Russia's soft and sharp power in southeast Europe — the Russian hybrid influence operation in Montenegro
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Citation (published version)Vesko Garcevic. 2019. "Russia's soft and sharp power in southeast Europe — the Russian hybrid influence operation in Montenegro." In: “Reality Check Series: Sources, Tools and Impact of External Non-EU-Engagement in Southeast Europe,” Berlin, Germany, 2019-01-22 - 2019-01-24, pp. 71 - 83.
Whether its role is described as spoiler or opportunist, the Kremlin strategy in the Balkans is to drag its rivals’ involvement down to a level that would make countries of the region subjects to Moscow’s interference. Not integrated into the European and Euro-Atlantic structures, burdened with endemic corruption, suffering from a democratic deficit, ethnic tensions, and protracted bilateral disputes, the Western Balkans’ countries are an ideal target for Russia. Preventive operations often seek to stop a state from taking certain actions, such as joining a rival alliance. The coup attempt in Montenegro, in October 2016, is a good example of the Russian hybrid influence operations in the Balkans. The goal of Moscow was to prevent NATO membership of the country. To prove it, this work focuses on Moscow’s attempts to influence Montenegro prior to the coup attempt.The paper argues that the coup plot in Montenegro is the culmination of more than a two-years long hybrid influence operation. This includes a) Russian attempts to influence Montenegro through economic means; b) Moscow’s effort to establish a lasting naval (military) presence in Montenegro; c) The intensive media campaign; d) Deepening Russia’s influence on pro-Russian Serbian nationalists in Montenegro and open political and financial support for their activities. When overt means of influence appear to have been inefficient, a covert operation looks like a viable option. That’s what happened in Montenegro.
This is a chapter published in a conference publication that was written within the framework of the project “Reality Check Series: Sources, Tools, and Impact of External Non-EU-Engagement in Southeast Europe.” The project was led by the Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft (SOG) with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office (Stability Pact for Southeast Europe sponsored by Germany).