December 11, 2014
Taking part in the protests against poverty and war held during the NATO Summit in Chicago in May 2012, Vietnam war veteran Ron McSheffery stated: “I am in total support of stopping NATO and stopping the slaughter of innocent civilians. If we took the money we spent on bombs and put it into green energy, we wouldn’t need to keep the sea lanes open for oil transport”. In my opinion, McSheffery articulated a humane, rational, and thoughtful attitude.
It is humane because it values the human dignity of each individual, the right of the every human being to a serene and prosperous life as well as the commitment to the tolerant and peaceful coexistence of all the differences.
It is rational because it places the values of scientific development, technological progress, and global solidarity in the distribution of resources above the production, sale and use of weapons and underscores the fact that all wars must be ended at the negotiation table.
It is thoughtful because, behind the rhetoric of global power players about freedom and human rights, it detects and reveals the mechanisms for the satisfaction of the geopolitical interests of capitalist oligarchies.
I believe that this kind of humane, rational, and thoughtful attitude about the Montenegrin foreign policy means giving one’s support for the military neutrality of Montenegro. Here are at least three reasons.
First, can anybody seriously dispute the humaneness of non-participation in violence and war and the promotion of 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. But, this claim is not credible. In the last twenty years, NATO participated in at least three wars and its most powerful members logistically supported several more. The NATO membership would mean that the Montenegrin tax payers would be forced to bear the burden of financial participation in war operations. Instead of the investment in education and retirement benefits, health and disability insurance, the money of taxpayers would go into machine guns, bombs, and armored 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 war benefits 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 get away. Do we want that? Is that humane?
If, so far, we have concluded that neutrality is essentially humane, we still have to check whether it is rational. The opponents claim that the NATO membership will cost less than military neutrality. Is their claim true? One look at the military budgets of militarily neutral European countries is enough to ascertain that all of them spend less than the agreed upon NATO standard of the 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 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 humane, but also 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 thoughtful in the current Montenegrin political context. Does it 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 which is in power at this time? The answer to this question makes necessary the honest appraisal of the fact that those countries which are democratic in their domestic political order do not behave particularly democratically in the sphere of international relations. They generally have one standard for their citizens and another for all the rest. If one carefully examines the foreign policy of the United States, one rather quickly becomes aware that the US has broken and continues to break many 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 monstrous fashion violated the right to privacy of tens of millions of people around the planet. Can we therefore ever have confidence that the activities of the US officials are, or can be, the model of democratic behavior and respect for the rule of 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 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. It is the only authentic road to the prosperity of Montenegrin citizens and the respected status of Montenegro in international affairs. Montenegro, as the place of confidence both for the West and for the East, is at the same time humane and rational and thoughtful choice.
Originally published in the Montenegrin daily newspaper Vijesti on January 13, 2014. Translated into English by the author.