Montenegro’s former prime minister accused Russia of seeking to destabilize the Balkans following a thwarted attempt to overthrow Podgorica’s pro-Western government. Milo Djukanovic, who stepped down after an alleged plot emerged on election day in October aimed at preventing the small Balkan country from joining NATO, said that pro-Moscow groups “harnessed a lot of destructive material toward Montenegro” in that coup attempt. Montenegro is now “in the line” of Moscow’s attempts to expand its influence in the Balkans, and pro-Russian opposition parties are ready to use “bloodshed and a coup” to install a pro-Kremlin government, Djukanovic said on February 21 in an address to Socialist Democratic Party youth in Niksic.
“A new, puppet government would only serve the interest of Moscow, which wants to send a message to Europe and NATO that they cannot expand in the Balkans without its consent,” said Djukanovic, who engineered his country’s bid to join NATO.
Russian officials have recently named Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro as Moscow’s sphere of interest in the Balkans, saying they should not join NATO. The former Yugoslav republics were never part of the Soviet bloc and all of them have sought to join the European Union.
Of that group, only Montenegro is seeking to join NATO, however. The Western military alliance has approved Montenegro’s membership application, and earlier this month, Germany and France became the latest of the 24 members to approve its entry into the 28-member bloc. Only approvals from Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United States are still pending.