Mon­tene­gro in elec­ti­on tug-of-war bet­ween Rus­sia and the West

Times of Suriname - - ENGELS -

MONTENERGRO Alexan­der Khr­gi­an quit Mo­scow for Mon­tene­gro in 2008 and im­me­di­a­te­ly felt at ho­me, set­ting up a law firm that helps the tiny coun­try’s out­si­zed Rus­si­an dias­po­ra do business, pro­fi­ting from clo­se ties bet­ween the two coun­tries.

“We li­ked the cli­ma­te, the pe­o­p­le and con­di­ti­ons for do­ing business,” said the la­wy­er. “So we stay­ed.” But a par­li­a­men­ta­ry elec­ti­on due on Oc­to­ber 16 could test tho­se ties. The vo­te, its out­co­me very much in the ba­lan­ce, could be Mon­tene­gro’s last be­fo­re joi­ning the Wes­tern NATO al­li­an­ce, an ex­pan­si­on dub­bed “ir­res­pon­si­ble” by Rus­sia. At­trac­ted by the moun­tai­nous coun­try’s ma­jestic coast­line, so­me 15,000 Rus­si­ans flood­ed in­to the coun­try af­ter its 2006 split from Ser­bia, brin­ging mo­ney and Rus­si­an in­flu­en­ce to the for­mer Yugo­slav re­pu­blic of just 650,000 pe­o­p­le. Us­hering Mon­tene­gro in­to NATO is a pri­o­ri­ty for the West, wa­ry of Rus­si­an in­flu­en­ce in a stra­te­gic re­gi­on that is on the front­lines of the mi­gra­ti­on cri­sis fa­cing Eu­ro­pe. “We want Mon­tene­gro in NATO be­cau­se we are wor­ried about Rus­si­an in­flu­en­ce,” said a Wes­tern di­plo­mat in Ser­bia’s ca­pi­tal Bel­gra­de of a po­li­cy that di­vi­des the Adri­a­tic coun­try down the midd­le. Mon­tene­gro was bom­bed by NATO 17 ye­ars ago when the al­li­an­ce in­ter­ve­ned to end Ser­bi­an lea­der Slo­bo­dan Mi­lo­se­vic’s cam­paign of eth­nic clean­sing in Ko­so­vo. At the ti­me, Mon­tene­gro was in union with Ser­bia. Joi­ning the al­li­an­ce is the cen­tral pil­lar of Pri­me Mi­nis­ter Mi­lo Dju­ka­no­vic’s cam­paign ahead of an elec­ti­on in which he is li­ke­ly to fa­ce his toug­hest test in ne­ar­ly a quar­ter of a cen­tu­ry of lea­ding the coun­try. Dju­ka­no­vic, who has been pre­si­dent or pri­me mi­nis­ter for mo­re than 25 ye­ars, with one brief in­ter­rup­ti­on, is ac­cu­sed by op­po­nents of run­ning the Adri­a­tic coun­try as a cor­rupt per­so­nal fief­dom, let­ting or­ga­ni­zed cri­me flou­rish. He de­nies the al­le­ga­ti­ons, but poll­sters say NATO mem­ber­ship could act as a wed­ge is­sue, boos­ting sup­port for eu­ro­s­kep­tic par­ties and for­cing his De­mo­cra­tic Party of So­ci­a­lists to seek new co­a­li­ti­on part­ners for the first ti­me sin­ce 2006. In one op­po­si­ti­on ad­vert, an ac­tor playing the role of Dju­ka­no­vic is shown ha­ving no ans­wers, ans­we­ring “NATO” eve­ry ti­me he is chal­len­ged on al­le­ged fai­lings. A poll by the Cen­ter for De­mo­cra­cy and Hu­man Rights and the U.S. em­bas­sy showed 50.5 per­cent would vo­te in fa­vor of joi­ning the al­li­an­ce and 49.5 per­cent against if a re­fe­ren­dum pro­mi­sed by the De­mo­cra­tic Front op­po­si­ti­on party we­re held. (Reu­

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