When push comes to shove: Montenegro joins NATO

by WorldTribune Staff, June 5, 2017

Moscow had long attempted to derail Montenegro’s entrance into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but those attempts came to a crashing halt on June 5 when the tiny Balkan nation became the alliance’s 29th member.

With the former Yugoslav republic now in the fold, NATO controls the entire coast of the Adriatic, from the heel of Italy’s boot to the shores of Greece, except for a 20-kilometer stretch of land held by Bosnia-Herzegovina, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic. / NATO photo

Montenegro’s accession “reaffirms to other aspirants that NATO’s door remains open to those countries willing and able to make the reforms necessary to meet NATO’s high standards, and to accept the risks, responsibilities, as well as benefits of membership,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

Montenegro had signaled during a NATO summit on May 25 that it would rather be pushed around by U.S. President Donald Trump than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In a video clip that went viral and was immediately seized upon by the major media, Trump was seen “shoving aside” Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic so the U.S. leader could be at the front of the pack for a photo-op, which is a long-standing tradition at the summit.

“This was an inoffensive situation,” Markovic said, according to a transcript provided by the Montenegrin government. “I do not see it in any other way. I had the opportunity today to thank President Trump personally for his support, speed ratification of the Accession Protocol in the U.S. Senate, the overall support for Montenegro’s Euro-Atlantic integration and of course the further development of our bilateral relations.”

A ceremony on June 7 will see Montenegro’s flag fly over NATO headquarters in Brussels for the first time. Montenegro has achieved a “civilizational turning point, attaching itself to the Western system of values,” a government statement said in announcing the ceremony.

With an army of just 2,000 soldiers and a $69 million annual defense budget, Montenegro “may appear to have little military value” to the alliance, the RFE/RL report noted. “But its 293-kilometer coastline is a strategic parcel of real estate – the penultimate piece in the Adriatic puzzle.”

Despite all its saber rattling, analysts said it is unlikely Moscow will take any real action over Montenegro’s accession.

“The Kremlin isn’t ready to commit significant resources to keep Montenegro out of the U.S. orbit,” said Maksim Samorukov, an analyst at the Moscow Carnegie Center.

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