Montenegrin Sovereignty Asserted, But For How Long?
Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis - May 26, 2006, Friday

Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS. The Republic of Montenegro's May 21, 2006, referendum confirmed that the state would become fully sovereign, and independent from its former union with Serbia, but the main question was now whether the new state would long survive as a Montenegrin-dominated state. It is now probable that the Montenegrin Republic will be internationally recognized as sovereign and independent by mid-July 2006.

Even by the time its voters opted for independence, Montenegro had a significant proportion of its population comprised of illegal ethnic Albanians, many of whom were pushing for a "greater Albania" regional entity, and it was clear that, in order to get the referendum vote through, Pres. Filip Vujanovic and Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic had to not only ensure that Montenegrins living in Serbia were precluded from voting, but that ethnic Albanians of questionable Montenegrin citizenship would be called in from around the world to vote.

The strength of the Albanian push to "support" Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro (DPS) in its quest for sovereignty was based on known long-term plans for the "Albanianization" of Montenegro, which was already a relatively porous transit area of criminal activities, including narco-trafficking and Islamist-jihadist terrorist activities supported by Albanian groups, particularly those linked with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). The Montenegro independence move has also long been seen by KLA groups as a stepping stone to the further break-up of Serbia, with the proposed independence of the Serbian province of Kosovo.

Not surprisingly, the KLA leadership in the Serbian province of Kosovo was the among the first to welcome Montenegro's secession from the union with Serbia. Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku -- along with chairman of the KLA-linked Democratic Party of Kosova (PDK), Hashim Thaci -- said that the people of Montenegro had "expressed their will to live free in their independent country", and that Kosovo citizens respected that decision. Ceku also said that this process had proven that Montenegro had a functioning democracy, where each citizen could raise its voice for the future of his country.

[Significantly, the KLA and its supporting groups in the US, led by former US Congressman Joe DioGuardi and his wife, Shirley Cloyes DioGuardi, reacted strongly against the formation of a new US political action group which had been created to protect the remaining Christian groups, individuals, and churches which had not yet been driven from Kosovo or destroyed by the KLA. The pro-KLA groups hacked the new Christian group's site, temporarily disabling it by mid-May 2006.]

Illegal trafficking in weapons and narcotics and the movement of jihadist-linked terrorists across Montenegro's borders with Albania, and also across its borders with Serbia and on into Bosnia, is now widespread and routine, and is facilitated by the pervasive illegal trafficking in other commodities, to skirt taxes. The illicit smuggling of tobacco, for example, was, in 2005, reported to have made up 60 percent of Montenegro's GDP. What was now occurring was the growing interrelationship between criminal groups of Montenegrins and Albanians, with the net effect of supporting -- or at least facilitating -- the freedom of action of Islamist-jihadist terrorists. Indeed, the support for the Montenegrin political leadership by the Kosovo Albanian leadership was as much a marriage of corrupt financial activities as it was an alliance which worked to put Serbia on the defensive.

But at least on the formal level, Montenegrin officials had, for the past two to three years, been aware of the danger of the terrorist activities in the area to their future survival, and the Montenegrin Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Affairs Dragan Djurovic, and the Deputy Minister of the Public Security Service of Montenegrin Ministry of Interior Affairs, Mico Orlandic, had developed a series of alliances with police forces and counter-terrorism intelligence units throughout Eastern, Central, and Western Europe, and the United States.

The Ministry of the Interior, in fact, is the focus of Montenegro's security activities, but it is not clear whether there is a consciousness in Podgorica at this point of the need now to disassociate Montenegro's political leadership from that of Kosovo, now that the goal of independence has been achieved. The Kosovo Albanian leadership in Pristina, however, should be expected now to push Podgorica for a return of the support the KLA gave to the independence campaign of the Montenegrins.

Montenegro will not benefit from any of the structures or assets of the Serbia and Montenegro Armed Forces. Under the original founding treaty of the union between Serbia and Montenegro in 1993, it was stipulated that the state which left the union would forfeit all rights to the union assets and infrastructure, which most significantly includes the Armed Forces and the diplomatic missions abroad. However, as negotiations progress on the mechanics of separation, it is probable that the Serbian Government may well sell, or transfer, to the Montenegrins the bulk of the now-dilapidated Navy, taking only the riverine assets for the Republic of Serbia's now growing needs on its river trade with Europe via the Danube and other rivers. Similarly, it would be difficult for the Army and Air Force to remove fixed assets from Montenegro, but Serbia seems unlikely to leave any armor, vehicles, weapons systems, or aircraft of any value to the Montenegrins.

The relatively few Montenegrin senior officers in the union Armed Forces may, or may not, elect to return to Montenegro to help establish the new Republic's Armed Forces. After all, some 200,000 Montenegrins live in Serbia already, and it is likely, now that the referendum has passed, that they would be granted Serbian citizenship. Indeed, although Pres. Filip Vujanovic and Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic were reluctant to allow these Serbia-resident Montenegrins to return to vote in the referendum, it is likely -- given the parlous state of the Montengrin economy -- that the leadership in Podgorica would now move to woo these expatriates back home.

The economic performance of Montenegro significantly encourages participation in the black economy, including smuggling. And this tolerates and cloaks the terrorist-related narco-trafficking and other criminal activities being used to fund particularly Albanian-run political-criminal operations. The Montenegrin economy has scarcely grown in the past decade and more, and is now heavily dependent on US and European Union aid. And many of the illicit aspects of the economy focus on Montenegro's eastern areas, abutting Albania, and in its north, in the Raska/Sandzak area which spans the border region with Serbia. This analyst has witnessed the porosity of the borders in this area, and the extent of the Islamist-jihadist freedom of action, moving goods and people from Albania to Serbian Kosovo and into Raska and on through into Bosnia and Herzegovina via the Gorazde Corridor.

It is not surprising, then, that of the 12+ percent of Montenegrins who describe themselves as Muslim, a majority (7.7 percent of the total population) describe themselves as "Bosniaks", which would imply allegiance to the Bosnian Islamist leadership, which is, in fact, the case. The reality -- the black economy and the significant, unrecorded illegal population -- is far more threatening to the Montenegrin state, and it should be expected that the domination of the economy by Islamist-jihadist -linked Albanian mafia, often working through Montenegrin oligarchs and politicians, will continue to make incoming foreign investment difficult.

And this will make the political situation -- quite apart from the direct intervention on an even larger scale by the KLA-linked groups -- even more unstable in the medium term.

Copyright Defense & Foreign Affairs/International Strategic Studies Association
Reprinted with Permission.