The “To Be Secure Forum” (2BS) organized annually by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro (ACM), traditionally has a primary focus on issues of global, Euro-Atlantic security and security in southeast Europe. However, as with many international organizations in Europe this year, the event also dealt directly with the war in Ukraine.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, giving the keynote address at the “To Be Secure Forum” (2BS) on Saturday, Oct.8, appeared on the screen to an enthusiastic audience which took to their feet and began loudly applauding Ukraine’s leader.
After sustained applause, the Ukrainian leader repeated his support for bringing Ukraine into the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). While emphasizing the important role that Europe plays in combating Russia’s malign influence in the region, the president said that the war in Ukraine would be a certain victory and that Ukraine was defending not only itself but all of Europe through its bravery.
Zelensky, addressed both the 2BS audience and the citizens of Cetinje, the old royal capital of Montenegro. The citizens of Cetinje have organized protest walks for 100 days in a row since the beginning of the aggression, and after that the walks are held once a month.
The forum, which seeks to “strengthen democracy, security and stability in Montenegro and the region through the organization and coordination of scientific-research activities in the field of defense, security and diplomacy,” hosted a wide number of well-known experts, from across Europe and America. Speakers delved into the thicket of what steps must be taken now to prevent further Russian aggression that could damage the Balkan’s fragile stability.
In 2016, a Russian-backed coup sought to illegally take power and usurp the democratic instruments of Montenegro. Following the failure of the coup attempt, Montenegro has maintained a democratic trajectory in recent years. However, in a harsh reminder of earlier times, the Montenegrin prime minister fired the intelligence chief.
A source with intimate knowledge of the situation, with intimate knowledge of the prime minister’s office, confirmed that the intelligence boss was fired in order to prevent a series of counterintelligence operations to combat Russia’s influence in the country.
A source indicated that the firing of the intelligence chief, which occurred during the middle of the forum in front of dozens of NATO-member ambassadors and military attaches was done deliberately in order to show not a rejection of NATO, but a support for Russia.
In neighboring Serbia, the influence of Russian media remains strong and often plays on populist topics that elicit strong emotional reactions – such as on the topics of ethnicity and religion. By manipulating the populations, Russia has sought to drive greater dissent against Europe within Montenegro, while stirring up ethnic tensions between Kosovo and Serbia.
This year’s conference discussed, at length, the specifics of how Russian propaganda, intelligence operations, and diplomatic affairs acted to divide the region, while also compelling populations to take a more critical view of Europe and European values.
A spokesperson for the Atlantic Council of Montenegro said to the Kyiv Post that “this year’s 2BS couldn’t be timelier and more relevant for various national and international stakeholders to send strong messages about the importance of a united fight against undermining influence of non-democratic actors and arising security challenges.”
Past years have had a wide number of well-known experts, but this year has taken on a special significance.
“You can be sure that those who attend this conference value Ukraine’s contribution, and we all remain vigilant and united around the common goal of defending democracy and the freedom of the heroic Ukrainian people,” concluded the council’s spokesperson.
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