The Western Balkans are always interesting. With an expert, it also becomes understandable. The professional contributor for January, Rajko Radevic, is a close collaborator of UTSYN who always provides a thorough analysis of the complicated political and security landscapes. This is valuable for UTSYN’s activities in the region. He has multiple projects in his home country, Montenegro, as well as with UTSYN and the Norwegian Ministry of Defence.

Radević is a security analyst from Montenegro. He is a well-known name in the Montenegrin think tank community and the founder of an independent security policy think tank – the Centre for Security Studies – Montenegro. He has led projects focused on topics such as building integrity in the security and defence institutions, security sector reform, public administration reform, and foreign and security policy. Additionally, he is a doctoral candidate in the Security Studies program at the University of Ljubljana researching the scope and limitations of parliamentary oversight of the military in Norway, Slovenia and Montenegro. 

Rajko, what are you currently interested in?

At the moment, I am very interested in gaining a deeper understanding of disinformation and foreign malign influence. This topic has gained a lot of attention as it is affecting the Western Balkans where I live, as well as Europe and the rest of the world. There is also the question of how foreign influence tests the resilience and capacity of our democratic institutions. This is also within the scope of my PhD thesis which I am currently working on. My focus is on the Parliament, as it is the most important institution when it comes to the protection and oversight of our democratic standards.

All the Western Balkan countries, not just Montenegro, are particularly vulnerable to influence campaigns. In divided societies with constant tensions, it is easier to exercise influence and inflict harm on a larger scale than in more homogenous and calm societies. It is thus more likely for Montenegro – as a NATO member – to be the target of influence operations. Therefore, we must enhance the knowledge and resilience of journalists, political decision-makers and the public. It can be easy to disregard foreign influence as an issue, this is why they are potentially so harmful.

I want to understand the details of how influence campaigns are conducted and why and if they have any effect. What are the tools, methods, and ultimately the consequences of the campaigns? Which internal actors or groups are they mobilising to achieve their goals and how do they do it?

Seen from your field of expertise, what is the biggest challenge facing our societies in the near future? 

The most central challenge is the Russian aggression towards Ukraine. This has created changes on the global level and new challenges across different regions of the world. The war is pressuring democratic societies from the inside. An example is the rise of populist and far-right forces. They challenge the democratic consensus that our societies are based on, i.e. the legitimacy of our key democratic institutions like the Parliament and the judicial system. How can we respond to the emergence of authoritarian forces within the boundaries of democracy? Preserving and enhancing our democracies during unstable times are important challenges we will be facing.

Is there something you would like to learn more about? 

I want to learn more about the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, particularly in Southeast and Eastern Europe. These countries came from authoritarianism and embraced the concept of democratic and civilian control in the 90s. Now, the result of this transition is not so great. Many have turned out to be so-called façade democracies where the growing elites and political parties accept undemocratic traits to increase their powers. The countries eagerly came out of authoritarian rule and spent the last three decades building democratic institutions. These institutions are now rapidly falling apart while methods and institutions from their authoritarian past are being accepted.

On another note, the political dynamics and security in the Arctic and the High North would be interesting to learn more about. For people living in our region, the Arctic seems very distant. However, it is very much connected to European security.

Why did you want to be a non-resident fellow at UTSYN? 

Being a professional contributor to UTSYN gives me new challenges, stimulus, and motivation for further professional development. The network provides a good environment, and I am very thankful to be a part of it. The work UTSYN does in my country on building competency and resilience among the journalists in the national broadcaster, RTCG, on security, hybrid threats and foreign affairs is directly contributing to the security of Montenegrin society. The feedback from the project has been great and that makes me very proud to be a part of it.