Garcevic Testifies Before Senate Committee on Intelligence


Amb. Vesko Garcevic, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Frederick S.Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on June 28, 2017 on Russian efforts to interfere in Montenegro’s 2016 election. 

Garcevic’s testimony, which was part of an open hearing focusing on Russian interference in recent and upcoming elections across Europe, also focused on steps taken by the Montenegrin government to counter such interference and recommnedations to further counter Russian efforts to interfere in the elections of NATO countries.

During his diplomatic career, Amb. Vesko Garcevic dealt with issues pertinent to European security and NATO for almost 14 years. In 2004, he was posted in Vienna to serve as Ambassador to Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. He had been a Montenegro’s Ambassador to NATO from 2010 until 2014 and served as a Montenegro’s National Coordinator for NATO from 2015 until he joined the faculty at the Pardee School.

Other witnesses that testified as part of the hearing included Amb.Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Janis Sarts, Director of the NATO Strategic Communication Center of Excellence; and Dr. Constanze Stelzenmueller, Bosch Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Garcevic opened his testimony by setting the scene of October 16, 2016, the day of Montenegro’s parliamentary elections. According to Garcevic, plotters disguised in police uniforms were preparing to storm the Montenegrin Parliament and provoke turmoil by shooting at citizens waiting for election results. The plotters also intended to detain or assassinate the Prime Minister, Garcevic testified. Acting on a tip from an informant, Montenegrin police were able to arrest most of the plot suspects.

The indictment filed on the incident states that 14 people were charged, including two opposition politicians and two Russian agents, Vladimir Popov and Eduard Shirokov, members of the Russian Military Intelligence Service, who are identified as the ringleaders of the operation, Garcevic testified.

“The coup plot is the culmination of more than 18-months long synchronized actions, which includes an aggressive media campaign coupled with the open support to pro-Russian political parties in Montenegro,” Garcevic said during his testimony. “While Russia has been consistent with making threatening gestures over Montenegro’s NATO bid, they have never specified what their intentions are. When Montenegro joined NATO, Moscow commented that in response to Montenegro’s ‘anti-Russian hysteria” and ‘hostile policy,’ Russia ‘reserves the right to take reciprocal measures.’”

Garcevic went on to discuss how Russia will continue to influence the region despite their failed attempt to interfere with the 2016 Montenegrin elections.

“Moscow has made no progress in Montenegro, and it has seemingly lost a possibility of having a strategically significant outlet on the Adriatic Sea,” Garcevic said. “But, Moscow will continue exploiting loopholes that exist in most of the Balkans states: democratic incapacity, corruption, ethnic tensions, countries’ economic and military needs, and growing feelings of marginalization of those countries ‘on the path’ to the EU and NATO.”

According to Garcevic, a pro-active approach from the United States and European Union in supporting democratic reforms in the region is the best way to combat Russian interference.

“The rule of law, independent institutions and efficient law enforcement agencies are the precondition for stability and an effective protection from Russia’s influence,” Garcevic. “The best way to restrain Russia’s influence is a pro-active approach from the US and the EU side and energetic support for democratic reforms. The door of NATO and the EU must remain open for states wishing to join them. Further American retreat may have lasting adverse implications for Balkans and European security.”