Brussels: NATO foreign ministers have agreed to invite Montenegro to join the military alliance. The move is likely to lead to further deterioration in NATO’s relations with Russia, which sees the alliance’s expansion eastward as a threat to its national security.
“We congratulate Montenegro,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told the meeting at the alliance headquarters in Brussels.
“This is the beginning of a very beautiful alliance,” he added. The accession of Montenegro into NATO would force Russia to cut a number of joint projects and programs, including military ones, warned Victor Ozerov, who chairs the Defense and Security Committee in the Russian Senate.
The Kremlin said a response to Montenegro joining NATO would follow, but details are still under consideration.“The president [of Russia] has not made public his opinion on the matter yet. Let’s wait for official statements from the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the president rather than expert options,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Montenegro’s parliament voted in September for a resolution to support the country’s accession to NATO. The resolution was passed by 50 votes out of 79, with the opposition calling for a national referendum on the issue.
Montenegro, a former constituent part of Yugoslavia, was granted a Membership Action Plan by NATO in 2009 and has been negotiating full membership since 2010.
Montenegro’s NATO bid has received strong support from Washington. In September, the White House said in a statement that the US “supports Montenegro’s membership in NATO provided that Montenegro continues pursuing reforms and boosts popular support of NATO accession.”
The statement said that “membership in NATO would firmly anchor Montenegro in Euro-Atlantic institutions, promote greater regional stability in the Balkans, and demonstrate the credibility of NATO’s ‘Open Door’ policy.”
The intention by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s government to make Montenegro part of NATO was one of the reasons for violent mass protests in the capital Podgorica in October, when thousands of people rallied in front of the parliament building to demand his resignation.