Kovacevic on Geopolitics

On December 2, 2015, the foreign ministers of NATO member states, including the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meeting at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, agreed to grant a membership invitation to Montenegro.[1]

In response to this indisputable historical fact, the New York Times published two articles, a front page article and an editorial, which, due to their selective and biased treatment of the issue at hand, make it impossible for the readers to gain an objective understanding of the complexity of the situation on the ground. Both articles are consistent with the goals of an expansionist U.S. foreign policy and show little desire to engage with the expansionism’s destabilizing consequences not only in Montenegro and the Balkans, but also in Europe and beyond.

The NYT Front Page Article

The front page article, signed by Steven Erlanger, is entitled “NATO Unveils Plans to Grow, Drawing Fury and Threats from Russia.”[2] As is evident, Montenegro is not even mentioned in the title, and this is the treatment of Montenegro and its citizens that Erlanger demonstrates throughout the article. Apparently, for Erlanger, looking down from on high, it does not really matter what the citizens of a sovereign state think about their country’s future. He is more than willing to erase Montenegrin individual and collective subjectivities and present Montenegro as a mere pawn in the Great Powers’ geopolitical chess game. According to him, all that matters is that NATO is on track in implementing “its plans” and that Russia reacted not only negatively, but “in fury.”

The old Orientalist cliché, so well described by the Palestinian-American critical theorist Edward Said, is being repeated here. While the West is presented as cool and rational (making its plans into reality), the East is emotional and unpredictable (reacting with threats and fury). According to Erlanger’s elitist account, here once again we have the case of the “mature” and powerful West scoring against the “immature” and powerless East.

The fact that the ultimate decision about joining NATO will not be made by NATO foreign ministers but by the people of Montenegro themselves is not only disregarded by Erlanger, but it is intentionally presented in the way that falsifies the reality on the ground. Namely, in the only reference to the Montenegrin internal politics in the entire article – and it is no more than a half-sentence -, Erlanger writes that Montenegro is “eager to join.” This is very far from being true.

The majority of people in Montenegro actually prefer the option of military neutrality. However, the government of Montenegro, in order to preserve its undemocratic grip on power, has undertaken an immense and well-financed propaganda effort to convince the NATO decision-makers that the anti-NATO sentiment is losing ground. The Prime Minister Milo Djukanović, a corrupt opportunist well-connected to the shadowy networks of organized crime and intelligence services,[3] in power since the Fall of the Berlin Wall, even called those who are against NATO membership “the enemies of the state.” However, the objective assessment of Djukanović’s tenure can easily show that it is him who is the authentic destroyer of the Montenegrin state, considering that no state institution in Montenegro today is free from the control of his inner circle of family and friends.

Moreover, it is clear that Djukanović is ready to do anything it takes to stay in power. In late October 2015, the special police forces instructed by Djukanović brutally suppressed civic anti-government demonstrations. Anybody found on the street was tear-gassed and beaten without mercy.[4]

None of this is mentioned by Erlanger. It simply does not square well with his account in which NATO figures as the champion of democracy, rule of law, and human rights, protecting the world against evil dictatorships.

The NYT Editorial

The editorial article does not score much better on the scale of fairness and objectivity than Erlanger’s geopolitical propaganda piece. It is entitled “Russia’s Fury Over Montenegro and NATO.”[5] Again, we have the issue of the Russian “fury” and NATO’s “coolness.” We have Vladimir Putin being made the centerpiece of the article, instead of the focus being directed to the people of Montenegro who are the only legitimate decision-makers on the subject of Montenegro’s NATO membership.

Just like in Erlanger’s article, there is only a brief mention of the internal political realities in Montenegro. It is tucked to the end of the article like an after-thought. It refers to the issue of the “sharply divided sentiments among Montenegrins” concerning NATO membership. While this comes closer to the reality on the ground than Erlanger’s “eagerness to join,” it is still misleading. Namely, the sentiments are not “sharply divided,” because there is a clear majority of those who are against membership. The Djukanović’s government is well-aware of this fact and that is why it is trying to find ways to block the initiative for holding the referendum on the subject.

Instead of promoting the right of ordinary people to have a say on matters that will significantly affect their lives, as one would expect from any liberal newspaper, the New York Times throws its weight behind those whose global code of conduct is nothing else but the expression of the war-mongering slogan “might makes right.”

NOTES

[1] http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/02/europe/nato-montenegro-membership-invitation/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/03/world/europe/kerry-nato-syria-russia.html?_r=0

[3] See my earlier BFT article – http://www.boilingfrogspost.com/2015/02/05/bfp-exclusive-the-citizenship-policies-of-the-us-puppets-the-case-of-montenegros-milo-djukanovic/

[4] http://www.criticatac.ro/lefteast/violence-in-montenegros-capital-an-overview/

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/opinion/russias-fury-over-montenegro-and-nato.html

Originally published by Sibel Edmonds’ BFP, December 2015.

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