The 12th 2BS FORUM, one of the leading politico-security conferences in Southeast Europe, organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, will take place on October 6-8, 2022.
The forum will mark twelve years of its efforts to influence, change and shape new and tactical thinking and provide answers for regional and global burning challenges.

The 2BS Forum will highlight several wide-ranging themes that pose a challenge to current regional and global security frameworks and raise special concerns across the Euro-Atlantic community to re-analyze and reboot common goals and joint efforts to further strengthen and secure a sustainable and thriving future for the SEE region and the wider Europe.

Mark the date in your calendars and stay tuned for more information on how you can join us!

In case you have missed some of last year Forum discussions, find a recap of things that took place below:

Sessions Recap
2BS Forum Gallery
Livestreaming Recap

Please make sure to monitor our official website and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to keep up with our announcements and developments. In case you have any additional questions, do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

2BS Forum Team

We are delighted to introduce the fourth issue of our ACM Briefs, The Russo-Ukraine crisis, and the Western Balkans: Associations and knock-on effects, published in January 2022. These Policy Briefs are a part of the bigger project funded by the Balkan Trust for Democracy (GMF) and USAID aimed at providing laser-sharp insights into the political and social trends in the region, strengthen dialogue, present concrete policy recommendations regarding pressing international and security issues in the Western Balkans.

This policy brief discusses the Ukraine crisis through the prism of the Western Balkans by looking at three particular aspects: first, it compares the two regional cases in terms of similarities and differences; second, it compares their links with the West and third, it looks at Russia’s influence on the Western Balkans in the shadow of the Ukraine conflict. It argues that while the Western Balkan countries are not frontline states in the Russo-`Ukrainian conflict, they are feeling its reverberations, with a risk of becoming a proxy hybrid battlefield in the increasing antagonism between Russia and the West.

You can access the ACM Brief via following link

In order to face the challenges brought by digitalization and technology development, cooperation through all levels of society is necessary, was concluded by participants of the third Online Talk session organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro.

The participants of the online session titled Western Balkans Security Challenges in a Digital World were Damir Marusic from the American Atlantic Council, Laura G. Brent from Center for a New American Security, Milan Sekuloski from Center for Digital Acceleration, DAI, and Irina Rizmal from PwC. The panel discussion was moderated by Milica Pejanović-Đurišić, a Member of the Governing Board of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro.

Milica Pejanovic Djurisic explained that in her experience and when it comes to the Western Balkans is a clear lack of intention on consolidating a unique approach, which has been lacking when it comes to protection from cyber threats. Pejanovic Djurisic believes that raising awareness on this issue is the first phase as it can prove to be very useful in deciding the way how will digital development go further. Referring to the examples of disinformation, Pejanovic Djurisic emphasized how this challenge jeopardizes our human rights and that the region is not an exception adding that the protection of our human rights and freedoms is underdeveloped. Pejanovic Djurisic also stressed that the response from the state and institutions when it comes to protecting those who are subject to online attacks was not adequate, and proportionate enough in the sense that it could discourage future such behavior.
Addressing the panel, Damir Marusic stated that the U.S. Atlantic Council is extremely committed to strengthening cyber security and combating foreign malign influence. However, he also noted that the common occurrence, not only in the Western Balkans but in America as well as the home-grown disinformation, disinformation that is coming from within our society. That trend was further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, he added. Marusic pointed out that during the pandemic, the use of technology has increased and that it is evident that our online life makes our democracies weaker. It is necessary to invest much more effort in thinking about the effects of rapidly evolving technology on democracy, Marusic believes. When it comes to the Western Balkans, he emphasized that digital was not on this year’s Open Balkans summit agenda.

Laura Brent from the Center for a New American Security believes that security and technology issues are too complex for a unified approach to this challenge. According to her personal experience, the most successful way to counter cyber threats is to use different approaches and to find ways for different organizations and institutions to cooperate. She pointed out that technology is changing and developing much faster than the government does, and this will continue in the future, especially from the aspect of regulation. Brent pointed out that the demand for clearer regulation is necessary to continue alongside building partnerships when it comes to tackling these challenges.

Speaking from a personal stance, Milan Sekuloski pointed out that digitalization has brought many benefits in society, but also new challenges. According to him, the Internet has brought about the redistribution or decentralization of power. He added that the decentralization of power has led to the decentralization of threats. Sekuloski especially pointed out that state and state institutions cannot provide complete security in cyberspace. He added that even countries like the United States rely upon private companies. What is common in the Western Balkans region is that the governments feel that they are not able or do not feel the need to react to cyber threats because they come from far away Sekuloski highlights.

Irina Rizmal said that the digitalization process has started before the pandemic, but that the consequences of Covid-19 significantly accelerated that process. Rizmal expressed fears that the concept of digitalization often does not go with cyber security. She emphasized that the lack of awareness about cyber security did not only exist in the nation-states and at the national level, but also in the private sector. However, last year’s global research at the level of executive directors conducted by PwC, found that cyber threats were identified among the top five threats to business, except in the Central and Eastern Europe region where cyber threats were ranked among the top ten biggest threats. Rizmal especially emphasized that it is necessary to raise awareness about cyber security through all levels of society.

The Atlantic Council of Montenegro continues its engagement and commitment to the democratization and security of the Western Balkans region.
The Young Leaders School was held in Budva from November 25 to 28, under the auspices of CFLI Canada and the Office of the Belgian Defense Attaché. It brought together 32 students and young people from Montenegro and the region, as well as experts in politics, international relations, and security. The project aims to provide the necessary leadership skills, different perspectives of peers in the Western Balkans region and to connect young leaders with top experts. During the four-day program of the School, the participants had the opportunity to discuss, through lectures and interactive workshops, a number of current issues of importance for the European perspective of the Western Balkan countries and the region as a whole.
The participants were greeted by the President of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro, Savo Kentera, who opened the event. Kentera emphasized the importance of young people being networked, exchanging their views and ideas, and actively participating in decision-making processes. He acquainted the attendees with the work of the Atlantic Council and invited those interested to get involved in further activities of the organization.
The first panel of the Young Leaders School was dedicated to the international order and the Western Balkans. Speaking about the perspective of the Balkan states in the changing nature of international relations, Vice President of the Atlantic Council of Montenegro Ranko Krivokapic emphasized the importance of the European integration process and expressed confidence that Montenegro would join the European Union individually, instead of together with neighboring countries.
When it comes to common challenges on the path to the integration of the Western Balkan countries, Krivokapic referred to the lack of perspective as a key reason for the departure of young people and the Open Balkans initiative. Vice President Krivokapic also spoke to the participants about his age-long political experience from the position of former President of the Parliament of Montenegro and the Social Democratic Party. Asked about the political situation in Montenegro, Krivokapic said that he was not satisfied with the political and economic dynamics during the last decade, and spoke about the role of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro and foreign influences that determine domestic and foreign policy.
The program manager of the International Republican Institute, Nenad Koprivica, spoke at the second panel titled NATO and Collective Security. He acquainted the participants with the historical context of the formation of the North Atlantic Alliance, its general characteristics and role in modern international relations, the concept of collective defense, and future capabilities in the context of NATO’s 2030 strategy. In his speech, Koprivica paid special attention to the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Western Balkan countries, and the participants showed special interest in the attitude of individual countries towards the issue of membership in the Alliance.
At the last panel of the first day of the School, Brigadier-General of the Armed Forces of Canada Carla Harding spoke on the topic of Women, Peace, and Security. General Harding stressed the importance of gender roles in the security system, spoke about the obstacles and prejudices faced by women in the military, and shared with participants her personal experience at high-rank positions in the defense system. Harding stated that the planning of the national defense policy and the inclusion of women in the defense sector depend exclusively on the will of the government and the state of a certain society.
At the end of the first day, participants in an interactive discussion summarized their impressions and lessons learned and gave recommendations for improving the quality of the program.
The second day of the Young Leaders School was opened by a lecture delivered by analyst and President of the Board of the Center for Monitoring and Research Zlatko Vujovic on the topic of Social Polarization and Rising Nationalism in the Western Balkans. Analyzing foreign influences in Montenegro, Vujovic spoke about the political implications of the role of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, as well as the influences of China and Russia. Special attention was paid to the open discussion on the Open Balkans initiative. He emphasized that the Open Balkans already exists and that the implementation of such an initiative would not bring new value, and that its security implications would be severe. He concluded that the Western Balkans need integration but within the European Union.
The last panel was an opportunity for the participants to get acquainted with the work of the Digital Forensic Center. The mission and goals were presented by the chief analyst of the DFC, Milan Jovanovic, through an interactive lecture Disinformation and Media Literacy. On that occasion, the participants were introduced to the basic concepts of media literacy, case studies were presented, as well as practical actions regarding advanced internet search and fact-checking.
At the end of the day, impressions were summarized and suggestions for future action were given.

The Atlantic Council of Montenegro continues its devotion towards the democratization and security of the Western Balkan region.

Our new project, the Young Leaders School, will gather students and young people from Montenegro and the region, as well as experts in the fields of politics, international relations, and security.

YLS will provide in-demand leadership skills, diverse perspectives of peers within the Western Balkans region, and connect young leaders with top-notch experts.

This project is funded by the CFLI Canada
YLS is also supported by the Belgian Defence Attaché Office

Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro and coordinator of security services, Dritan Abazovic, said that the attempt to bring down the whole security system after the event in Cetinje on September 5 was, for him, the red line that cannot be crossed.

The red line occurred after the events in Cetinje, there were no casualties there, we managed to successfully terminate one risky operation, sending a good message to Montenegro and the region, and after the risky weekend someone tried to bring down the whole security system, he said adding that it was not important whether this was done for the internal or some external reasons. To agree to this would mean that the whole country could be brought down in a similar situation, said Abazovic on the 2BS Forum, organized by the Atlantic Council of Montenegro.

I see it as an aggressive attempt and we need to send a message to the people that they can count on us, he was explicit, adding that a political agenda not aligned with the state interests of Montenegro does not have the support of his party.

He said that if there was room for criticizing the people from the security sector, he would be the first one to criticize them and would not support them. I do not think that the police are functioning flawlessly, but they showed some good results, Abazovic said, adding that if someone thinks that the police could be used as a whip or for someone’s own interests, they cannot count on that.

Deputy Prime Minister repeated that when the Agreement had been signed after the August 2020 parliamentary election, he did everything to protect Montenegro, its foreign policy, adding that he was sure it went successfully. When asked if he would support the Democratic Front entering the Government, Abazovic said that the mentioned Agreement represented a good foundation and each deviation from it meant a decline in support for his party.

I would never sign something that I do not truly support, he added, emphasizing that his party will never give up on the Euro-Atlantic path of Montenegro and will not choose seats over principles.

The Agreement is an expression of our politics and anyone who wants to sign it or follow it is welcome to do so, this Agreement is a victory of the pro-European course of Montenegro and I can say that I am not someone who signs something I do not believe in.

Asked if more could have been done concerning the promotion of Euro-Atlantic values, Abazovic listed the successes that were accomplished by cutting off transit routes of cigarettes and cocaine but also pointed out that the judiciary is the one minimizing the accomplished results.

Reflecting on the Government crisis, Abazovic said that the situation was complex and that personally, he did not like the fact the everyone was focused on departments and their number while a few mentioned the Government program.

He pointed out the need to accomplish wider political consensus, necessary for breaking the stalemate in relation to the issues in the judiciary, especially having in mind that Montenegro does not have the Constitutional Court since yesterday.
With a little bit of luck and wisdom, we may find the best solutions, Deputy Prime Minister concluded.

Disinformation is a part of a much larger ecosystem of the negative Russian influence and active measures that encompass a lot of different tools, including strategic corruption, that create a network of influences, organized crime that is an instrument of state administration for Russia, use of proxies and Trojan horses as well as the cyber-attacks, said Brian Whitmore, Nonresident Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council at this year’s 2BS Forum.
Whitmore said on the panel about the influence of disinformation that societies with a high level of corruption, lack of public trust and polarization, are vulnerable to the threat of disinformation. He mentioned Finland and Estonia as an example of the countries where hybrid threats are not significantly influential, adding that these are the countries with a low level of corruption and divisions within society.
Whitmore states that a solution for this problem would be cooperation within the transatlantic community. We should raise the level of media literacy, civic education, increase resilience just as the Scandinavian and Baltic countries have done, he added.
Executive Director of the Media Association of South-East Europe Vuk Maras thinks that the first step in a fight against disinformation should be to strengthen the capacity of the media to be more responsible towards the readers, and then, to be more specific and professional. This is what our societies are missing.
Maras thinks that it is necessary to redefine the notion of media literacy and find an adequate solution how to reach young people. He adds that the Montenegrin authorities, as well as the Ministry in charge, must be included in this process. We cannot expect our allies and partners to solve this issue, he added.
It is really difficult to stop disinformation in Montenegro since we are under the permanent influence not only of the countries with neoliberal tendencies but also our neighborhood that we share the languages with, Maras thinks.
According to his words, we in Montenegro are again facing the fact that the Government is one of the biggest generators of fake news, constantly being launched in the public. We expected that they would do completely different things – help us and cooperate with media outlets, Maras concluded.

Russia is a global power and represents a huge threat for the West. It also seems that the West is not ready to confront this threat, said Ivana Stradner from the American Enterprise Institute while taking part in the 2BS Forum panel dedicated to the new international order and Russia’s role in it.

Russia’s strategic goal is to establish itself as a global power and terminate the US domination, it perceives NATO as its enemy and wants to challenge the collective security but also to disrupt the European unity, Stradner said.

She thinks that Russia became this dangerous due to the European weakness and lack of Europe’s will to challenge Russian efforts.

Stradner particularly emphasized Russia’s success in the usage of information. Nuclear weapon is a strategic weapon of Russia, but it is as important as the information and we should start thinking about information and cyber security in the same manner as Russia, she said, adding that the cyber security for the majority of Western countries is just a technical issue, while Russia sees them as an indispensable tool for a successful development and victory of their doctrine.

Russia is investing in technologies but it is investing more in the content having psychological influence, Stradner said. She thinks that the rise of tensions in the Western Balkan region suits Russia and that Russia also covers critical sectors of this area such as the energy and military potentials of some countries, but is also uses the tactics tried somewhere else, making a parallel between the use of the Serbian Orthodox Church in this area and Russian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

According to Dmitry Suslov, Deputy Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies, Russia is trying to consolidate itself as a global power aiming at influencing the creation of a new, polycentric international order.

Western domination era is over, Russia thinks that the setting is favorable for it to promote itself as an independent, great power, and it can confirm this in many fields – from the field of military to its role as energy power, Suslov said.

However, he is pointing out that the main trump in Russia’s favor is a global trend, i.e. the world evolution towards polycentrism. The era of the US and Germany is over and they are turning towards consolidation of traditional partners, but we have a huge number of countries outside the Western world striving for independence and sovereignty and they perceive Russia as a partner and huge global power, playing the significant role in all parts of the world.

That’s what the West refuses to see, and the Russia sees the West as a minority part of the world.
According to him, Russia used the slowdown in the process of the EU enlargement in order to apply the same polycentric approach in the Balkans.

Russia wants the Western Balkans to be polycentric and not dominated by the West, this is why the rise of Turkish and Chinese influence in this area suits her, since it creates polycentrism, Suslov said.