Next stage in dismemberment of Yugoslavia: push for "independent" Montenegro

                    By Martin McLaughlin
                    Representatives of the ruling parties of Serbia and Montenegro met in
                    Belgrade Wednesday, in the first official talks in more than a year
                    between the two regimes which comprise the Federal Republic of

                    The meeting was demanded by Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic
                    to begin a drastic restructuring of the federal state, or set the stage for
                    secession by Montenegro, the last of the republics of the former
                    Yugoslavia still associated with Serbia.

                    Among the concessions sought by Djukanovic are Belgrade's agreement
                    to Montenegrin control of Yugoslav Army units in Montenegro, as well
                    as a separate and internationally convertible currency and other measures
                    which will effectively separate the Montenegrin economy from that of
                    Serbia. If Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic rejects these
                    proposals, as is expected, Montenegrin officials have threatened to hold
                    a referendum on secession some time in the fall.

                    The pressure for independence for Montenegro comes not so much from
                    the province's population, which is overwhelmingly Serbian, as from the
                    United States and its European NATO allies, who see separation of
                    Montenegro from Serbia as another, and potentially fatal, blow against
                    the Milosevic regime.

                    Secession of Montenegro would deprive Serbia of its sole outlet to the
                    Adriatic Sea. The bulk of Serbia's prewar oil supplies came by tanker
                    through Montenegro. Without the small republic—its population is only
                    615,000 compared to Serbia's 10 million—Serbia is landlocked, and
                    surrounded by neighboring states which are either openly hostile
                    (Croatia, Bosnia and Albania), members of NATO (Hungary), occupied
                    by NATO (Kosovo and Macedonia) or candidates to join NATO
                    (Romania and Bulgaria).

                    It is for precisely this reason that the United States has sought to foment a
                    movement for the independence of Montenegro for the last few years, at
                    least since the election of Djukanovic in 1997 over a candidate backed
                    by Milosevic. Washington sees Montenegro as the last link in the chain
                    required to complete the economic blockade imposed on Belgrade
                    during the Bosnian civil war and maintained in one form or another ever

                    Djukanovic has moved more and more openly into the role of an
                    American puppet. He tacitly sided with NATO during the Kosovo war,
                    although he was careful to avoid direct conflict with the 40,000 Yugoslav
                    Army troops stationed in Montenegro. NATO warplanes carried out few
                    air strikes within the republic, leaving it relatively undamaged compared
                    to Serbia.

                    On May 26, with the bombing at its peak, the Montenegrin government
                    called for all Yugoslav Army troops in the republic to be withdrawn or
                    turned over to its control, a demand summarily rejected by the army
                    commanders. But as most army reservists have been demobilized and
                    sent home after Belgrade's surrender to the NATO bombing campaign,
                    the total number of federal troops in Montenegro has declined to
                    15,000—far fewer than the enormous NATO force being built up just to
                    the south in Kosovo.

                    US President Bill Clinton has invited Djukanovic to a summit of
                    European leaders to be held July 28 in Sarajevo, to discuss
                    reconstruction in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans. Serb and
                    Yugoslav federal officials are barred from this meeting.

                    The only external factor which could retard a breakaway by Montenegro
                    is the intensifying rivalry between the United States and Germany over
                    control of the various fragments of the former Yugoslavia. The economic
                    platform being drafted by the Djukanovic government would create, not
                    an independent Montenegro, but an economic colony of Germany.

                    According to Veselin Vukotic, an economics professor at the University
                    of Montenegro who worked on the platform and discussed it with the
                    British business newspaper the Financial Times, the plan is to establish
                    a new currency, a convertible dinar, backed by a currency board—an
                    entity which would be controlled by international lenders, not the
                    Montenegrin government, to ensure currency stability. A subsidy of 400
                    million deutsche marks would be provided to keep the dinar at
                    one-to-one parity with the German currency.

                    Other parts of the plan, the Financial Times said, include “accelerated
                    privatization, deregulation, protection of private property rights, equal
                    treatment for foreign investors, and the establishment of a foreign trade
                    regime open to world markets.”

                    Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic said the economic program would be
                    adopted by his government by the end of July and then forwarded to
                    Belgrade for ratification. If Milosevic vetoes the plan, this will provide an
                    additional pretext for the plebiscite on secession from Yugoslavia.

                    The preparation of American public opinion for the next stage in the
                    US-sponsored dismemberment of Yugoslavia is well under way. Most
                    significant in this regard is the article by Christopher Hedges published
                    July 10 on the front page of the New York Times.

                    Hedges describes military preparations by Montenegrin officials for a
                    confrontation with the Yugoslav Army. He quotes a number of violently
                    anti-Serb statements from representatives of Montenegrin nationalism, to
                    give the impression that the province is seething with hatred of Serbs and
                    the desire to break with them.

                    What is concealed in this distortion of reality is the simple fact that
                    Montenegrins are Serbs, speaking the same language and sharing the
                    same cultural, religious and historical traditions. While there is undoubted
                    popular hostility to the Milosevic regime in Montenegro, that is true in
                    Serbia as well. It is the intervention of the imperialist powers, and
                    especially the United States, which seeks to turn this popular anger in the
                    direction of secession.

                    To say that Montenegro is not viable as an independent country is an
                    understatement. It has about the same area as Kosovo, but only one third
                    the population, and much less fertile land and industrial development. The
                    province's name—it means literally “Black Mountain”—describes it well.

                    In seeking to use Montenegro to cut off Serbia from access to the sea,
                    the Clinton administration is following in well-worn historical footsteps.
                    This was the policy pursued throughout the nineteenth century by the
                    Habsburg Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Germany of Prince
                    Bismarck. The Habsburgs were particularly fearful that independent
                    Serbia would become a magnet for oppressed south Slav peoples, and
                    insisted on maintaining an independent Montenegro and later erecting an
                    independent Albania to keep Serbia landlocked, small and weak.

                    The example of Montenegro demonstrates the real thrust of imperialist
                    policy in the Balkans. Far from being concerned with preventing ethnic
                    cleansing or crimes against humanity, the US and NATO have overseen
                    a process in which the former multiethnic Yugoslavia has been converted,
                    piece by piece, into a series of weak, ethnically homogeneous statelets,
                    each of them completely dependent on the imperialist powers both
                    economically and politically.