Russia’s Deadly Plot to Keep Montenegro From Joining NATO
Russia views nato as an expansionist organization designed to contain the Kremlin’s power. Therefore the Russians are determined to stop the Western military alliance from growing any larger. On February 18, the intensity of this Russian determination became clearer after revelations emerged of a deadly plot: Moscow planned to stop the tiny European nation from joining nato by targeting its pro-Western prime minister, Milo Djukanovic—and murdering him.
The assassination was to take place on Oct. 16, 2016, the day Montenegro held parliamentary elections. Allegations of the plot received little international attention until the Telegraph reported on February 18 that intelligence officials had confirmed the reports, saying: “[S]enior Whitehall and nato sources have now told the Telegraph that not only did the foiled plot appear to have been genuine, but it was directed by Russian intelligence officers with backing from Moscow.” The report said that the plot is “being seen as one of the latest aggressive attempts by Russia to undermine the West.”
The Independent explained the alleged details of the plot:
Two Russian intelligence officers reportedly spent months recruiting and equipping a small force of Serbian nationalists to attack the [Montenegrin] parliament building.
The alleged plot would have seen the attackers, disguised as police, open fire on a crowd of opposition party supporters as the election results were announced. In the resulting confusion, other conspirators planned to force their way into the parliament building and kill the prime minister. Such a massacre could have tipped the country into civil war and derailed any hopes it had of joining nato and, later, the EU.
Thanks to a tip from a plotter-turned-informant, Montenegrin authorities were able to foil the plot on the eve of the election, just hours before it took place. Law enforcement arrested around 20 individuals in connection with the conspiracy.
Had the plan been successful and tipped the Balkan nation into civil war, the chaos would have given Moscow more opportunity to install a pro-Russia government.
Russia denies involvement in the plot. But Montenegrin Defense Minister Predrag Bosković said the evidence that his ministry has gathered confirms the assessments of nato and the British government: “There is not any doubt that it was financed and organized from different sources or different parts of Russian intelligence, together with some Montenegrin opposition parties, but also under the strong influence of some radicals from Serbia and Russia.”
Russia has no shortage of motive for attempting such a maneuver.
The former Yugoslav nation of Montenegro has been working for years to embrace the West. It is on track to become nato’s 29th member this summer and a European Union member state in the early 2020s. The Telegraph said Russia’s desire to block Montenegro’s nato membership is both geostrategically and culturally motivated:
The Kremlin … had hoped to secure access to the Adriatic port of Bar for itself. Montenegro’s accession to the military alliance would be the final piece in a puzzle seeing nato members stretching right across the northern Mediterranean, from Portugal to Syria. Russia’s leaders also see no reason why a Slavic country sharing its Orthodox religion should cozy up to the West rather than them.
In the May-June 2014 Trumpet issue, editor in chief Gerald Flurry called attention to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s views of recent history in the Balkans. Mr. Flurry explained that Putin understands that the West disassembled Yugoslavia in a way that served German interests and that Putin was justifiably infuriated by that alarming move and now cites it as precedent to justify his March 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Mr. Flurry wrote:
From the early 1990s through the early part of 2000, the United States used its power and ultimately its military to dismantle Yugoslavia! And it did so at the behest of Germany. America and Germany would like to forget that history as it really happened, but Vladimir Putin has not forgotten. What occurred there is etched in his memory and enrages him to this day. …
Now Germany controls what used to be Yugoslavia—and the entire Balkan Peninsula. It accomplished this feat while hardly even using its military; America did the bombing. That is why President Putin says America is guided by “the law of the gun.” If you look at the facts of what happened in Yugoslavia, you would have to agree. … Russia, a UN Security Council member that holds veto power, was extended no opportunity to give its input on what should happen in Yugoslavia. The Russians have not forgotten that! Do you think they will now accept our input on their takeover of Crimea, which is mostly inhabited by Russians? … Many people wonder why Germany has been so quiet about Putin’s takeover of Crimea. I think there is a very good reason: The Germans know what they did. And they know that Vladimir Putin also clearly understands what they did and that he is not about to back down in Ukraine!
In 2008, long before Russia’s Montenegro plot or its annexation of Ukraine’s territory, Mr. Flurry said Vladimir Putin’s Russia had entered into a “dangerous new era.” He pointed to Russia’s attack on the nation of Georgia that had occurred earlier that year, and said that was only the beginning of such aggression:
Russia’s attack on Georgia in August marks the beginning of a dangerous new era in history. This was the first military strike of a rising Asian superpower—and there will be more! It is critical you understand the meaning behind this attack. …
Vladimir Putin is called the prime minister of Russia, but that is a cover-up. He really is the dictator of Russia. He called the breakup of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century.” That gives you some insight into his thinking. He is trying to resurrect the Soviet empire. … Russia is challenging America. The Soviet empire is making a comeback! … Will a crisis occur over Ukraine? That area is the breadbasket of Russia, and surely it is willing to wage war over that as well.
Time has vindicated Mr. Flurry’s 2008 prediction about Russia’s attack on Georgia signaling a “dangerous new era.” A few years after that article was written, just as Mr. Flurry forecast, a crisis did occur over Ukraine, and that conflict is still raging today. Meanwhile, Russia has worked to assert control over several other nations, from Syria to Libya, from Kyrgyzstan to Moldova. And now Montenegro can be added to the list.
Despite the failure of the Russian plot in Montenegro, the fact that it was planned shows that Moscow has not entirely conceded victory to Germany over the whole of the Balkan Peninsula. The attempt shows that Russia is more determined than ever to prevent further nato expansion and to undermine the West. Russia today is perhaps more determined than at any time since the Soviet Union’s collapse to assert control and expand its power. As Mr. Flurry said, this intensifying determination has led the world into a “dangerous new era.”
To understand more and to see the role that the U.S. and Germany played in pushing Russia into its expansionist direction, watch Mr. Flurry’s Key of David episode “Putin Remembers Yugoslavia.”