On February 8, 2017, Wall Street Journal aired an interview with its “border lands" columnist Sohrab Ahmari under the title “Montenegro’s NATO Dreams.” This interview is problematic on so many levels, starting with the title itself, that it fully deserves the tag of ‘fake news.’
Nothing in what Ahmari says is objective and impartial. It is all derived from the Atlanticist ideological vision in which NATO figures as the defender of Western democratic civilization against the supposedly barbaric hordes of the East. This is an old Orientalist/racist narrative dressed up to fit contemporary political discourse. It is both ironic and tragic that the person originally from the East engages in such a discourse and perpetuates the colonizing grasp of the West.
Ahmari’s statements show that he is not interested in the facts on the ground in Montenegro, but only in furthering NATO propaganda about it. He appears ignorant of the complexities of the political scene in Montenegro and takes for granted the statements of Montenegrin government officials known for their decades-long abuse of power, defamation of political opponents, and outright lies.
Ahmari also seems to be confused about the Balkan Yugoslav heritage. His expertise on the Balkans is evidently poor and one wonders what qualifies him to comment on the region. Considering how he deals with Montenegro, I shudder to think about what he says about other “border lands" and feel sorry for the WSJ readership who believe they are getting a truthful account of the situation. His journalistic professionalism and loyalty to the deep state ideological agenda are equivalent to that of the TASS agency reporters during the days of the Soviet Union.
Ahmari is interviewed by Mary Kissel, WSJ Editorial Board member, who asks him precisely the kinds of questions designed to promote the false NATO-Montenegro narrative. This narrative paints the rosy picture of Montenegro's welcoming NATO with open arms and bouquets of flowers, whereas the majority of Montenegrins are either against NATO membership or are indifferent to it. Not even the most of those who support NATO membership are very enthusiastic about it, but instead see it as a “lesser evil.”
Nobody in Montenegro “dreams” about NATO, since everybody knows full well that NATO bombs killed Montenegrin citizens, including children, during the NATO air attacks against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1999. Nobody, except evidently the editors and journalists at WSJ, have such morbid fantasies.
Kissel begins the interview with the claim that “Montenegro wants to join NATO.” This claim is misleading, to say the least. While it is true that the ruling political elite wants to join, no referendum has been held and the people of Montenegro have not stated their own geopolitical preferences. Therefore, we still do not know for a fact whether “Montenegro” wants to join or not, unless, of course, we take the opinions of the corrupt politicians at the top of the power pyramid to represent the whole country.
This is exactly what Ahmari does in his replies to Kissel. And yet, he presents himself as democratic. Indeed, in doing so, he reveals an important truth about the Atlanticist modus operandi – the concept of democracy serves them only for empty moralizing, but, as soon as its norms contradict their geopolitical agenda, it is hypocritically and quickly disposed of.
Ahmari states that Montenegro was "the second to last Yugoslav republic to gain independence." This is a factually false statement. Montenegro was the last Yugoslav republic to become independent. Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008, was never a Yugoslav republic and its independence is still not officially recognized by the United Nations. Not even all NATO member states recognize Kosovo's independence. But why would Ahmari care for historical facts when he has a propaganda job to do? The "border lands" columnist Ahmari needs to play WSJ's fake NATO news game if he wants to pay his London rent and put food on his kitchen table.
Ahmari continues his narrative in the same alternate (ideological) reality vein with little concern for the facts on the ground. He refers to NATO as "the Western alliance," as if there are no countries in the West, which are not a part of NATO. In Ahmari's ideological fantasy, neither Switzerland nor Ireland, neither Finland, Sweden, nor Austria exist. With his Atlanticist lenses on, Ahmari makes a laughable geographer. And this would be rather funny, if it was not actually very dangerous because it reveals a fundamentalist mindset which insists on putting the sign of equivalence between a corrupt military alliance and the West as a whole. The defense of NATO's survival thus becomes the defense of the West itself. This is precisely the core false narrative that is being promoted by the NATO's agents of influence in the mass media and the academia. As if the West could not develop and flourish without NATO.
The Atlanticist Candidate, Mr. Radiator
Talking more specifically about Montenegro, Ahmari mentions his recent conversation with the current prime minister of Montenegro, Duško Marković, who assured him that everything was on track for a very quick Montenegrin accession to NATO. However, what Ahmari does not mention, though it is critically important for understanding Marković's political profile, is that Marković was the chief of the Montenegrin secret police (the Agency for National Security) for a decade and his abuses of the rights of the Montenegrin citizens could be documented in as many volumes as there are in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
In Montenegro, Marković is known as Mr. Radiator because he apparently stole all the central heating radiators from his apartment when he moved from the Montenegrin town of Mojkovac to the capital Podgorica. In any genuine democracy, Marković would hardly have a chance to talk to journalists, even if they were "border lands" columnists, because he would be behind bars for a very long time. However, for Ahmari and his editors at WSJ, Marković and his cabinet of thieves are the pillars of democracy, rule of law, and human rights. In fact, Ahmari states explicitly that Montenegro under Marković and his predecessor and party boss, the long-time authoritarian leader Milo Djukanović, satisfied all NATO standards for membership.
Of course, since Ahmari visited Montenegro, he is well aware that Marković's government is considered illegitimate by the opposition parties, which have boycotted the country's parliament since the parliamentary elections in October 2016. Marković and his cronies are held in power by the tiniest of all majorities, since they control only 42 deputies in the 81-member Parliament.
At the same time that Ahmari is intentionally suppressing the facts of the deep political crisis in Montenegro, he is more than willing to spin the tall tales of the supposedly Russian-sponsored coup d'état on the election day, which I debunked as a false NATO narrative in one of my earlier Newsbud articles. Ahmari does this in order to turn the question of the Montenegrin NATO membership into another instance of the new Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and Russia.
Ahmari is not alone in this. In fact, the same narrative is constantly being repeated by the CFR and Atlantic Council officials and certain members of the U.S. Congress, such as the senator John McCain. However, the opposition of the Montenegrin population to NATO has much deeper roots and precedes in time the current U.S.-Russia tensions, which have essentially been the product of the expansionist neocon foreign policy under the George W. Bush and Obama presidential administrations. Ahmari and other Atlanticists are hypocritically instrumentalizing the Montenegrin issue in order to score points for their anti-Russian ideological and geopolitical agenda.
After Ahmari presents the completely fabricated story of the Russian intelligence-attempted covert intervention in Montenegro, even Kissel seems incredulous and says revealingly "Vow, you can't make this up". However, she does not care to probe deeper, but quickly moves on to the question about the Trump administration’s attitude toward NATO expansion.
In his response, Ahmari cites the story from Politico, which, as I have argued in another Newsbud article, is just one more media outlet, similar to the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, set up by the Atlanticist lobby in tandem with the U.S. intelligence structures to promote and justify the continued U.S. global hegemony and, more recently, to flood Europe with anti-Russian and, particularly, anti-Putin propaganda. According to Politico’s anonymous source, cited by Ahmari, the new Trump administration, after some initial hesitation, will give the green light for the rapid Senate confirmation of the NATO protocol with Montenegro, which has the status of an international treaty and has to be approved by the two-thirds of the senators.
However, this appears not to be enough for Ahmari, and so he sends out an implicit warning to both the president Trump and his (former) national security adviser Michael Flynn that if they do not act quickly on this issue, the speculations about their “pro-Russian instincts” (Ahmari’s phrase) will receive additional confirmation. In other words, what Ahmari is implying that though the Russians may have been unsuccessful in Montenegro, they have succeeded in the U.S.! The almost non-existent Montenegrin counterintelligence did a better job against the FSB and the GRU than the combined forces of the CIA, FBI, and NSA. “Vow, you can’t make this up” - I am made speechless by Ahmari’s reasoning and cannot but repeat Kissel’s earlier statement.
The Battle Rages On
This is not to say that the efforts of Ahmari and other Atlanticists in the mainstream media, such as the WSJ, WaPo, and NYT, should be underestimated. Far from it. The NATO planners and strategists may have been temporarily knocked down by the unexpectedness of Trump’s victory, but there is already plenty of evidence that they are back on their feet. The recently intensified attacks of the Ukrainian army in the Donbass, the obstructions of the pro-NATO government in Moldova against the recently elected president Igor Dodon, the “accidental” killing of the Turkish soldiers in Syria by the Russian military aircraft, the successful campaign to force Michael Flynn’s resignation, all point to another heavy and dangerous offensive by the Atlanticists. They know well that it is “all or nothing” struggle. The problem, however, is that their “all” means World War 3.
Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & Commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org