s the main reason Georgia isn’t already a NATO member. So, it doesn’t need to compare itself with Montenegro or Albania – that’s a futile endeavor… It’s the geopolitical situation that has the Alliance’s collective hands tied, not a lack of effort on Georgia’s part.

Vazha Tavberidze

08 June 2017 19:29