On December 2, NATO invited Montenegro to become the 29th member of the US-led military alliance. The Montenegro’s parliament in September passed a resolution by 50 votes out of 79 to support the country’s NATO membership. «Montenegro’s accession to NATO will be another important step in the Euro-Atlantic integration of the entire Western Balkans region», NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on the occasion. «And it makes clear that NATO keeps its doors open, to complete our vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace», he added.
Montenegro’s accession talks are expected to take about a few months to complete. After that, the country must become the alliance’s 29th member state. The next NATO Summit is scheduled for July 8-9, 2016 in Warsaw, Poland. The last time NATO accepted new members was in 2009 when Croatia and Albania joined the bloc. Montenegro is already involved in NATO's efforts in Afghanistan and has actively cooperated with the alliance in other ways.
The country has also enacted several reforms to meet the alliance's requirements, though Stoltenberg said NATO still expects more progress «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».
Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic is in favour of joining NATO. He has resisted calls for a referendum on the issue.
For over two months Montenegro has been suffering a series of mass protests. Citizens demand resignation of the country's prime-minister Djukanovic and his administration and the forming of a transitional government which should conduct fair and transparent elections. Also the protesters raise voices against joining NATO.
Enlarging NATO entails substantial risks that have been all but glossed over by proponents.
The Montenegro’s armed forces number only about 2,000 active duty personnel trained and equipped primarily for internal security operations. The military needs more young officers. The average age of an officer from Montenegro is 39 compared to 29 for most NATO countries. All in all, the Montenegro’s armed forces are a far cry from any standards. Bringing the military up to NATO standards requires significant investments, something which Podgorica cannot afford.
By incorporating Montenegro, NATO will consequently be extending its security umbrella over a country that will contribute almost nothing to the common defense—not to mention out-of-area operations.
It means that Montenegro is nothing but a burden for the Alliance's collective security with only four NATO states keeping military spending at 2% of GDP to carry out their obligations as it has been agreed to.
The poor state of military is not the only problem faced by the country. Corruption is particularly pervasive at the municipal level in the areas of land zoning, public procurement, privatisation, education and healthcare.
Nepotism and rampant corruption have bred high unemployment.
UN agencies ring alarm regarding overwhelming poverty and corruption in Montenegro.
With its never ending corruption scandals, Montenegro can bring damage to Alliance's image. NATO is already in trouble with Turkey, whose government is widely believed to be involved in aiding terrorists. The Muslim ghetto in Montenegro may become a source of terrorism on the territory of NATO states. The country’s government is planning to legalize the participants of radical Muslim organizations.
This is a wrong step at the time NATO and Russia face a common enemy in the Middle East. The Russia-NATO cooperation is indispensable to the eventual resolution of Syrian conflict, the implementation of Iranian deal and many other security issues hitting the global agenda. By further alienating Russia, NATO’s invitation to Montenegro will likely render such cooperation even more difficult.
The Montenegro’s inclusion would make the entire northern shore of the Mediterranean NATO territory, from Turkey to Spain. The very fact of NATO’s further expansion is viewed as a hostile act by Russia.
«On all different levels Moscow has always noted that the continuing expansion of NATO, the military infrastructure of NATO, to the east of course cannot but lead to reciprocal actions from the east, that is from the Russian side, in the interests of providing security and upporting the parity of our interests», Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization's invitation to Montenegro is drawing rebuke from a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman who called the U.S.-led group a «product of the Cold War.» Hua Chunying told reporters China is closely watching the negotiations between NATO and the Balkan state, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.
Beijing is not welcoming the move from NATO, and on Thursday Hua suggested it could lead countries down a path of divisiveness. «We think NATO is a product of the Cold War», Hua said, adding China opposes NATO's expansion to include additional states. «In the global age we live in, the security of all countries is interconnected and mutually affect each other...no one country, or group, can seek to rely only on the absolute security of its own strength».
The forthcoming NATO enlargement entails severe national-security risks with dubious payoff. As the NATO Summit approaches next summer, there is still a chance for the alliance policy makers to thoroughly weigh all pros and cons of this move. Is it the propitious moment for making NATO an extra burden and further spoil the relations with Moscow as the Middle East problems go on exacerbating and posing more threats?