NATO invitation to Montenegro provokes Russia

Ahmed Abbas
5 Min Read
Head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg described the move as "historic", taking place 16 years after the alliance bombed Montenegro during the Kosovo war Zerbor

In its first expansion in six years, NATO invited the small Balkan country of Montenegro to join the alliance.

Head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg described the move as “historic”, taking place 16 years after the alliance bombed Montenegro during the Kosovo war when it was still part of Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, Russia believes that Montenegro’s accession would result in “retaliatory actions”.

“The continued eastward expansion of NATO and NATO’s military infrastructure cannot but result in retaliatory actions from the east, i.e. from the Russian side, in terms of ensuring security and supporting the parity of interests,” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarded the step as an openly confrontational step fraught with additional destabilising consequences for the system of Euro-Atlantic security.

Egyptian security and defence advisor Sayed Ghoniem believes the inclusion of a country like Montenegro with limited military force was likely done for other reasons.

“The US and Europe are still shocked after Russia annexed Crimea because of their delay in the  inclusion of Ukraine in the EU or the NATO, which would –if happened- result in establishing NATO military bases in Ukraine,” Ghoniem said.

He also believed that maybe why the western allies are trying to annex all former Yoghuslavia republics to NATO. Montenegro is a very important strategic location on the Adriatic Sea, in addition to Croatia and Albania that are both are NATO countries. “By adding Montenegro, all the eastern cost of the Adriatic Sea will be controlled by NATO,” Ghoneim said.

The Adriatic is an important route of southern European countries to the Mediterranean Sea after Russia controlled Crimea. “That is why Russia is upset by NATO’s invitation to Montenegro,” he said.

Andrew Korybko, a Moscow-based political analyst and journalist for Sputnik news agency and an expert at the Institute for Strategic Studies and Predictions, told Daily News Egypt that everyone should recognise that tiny Montenegro’s absorption into the bloc is predicated on completing the geo-military encirclement of Serbia and securing the last unoccupied transit route for the Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline – a proposed expansion of TAP.

“This understanding helps make sense of the strategic situation at the moment and forecasts Russia’s forthcoming reaction,” Korybko said.

Regarding the Russian reactions to this incident, he believes that the first thing that Moscow can do is reach out to Belgrade and intensify full-spectrum relations with it, focusing especially on the military sphere. But provided that it is presently divided elite requests such assistance in the first place.

Russian investments account for about 30% of Montenegro’s total foreign investment and much of it is concentrated in the tourism sector.

“Russia wouldn’t out rightly suggest that its citizens no longer visit the country nor that its companies pull out of that market but an aggravation of the domestic conflict there between pro-NATO government forces and anti-NATO protesters could create a situation where travel is more dangerous and Russian businesses are attacked by pro-government thugs,” he said.

If that occurs for whatever reason, Russians would quit vacationing there or pull out some of their investments, he said. This would produce a serious economic crisis that would predictably spike the already high anti-government sentiment there.

“If the people were successful in replacing the pro-Western, decades-serving leader then it is possible that his successor might not agree to the Ionian-Adriatic Pipeline, thus making Turkish Stream – despite its present political complications – a lot more valuable to the region”.

Russia’s reaction is equally dependent on two external factors, the willingness of the Serbian authorities to intensify bilateral relations in response with specific attention paid to military matters and the domestic circumstances in Montenegro that might create the conditions for a withdrawal of Russian investment.

NATO recently backed Turkey against Russia after the former downed a Russian military aircraft near the Turkish Syrian border.

Russian ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko earlier said that NATO provided “political coverage” for Ankara in the military jet’s downing and so the alliance shared responsibility for it.

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Ahmed Abbas is a journalist at DNE’s politics section. He previously worked as Egypt based reporter for, and interned as a broadcast journalist at Deutsche Welle TV in Berlin. Abbas is a fellow of Salzburg Academy of Media and Global Change. He holds a Master’s Degree of Journalism and New Media from Jordan Media Institute. He was awarded by the ICFJ for best public service reporting in 2013, and by the German foreign office for best feature in 2014.
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