Montenegro and NATO
On December 2nd, 2015, it was reported that The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has asked Montenegro to join the military alliance. Montenegro, a country of roughy 650,000 people, is a Balkan state, and formerly part of Serbia (and before Serbia, Yugoslavia). In recent years, Montenegro has continued to build its relationship with Europe. For example, “Since achieving statehood, Montenegro has extended its ties to Europe, joining the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.” Along with this, “It has also applied to join the European Union, but has been told that it needs to make solid progress in eliminating corruption and organized crime, persistent problems in Montenegro and in other Balkan countries” (Roberts, 2015).
One of the questions that some have asked regarding this development is why Montenegro is being given an invitation to NATO, and particularly now, given the increased tensions with Russia. With regards to Montenegro military, the country has “about 2,000 active-duty members in its army, navy and air force. Nevertheless, it sent 45 service members to Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led coalition fighting there, and participates in NATO and United Nations peacekeeping operations” (Roberts, 2015). As Roberts (2015) explains, “Montenegro is seen by some scholars as a test case of NATO’s commitment to its “open door” policy toward prospective members. Given Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its complicating presence in the Syrian civil war, Western diplomats say that Montenegro’s joining NATO would show Russia that it cannot halt NATO expansion.”
However, it is for this reason that others argue against the invitation, and particularly now, with the heightened tensions with Russia over Crimea and Ukraine, and now as it pertains to Syria, as well as the Russian plane that was shot down in Turkey. Russia has continued to argue that they view NATO expansion as a serious problem, particularly given that NATO was first formed to counter Soviet Union actions; with the Cold War ending, there have been arguments against NATO existing. However, instead of dissolving, NATO has continued to expand, including Balkan states, as well as former Soviet states such as Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.
Related to the international relations of these different states, it will be interesting to see Russian reactions to this latest development. One concern expressed is the challenge that this might pose to including Russia into a commitment on ending the Syrian Civil War; that situation is already complicated by the fact that the United States, Britain, France, and other allied states want Bashar Al-Assad to vacate power as part of an end to the conflict, whereas Russia views him as a key strategic ally in the region.