President Donald Trump has signed off on Montenegro's upcoming accession into NATO, helping pave the way for the military alliance's expansion in the Balkans. The Senate ratified the entry last month. All 28 NATO members have already ratified the Montenegro's accession. The US was among the last to do so. The final decision on membership will be made official at the next NATO summit on May 25. What will it lead to?
Montenegro faces no threats from neighbors and needs no NATO umbrella. Article 5 of the NATO Charter is irrelevant in this case. Podgorica boasts friendly relations with the surrounding countries and also with more distant states. The membership will not protect the country from terrorist attacks as history shows.
Nobody stands in the way of developing cooperation between Montenegro and NATO. Anything can be done without full-fledged membership, including contribution to operations beyond the national borders, training of personnel and joint exercises or moving ahead to achieve higher standards.
With the tiny defense budget of around $70 million and the armed forces’ strength of roughly two thousand men, Montenegro is rather a burden than an asset for the alliance. Its contribution into the NATO Afghanistan mission was only 45 men! The Navy is just a token force with two obsolete frigates and two fast attack craft in storage and overhauled. The Air Force has 15 planes kept in storage since 2012 and 13 utility/scout helicopters.
The personnel is 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 military is a far cry from what they should be.
Bringing the armed forces up to NATO standards requires significant investments, something which Podgorica cannot afford. NATO countries’ taxpayers will have to contribute into modernizing the Montenegrin military. The question is why should a country that is so far from meeting the standards become a member so fast? What all this talk about so-called standards is about if anyone can join?
The Washington Treaty’s Article 10 holds that any European state seeking membership must be in a position to «further the principles of this Treaty» and «to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.» In which way can Montenegro fulfill this obligation?
The membership will make the decision making-process more difficult. The more members, the more difficult it is. Montenegro will pursue its own interests, which may not align with the interests of NATO leading members.
Not all Montenegrins support the idea of joining the alliance. A poll held last December showed only 39.5% of the Montenegrins are in favor of the country's entry into the Alliance, and 39.7% are against, with as many as 20.8 percent of those polled being still undecided. No referendum has been held to let the people express their will. Many Montenegrins realize that NATO presupposes involvement in faraway conflicts Montenegro has no relation to. The country’s soldiers will risk their lives for uncertain goals.
The country can hardly be called a democracy. Since 1989 and the end of Communism in East-Central Europe, Montenegro has been ruled by one political party – Democratic Party of Socialists – and its leader Milo Djukanovic. For instance, Freedom House also slammed the country for its poor record on fighting corruption, upholding judicial independence, and permitting freedom of expression. The organization believes it is only partly a democratic state. The Freedom House’s report says corruption is overwhelming.
Amnesty International cites mass violations of human rights. Human Rights Watch says there is no press freedom in the country. Willy-nilly, NATO will be culpable in promoting a regime violating human rights instead of pushing for democratic reform before the nation joined the alliance. So, democracy and human rights are not standards anymore.
The country is unstable. Internal unrest is frequent. It’ll be a headache for NATO. Last year, the election ended indecisively. The event was accompanied by violence at polling stations, intimidation of opposition members, and an attempted coup. The Muslim ghetto in Montenegro may become a source of terrorism. The country’s government is planning to legalize the participants of radical Muslim organizations.
Actually, no criteria are met to make Montenegro a member. NATO lets its standards slide to allow the entry of an ill-prepared state. The alliance is extending its security umbrella over a country that cannot make any noteworthy contribution. NATO stands to gain nothing by admitting a new member whose citizens are largely indifferent to membership and whose government remains largely dysfunctional.
The policy of extension for the very sake of extension means that anyone who is anyone belongs to NATO! The alliance will become weaker, not stronger. The EU experience shows that an alliance of states with wide gaps in development and interests to divide them is doomed to be loose and short-lived. NATO is to shoot itself in the foot. Probably, US President Donald Trump had a reason dismissing the bloc as an obsolete alliance.