By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, February 12, 2023
When I tell some people that the inhabitants of certain mountains in Montenegro are trying to protect their home from being turned into a giant military training ground by NATO, they inform me that the training ground (which, up until that monent, they’d never heard of) in Montenegro (which they’d never heard of) is absolutely required because of Putin.
Needless to say, I think that Putin (and every living U.S. president, and quite a number of other world “leaders”) should be prosecuted for their crimes. But are we supposed to imagine Putin as the enemy of mindless support for militarism we know nothing about? I thought he was supposed to be the enemy of democracy.
If democracy has anything to do with making the mountains of Sinjajevina a part of a global war, shouldn’t we know that the people there are out in below-zero weather resisting NATO military maneuvers in the snow — maneuvers that they were promised by their government would never happen? They’re following and monitoring the soldiers, and talking to them. They’re protesting in front of military barracks in Kolašin. This past week, reports Milan Sekulovic, a leader of this campaign, “we were forced to go to the highlands of Sinjajevina shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of Montenegrin and foreign NATO soldiers who were conducting a part of the military exercise on this mountain due to the snow and temperature ten degrees below zero [Celsius]. We showed civil disobedience and steadfastness in revolting against the decision on a military training ground in this precious place of unique natural, agro-economic, and anthropological values.”
The Save Sinjajevina campaign — which for years now has mobilized people to nonviolently prevent military exercises, as well as using every acceptable tool of democracy to demonstrate majority opinion and win government promises to represent it — warned that this was coming: “In mid-January this year, we publicly said that we feared that the rumors about military exercises in Sinjajevina in the near future might be true, and on that occasion, for the zillionth time, we reminded our political leaders of Montenegro of their firm promise that Sinjajevina would not be a military training ground. Just two days later, Prime Minister Dritan Abazović categorically stated that ‘there are no and there will not be no military activities in Sinjajevina.’ He added that they are a serious government that does not deal with ‘sayings.’”
This Prime Minister has repeatedly promised, including on television on January 12, to respect the view of Montenegrans that their mountains, environment, and way of life should be protected rather than sacrificed to a training ground so large that the entire Montenegran military might get lost in it. But clearly his loyalty is to NATO, and clearly that puts him directly at odds with democracy. He’s now begun insulting people, claiming that they can’t add two plus two and suggesting that those opposing NATO mountain destruction must be getting paid. They are not. But wouldn’t that be a shameful thing, to get paid to act on majority opinion, unlike the well-paid British Ambassador who has been trying to educate the people of Montenegro on how filling their mountains with explosions and toxic weapons is good for the environment?
Sekulovic has been busy over the past week: “We followed those soldiers for hours on the mountain with over two meters of snow and at -10 degrees, and even less at night, spending two nights and three days up in the cold. Seven of our members followed the army in almost every step . . . . During the whole day of February 3rd, we followed them closely and we also had a oral exchange with soldiers from Slovenia, with whom we talked and explained to them we were not against them personally but against the problem for us with the creation of the training ground on Sinjajevina. The army came down from the mountain on the evening of February 3rd, and we came down a day later once we verified all was free of NATO presence.”
But the NATO troops quietly returned on the 7th, and “the army was again followed and escorted by six members of ‘Save Sinjajevina’, and with our brave sixty-year-old Gara with us, who walked in front of the soldiers and sang a traditional song of ours in front of the inexcusable lies of our Government (see video We defend our mountain with heart and song). Unlike the previous week, that Tuesday 7th we were stopped by the police and told that we cannot stay near the army and that we must return to the village. We refused to return to the village, until we were given guarantees that the army would also return and that there would be no shooting. We were told and promised that the army would not stay on the mountain, that they would not shoot, and as a result of that agreement, we returned to the village that is part of the mountain.”
But eternal vigilance by volunteers is required to do what the government of Montenegro was elected to do: protect Montenegro:
“We remained ready and on February 8 and 9 we organized protests in front of the military barracks in Kolašin! And this is a very important moment because this was our first strong protest in front of a military facility. Until now, we have protested on the mountain and in the cities, but now we moved the protest right in front of the military barracks. It was a radical change because any gathering of citizens and protest in front of the barracks is prohibited by law in Montenegro, but in the new situation we felt naturally pushed to it. As a consequence, the police warned us about this during this protest, they also took information from us, but they did not arrest us (for now…).
“The military exercise in Montenegro has ended last Thursday 9th and NATO soldiers have left the military barracks of Kolašin. However, we fear that this is just a preparation for a much more serious military training in May, when we expect a much more dangerous aggression and a real threat to Sinjajevina. Nevertheless, we have sent clear messages through several press releases and that many media have published (both newspapers, radios and TVs) saying that we are ready to stand in front of their plans and that they will only be able to shoot on Sinjajevina through dead bodies!”
For background on this campaign and where to sign a petition and where to donate, go to https://worldbeyondwar.org/sinjajevina