Montenegro's NATO-Russia Chess Match

Discussion in 'Europe' started by Pathfinder, Jan 2, 2017.

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  1. Pathfinder

    Pathfinder Lieutenant Colonel

    Dec 17, 2015
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    Montenegro's NATO-Russia Chess Match


    Montenegro and Serbia are Russian President Vladimir Putin's "red line" in Europe, judging by year-end headlines in Belgrade's tabloid press.

    Drawing on unnamed diplomatic sources, those stories in the Serbian capital claim that Putin has a plan for a new "world order" in which Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina -- designated "militarily neutral states" -- would serve as buffers between NATO and Russia and its allies. The same sources are quoted as saying, in line with this vision, that Putin had advised U.S. President-elect Donald Trump not to "force through" Montenegro's membership in NATO.

    The details of Putin's grand strategic plan may or may not be entirely accurate, but the extent of Moscow's hostility to Montenegrin NATO ambitions has been clear for some time. Podgorica has been under intense pressure from Moscow to drop its EU and NATO membership bids.

    Given questions about the future direction of U.S. policy vis-a-vis Russia, there have been expressions of growing concern in Montenegro that its steadfastly pro-Western stance might go unrewarded.

    In that context, a prospective visit from a "troika" of U.S. senators was seen as a welcome show of support. John McCain (Republican-Arizona), Lindsay Graham (Republican-South Carolina), and Amy Klobuchar (Democrat-Minnesota) were expected to stop over in Montenegro on January 3 on their way back from a tour of the Baltics, Georgia, and Ukraine. As it turned out, the visit was postponed at the last minute, although McCain thanked Montenegro for its assistance in the global fight against terrorism and reiterated his support for Montenegro's NATO hopes.

    For some in Montenegro, NATO membership increasingly looks like a question of political life and death, as that small Balkan state finds itself on the front lines of what could become a new Cold War. Recent reports suggest Russia has applied pressure to derail Montenegro's NATO accession or EU integration.

    For years, Russia's "new rich" have been investing in and acquiring property in Montenegro. In popular coastal resort towns like Budva, Russian is a second language, enjoying parity with Montenegrin.

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