There is always a possibility that the conflict from Ukraine could spill over into the Balkans, says Montenegrin political analyst Alek Barovic in an interview with Geopost.
He points out that the Russians could do this with great ease, because they have a large number of sleeper agents in Serbia, the so-called Republika Srpska, but also in Montenegro and people on their payroll, a lot of spies, agents.
“We know that the Montenegrin service is being drilled by Russian agents, it is full of them, if they consider that opening a new front in Europe is to their advantage, I think they will do it.”
Unlike Serbian defense minister and SNS president Milos Vucevic, Geopost’s interlocutor believes that Serbia is actually interfering in the internal affairs of all Balkan countries.
“Especially Montenegro, which was led especially in the last three and a half, four years”
Geopost: How do you assess the recent statement by Serbian Defense Minister and SNS President Milos Vucevic that “Montenegro and North Macedonia sinned against Serbia by recognizing Kosovo’s independence” and that this constitutes interference in the country’s internal affairs? The US Ambassador in Belgrade, Christopher Hill, told the Voice of America that he did not see this statement as an attempt to destabilize the region.
Barović: That gentleman (Milos Vucevic) said that Montenegro and Macedonia were interfering in Serbia’s internal affairs, but I actually think it is the other way round – that Serbia is interfering in the internal affairs of two sovereign states and trying to command them and determine who they will or will not recognize. Under international law, it is the right of every sovereign state to recognize another state as independent, and Montenegro and Macedonia have done so, first of all, because Montenegro has a border with Kosovo, out of necessity and, of course, good neighborly relations. This is not something that is up to Montenegro, it is a reality.
On the other hand, Serbia is interfering in the internal affairs of all the Balkan countries, especially Montenegro, which has been targeted, especially in the last three and a half, four years, in all possible segments of society, and Serbia’s malign influence can be seen in all pores.
Geopost: You said that Belgrade is interfering in Montenegro’s internal affairs. The process of forming a new Montenegrin government is under way, what is Belgrade’s stake in this?
Barović I think it is very big, especially through the Serbian Church, which is one of the most important exponents of Serbian and Russian policy in the Balkans. As far as the Serbian government itself and Aleksandar Vucic are concerned, he is trying to win over his most loyal players, i.e. he has pushed the remnants of the former Democratic Front into the new government.
On the other hand, through the Serbian Church, he controls the Europe Now movement, which won the most seats and from which the representative for the new government (Milojko Spajić) comes, so that we can say that the whole process is under the watchful eye and control of Aleksandar Vucic and, therefore, of Vladimir Putin.
Geopost: In addition to the mandate, the new president of Montenegro is from the Europe Now! Movement. Exactly three months have passed since Jakov Milatović took office as President. How would you assess the past period of his rule?
Barović: I see it as a very humorous and passive activity. Mr Milatović and his role as President is first and foremost to defend the reputation of Montenegro and to represent the country, because that is a function that is directly elected by the citizens, and he should first and foremost be the protector of the country and the citizens and as Commander-in-Chief according to some moral principles.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t do that. Since he took office, there have been many insults against Montenegro and Montenegrin citizens, and he has not reacted as he is expected to. This is one proof that Mr Milatović is still under the control of Aleksandar Vučić and the people around him, and therefore he must not oppose them or want to jeopardize his position. On the other hand, it seems to me that he is trying to show himself to be much, much more than he really is. This function of the President is rather ceremonial and he is trying to appear as if he is some factor who decides, who is asked. He is doing this because he wants to copy Aleksandar Vučić, but he is also doing it so that we do not forget that he exists – he does not want to leave it to Mr. Spajić to “pick up the cream” that is the product of the election results, but he wants to remain in the story, to be active, present in the media. This has not been the case in Montenegro in the past. While Filip Vujanovic was President for three terms, he rarely appeared in the media. On the other hand, even Milo Đukanović was not as present, more as the personification of the ruling party than as President. So Milatović has apparently decided to change this practice and wants to be in the limelight as much as possible all the time, presumably because he does not want to be away from the political scene, but has much bigger ambitions than the country’s leadership.
Geopost: In Belgrade, both the government and a good part of the opposition seem to perceive things almost the same way when it comes to their attitude towards Kurti and Kosovo, as well as their policy towards the region. What is your opinion?
Barović: That is why I can say that there is no opposition in Serbia, everybody would have the same opinion, the problem is who is going to do it. It is exactly the same way of treating everything. The only thing that bothers them is that Aleksandar Vucic is doing it and not them. For these material reasons, they would also like to have the opportunity to freely say robbing, racketeering and other things. The problem with the opposition in Serbia is that they are not bothered by what Vucic is doing, they are not bothered by anything, not even at that ideological, all-serbian level, their only problem is that they don’t have the possibility to do it in order to fill their pockets a little.
Geopost: It is often pointed out that Russia’s expected defeat in Ukraine is a salvation for the Balkans. How do you see the war ending? Given that the American elections will be held next year, some analysts believe that some kind of peace will be quickly prepared for Ukraine, perhaps following the example of Dayton (the creation of a new Republic of Serbia on genocidal territory) – that is, the abandonment of part of the territory in favor of the aggressor Russia.
Barović: Unfortunately, I do not see that the end of the war is near. We have seen the recent events in Russia, and I think something will come out of this. Putin has many internal enemies, he has created many internal enemies. Unfortunately, they are enemies who mean well for the world and the West, but simply like in Serbia, people who want to achieve the same goal, the same agenda. There is some potential for internal conflict within Russia. On the other hand, you mentioned the American elections – I am not too optimistic. American society has changed a lot and has become somewhat isolated. What will happen is a good question: who is a good opponent for Joseph Biden and is he even worth it? We all had high expectations of his administration, it turned out not to be realistic, but the situation was completely different. The world is facing a few years that are not good at all, and I don’t think we can hope for anything good in the near future, let alone the solution of the numerous problems in the Balkans.
Geopost: Is there a possibility or danger that the conflict will spread from Ukraine to the Balkans?
Barović: I think that this possibility always exists. The Russians would do that with great ease, because they have a large number of sleepers in Serbia, the so-called Republika Srpska, and even in Montenegro, and people they have on their payroll, a large number of spies and agents. We know that the Montenegrin service is trained by Russian agents, that it is full of them. If they think that opening a new front in Europe is beneficial for them, I think they will do it. Unfortunately, there are a number of madmen who are willing to do it for their accountant. So anything can be expected from the Russians to achieve their goals. They always had the claim to be the superpower of the world, but somehow they always failed to overtake the West in all this. Now that they have, I can freely say, a madman at their helm who is ready for anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to pursue more radical moves. /Geopost/