Foreign influence has complicated the political situation in Montenegro
The President of the Atlantic Alliance of Montenegro, Savo Kentera, explains the political situation in Montenegro, which according to him, has never been as complicated as it is now. In an interview with The Geopost, Kentera presents a broader view of the regional open issues while he interlinks them with the current tense developments in Montenegro.
Here is the full interview:
The Geopost: How do you assess the political situation in Montenegro?
Kentera: It has never been as complicated as it currently is I would even say that after 30 August last year, when the change of power took place as a result of massive dissatisfaction of the people with the developments in the last 30 years, a new government took power, and the expectations were high. There was a mood of optimism and hope that things will change for better while Montenegro will remain on its path towards the West, towards Europe. People based this expectation on the signed agreement which claimed that Montenegro would remain firmly committed to Euro-Atlantic and European integration. This gave a promising dimension that some things will improve, but, after a year we are witnessing that especially when it comes to the EU, there is not many positive change. On the contrary, the recent report of the European Commission on the progress of Montenegro is quite negative. The report is positive only when it comes to the fight against organized crime and corruption. Now, in these segments, the government and Prime Minister wants to make changes by changing ministers, respectively the Minister of Interior, who has achieved the best results in this field.
So after a year, we are in a situation that our determination against Western values and all that the West represents, is actually just a black in white. We have a lot of words and promises to please the international community and to create the impression that we are truly committed to the West, but, in essence, I have the impression that in reality is the other way around. The perception on the institutions of the current system is not in line with what they claim to be. On the contrary, I think that this approach should be stopped as soon as possible, in order for Montenegro not to slide into a completely wrong direction, thus remaining a committed partner of the West. That is why I say that the situation is extremely complicated, also because the government does not have the support of the majority, and still somehow remains in power. The situation is complicated also because no one wants to go on elections, because more or less, they’d bring to the same situation, with the same results as a year ago. Solutions must be sought in several other directions, and what Montenegro needs is a civilian government, one in which there will eventually be no room for the Democratic Front or any extremism, whichever way it comes from. So, we need a government of reconciliation, first and foremost pro-Western, a government that will not hesitate to tell the people of Montenegro that it is a pro-Western government and that, in every way it can, will strengthen our partnership with NATO allies and US, while Russia and China will be in the second, third, or fifth plan. The latter have nothing to ask for, except the minimum criteria that are necessary in order to a have diplomatic relations with them, but we must remain the sphere of interest of the West.
The Geopost: What’s your opinion on the visit of some Montenegrin extremists to the border with Kosovo during the recent incidents?
Kentera: These kind of types always try to collect points, wherever they can and however they can, in this case by trying to present itself as a protector of someone and something in Kosovo. After all, I do not know what they are looking for over there. If they’d wanted to protect Kosovo, I do not know from who, then they should have been there long ago, and not now when they know to whom such a situation in Kosovo suits, in fact they know that it suits Russia.
The Geopost: During these tensions in the north of Kosovo, the Russian ambassador in Belgrade was also present, together with some representatives of the General Staff of the Serbian Army. How do you comment on his presence right at the border?
Kentera: I think that Russia will use every opportunity not only in Kosovo, but also in the region, including Montenegro, to show that it is interested in the region and does not want to leave it to the West. Everything I said before about what has happened and is happening in Montenegro is exactly the consequence of such a Russian policy. The arrival of the Russian ambassador to the border of Kosovo is just a manifestation of the ongoing Russian policy and one should have no doubts on that. Whoever thought that Russia has given up or will give up on the region, is in great delusion. Russia will do everything possible to ensure that Montenegro, as a NATO member and a democratic country, can be destabilized, a chaotic situation can be generated, just to demonstrate that NATO is not such a good thing, and that it does not represent something ideal. This way, what tomorrow might happen in Montenegro, will be applied to any NATO member country. So, it is not just about what is happening in Montenegro, but about an experiment that can happen to any country. So I hope other countries will be wiser than us and learn from us how they should not allow Russia, China or any other country interfere in their internal affairs. We must develop our policy independently. I think that in a time distance, after 10 or 20 years, it will be proven that it was good that the power has been changed after 30 years, and this period after the change of power will be only a small transient and ugly episode in the process of the formation of society as a democratic society. We just have to prove that we are mature enough to overcome all the obstacles in front of us, which, in my opinion, are completely normal for the formation of any society, including the Montenegrin one. You will have to go through this in Kosovo as well and it is good for people to get used to these things, it is good for them to know certain processes in time, in order that later, they don’t allow any external factor who does not have a good intention towards Kosovo or the region, have more space than we allow them to.
The Geopost: What is the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, is it tangible, are there examples of it?
Kentera: Unfortunately this impact was massive and still is. This was shown especially before the last parliamentary elections, when the whole process of clerical manifestations was set in motion, after the promulgation of the famous Law for Religious Freedom, which was used by the Serbian Orthodox Church, precisely to start such mass walks in Montenegro. In fact, I think the whole thing was designed in Russia, while Serbia and the Serbian Orthodox Church have served as an instrument for the implementation of Russian policy in the Balkans. When Serbia realized that it could do some things in Montenegro, it used the moment through the Serbian Orthodox Church to produce what we have in Montenegro today. What should be apostrophized is that the church should deal with ecclesiastical matters, with the propagation of religion, adhere to ecclesiastical frameworks, and not deal with politics as it has done in Montenegro, appointing even domestic politics and members of government. Let everyone do their work and everyone will be happy. The Orthodox Church in Montenegro will not be touched by anyone, no one has touched it for centuries, nor does have the right to do so. The Church has its continuity, it is a special institution that deserves respect and will always be present here. But let no one expect that this church or any other church will be able to play with the state of Montenegro, as it is happening. This will not be allowed, such tendencies will fail and this will be proven very soon.
The Geopost: What is Russia’s influence on the Montenegrin media, do you have a concrete analysis on this?
Kentera: We have the Digital Forensic Center that is constantly dealing with this, with the detection of foreign influence in the media. We recently published a study on Russian influence in Montenegro, revealing in detail how Russia behaves in Montenegro and in the Balkans, what is its modus operandi, through which institutions and organizations, how it does this through the Serbian and Russian Orthodox Church, how are they financed, what are the non-governmental organizations with which they cooperate, etc. You can also find this study on our DFC portal, where you can see all the models and ways in which Russia works through certain media in Montenegro, accurately described. There are media that absolutely do not hide that they work for Russia and propagate Russian interests, such as the portal “info.rs” or “Borba”. But there are many others who do the work in a much more secret and unscrupulous way. There are also such media that have perfidiously attempted to realize Russian policy in the media, by publishing certain narratives, which do not look like false accusations and misinformation, that can influence the public opinion and can be much more dangerous than false news and misinformation.
It must be said that they are very successful in this, because they have the right ground for something like this in Montenegro, where it is known that there are many uneducated people who trust everything they read or listen from the media. It is a well-known saying that when you repeat a lie several times, it may seem true and then it is useless to deny it. It seems to me that this has to do with the myth that exists in Russia and Montenegro and that has been created for centuries, about the centuries-old brotherhood and friendship of Montenegrins and Russians. But this is nothing but a myth, since there is nothing real about it. If you look at the reality then you will see that the Montenegrins have basically always been turned towards the west, except for individuals who have tried in every way to present the East, namely Russia, as something salvific and fateful for Montenegro, which is completely contrary to the reality.