A number of news have emerged in the past week heightened fears of those accusing the current Montenegrin government of deсreasing its activities as a NATO member state.
Montenegro’s government was elected in December 2020 after three opposition blocs won a weak majority in the August 2020 elections. Some of parties and politicians in the new coalition are known for their pro-Serbian and pro-Russian orientation. This does not go well with Montenegro’s membership in NATO and its effords to join the European Union in the near future.
The change of power took place on the background of the COVID-19 epidemic and bad situation in national economy. Due to financial results of 2020 Montenegro, which is critically dependent on tourism, has suffered the most from COVID-19 among all Western Balkan countries.
Therefore, most decisions that don’t strengthen integration into the Alliance are explained by the government as financial problems. The decision to postpone the deployment of the Montenegrin armed forces in Kosovo caused the great resonance. Earlier, it was planned to send a 30-strong national contingent to KFOR. But now this decision has been postponed at least until the end of 2021 due to pandemic and budget restrictions. But the ruling pro-Serbian Democratic Front also opposed this decision, claiming it could damage relations with Serbia. Democratic Front leader, Milan Knezevic, said DF to protect the spiritual, historical and national identity of the Serbian and Montenegrin people and the ties between Montenegro and Serbia.
At the same way the installation of a 3D Early Warning Radar HADR (HR 3000) in northern Montenegro, which has to be part of NATO’s Early Warning Air Defense System, was removed to 2024. The government also describes this decision by financial problems as the main reason. But earlier, Russian officials called the installation of this radar in Montenegro as unfriendly step towards Russia.
Also early in May, the Ministry of Defense of Montenegro announced the cancellation of joint exercises of the national military with NATO allies at the Sinjajevina military field. The training was planned to take place from May 17 to June 2 as a part of NATO’s large-scale multinational exercise Defender Europe 21.
Montenegro is one of 26 countries participating in this military exercises and one of the 16 host countries. Although a logistical base was established in Montenegro as part of the exercises, in fact it has become the second country in the Western Balkans, along with Serbia, that not covered by this exercise. Various training activities will be held in Albania, Northern Macedonia, Croatia and BiH.
On the other hand, the problem of the Sinjajevina rised not now but last year. Today, the Montenegrin army does not have an equal military training ground, and attempts to establish it are constantly opposed by environmentalists and eco-activists. A year ago, under the previous government, they blocked the training of the Montenegrin military by organizing a strike in the shooting area.
The government is still considering to turn part of Sinjajevina into a fully-functional military training ground, despite a previous public promise not to do this. Currently, the Montenegrin army’s training infrastructure is limited by the Kolasin Regional Mountain War Center and the Lipovo Ski Area near Sinjajevina.