Robert Harneis -TDO- (FRANCE) Montenegro became NATO’s 29th member state on Monday, when the country's foreign minister, Srdjan Darmanovic, submitted the tiny Balkan state's official accession.

Montenegro – population 600,000 – will not add very much to NATO’s armed might. It is more about controlling the coastline of the former Yugoslavia and cutting Serbia off from the sea and easy contact with its traditional ally Russia.

Membership of the western military alliance, unlike membership of the European Union, has not been popular following the NATO bombing of the country in 1999, with civilian casualties. There has been a constant effort by the western friendly government to produce favorable opinion polls but the absolute refusal to grant a referendum on the subject tells its own story. The country is largely split into ethnic lines between anti-NATO Serbs and pro-NATO Bosniacs and Albanians, with the Serbs looking to Russia rather than the West.

The reaction of the Russian government to the accession has been hostile particularly since Monte Negro joined the sanctions campaign against Russia in 2014.

On the 16th October 2016, there was an alleged coup plot including the assassination of the pro-NATO Prime Minister. Whether it was a genuine plot or a Black Flag attempt organized by Western intelligence to poison relations with Russia is not clear.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned of retaliation against the country’s ‘hostile course’ and regretted the government’s ‘anti-Russian hysteria’.

Significantly the accession was celebrated in Washington, not Brussels, where Prime Minister Markovic met Vice President Pence but not the President Donald Trump.

At the State Department, U.S. Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon praised Montenegro, saying it ‘should be commended ... for asserting its sovereign right to choose its own alliances even in the face of concerted foreign pressure.’ His further comment ‘As President Trump said in his February 28th remarks to a joint session of Congress, 'America respects the right of all nations to chart their own path,'’ caused a certain amount of ironic amusement in diplomatic circles.

According to a White House statement, Vice President Pence expressed strong U.S. support for the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Western Balkan states ‘and emphasized that all countries should be free to choose their allies without interference from third countries’.

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