NATO is going invite Montenegro to join the alliance on Dec 1st. This reports the German newspaper ‘Die Welt’, citing high ranking NATO diplomats. Moscow has informed several NATO members that such a step would lead to a further deterioration of the relations between Russia and the military alliance.
On Dec 1st, NATO will also declare that the invitation of Montenegro does not mean an automatism for the further extension of the alliance. ‘Die Welt’ reports that the French government pleaded for such a statement. Paris is not interested in a expansion of NATO which would go too fast and too wide.
Meanwhile, NATO diplomacy is trying to reach agreements with Moscow over the coordination of flight movements and maneuvers. This was requested by the German government as the newspaper reports. (Die Welt, Nov 21)
During a visit in Serbia, NATO general secretary Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday that Russia’s interference in this matter is not welcome and would be counterproductive. “The aspiration of Montenegro to become a member of NATO is something that is up to Montenegro and NATO to decide. No one else has the right to intervene or to interfere with that decision. If any effect, Russian interference more likely will reinforce our interest to invite Montenegro to become a full member of the alliance.” (WaPo, Nov 20)
There is little reason to believe that the French and German initiatives will reduce Russian concerns over a further NATO enlargement and relax geopolitical tensions. Montenegro’s access to the Mediterranean and its centrality in the Balkans is of strategic importance. If the information of the ‘Die Welt’ turns out to be true, at least NATO warships and yachts of Russian oligarchs will have to arrange in Kotor and along Montenegro’s coastline in future.