US warnings that Russia might try to destabilize Montenegro are being taken seriously in Montenegro.
US Defense Undersecretary for Policy, Christine Wormuth, said in a US congressional hearing of the Armed Forces Committee that Montenegro is one of the countries that Russia might try to destabilize.
Asked by a congressman about any potential future strategy of Russia, she said: “Russia might focus on countries that are not NATO members, Montenegro for example, some of the smaller countries, and attempt to create instability, to use some of the information operations and techniques we have seen them using in Ukraine.”
Wormuth’s statement came after US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that a number of European countries, including Montenegro, are “in the line of fire” when it comes to relations between Washington and Moscow.
Asked by a Senator about increasing Russian influence in Europe, Kerry said: “When it comes to Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia and others – Georgia, Moldavia, Transnistria – they are in the line of fire.”
Former Montenegrin Foreign Minister Branko Lukovac, asked to comment on these statements said that just the fact that warnings are motivated by increasing influence of Russia in Europe are concerning, he said, adding that Russia is trying to retake position of a global force, and the Balkans are of strategic importance for Russia.
“Warnings, especially coming from the US from such a high level should be taken seriously. In my opinion, Montenegro should resume with its reforms, adopting values and standards on its path towards the integration…. Montenegro should maintain and improve good and friendly relations with both the US and Russia…Statements of the US officials say that the policy of the official Montenegro on dedication to the European and Euro-Atlantic integration is the right one and it will not give up on it," stated Chairman of the Board for International Relations of Montenegrin Parliament.
He said: "The Statement itself, especially coming from that address, is serious, a warning and everyone will have to consider it thoughtfully. Unfortunately, that is another aspect of these global confrontations -- disturbances on the international scene, not only political: Confrontations in which small countries, peoples and communities are only collateral damage.”
Not everyone agreed with the importance of the statements.
A spokesperson for the opposition ‘New Serb Democracy’ party dismissed the possibility that Russia might try to destabilize Montenegro. The spokesperson, Jovan Vucirovic, said that the party does not give importance to the statements coming from the US:
“We do not give these statements too much of importance, especially because Montenegro as a country survived in this environment thanks to the support and assistance from Russia, former imperial Russia. Russia never destabilized or threatened, but only supported Montenegro and I do not see a reason why it should destabilize it now. People in Montenegro do not see Russia as an enemy; on the contrary, they see it as historical friend and ally and we do not have any negative memories or experiences with Russia.”
But Borislav Banovic, a member of the board for International Relations, called for balancing warnings with the internal needs of the country. And he said he believed that Montenegro should enter NATO security environment as soon as possible:
“The latest warnings from the official levels of the US foreign policy institutions confirm that the issue rose to a higher level and it was necessary to issue a warning in such manner. It should be a warning for the country and the society, for us to understand we must deal with issues and [then] position that foreign aspect of our policy with our internal interests. [We should] deal with it and ensure proper cooperation with everyone who can influence our internal affairs in either a positive or a negative manner.”