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On Wednesday, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization formally invited the former Yugoslav nation of Montenegro to join the ranks of the 28 member alliance, despite Russian protests to the contrary.
Montenegro has been a partner of the alliance for a long time leading up to this offer of admittance into the alliance, starting with membership with the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program in 2006, and being awarded a Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2009.
As such, this offer was seen by most observes as not a matter of if but when.
As a former Yugoslav country, Montenegro has traditionally been within the Soviet and later Russian sphere of influence.
Despite the 1999 bombing campaign by NATO, which included targets in Montenegro, the small country on the Adriatic coast has consistently sought integration into the Euro-Atlantic community.
Russia’s general antipathy to expansion of NATO, in addition to a continued loss of influence likely motivate the resentment to this announcement.
Montenegro’s ascension into the alliance would further seal the Adriatic Sea from Russian warships, and further its ability to project into the Mediterranean Sea.
In keeping with NATO’s values, Secretary General Stoltenberg has reiterated that: “on defense adaptation, on domestic reform, especially rule of law, and to continue to make progress in demonstrating public support for Montenegro’s NATO membership”.
This mirrors earlier calls by the Secretary General in June to bolster public support for membership, before becoming a member of NATO.
According to the New York Times, current public support in Montenegro for alliance membership is at 47 percent and opposition at 39 percent, though there are also fears that the Kremlin could pump money into parties opposed to NATO membership as they have with France’s National Front.
Cover Photo Credit: U.S. Army Europe Images/Flickr (CC by 2.0)