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The Five Stars’ Party: Italy’s Unique Populist Movement

Emanuel L. Paparella, Ph.D.

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] L [/yt_dropcap]ike several other countries of the European Union, Italy too has a populist movement. But as many things in Italy, it is unique and different from other countries’. In the first place, it has become in a short time, barely seven years since its founding, the most popular party in the country and perhaps the most numerous in Europe.

This has happened previously with the Communist party which, once introduced, became the most numerous in Europe and forever changed the character of the party. It remained international in many respects but it also acquired an Italian flavor which forever changed its character. One thinks of Antonio Gramsci.

The same can be said for the populist movement which has swept the EU and the US since 2016: it is generally anti-euro, Euro-skeptic, anti-refugees, even anti-immigrant. But in Italy it isn’t your typical far right party. It is pro-environment protection, sustainable transport, pro protection of public water, anti political corruption, anti-violence, opposition of European austerity measures and foreign interventions. It sounds almost liberal socialist, but there are caveats to pay attention to. For example, its views on relations with Russia and the US are not too far from those of far right French populist leader Marine Le Pen.

The five stars are symbolical of the five key issues on which the party claims to focus: public water, sustainable transport, sustainable development, the right to internet access, and environmentalism. However, their political stands remain ambiguous. Some say, purposely so, in order to take from both the right and the left and claim to be neither. Some see this as a clever and convenient way to avoid rigorous policy commitments. For example, the party is not openly racist or anti-immigrant but uses dog-whistle tactics to subtly promote it. The slogan “we are not with Putin and we are not with Putin” may indicate that they are with the EU, but that is not the case either. So what is this party with? They claim to have a new approach. What might it be? Let’s see.

To better understand a movement it is best to retrace its origins. The M5S (Movimento Cinque Stelle) was founded by Beppe Grillo, a comedian and blogger in 2009. He attracted attention for his satirizing of the Italian political establishment which was in many ways corrupt. He inveighed against tax evasion via social media and that assured him a sudden rise in Italian political polls. He organized meetings on the site Meetup.com, coalesced activist groups and then fielded candidates for elections. One of their most popular strategies was the advocacy of cuts to Italian parlamentarians’ salaries who earned much more than EU parlamentarians.

The rapid growth of the party can be explained by the fact that a good number of people had legitimate grievances with the traditional ruling parties of Italy. Legitimate grievances explain much of the global populism going on as we speak. It cuts across social lines on both the right and the left. Sometimes a populist movement is the only anti-establishment opposition voice within an oppressive anti-democratic government. Apparently that’s what happened in Italy in 2012 when it began winning mayoral races. The most successful of those races was that of Virginia Raggi, a lawyer, who won with a stunning 67% of the vote. In 2016, at 37 she was the city’s first female mayor and its youngest. Ever since the party has maintained some 30% of the national vote. Grillo’s website is one of the most visited world-wide.

But to go back to our inquiry. What exactly is the new promised approach of M5S? If one peruses carefully and critically Grillo’s blog, one notices a certain authoritarian streak. Followers are urged to follow the leadership line. He seems to like the likes of Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, and Donald Trump whose election he supported, not to speak of their anti-immigrant and Islamophobic views. In a tweet some time ago he compared immigrants to rats and has embraced conspiracy theories about refugees destabilizing Europe redolent of Steve Bannon’s complaints. There are obvious racist tendencies there, a throw-back to the old European cancer of anti-Semitism and White supremacy.

So, what’s in store for Italy’s next general elections to be held next year? The M5S is predicting that it will do very well, and that may happen, but the crucial question remains: will they placate the disenchantment with the status quo after they have riled it up? They have promised to be fiercely independent of other parties, but in Italy politically fractured landscape, how are they to form any sort of government without an alliance with other parties? Hard to see how they will solve that conundrum.

Italians may currently feel trapped within the EU political bureaucracy governed by myopic European politicians all but neglectful of its ideals, that the M5S is their last option. That may be, but it begins to sound like an act of desperation, very much like choosing a Trump in the US for lack of good alternatives. Before heading to the voting boots they may wish to pause and reflect on the fact that presently, with Trump at the helm, democracy is in real and present danger and the outcome as to its survival is in doubt . Grillo does not show great promise of being any better when it comes to democracy, human rights and human solidarity.  

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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A European Response to US Withdrawal from the INF Treaty

MD Staff

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Ahead of the meeting of President Putin and President Trump in Paris on November 11th 2018, 79 European political, diplomatic and military leadership figures are appealing to both Russia and the US not to take unilateral action that would jeopardise the future of the INF without further efforts, such a move would likely trigger an arms race and damage the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The full statement is reproduced below.

ELN statement November 2018

President Trump’s declared intention to withdraw the United States from the 1987 US-Russia Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) calls into question not only the fate of this pivotal accord but also the future of nuclear arms control, with potentially grave consequences for European security.

The INF treaty may indeed have been violated. And it may be anachronistic. But it is symbolic of great power cooperation on nuclear risks and it has been a stabilising force in Europe’s security over the past three decades.  Europe is the sandpit in which US-Russia confrontation over INF will be played out.  Europe is entitled to a say in what happens next.

US intentions have been poorly communicated in Europe. This leaves America’s European Allies supporting Washington’s judgment about Russian non-compliance, but not necessarily Washington’s response.  Divergent European and American approaches to the INF crisis would be highly damaging.

Even more troubling would be the likely consequences of the Treaty’s demise.

The New START Agreement, which limits US and Russian strategic nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles, expires in 2021 and the INF crisis increases the risk that it will not be extended or replaced.  Collapse of INF would spur the development of new nuclear and strategic conventional weapon systems, including INF-class missiles. These systems claim to strengthen deterrence but are more likely to fuel an arms race. The costs to international nuclear stability, European security, and taxpayers in all countries concerned could be high. And unless INF is maintained or replaced, its loss will deepen international cynicism about gradual nuclear disarmament, with consequent damage to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Strong voices in the US share these views.

The INF crisis has focused the attention of European decision-makers on arms control. They should now move beyond statements of concern towards action on the following recommendations:

The INF’s collapse is still preventable. If the two sides work in good faith on the non-compliance issues instead of just trading allegations, solutions can be found. Non-governmental experts and organisations, including the ELN, have developed proposals that address all the issues raised by each side, including the new Russian cruise missile and the configuration of US missile defence installations in Europe. We urge Washington and Moscow to use the coming months to explore these proposals seriously and halt the INF’s breakdown. Neither side should unilaterally withdraw without further effort.

Moscow – which has always protested that it has not deployed non-compliant missiles – should pledge that it will not deploy such missiles against Europe, provided that NATO and the United States do not deploy them. We welcome NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg’s recent statement that any such NATO deployment is improbable.

European governments, especially members of NATO, should make clear that if Russia can verifiably demonstrate that it is INF-compliant, they will support the transparent verification of NATO’s land-based ballistic missile defence installations by Russia.

As Washington is genuinely concerned about Chinese intermediate range missiles remaining outside any arms control mechanism, it should construct a joint US-Russian approach towards Beijing and should be able to count on support from European and Asian partners. These efforts might be unsuccessful but would demonstrate a continuing US commitment to nuclear arms control.

Europeans should urge the US and Russia to immediately resume talks on strategic stability.  To create some measure of stability and mutual confidence, the two sides should agree the extension of the New START Treaty as a priority. At the 11 November 2018 Trump-Putin meeting, the leaders should also agree a statement of reassurance to the international community that nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought.

While Ukraine will remain the primary joint agenda item in the NATO-Russia Council, Europeans should advance proposals for wider, more up-to-date arms control designed to increase decision time and predictability for both NATO and Russian leaders.

As part of a broader response, Europeans should press the case for the security benefits of restraint and collaborative arms control, vigorously countering the pernicious belief that arms control could be ineffective, or even detrimental, to national security.

If implemented, these steps would prevent the INF crisis further worsening the West-Russia confrontation. It could turn a crisis into an opportunity for fresh, innovative arms control that is fit for the 21st century.

Signatories

Austria

  • Wolfgang Petritsch, Former EU Special Envoy for Kosovo & Former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bulgaria

  • Solomon Passy, President Atlantic Club Bulgaria; Former Chairman of the UN Security Council
  • Professor Todor Tagarev, Former Defence Minister; Former Director of the Defence Institute

Croatia

  • Budimir Loncar, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of former Yugoslavia; Former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the Non-Aligned Movement
  • Professor Ivo Slaus, Honorary President, World Academy of Art and Science

Czech Republic

  • Jan Kavan, Former Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and former President of the UN General Assembly

Denmark

  • Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Former Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Mogens Lykketoft, Former Foreign Minister; Former President of the UN General Assembly

Finland

  • Dr Tarja Cronberg, Member of the European Parliament, Chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Iran
  • Elisabeth Rehn, Former Minister of Defence
  • Admiral Juhani Kaskeala, Former Chief of Defence
  • Professor Raimo Väyrynen, Former President of the Academy of Finland; Former Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs

France

  • General (Ret.) Bernard Norlain, Former General Officer, Air Defence Commander and Air Combat Commander of the French Air Force
  • Paul Quilès, Former Minister of Defence

Georgia

  • Ambassador Tedo Japaridze, Former Foreign Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Vice-Chairman, International Relations, Anakila Development Consortium

Germany

  • Angela Kane, Former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs & Under-Secretary-General
  • Volker Rühe, Former Defence Minister
  • Rudolf Scharping, Former Defence Minister
  • Karsten Voigt, Former German-American coordinator in the Federal Foreign Office, Former President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
  • Brigadier General (ret.) Dr Klaus Wittmann, Former Bundeswehr General

Hungary

  • János Martonyi, Former Foreign Affairs Minister

Italy

  • Giancarlo Aragona, Former Secretary General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
  • Hon. Margherita Boniver, Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Professor Francesco Calogero, Former Secretary-General of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
  • General (rt.) Vincenzo Camporini, Former Chief of the Joint Defence Staff, Former Chief of Staff of the Air Force
  • Giorgio La Malfa, Former Minister for European Affairs
  • Admiral Giampaolo di Paolo, Former Minister of Defence; Former Chairman of NATO Military Committee
  • Arturo Parisi, Former Defence Minister
  • Professor Carlo Schaerf, Co-founder, International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts (ISODARCO).
  • Stefano Silvestri, Former Under Secretary of State for Defence, Former President of the Italian International Affairs Institute
  • Ambassador Stefano Stefanini, Former Permanent Representative to NATO, Former Diplomatic Advisor to the President of Italy
  • Carlo Trezza, Former Ambassador for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, Former Chairman of the Missile Technology Control Regime

Netherlands

  • Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, Former Deputy Prime Minister, Former Minister of Economic Affairs
  • Bert Koenders, Former Foreign Minister
  • Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament
  • Klaas de Vries, Former Minister for Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations

Norway

  1. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway, Former Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  2. Espen Barth Eide, Former Foreign Minister, Former Minister of Defence

Poland

  • Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Former Defence Minister and Chair, Executive Council, Euro-Atlantic Association

Portugal

  • Ricardo Baptista Leite MP, MD, Member of Parliament

Russia

  • Ambassador Anatoly Adamishin, Former Deputy Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the UK
  • Dr Alexey Arbatov, Former Deputy Chairman of the Duma Defence Committee; Head of the Center for International Security, Institute of World Economy and International Relations
  • General Vladimir Dvorkin, Lead scientist at the Center of the International Safety of the Institute of Economic and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Ambassador Boris Pankin, Former Foreign Minister of the former USSR
  • Dr Dmitry Polikanov, Chairman of the Trialogue Club and member of the Expert Council of the Russian Government
  • Igor Yurgens, Chairman of the Management Board of the Institute for Contemporary Development

Serbia

  • Goran Svilanović, Secretary-General, Regional Cooperation Council

Sweden

  • Dr Hans Blix, Former Foreign Minister and former IAEA Director General
  • Ingvar Carlsson, Former Prime Minister
  • Rolf Ekeus, Former Ambassador to the United States, former High Commissioner on national minorities in Europe
  • Gunnar Hökmark, MEP
  • Henrik Salander, Former Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, Secretary-General of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission

Turkey

  • Professor Mustafa Aydin, President, International Relations Council of Turkey
  • Hikmet Çetin, Former Foreign Minister
  • Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz, Former Ambassador to the United Kingdom
  • Vahit Erdem, Former Head of the Turkish Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
  • Osman Faruk Loğoğlu, Former Turkish Ambassador to the United States and former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Özdem Sanberk, Former Ambassador to the United Kingdom; Former Under Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

United Kingdom

  • Rt. Hon Margaret Beckett, Former Foreign Secretary
  • Sir Tony Brenton, Former UK Ambassador to Russia
  • Lord Des Browne, Former Minister of Defence; Member of the House of Lords
  • Lord Menzies Campbell of Pittenweem, Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats
  • Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke, Former Home Secretary
  • Stephen Gethins, MP
  • Lord David Hannay of Chiswick, Former Ambassador of the UK to the EEC, Former Ambassador of the UK to the UN
  • Sir Nick Harvey, former Member of Parliament and former Minister of State for the Armed Forces
  • Rt. Hon. Lord John Kerr of Kinochard, Former British Ambassador to the United States and the EU
  • Rt. Hon. Lord Tom King of Bridgwater, Former Defence Secretary
  • Gen. Sir John McColl, Former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Deputy SACEUR)
  • Gen. Lord David Ramsbotham, Retired General Army, Former Adjutant General; Former ADC General to HM the Queen
  • Lord David Richards of Herstmonceux, Former Chief of the Defence Staff
  • Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Former Foreign Secretary, Former Defence Secretary
  • Rt. Hon. Sir John Stanley, Former Chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls; Former Minister for the Armed Forces
  • Baroness Elizabeth Symnons of Vernham Dean, Former Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence Minister
  • Sir Adam Thomson, Former UK Perm Rep to NATO; Director, European Leadership Network
  • Lord David Triesman, Former Foreign Office Minister and Chairman of the Football Association
  • Lord William Wallace of Saltaire, Member of the House of Lords
  • Rt. Hon the Admiral Lord Alan West of Spithead, First Sea Lord and Commander in Chief of the Royal Navy
  • Rt. Hon. Baroness Shirley Williams, Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, Former Adviser on Nuclear Proliferation to the Prime Minister
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Serbian question in Montenegro

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On August 5, 1999 the government of Montenegro announced a platform for new relations between Serbia and Montenegro, in order to review the status of Montenegro and electoral law. The Constitutional Court rejected this revision as being illegal. A little later, the question of Montenegrin independence was again raised – this time with the support of the European Union and the US administration. Montenegrin government has pursued a policy that has encouraged pro-independence policy, which resulted in the separation of Montenegro from Serbia in 2006. Montenegrin Serbs have been strong advocates of a joint state with Serbia, however, they were outvoted. And then at the referendum, the majority of the Orthodox population was for a common state with Serbia, but ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, along with national minorities, managed to win majority.

Many analysts expected that in future the absolute majority of citizens will be loyal to independent Montenegro, and that ethnic Montenegrins would make more than half of the population. However, the situation is completely different. Montenegro today is a deeply divided state. Montenegrin Serbs still do not accept the results of the referendum. They consider and publicly point out that the referendum was undemocratic with many irregularities. According to the 2011 census, Montenegrins make 44.98% of the population, Serbs 28.73%, Bosnians 8.65%, Albanians 4.91%, Muslims 3.31%, Roma 1.01%, and Croats 0.97%. It is important to point out that the citizens were pressured to declare themselves as Montenegrins. Otherwise, the Serbs would be an absolute majority in Montenegro.

The goal of the Montenegrin government is that Montenegrins are an absolute majority in the state, and this plan is implemented even before separation from Serbia. According to the census of 2003 year, 63.49% of the population said that they speak Serbian language, but Montenegrin government decided in 2004 to rename Serbian language. To that end, Montenegro has copmletely changed school programs. The Cyrillic alphabet is almost completely out of use, and almost all state correspondence is in Latin alphabet , Serbian poets were thrown out of school textbooks. Already on the 2011 census 42.88% of the population said that they speak Serbian language. Serbian National Council of Montenegro, in September this year, stated:

“The authority in Montenegro, in a coalition with minority nations, has stopped every prospect for citizens who declare themselves nationally as Serbs. In all spheres of social and political life she opposed, especially Bosniaks and Albanians, to the Serbs, discriminating all Serbs who are not ready to change their own identity in the already obvious project of the assimilation of the Serbian people in the national Montenegrins”. Discrimination against Serbs, is best illustrated by the statistics. In the last four years, in Montenegro, on average, only 13 Serbs received a state job annually. This is 37 times less than the number of Montenegrins, since the state institutions annually employed on average 486 citizens who declared themselves as Montenegrins.

The average number of employed Serbs is smaller even when compared with Bosniaks. According to official statistics, 82.11% of Montenegrins work in public administration, and only 7% of Serbs. All this is done with the aim that the Montenegrin Serbs are no longer a significant demographic and political factor in Montenegro. Basically, Montenegrin Serbs are the main opponents of Milo Djukanovic and the Democratic Party of Socialists. It is important to note that the Democratic Party of Socialists is the ruling political party in Montenegro since the introduction of multy – party system in 1990. The main political goals of Montenegrin Serbs are, one state with Serbia and brotherly relations with Russia. It is precisely for this reason that the West is silent on the discrimination of the Serbs.

Montenegrin Serbs were the main opponents of Montenegro’s entry into NATO. One of the main reasons for that is NATO’s aggression against Serbia and Montenegro, as well as Russia’s position that NATO expansion is dangerous and unnecessary. NATO aggression on Serbia and Montenegro, began 19 years ago. Aggression started without the approval of the UN Security Council. The attacks that lasted without interruption for 78 days severly damaged infratucture, commercial buildings, schools, health facilities, media houses, cultural monuments. The cost of the damage is estimated between 30 and 100 billion dollars. The final number of victims has not been officially declared, but Serbian estimates range between 1, 200 and 2, 500 dead and about 5, 000 injured.

From the above reasons and facts, Montenegrin government avoided the referendum on NATO, because most of the population was against the entry into NATO. The decision on entry into NATO was taken in the Parliament. By entering Montenegro into NATO, the West achieved a significant geopolitical victory. The territory of Montenegro has important geo – strategic signifance. It has access to the Adriatic Sea, controls the Strait of Otranto. From Montenegro, NATO will have an even stronger impact on the Raska (Sandzak) region in Serbia, northern Kosovo, as well as in eastern Republic of Srpska.

In Montenegro, for years there is a project of changing the traditional Serbian/Slavic – Orthodox identity into Montenegrin, Roman Catholic and Western identity. That is why Russia is also the target of the Montenegrin authorities.

“The Serbian Orthodox Church remains the main frontman of Greater Serbian nationalism towards the region and Montenegro, the striking fist of what ideologues of “big Serbia” and imperial Russia in the Balkans want, and must remain the subject of Montenegro‘s state policy in the coming period”, stated Milo Djukanovic, president of Montenegro. Djukanovic publicly also stated that Montenegro wants to change its “ civilization circle”. And in new” civilization circle”, except Serbia, there is no place neither for Russia. On this statement every analyst who deals with situation in Montenegro should pay attention. Under the rule of Milo Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists, began an open revision of official history. And among the revision are also the relations between Russia and Montenegro throughout history. Regarding Russian-Montenegrin relations, history is clear.

The first instance of official Russian – Montenegrin diplomatic contact was made in 1711, when Russian Tsar Peter the Great sent his envoys to “duke of Serb land” Metropolitan Danilo. Since then, Russia has always helped Montenegro and the Serbs. It is precisely because of this help through centuries that  in Montenegro there is a pro – Russian cult. Russia has for centuries been the protector of Montenegro, and played a key role in helping Montenegro remove the Ottoman Empire. The people of Montenegro remember that and are very grateful to Russia. As a result of that, there is the term  in Montenegro ”Mother Russia”. However, today Montenegro’s foreign policy is being adapted to the private interests of Milo Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists. This could be seen on the marking of the establishment of 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Montenegro and the United Kingdom, in June this year. Than, in old royal capital Cetinje,  president of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic stated:

“We do not forget that London was among the first to support twenty years ago the democratic turn and the European course of Montenegro. At that time, the British Know How Fund and the British Council played a particularly important role. But also the Government of Great Britain, with its decisive and comprehensive support … Time has shown that the struggle of our English admirers and friends for Montenegro in the twenties of the last century was not futile. The United Kingdom has strongly supported Montenegro in the process of joining NATO, where we again are allies.” When it comes to Montenegrin-British relations, history is clear. Within the so-called Eastern Question, which stretched from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the First World War, and which in essence signified the global conflict of the West against Russia, the essence was not to allow Russia to get out to the warm sea. First via the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits, and later at any point in the Mediterranean that would be available to Russia. At the same time, Britain and the West always considered Serbs (and under the Serbs should not only be regarded the Serbs from Serbia) as the “Balkan Russians” or “little Russians”. Knowing that besides Bosphorus, Russia could only get to the Mediterranean via the Serbian-Adriatic Sea, Britain in the wish to neutralize Russia’s aspirations, from the late 18th century practically conserved the Ottoman state and did not allow her ruin almost to the beginning of the 20th century, which significantly prolonged the occupation of the Balkans by Ottomans. The current British policy towards Montenegro is based on the disabling of any Russian influence. Britain will help Djukanovic until this regime carry out unquestionably anti-Russian policy. That’s what is happening now.

Serbia and Russia should jointly respond to this policy, and stand in protection of Serbian Orthodox Church and Serbs in Montenegro. This is primarily reflected in the insistence on the recognition of fundamental rights, which are guaranteed by the Constitution of Montenegro. Russia has all the preconditions for the development of soft power in Montenegro. Regarding the soft power of Russia in Montenegro, progress is notable but not enough. A special accent should be placed on the Russian – Montenegrin historical links, and in this regard, scientific conferences should be organized in which Russian and Montenegrin historians would remind the people of Montenegro, as well as the intellectual community, for all the assistance Russia has provided to Montenegro over the centuries. And  therefore send a clear message that it will not allow revision of history. Also, it would be wisely that serious Russian investments come to Montenegro.

The largest number of foreign tourists in Montenegro are Russians. In accordance with that, Russian investments in Montenegrin tourism should be significantly increased. In Montenegro, all TV news stations are pro – Western, as well as almost all daily newspapers. Brainwashing in Montenegro is performed on a daily basis. Montenegro urgently needs pro – Russian television, which would make the media scene of Montenegro more balanced. In this way, Russia would clearly position itself in Montenegro and help resolve the Serbian question, but also would satisfied its interests in this small, but strategically important Balkan country.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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Strange bedfellows: Ideology trumps defense of ethnic, religious and minority rights

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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A global rise of nationalist and populist tendencies has not only given anti-migrant, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and racist tendencies a new lease on life, but opened the door to alliances between groups that once would have had nothing to do with one another.

Developments in Israel, Indonesia and Germany suggest renewed nationalism and populism is in some cases redefining how states perceive concepts of national interest and purpose and how religious and ethnic communities seek to shield themselves against discrimination, persecution and/or extremism.

The redefinition was no more evident than when Israel, founded as a safe haven for Jews irrespective of creed, sect or political belief, sided against its own ambassador with authoritarian Hungarian President Victor Orban, a proponent of Christianity rather than multi-culturalism as the glue of European society, in denouncing billionaire left-wing philanthropist George Soros, a survivor of the Holocaust.

In doing so, Israel, founded on the belief that Jews needed a state to shield themselves against discrimination and persecution rooted in anti-Semitic prejudice and racism that has been endemic in Christian culture, sided not only with a Christian nationalist leader in Hungary but with a global right-wing trend that sees Mr. Soros as the mastermind of a globalist movement, determined to subvert the established order and dilute the white, Christian nature of societies through immigration.

Israel’s acknowledgement of the redefinition of its raison d’etre came in response to a Facebook posting by Yossi Amrani, the Jewish state’s representative in Hungary. Responding to anti-immigration billboards depicting a smiling Mr. Soros with the slogan, ‘Let’s not let Soros have the last laugh,’ Mr. Amrani, backed by Hungarian Jewish leaders, warned that they evoked “sad memories, but also sow hatred and fear.”

Israel’s foreign ministry, days before a visit to Hungary by prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu, rather than taking a firm stand on rising anti-Semitism, effectively defined the Jewish state’s interest as joining Mr. Orban in denouncing a Jew.

As a result, Israel, despite seeing itself as the fulfilment of  the Biblical prophecies of the Ingathering of the Exiles and the protector of Jewish rights, opted for denouncing a Jew together with a leader whose policies prompted the European parliament to pursue unprecedented disciplinary action against Hungary over alleged breaches of the European Union’s core values, including minority rights.

“In no way was the (ambassador’s) statement meant to delegitimize criticism of George Soros, who continuously undermines Israel’s democratically elected governments by funding organizations that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself,” the ministry said.

The implicit message, like Israel’s decision to bar entry to its Jewish critics despite its law of return that grants anyone who is Jewish a right to citizenship, was that Israel rather than being the potential home of all Jews was a home only to those who support the government’s policies.

Mr. Netanyahu’s alignment of Israel with right-wing nationalist and populist forces like his support for ultra-orthodox Jewish groups that deny equal rights for less stringent religious trends in Judaism on issues such as marriage, divorce, conversion and prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, are likely to drive a wedge between the Jewish state and world Jewry, particularly in the United States.

The wedge, that puts Israel at odds with the Jewish Diaspora, could be deepened by this week’s Democratic Party success in regaining a majority in the US House of Representatives. Jews historically tend to vote Democratic in the US, a stark contrast with Mr. Netanyahu’s growing alliance with right-wing evangelists who support Israel because they believe the Messiah will only return to a Holy Land controlled by Jews.

Many evangelists, however, also believe that Jews will not be saved on the Day of Judgement without first converting to Christianity.

Israel’s divisive approach to World Jewry is not without its supporters in the Jewish Diaspora. Anti-Muslim and anti-migration sentiments have prompted some Jews to form their own group within Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party.

The notion that bigotry and prejudice are the best defense against rising anti-Semitism has meant that AfD Jews have little compunction about joining a party whose members favour abandoning Germany’s culture of remembrance and atonement for its Nazi past.

One AfD leader, Alexander Gauland, described Nazism as a “speck of bird poop in more than 1,000 years of successful German history.

To be fair, the issue of rising prejudice and bigotry is not the exclusive perch of right-wing nationalist and populists. Britain’s Labour Party, traditionally a home for Jewish voters and activists, has been plagued by charges of anti-Semitism and reluctance to put its own house in order.

Moreover, the emergence of strange bedfellows in a world in which ideological affinity replaces defense of a community’s minority rights is not uniquely Israeli or Jewish.

Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Islamic movements with some 94 million members in Indonesia, in a bid to reform Islam and counter all political expressions of the faith, risks being tainted by its potential tactical association with Islamophobes and Christian fundamentalists who would project their alliance as Muslim justification of their perception of the evils of Islam.

Nahdlatul Ulama is not alone in the Muslim world’s opportunistic engagement with the Christian right.

Saudi rulers, who long aligned themselves with a supremacist, intolerant interpretation of Islam that viewed Christians as swine and Jews as apes have discovered that they share with evangelists and fundamentalist Christians, a significant voting bloc in the United States and part of President Donald J. Trump’s support base, conservative family values as well as political interests.

In a first, Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, last week met with a delegation of US evangelists that included Reverend Johnnie Moore, Israel-based evangelical political strategist-turned-novelist Joel Rosenberg, former congresswoman Michele Bachmann; and prominent religious broadcasters.

The jury is out on whether the fallout of the rise of nationalism, populism and extremism heralds a new world in which bigotry and prejudice are legitimized as a defense strategy against discrimination, racism and persecution and an anti-dote to radicalism – a world that would likely prove to be far more divided and polarized and likely increasingly unsafe for minorities on the receiving end.

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UN sounds alarm as Venezuelan refugees and migrants passes three million mark

The number of refugees and migrants who have left Venezuela worldwide has now reached three million, the two main United...

New Social Compact5 hours ago

Hunger and obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean compounded by inequality

For the third consecutive year, the number of those chronically hungry has increased in Latin America and the Caribbean, while...

Green Planet6 hours ago

Putting the brakes on fast fashion

Fashion revolves around the latest trends but is the industry behind the curve on the only trend that ultimately matters...

Terrorism7 hours ago

ISIL’s ‘legacy of terror’ in Iraq: UN verifies over 200 mass graves

Investigators have uncovered more than 200 mass graves containing thousands of bodies in areas of Iraq formerly controlled by the...

Reports10 hours ago

From unemployment to growing cyber-risk: Business executives have different worries

There are significant differences in risk perceptions across the eight regions covered in the World Economic Forum’s Regional Risks for...

Africa11 hours ago

South Sudan Need to invest in peace for economic development

The 2017 Global Peace Index (GPI) shows that despite continuing socio-economic and geopolitical turmoil in the world, there are more...

Americas1 day ago

Trust: Lessons from my Brazilian driver

Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair– Anonymous Be safe. That’s what we’re always told...

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