Do not be afraid – the example of Montenegro on the path to NATO

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Before joining NATO four years ago, Montenegro has withstood great pressure from Russia. One of the Kremlin’s main targets was Milo Djukanovic, then the country’s prime minister. This small country on the Adriatic coast is being considered by experts as an example for Georgia – how it can still achieve its goal of joining NATO despite angry Russian aggression.

The composition of the highest and permanent body, the Military Committee, which drafts NATO action recommendations, has arrived in Georgia for the fourth time. Experts consider it problematic that Georgia welcomes high-ranking guests in an unfavorable political environment.

Montenegro – an example for Georgia

A total of 621,000 people live in this small, Balkan state in south-eastern Europe. The country, which was first part of Yugoslavia and then of the Republic of Serbia and Montenegro, began its independent existence in June 2006 after a referendum.

It took several years before joining NATO, and the process was crowned with success in June 2017 – becoming the 29th member of the Montenegro Alliance.

This is probably the fact that the President of Georgia, Salome Zurabishvili, meant when she said that Montenegro “Joining the Atlantic Council took place in 2017.”

After the meeting, at a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace, President Zurabishvili paid more attention to the prospects of Montenegro’s accession to the European Union and said that – Georgia should share the experience of this country.

“Its (Montenegro) path to Europe is ahead of us. He is already in the membership negotiations, which is our dream and it will be very interesting for us to share our experience today just as we are preparing for 2024 and announcing our candidacy. [ევროკავშირში გაწევრიანებაზე განაცხადის 2024 წელს შეტანა „ქართული ოცნების“ გეგმაა – რ.თ.] …

It is important that today and now we share specific experiences that will help us take the steps that will lead us to the goal that is our common great national goal. “ Said the President of Georgia.

The President of Montenegro, who is visiting Georgia for the first time in the history of diplomatic relations between the two countries, said on October 7 that he is well acquainted with and monitors Georgia’s internal political developments from afar.

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Milo Djukanovic thinks that without political stability it is simply impossible to achieve goals and exist in a geopolitically difficult region.

Montenegro is a candidate for EU membership and hopes that the enlargement of the European Union will continue. At the last summit, the contours of joining the European Union remained vague, but the main achievement of the country is the already established fact – being in NATO. The guest president also emphasized the great importance of this fact in his speech.

Tengiz Pkhaladze, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the fourth President of Georgia, considers Montenegro a very important example for Georgia. According to him, this small country has achieved NATO membership as a result of great aspirations.

“Russia went to great lengths to prevent Montenegro from becoming a member of NATO. There was a very strong hybrid attack, a coup d’etat was planned with Russian intervention, poisoning of high-ranking officials … but Montenegro still managed to accomplish the most difficult task with the strong support of the Alliance member states, despite the difficulties of the Trump administration …

This small country simply could not exist without NATO membership and it is an example for Georgia in this regard. This country has done everything, worked purposefully. He was not afraid and did not say – Russia is big and will help us “ – Pkhaladze tells us.

How the Kremlin fought

  • In 2016, when Montenegro’s membership in NATO was already an inevitable reality, the country’s government announced that it had uncovered and thwarted a coup plot and an attack on then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. According to official information, several Russian intelligence agents were involved in the conspiracy, along with Serbian nationalists. This fact is still denied in the Kremlin;
  • At the same time, Russia was trying to influence Montenegro’s revenues, and in particular the tourism sector, which is so important for the country on the Adriatic coast. Statements were heard from the Russian Foreign Ministry that Montenegro was stirring up “anti-Russian hysteria” and that Russian tourists were being threatened in the country;
  • Russia was able to split the country’s parliament as well – when the document on NATO membership had to be ratified, Moscow rejoiced that the process was taking place amid noise and controversy;
  • Proponents of joining NATO have been plagued by the fact that thousands of Russians in Montenegro have bought real estate – homes – and become heavily involved in the real estate business;
  • According to opinion polls, the population of Montenegro was almost equally divided on the issue of NATO membership.

After great battles, now Montenegro is no longer afraid of attacks from outside the country. NATO is the guarantor of its peace.

Tengiz Pkhaladze hopes that Georgia will carefully study the experience of Montenegro and adequately use its unconditional support.

Russia has not changed. On October 6, it was announced that NATO leadership would expel eight members of the Russian mission from the Alliance headquarters. Because of the “hostile activities” committed by them in different countries of the Alliance.

On October 7, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said relations between the North Atlantic Alliance and Moscow had deteriorated to a record level since the end of the Cold War.

The fourth arrival of the Military Committee

The military committee, made up of senior military officials from NATO member states, is visiting Georgia for the fourth time since 2014.

This committee is NATO’s highest and most permanent military body, whose main function is to develop recommendations for the Alliance’s political decision-making bodies, including the North Atlantic Council.

The two-day Georgian delegation will be led by a new chairman, Admiral Bauer. Representatives of the NATO Military Committee also visited the NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Assessment Center (JTEC) in Krtsanisi.

The committee will hold a meeting on October 8 in Tsinandali. According to the official information, the representatives of the Military Committee will get acquainted with the security situation in the region and the challenges facing the country.

The Deputy Commander of the Defense Forces, Brigadier General Irakli Chichinadze, told reporters that during the visit, they will discuss further deepening of NATO-Georgia relations and future plans, including in the field of Black Sea security.

According to Tbilisi, the visit of the Military Committee to Georgia is a clear message from the Alliance that it strongly supports the territorial integrity of Georgia and the goal – to become a member of NATO.

Valery Chechelashvili, co-founder of GSAC and former ambassador to Ukraine and Russia, highly appreciates NATO’s systemic approach. However, he fears that in the light of the current unfavorable domestic or foreign political situation in Georgia, the visit may not bring proper results.

“It is welcome that the Military Committee continues its visits – it means that Georgia remains in the sphere of NATO interests … But on the other hand, what will this visit bring in the current situation ?!

It is difficult to talk about the results, for the country in our situation it can be considered that NATO continues to cooperate at all … I do not imagine any serious progress against this background. “ – Chechelashvili tells us.

The expert refers to the recent sharp signals coming from Brussels or Washington, including – with the spread records – “Susi files” or later, regarding the quality of the elections.

For Valeri Chechelashvili, the government’s argument that the harsh assessments of international partners are due to lack of information is absolutely unfounded.

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