Russian Operatives Caught in Assassination Attempt of President, Plot Co-conspirators Expelled from Serbia and Montenegro
Overwhelming evidence combined with incontrovertible facts collected by local law enforcement and presented to Serbian and Montenegrin officials, unveiled Moscow’s most recent surreptitious attempts to thwart regional sovereignty. Two Russian citizens were expelled from Montenegro after evidence connecting them to efforts to assassinate PM Djukanovic along with 20 additional FSB accomplices who were caught in nearby Serbia in possession of advanced communications monitoring equipment and weapons, indicting them as plot co-conspirators. All 20 were forcibly removed from the country and sent back to Russia. This comes at a time of waning UN and Western support in the Balkan region.
Economic and cultural struggles have frustrated Serbian and Montenegrin citizens, threatening a closer alliance to Russia, manifesting as a hard shift further right, to the populist and Russian supported political views. However, the recent unveiling of the evidence indicting Russian operatives attempting to meet Moscow’s agenda via assassinating pro-Western candidates has created public consternation over self-rule.
Since the regional Balkanization resulting from the breakup of Yugoslavia, the smaller enclaves have been unable to form much of an economic impact on the European Union. With the recent major distractions of the Greek financial crisis and the immigrant influx, the EU has been unable to devote the necessary capital to invest in smaller nations in the Baltic region, creating an opportunity for Moscow. Russian clandestine efforts to frustrate Western influence and to stalemate any UN efforts in neighboring countries stems from Putin’s interest in re-establishing the Soviet-era Balkan influence and igniting a new Cold War. The UN and EU need to recognize this fact and move to counter with economic stimulus measures or more of these events will be the regional norm.
To better understand Russia’s regional strategy, read the Business Insider article, paraphrased below. The main point of the article summarizes Russia’s regional desperation. What is true of the Ukraine, is also true with regards to the Baltic states, so their experience with regards to Moscow is interchangeable:
The Russians have to assume that the Euro-American interest in creating a pro-Western regime has a purpose beyond Ukraine. From the Russian point of view, not only have they lost a critical buffer zone, but Ukrainian forces hostile to Russia have moved toward the Russian border.
It should be noted that the area that the Russians defend most heavily is the area just west of the Russian border, buying as much space as they can.
At the same time, the West cannot assume that Russia will stop there. Therefore, we are in the classic case where two forces assume the worst about each other. But Russia occupies the weaker position, having lost the first tier of the European Peninsula. It is struggling to maintain the physical integrity of the Motherland.
Russia does not have the ability to project significant force because its naval force is bottled up and because you cannot support major forces from the air alone. Although it became involved in the Syrian conflict to demonstrate its military capabilities and gain leverage with the West, this operation is peripheral to Russia’s main interests. The primary issue is the western frontier and Ukraine. In the south, the focus is on the Caucasus.
It is clear that Russia’s economy, based as it is on energy exports, is in serious trouble given the plummeting price of oil in the past year and a half. But Russia has always been in serious economic trouble. Its economy was catastrophic prior to World War II, but it won the war anyway… at a cost that few other countries could bear.
Not to be left out in the cold, Russia is dusting off its old play book and doing its best to bring back the Cold War. As a Cold Warrior, it is what Vladimir Putin knows best.
Putin was a KGB officer assigned to the First Chief Directorate Soviet intelligence, headquartered in Moscow’s Dzerzhinsky Square. His responsibilities included “active measures.” Dezinformatsia is political warfare to include media manipulation, propaganda and disinformation. Soviet active measures were designed to discredit the United States, conquer world opinion and provide Mother Russia the resources it needs to maintain that position. The Cold War doctrine has not changed, the US has merely forgotten it. But Putin has a well-worn play book that is getting used again.
Putin just reinstated the Ministry of State Security (formerly Joseph Stalin’s secret service). Putin the Necromancer, is bringing the corpse of Old Russia back to life, using the same tactics that have worked historically. Ignoring history won’t change the current World situation, it will only cause us to repeat the same mistakes.
Current Maskirovka Operations in the Balkans
Serbian and Montenegrin law enforcement arrested dozens of individuals tied to an apparent Russian plot designed to alter the outcome of the recent Montenegrin Parliamentary elections. Caches of weapons, uniforms, cash and electronic surveillance equipment were seized by authorities prior to the execution phase of the clandestine operation. The Russian citizens were then kicked out of the both Serbia and Montenegro. Serbian conspirators, such as the former Serbian Commander of the Gendarmerie, Bratislav Dikic, remain in custody and are pending trial. Some of the detained personnel were said to have been participants in the recent Crimean and Ukrainian conflicts, further implicating Russia in regional operations designed to manipulate political outcomes to Russia’s benefit.
Pro-Russian Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksander Vucic , unable to prevent the expulsion of the Russian operatives from his country, soon became the subject of a potential reprisal attack, at least the lingering threat served as a reminder to politicians that they exist so long as the Russia will permit them to. In other words, Balkan democratically elected officials serve at the pleasure of Putin and Russia’s overall regional design.
Seventeen years after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Russia maintains the high level of regional political tension. Serbia, backed by Russia, refuses to recognise Kosovo’s independence, while Bosnia’s sovereignty is under constant pressure from Serb and Croat separatists. Stjepan Mesić, a former Croatian president, claimed that leaders of both communities were seeking to break up Bosnia, warning that it could lead to a new war. Albania and Croatia are NATO members. Serbia and Montenegro have become objects of Moscow’s motivations because Montenegro itself aligning with the West could potentially close off the Adriatic Sea to Russia’s military.
Montenegro and Serbia are squarely under pressure from the new Russia because of geography and history. Russian attempts to influence the Balkan agenda continue to demonstrate Putin’s intention of blocking aspiring NATO ascensions and will try to turn the former Soviet Republics back towards the East, away from the West. Indicators coalesce around the recent Montenegrin elections, where long-serving Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has taken strident efforts to join NATO.
This May, Montenegro completed its accession negotiations with NATO. The next step is parliamentary ratification of the treaty. By influencing the parliamentary elections in Montenegro, Russia stood a chance at defeating the NATO ratification. While Djukanovic has a veritable Halloween cornucopia pile of skeletons in his closet, Djukanovic has the confidence of NATO. As a defensive alliance, NATO is primarily concerned with regional military capabilities and Montenegro appears to have made the required progress. Djukanovic’s apprehension towards Russia is NATO’s advantage.
For its part, Russia has been particularly irked by the region’s westward lurch, particularly the growing influence NATO could gain amongst former Soviet Republics. The strategic location of the disputed states constricts Russian freedom of movement and reflect the western regional hegemony that economically benefit the area. Russia will not concede the avenues of approach without resistance.
Images via http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37890683