The New Year’s resolution of the “pro-Western” Djukanovic government, according to advisor Miodrag Vukovic, is “definitely and finally” settling the relationship of the tiny mountainous province – historically linked to Serbia – to Belgrade and the federal Yugoslav authorities. “We should not set deadlines,” Vukovic averred, “but this very important issue will be definitely resolved next year.”
SLOBO THE FOX
This was tantamount to announcing a declaration of war – but Milosevic did not fall for the bait. In a New Year’s interview in Politika, the pro-government weekly, the wily old Serbian fox gamely declared that “if the people of Montenegro decide that a life outside Yugoslavia is better then they have the right to choose such a life. But if the Montenegrin people decide that life within Yugoslavia is the optimal solution then they should hold onto it.”
IT’S A BALKAN THING . . .
The response of the Montegrin government to Milosevic’s stunning endorsement of their project was a classic of Balkan politics: “Milosevic’s statement should be treated with caution, as if it was a threat,” said Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister Novak Kilibarda.
In openly calling the secessionists’ bluff, Slobo is playing his trump card: the sizeable pro-Yugo faction that was barely edged out of office by Djukanovic in the hotly-contested 1997 election. Slowly but surely, the Montenegrins having been edging away from the Serbs, their old allies, but now the pace seems to be picking up rather rapidly. Milosevic is merely acknowledging the facts on the ground: Montenegro is, for all intents and purposes, already functioning as a completely separate entity: not as an independent naton, but as a NATO protectorate, entirely dependent on the West for economic and political viability. They are establishing their own currency, controlling their own borders with the West, and using their own state-controlled media to prepare the population for the coming showdown. Then what is the purpose of calling a referendum to ratify what has already been accomplished? It is a provocation, pure and simple – calculated to inflame passions not only in Montenegro, but also in Serbia and throughout the region. Phase two of “Operation Allied Force” is proceeding on schedule.
MORE SERBIAN THAN THE SERBS
As Alex Dragnich and Slavko Todorovich recount in The Saga of Kosovo, during the last part of the seventeenth century and the first part of the eighteenth, when Serbia had been ground under the heel of the Turks and nearly eradicated as a nation,
“Montenegrin leaders had not for a moment abandoned the ideal of Serbian resurrection. They had always considered themselves as the only legitimate heirs of Serbian statehood. After all, was it not Nemanja, the son of their own land (Zeta), who in the 12th century founded the Serbian state in Rascia and its famous dynasty? ‘The most Serbian of all Serbian lands’ is what Montenegro called itself.”
Do the Montenegrins, who fought alongside the Serbs in their historic battle against the Turkish invaders, really want to abandon a cultural and political symbiosis that dates back several hundred years – and for what? MTV and McDonald’s hamburger joints? Cheap Nikes and the privilege of having the New York Times delivered to their door? Let them vote, says Milosevic – as if he is supremely confident of the outcome, secure in the conviction that a proud people who revere and know their own history will never betray it.
WAITING IN THE WINGS
In our decadent age, such a stance seems charmingly old-fashioned, if a bit naïve. But whatever the outcome, the referendum campaign is bound to be a bit on the rough side, with contending factions rioting in the streets – as in the last elections – and the specter of civil war hanging over the whole process. The NATO-crats, of course, are waiting in the wings, ready to pounce at the first opportunity: any assertion of Yugo power and legitimacy is bound to provoke a military reaction from the “Allies,” who are united in their determination that Serbia (like Iraq) must never break out of its box.
DJUKANOVIC, THE “REFORMER”
The government of Milos Djukanovic is routinely described in Western news reports as “pro-Western” and “reform-minded,” but like most of the “reformers” supported by the West he was up until very recently an orthodox Communist apparatchik – in Djukanovic’s case, one who loyally supported the ruling Serbian Socialist Party until it became politically disadvantageous to do so. In a 1997 coup against his former friend, President Momir Bulatovic, the Djukanovic faction expelled the leading members of the governing Democratic Socialist Party, and seized control of the state-owned media and the armed forces. The subsequent elections were marred by violent attacks on Bulatovic’s party, blatantly biased news coverage by the state-controlled television and radio, in addition to numerous other “irregularities” – thousands of voters registered twice, and another 40,000 questionable voters were included on the list. On election night, as the Djukanovic forces celebrated their victory by shooting their kalashnikovs into the air, the security forces and the secret police moved in on opposition headquarters and cordoned it off. This is what they mean by “reform” – a “democratic” election in which the outcome is just as predetermined as it was during Tito’s heyday.
“MR. TEN PERCENT”
An all-around shady character, widely known as “Mr. Ten Percent,” – and notorious as a smuggler of cigarettes and other more exotic pleasures since his student days – Djukanovic is said to have secret bank accounts stuffed to the gills with his ill-gotten gains in London, Vienna, and Cyprus. As rival factions gear up for a battle for in the streets of the old Commie capital of Podgorica, get ready for the “spin”: “Mr. Ten Percent” will no doubt be touted as the epitome of Western “democratic” values – and who could argue with that?
As the first phase of NATO’s war on Serbia was winding down, and the terms of the technical military agreement were being hammered out in a tent on the Kosovo-Macedonian border, Madeleine Albright met with Djukanovic in Cologne, during the G-8 summit. The Montenegrin leader took advantage of the occasion to publicly offer NATO his “services”:
“A couple of months ago, I said that peacekeeping troops, with a mandate of the Security Council, can count on any type of logistical support from Montenegro. The media, controlled by, or supporting, Milosevic’s regime have interpreted this as my invitation to NATO troops to occupy Yugoslavia. And I was very precise, and this is something I repeated today. Montenegro is a responsible part of the region – a responsible entity in the region – and we want to assist in the implementation of peace in Kosovo. After the Dayton Agreement was reached, these were services that we offered to the forces that were deployed in Bosnia. So, quite naturally, this is the kind of assistance that we are offering to the forces that will be deployed in Kosovo.”
In other words: don’t worry guys, you can count on me to collaborate in the defeat and dismemberment of my own country. As long as Western aid flows into the country, and into my secret bank accounts, you can do what you like with those stubborn Serbs.
THEIR DAY WILL COME
Albright replied that “the subject of Montenegro comes up all the time as I talk to my colleagues in the Alliance, and it is very clear that any escalation in pressure on Montenegro would escalate the situation with NATO.” The escalation is upon us, but it isn’t Serbia that is doing the escalating. The Montenegrin flashpoint, when it goes off, will be lit by the West and its allies in Podgorica. Djukanovic and his fellow secessionists may have to wait until after the November election – or perhaps not even that long – but their day will come.
WHO LOST MONTENEGRO?
“Who lost Montenegro?” That is the question Milosevic’s domestic enemies – on the right and among the liberal left opposition – will be asking in the event of a formal break between Belgrade and Podgorica. Vojislav Selsej, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party and a Deputy Prime Minister in Milosevic’s government, has openly said that if Montenegro’s government succumbs to the blandishments of the West, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia must defend its sovereignty and “intervene using all available means.”
THE CLOCK IS TICKING
Now that the referendum has been announced, and the clock is ticking, it is not hard to imagine that, as Mad Maddy says, the subject of Montenegro comes up all the time, as the NATO-crats plan their next move. Using Mr. Ten Percent as a lever to overthrow Milosevic, the NATO-crats will mask their intervention in the guise of a “political” campaign, subsidizing and organizing the party of Djukanovic – as the certified “democrats” – and otherwise directing the government’s campaign. And just in case the opposition dares to protest blatant election fraud too loudly, NATO troops right down the road can always be “invited” in by Djukanovic to “restore order.” As Drudge would put it:
Developing . . .