Vlahovic: Russia’s confrontation with itself will be painful
No matter how many disasters it produces, Russia will have to face itself at the end of the war against the brave Ukrainian people, and that will be very painful. Montenegro has an attitude that stems from its history and tradition, respects and defends the sovereignty and integrity of those who are victims of aggression.
Montenegro should not waste time and energy on projects such as the “Open Balkans”, which distances it from Brussels, but also on signing a “fundamental” agreement with the Church of Serbia, which does not have the capacity to sign it. Almost every item of that intention is problematic, said Ambassador Miodrag Vlahovic, President of the Montenegrin Helsinki Committee, in an interview with The Geopost. Vlahovic is the first foreign minister of independent Montenegro and a former Montenegrin ambassador to Washington and the Vatican.
The Geopost: The war in Ukraine has been going on for more than a hundred days. Russia, as an aggressor, encountered fierce resistance from Ukraine, which may be surprising for it. What will be the outcome of this conflict, who will emerge victorious, both moral and military?
Vlahovic: The winner is already known. The heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people and the enormous sacrifices they make are clearly visible everywhere, even in Russia.
Russia has been defeated – because it turns out that only by total destruction it can control that part of the territory where it destroys the infrastructure, cities and villages, and kills or disperses Ukrainians. The Russian army suffers huge losses and shows that it is not at the level, nor that it is capable and powerful as it was previously considered.
In the end, Russia will have to face itself no matter how much damage, sufferings and tragedies it will produce. It will be very painful.
The Geopost: Montenegro imposed sanctions on Russia, and a few days ago banned the overflight of the plane that the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs was supposed to travel to Belgrade. As a NATO member and an EU candidate, such decisions are logical. However, we have heard some threats from Russia, which has characterized Montenegro as an enemy country, should Montenegro and its citizens be afraid of these threats? How real are they?
Vlahovic: Montenegro has done and is doing what is in accordance with our obligations arising from the alliance in the NATO, but also from our status as a candidate for EU membership.
However, before and more than that, Montenegro has an attitude that stems from our history and our tradition. The aggressor is the aggressor, the occupier is the occupier, and crimes are crimes – whatever the name of the perpetrator. Montenegro is a consistent and independent country, which respects and defends the sovereignty and integrity of those who are victims of aggression.
The Geopost: Montenegro, officially, is determined not to join the “Open Balkans” initiative. Part of the current government, however, advocates joining the alliance. The Prime Minister, as an observer, was present at a recent meeting in Ohrid. This project is supported by both Russia and America. Can it happen, however, that Montenegro joins the Open Balkans and what would that mean for it? Has it moved away from EU membership?
Vlahovic: Yes, it is an initiative that, strangely, is viewed with sympathy – at least for now – in Washington and Moscow. Why this is so and until when it can be so, is another question.
“Open Balkans” is not a European agenda, it does not bring Montenegro closer to Europe, it distances us from it. Will and how much will Mr. Abazovic to insist on that, we’ll see. His enthusiasm for this undefined concept, without bodies, without procedures, without a clear political and economic platform, raises serious doubts about the mottos and goals of the promoters and advocates of this initiative.
Messages from both Brussels and Berlin, but not only from those two addresses, do not treat the “Open Balkans” as a necessary thing at all, given that we have the Berlin Process, CEFTA and many other regional frameworks and models of cooperation.
Of all the Western Balkan countries, Montenegro is the closest to EU membership. Why would we waste historical time and precious energy on projects that do not bring us closer to the EU? And to be led by leaders and countries that have their own interests to frame us with the “Open Balkans” and drag us on the tracks that do not lead to Brussels.
The Geopost: The previous government almost stopped Montenegro’s path to the EU. You recently described Montenegrin diplomacy as “catastrophic”. Will the new government succeed in making foreign policy as it should be?
Vlahovic: “Catastrophic” is not a catastrophic enough word for the situation found by the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ranko Krivokapic.
The new minority government is limited to one year. It will take a lot of effort and work, as well as support and understanding, to fix this really bad situation.
Foreign policy was the best and most recognizable part of the overall Montenegrin policy, so it is no coincidence that the previous government and its accidental (and interpolated!) Foreign minister, in the segment of the diplomatic network and service itself, ruined it all, as far as he could.
The Geopost: During the previous government, Montenegro was left without an ambassador in almost all countries in the region, but also in the world. How much damage has it done to Montenegro and do you expect new ambassadors to be appointed in those countries soon?
Vlahovic: The damage is undoubted. The ambassadors should be appointed as soon as possible, with the necessary consultations with President Djukanovic.
The Geopost: Some of the parliamentary parties, which supported the previous government, are in favor of Russia, Serbia, the Serbian Orthodox Church and under their influence, they announced the signing of a fundamental agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church. That did not happen, but the current Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic announces that he will do it. Who should actually sign such a contract? Is there anything problematic about that? And if so what is it?
Vlahovic: It is not and it cannot be a “fundamental” contract. The Church of Serbia does not have a fundamental agreement with anyone.
Montenegro is not part of Serbia. The Church of Serbia does not have the capacity to sign that.
In Montenegro, the Church of Serbia is represented through the Metropolitanate of Montenegro and the Littoral, which has been usurped, and through three dioceses, whose borders do not coincide with the Montenegrin state borders. This is an irregular situation, which was not helped at all by the changes made, on the wave of so-called “liturgies”.
Almost every item of that intention is problematic, including the fact that the Government does not mention the need to sign – it would be logical – an identical agreement with the Montenegrin Orthodox Church.
So that is also a “fundamental” agreement, along with the “Open Balkans”, an indicator that the current government is spending our time and energy on projects that distance us from Europe.