Saturday 31 October 2015

The Foreign Policy of Montenegro and the Question of Military Neutrality, by Filip Kovacevic

I begin with what I believe should be three defining characteristics of the Montenegrin foreign policy.

First, it should be humane. This means that it must value the human dignity of each individual, respect the right of every human being to a serene and prosperous life, and articulate the commitment to the tolerant and peaceful coexistence of all the differences in the world.

Secondly, it should be rational. It should promote the values of scientific development, technological progress, and global solidarity in the distribution of material resources.

It should demand global disarmament and the establishment of the international mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of disputes.

And, thirdly, it should be intellectually honest in its deconstruction of the prevailing rhetoric of freedom, democracy, and human rights which most often hides the geopolitical interests of major world powers and the oligarchic elites which direct them.

I believe that these three defining characteristic of the Montenegrin foreign policy can best be expressed through the commitment to the military neutrality of Montenegro. Here I will note at least three reasons.

First, can anybody seriously dispute the humaneness of the non-participation in violence and war and the promotion of the peaceful resolution of disputes?

That this is not possible is also understood by those in Montenegro who oppose military neutrality. This is why they claim that by entering NATO, Montenegro would never again participate in wars.

However, this claim is false. In the last twenty years, NATO participated in at least three wars and its most powerful members logistically supported several more.

This means that NATO membership requires that the Montenegrin tax payers bear the burden of financial participation in war operations.

Instead of being invested in education and retirement benefits, in health and disability insurance, the taxpayers' money would go into purchasing machine guns, bombs, and armoured car vehicles.

Montenegrin soldiers would be put in danger of getting wounded or killed far away from their families and homes, in the deserts of Asia and Africa.

The vast majority of Montenegrins would be subjected to emotional, psychological traumas, while the spoils of war would be split between the global capitalist oligarchies and their corrupted puppets in the Montenegrin government.

And, as it always happens, the children of the poor would be sent to the frontlines, while the children of the rich would be able to get away. Do we want that? Is that humane? 

Secondly, if, so far, we have concluded that neutrality is essentially humane, we still have to check whether it is rational given the existing economic constraints.

The opponents claim that NATO membership costs less than military neutrality. Is their claim true?

One look at the military budgets of the militarily neutral European countries is enough to show that all of them spend on defense less than the NATO standard of  2 % of the GDP.

According to publicly available information, Ireland spends 0.7%, Austria 0.8%, Switzerland 0.9%, Finland 1.4-1.6%, Sweden 1.5% and Malta 1.7%

And not only that. It is important to note that the vast majority of citizens in these countries, which are all, except Switzerland, also the members of the European Union, strongly supports the policy of military neutrality.

It is evident that for these citizens, military neutrality is not only a humane, but also a rational, choice.

The interplay of humaneness and rationality is the ideal of all political communities. The policy of military neutrality enables the attainment of at least one dimension of that ideal.

However, the question remains as to what extent this policy is intellectually feasible and pragmatic in the current Montenegrin political context.

Does this mean that if Montenegro does not enter NATO, it will somehow remain outside the community of democratic countries, left at the mercy of the corrupt, authoritarian regime embodied in the rule of the prime minister Milo Djukanovic, who has been in power for the last 25 years?

The answer to this question makes necessary the honest appraisal of the fact that those countries which are democratic in their domestic political order often do not behave particularly democratically in the sphere of international relations. They generally have one standard for their citizens and another for the rest of the world.

If one carefully examines the conduct of the foreign policy of the United States, one can find many instances in which the US has broken international agreements, including the Charter of the United Nations.

The documents made public by Edward Snowden, for instance, show that the institutions of the US government in a shocking manner violated the right to privacy of tens of millions of people around the planet.

Can we therefore have a great deal of confidence that the activities of the US government, or the government of any NATO country for that matter, can be taken as the model of democratic behaviour and respect for international law?

On the other hand, neither the socialist Yugoslavia, nor many of the countries in the Non-Aligned Movement, were democracies by the standards of the official Washington, but did they not give an immeasurable contribution to the improvement of the quality of life on Earth as well as to the prevention of the nuclear Armageddon between the two superpowers?

Today, for instance, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) play a more positive role in the search for the more just distribution of global resources and the fight against poverty than the countries which founded NATO.

This is why it is intellectually disingenuous to claim that by not entering NATO, the democratic development and economic growth of Montenegro will be in any way slowed down or stopped.

Military neutrality means open and friendly cooperation with all countries, while respecting mutual interests and reflecting universal values.

In my opinion, it is the only authentic road to the prosperity of Montenegrin citizens and the respected status of Montenegro in international affairs.

It would make Montenegro into the place of reconciliation and credible cooperation between the West and the East. It is therefore a humane and rational and wise foreign policy choice. 

Filip Kovacevic, PhD; Chair, Board of Directors, Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro; Visiting Adjunct Professor, University of San Francisco; Associate Professor, University of Montenegro (on leave).

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