Experience of Montenegro: NATO enlargement for enhancing security

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Throughout history, the Western Balkans have been known as a place where different cultures, religions and ways of life intersect. Nevertheless, its peoples have managed to live and sustain in all their differences. These experiences were crucial when it comes to Montenegro’s determination to choose the path of Euro-Atlantic integration, as a platform for its development and progress.

In the current geostrategic circumstances, the Western Balkans is still a “soft belly” of  Europe, which makes the whole region important from the aspect of Euro-Atlantic stability. It is in this context that Montenegro’s membership in NATO is extremely valuable as it improves the overall security architecture of the Region. Today, as a full-fledged member of NATO Alliance, we have the op-portunity to fully exercise our sovereignty and on an equal footing define our national positions while designing solutions that contributes to the stability and security of Europe and all our Allies. In doing so, partnerships and cooperation are built starting from the shared values which relate primarily to equality, tol-erance, solidarity, democracy, freedom of speech, respect for human rights and the rule of law.

After departing from the destructive nature of Milošević’s policy in 1997, Mon-tenegro restored its independence in 2006. Back then, we defined Euro and Euro-Atlantic integrations as strategic priorities of national importance. From that time on, Montenegro has advanced the furthest, among the Western Bal-kan countries, in implementing reforms towards the adoption of the legislation and institutional infrastructure, securing its leading position in the EU integra-tion process. The minorities have obtained their full affirmation. The ideological orientation towards the Western values, reflected in its educational system, co-operation with neighboring countries, and openness  of our economy, has deliv-ered significant results to Montenegro, such as its status as a ‘stability anchor’ of the Region. All that led to an invitation to join NATO in 2015, what has been of-ficially realised through full-fledged membership in June 2017.  In that man-ner, Montenegro was recognised as reliable partner in preserving and promot-ing democratic values, dedicated to European and Euro-Atlantic integrations, which came as a result of strong commitment and long-term engagement on comprehensive reforms across all sectors of the society.

Participation in the collective security system has been considered as a kind of a “seal” on Montenegro’s independence, what is of the utmost importance in the region of Western Balkans, which has made significant progress compared to the 1990s, but still has a large number of issues which has to be addressed.  To that end, integrations are unavoidable and an irreplaceable prerequisite to the stabilization, but also the only possible answer to the growing dangers of mod-ern security challenges. Increasing exposure to direct and hybrid threats at the global level, which are not individual, but common, require a common response, which could be only effective within the framework offered by the collective de-fense & security  environment.

Therefore, proactive NATO strategy on its eastern and southern flanks, shaped in its 360 degrees approach,  is necessary for building further the vision of free Europe united in peace, democracy and common values. The NATO “open door” policy proved to be one of its main strengths in promoting stability and coopera-tion in Europe. It is important to keep reiterating that NATO’s enlargement pro-cess does not pose a threat to any country. There should be no compromise with the right of every sovereign nation to choose its own path and of the prin-ciple that the 30 Allies decide when a country is ready to join the Alliance. In the current developments in and around Ukraine, these principles have to be strictly followed, even if membership of Ukraine is not on the immediate agen-da, with the full awareness that by threatening Ukraine, Russia is trying to reas-sert its geopolitical relevance and create a new international order.

The report “Russia’s role in the Balkans: The Case of Montenegro” by Digital Fo-rensic Center – Atlantic Council of Montenegro (https://dfcme.me/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Studija-ruski-uticaj-ENG-online-1.pdf) describes in a comprehensive manner Russian activities in obstructing efforts of Montenegro and other Western Balkan’s countries to integrate into NATO and the EU, which  have been intensified after the intervention in Ukraine and the Crimea annexa-tion. The Kremlin responded to the sanctions imposed by the EU and the Unit-ed States by infiltrating the region and sawing discord whenever possible, using the fact that societies in the Western Balkan’s countries are highly polarized and divided on various matters, characterized by ethnic divisions, weak and insuffi-ciently developed institutions, and controversial media scene.

The Report refers that from the Moscow perspective, presence in the Region is a sort of response to EU and NATO, which are strengthening their engagement in the democratization of Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine, and other countries consid-ered as a part of the Russian World.  Historical, cultural, and religious ties are actively propagated and sometimes even exaggerated by the efforts of the Rus-sian public diplomacy and the narratives of their subsidiaries and proxies. A set of tools from the soft power box is large and includes economic instruments – particularly regarding the energy sector, strong media presence, disinfor-mation, the Church, intelligence network, far-right organizations, the influence exercised through “friendly” politicians, political parties, and non-governmental sector, while playing on the card of rooted narrative about the common history and traditionally good, fraternal relations with the Orthodox countries.

Combination of those diverse influences in political and electoral environment at the financial, media, intelligence and logistic levels, led a year ago, to the new Government of Montenegro, which was formed under the auspices of the Serbi-an Orthodox Church, being one of the proxies of the Russian World in the Re-gion. It was realistic to expect that change of dominantly one party’s rule,  all the way from the beginning of 1990s, would bring numerous issues and chal-lenges, both in political, economic and social context. What hasn’t been ex-pected is that circumstances and the platform for the change would be threat-ening to jeopardise Montenegro’s dynamic reform processes and its position of the leader in EU integration. However, it is of a great importance that a political-ly divided and polarized country continues to consider membership in NATO as a pillar of its stability. Also, when it comes to the security of our society, even in the current circumstances marked with numerous challenges, we are witness-ing the reassurance that our decision to join the Alliance was the right one.

Experiences of Montenegro and other Western Balkan countries are directly justifying that a lack of focused, coherent and consistent approach, is giving enough space for activities and interference targeted to undermine efforts of EU, NATO, and the USA, in combination with promoting another political, mili-tary, and economic alternative. Lessons learned in the Region could definitely be useful for those countries bordering Russia and being at the forefront of countering different forms of  threats and malign influences to explore, strengthen their capacities and acquire additional  knowledge  about  hybrid modus operandi of Kremlin.

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The America Times was re-born on September 11, 2021, with the goal to better inform our leaders and policymakers of nuances, beyond conventional wisdom, to successfully address present day “Gordion Knots,” sometimes as Alexander the Great did by cutting it and other times by tediously unraveling it.

We are honored and privileged to have H. E. Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic - a legislative and diplomatic star of Montenegro - as the first member of the Honorary Board of Advisors & Columnists of The America Times in recognition of her excellence and merit-based gender parity. Ambassador Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic’s life experiences and diplomatic service, helps her to better decipher the unshared motives of geopolitical leaders and unspoken goals of  geopolitical events, which she will share from time to time on our pages. This will serve to form a more perfect nation, and world, and thereby enhance both regional and global peace and security.

Benjamin Franklin famously said in 1787: “It’s a republic madam, if you can keep it.” Professor Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic’s contributions will help us keep our Republic. Please enjoy her accomplishments, along with a few pictures at the United Nations, with then-V.P. Joe Biden, at NATO, and with then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

Thanksgiving 2021

Ranju Batra & Ravi Batra,

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H. E. Milica Pejanovic-Djurisicc

H. E. Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic has completed her term as  Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Montenegro to UN in July 2021.  Before, she served as Minister of Defence in the Government of Montenegro from March 2012 to November 2016, having a leading role in the process of Montenegro’s accession to NATO.  Prof. Pejanović-Đurišić was the first Ambassador of independent Montenegro to France, Monaco and UNESCO in the period  2007-2010. From 2004 to 2006,  she was Ambassador of the State Union Serbia&Montenegro to Belgium and Luxembourg.  In the period 1992-2002, Prof. Pejanovic-Djurisic  was Member of the Parliament and in one term Chairman  of its Committee for Foreign affairs. She was elected Member of the State Presidency (1990-1992) at the first democratic elections in Montenegro.

With the PhD in Telecommunication Engineering, Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic continuously pursues her academic carrier as a full professor in Telecommunications and Wireless Communications at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, University of Montenegro, founder and director of its Research Centre for ICT. She has been cooperating with numerous  universities, research centers, international and think tank organizations worldwide as a visiting researcher and lecturer. In her research work she is focused on various aspects of ​​wireless communications, where she has achieved notable results that were published in several hundred scientific papers in international journals and international conferences, in scientific and professional papers in domestic journals and conferences, as well as in a number of books and other publications.

Her current engagements  also include  participation in the Mediterranean Women Mediators network and steering committees of a number of ICT related conferences and initiatives. She is a member of the Governance Board of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro and founder of its Digital Forensic Lab.

She has a considerable  industry experience being President of the Board of "Telekom Montenegro” from 1999 to 2002, as well as President of the Board of the first Montenegriin Internet provider (2001-2002). Prof. Pejanovic-Djurisic  has been working as a consultant in the field of ICTs and  as an expert  for European Commission and ITU, participating in a number of global professional associations (IEEE, IEICE) and projects in the field of info-communication technologies.

Prof. Pejanovic-Djurisic’s role in fostering digital transformation of Montenegro and the region of South-East Europe has been widely recognized, through a number of initiatives focusing on development and deployment of info-communication infrastructures and applications.  Experience in security and defence sectors, gained in a specific environment and time, and combined with her expertise in ICTs, resulted in  active engagement of Prof. Pejanovic-Djurisic in cybersecurity domain. She is working on initiatives leading towards more safe and secure ICT eco-system, so that the conditions for the mitigation of ICT-related security challenges would be created and benefits of global digital transformation on the international security and stability achieved.

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