The Atlantic Council of Montenegro was founded in 2006 and since then, it has been the prominent institution devoted to the promotion of the Euro-Atlantic values and international security. It promotes constructive leadership and engagement in the international affairs of significance, based on the central and substantial role of the Atlantic community in meeting the international challenges of the 21st century. The Atlantic Council stimulates dialogue and discussion about critical international issues with a view to enriching public debate and promoting consensus on appropriate responses of not only the Government, the corporate and non-profit sectors, and the media in Montenegro, but also among leaders in Europe and the USA. At the same time, important contributions include identifying and shaping responses to major issues that NATO and the Trans-Atlantic community are facing. All activities are implemented through three of its centers: the Digital Forensic Center, the Center for Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism and the Center for International Relations.
The Atlantic Council of Montenegro established the 2BS (To Be Secure) FORUM as an annual high-level politico-security conference, being the leading International Forum in Southeast Europe (SEE). The 2BS Forum deals with issues of the global, Euro-Atlantic security and the security in SEE. The main characteristic is the participation of numerous prominent academics and experts in the field of security policy, as well as senior officials from SEE and the transatlantic area. The event represents a discussing forum of relevance which helps not only to promote new and tactical ways of thinking, but also to build closer ties between key stakeholders and partners, thus making the SEE region a safer and more prosperous place, able to contribute towards resolving global challenges in the future.
Since its inception in 2011 To Be Secure Forum positioned itself as a platform of impact, changing and shaping new and tactical ways of thinking and providing answers to regional and global burning challenges. While facing the great uncertainties of today, as it is more important than ever to stand united and act with a common purpose in mind, 2022 edition of the To Be Secure (2BS) Forum was held October 6-8 in Budva (Montenegro). Discussions were focused on a range of topics that concern the transatlantic community: The future of the Western Balkans; Implications of the war in Ukraine on European security landscape; NATO’s foundations for defense from ever-growing future challenges following the Madrid Summit; Changing World Order and global power shifts; Russia, China; Digital transformation and its influence on democracy; and many more.
Over the past years, To Be Secure Forum has become a relevant platform that initiates and encourages political and security discussions in Southeastern Europe. By combining the rich theoretical and practical experiences of the participants, at the Forum we tried to contribute in responding to the most burning questions and challenges in the fields of security and international relations. At the same time, it is at the Forum that new initiatives, partnerships and ideas are exchanged between representatives of governments, businesses, the academic community, research centers and the media. More than 3.5 thousand participants so far certainly represent a significant contribution of the Forum in the direction of creating conditions for the stability of the Region, as well as for participation in global efforts of this kind.
Last year’s 2BS Forum, despite visible signs of tectonic changes in international relations, we ended with optimism and conviction that we can overcome the expected challenges and obstacles. However, today, just one year later, we witness in a completely different world. February 24, when the open and unprovoked Russian aggression against Ukraine began, marks the end of an era, as well as of the world and European security architecture established after World War II. Some call it the end of modern history, for which there are certainly valid arguments, bearing in mind the now clear fact that we are facing not only an attack on Ukraine, but a direct attempt to question the overall values of democracy, free individuals and societies.
And all this happens in conditions that, especially in the last two decades, are burdened by fundamental changes in the world economy: from the digital transformation that changes the established balance of international relations to the financial crisis that showed the shortcomings and vulnerabilities of the system based on liberal democracy and its values. In such a quite chaotic environment, the Russian invasion of Ukraine represents a turning point for overall political and security relations, the international economy and the global energy system, with effects that cannot be limited to one region or contained within the geographical boundaries of one country. The far-reaching consequences of this new type of hybrid war that we are witnessing include numerous elements, among which are: a serious humanitarian crisis, cyber attacks and economic difficulties, as well as disinformation and propaganda campaigns, geopolitical tensions over energy supply, along with the latent, increasingly serious threat of nuclear war.
Acting from the position of destroying the international order while insisting on a “sphere of influence” in its neighborhood and effectively limiting the sovereignty of neighboring countries, Russia seeks justification for aggression at the wrong addresses, demonizing the West, NATO, the USA… In such approach, which is completely inconsistent with reality, Russia lost sight of the willingness of the Ukrainian people to defend their homeland, and especially solidarity at the global level in defense of freedom and democratic values. The strengthening of the Trans-Atlantic alliance is precisely one of the most significant international reactions to the Ukrainian crisis. NATO is expanding, its members are unique in their relation to Russia, resources are increased… thus the argument about Russia being threatened by NATO has turned into its opposite.
Together with its partners, Montenegro also strongly supports Ukraine, emphatizing with the victims and destruction to which the Ukrainian people are exposed. I believe that the citizens of Ukraine have no dilemma in this regard and that this is precisely the reason why President Zelensky readily accepted our initiative to participate in this year’s Forum… for which we owe him a special appreciation.
Reflections of the aggression against Ukraine are very clearly visible in the entire region of the Western Balkans, where Russia, with a very extensive network of its proxies, continues destructive activities aimed at destabilization, jeopardizing the stability and security of the region. Clero-nationalists, big-state ideologies and structures that strive to return the region to the 90s are additionally motivated. The narrative that question democratic rights, human rights and freedoms has found a strong foothold in our region, with a significant impact on the political dynamics characterized by political instability, while strengthening mutual antagonisms with the potential to endanger the already fragile peace and stability in the region.
At the same time, the lack of democratic capacities and weak institutions, as well as the lack of focus of Western partners, facilitated access to actors who, through the destabilization of the Western Balkan region, want to further threaten the EU and NATO. Montenegro is the most obvious example, where efforts are being made to create an environment in which the civil concept, secularism and anti-fascist values on which the modern Montenegrin state rests will be weakened… all with the intention of questioning the viability of Montenegro as a state.
I hope that precisely in the discussions and exchanges of opinions at this Forum, we will have the opportunity to offer elements to encourage decision-makers in the direction of stabilizing the situation, in order to create the conditions for purposeful political and social dialogue around the key interests of citizens, which would also resolve open issues in the domain of security has become a reality. In this context, Montenegro’s membership in NATO and the support of the allies, clear and unambiguous, represent an adequate framework in which answers should be sought, especially bearing in mind the increased degree of public awarness when it comes to the importance of belonging to the Alliance in the current circumstances and environment.
And just as the Atlantic Council and the To Be Secure Forum, since 2006 and 2011, respectively, have contributed to the positioning of Montenegro and the Region on the map of the Trans-Atlantic alliance, we will continue our engagement in the direction of improving the stability and security of our communities, with the aim of preserving peace and creating conditions for a wider socio-political agreement towards overcoming challenges and threats that we are currently facing.
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, by video, gave the keynote address at the To Be Secure (2BS) Forum. When Zelensky appeared on the screen, those attending the conference, in-person, stood and applauded Ukraine’s President. The Ukrainian leader repeated his support for bringing Ukraine into the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). While emphasizing the important role that Europe plays in combating Russia’s malign influence in the region, the President said that the war in Ukraine would be a certain victory – and that Ukraine was defending not only itself but all of Europe through its bravery.
President Zelensky, addressed the citizens of Cetinje, the old royal capital of Montenegro as a sign of gratitude for the support they have provided to that country since the beginning of Russian aggression. The citizens of Cetinje have organized protest walks for 100 days in a row since the beginning of the aggression, and after that the walks are still held once a month.