July 5, 2016 | Factsheet on North Atlantic Treaty Organization
President Obama has formally submitted Montenegro’s application to become a NATO member to the United States Senate. NATO’s invitation for Montenegro is welcome and long overdue. This invitation shows other countries in the region that if they fulfill the requirements of the North Atlantic Treaty and demonstrate the ability to contribute to the alliance’s security, NATO membership is possible. At the same time, it also shows that Russia does not have a “veto” over NATO enlargement.
NATO’s “open-door policy” is critical to mobilizing Europe and its allies around a collective transatlantic defense. According to Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, any European state that fulfills the requirements of the treaty and demonstrates the competency to contribute to the alliance’s security is eligible for membership. The U.S. should make sure that the open-door policy is not stifled; Montenegro’s inclusion in the alliance is a significant test of this policy.
Montenegro’s addition to the NATO alliance will help provide stability to a historically fractured region. In addition, adding Montenegro is a blow to Russia, as Vladimir Putin has sought to expand Russian influence in the Balkans, including in Montenegro. Russia has significant economic influence in Montenegro, and even requested access to Montenegrin ports for the Russian navy to refuel and perform maintenance. This request was turned down due to concerns that such an agreement with Russia might impact Montenegro’s NATO membership prospects. In becoming a NATO member, Montenegro has made the decision that its future resides with the West, and as such it will contribute to the future of transatlantic security.
While Russia has described any further NATO enlargement as a “provocation,” no third party should have a veto over the decision of the NATO member-states. Currently, three other nations—Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Macedonia—are candidate countries for NATO membership. The U.S. should support these nations in their path to NATO membership and should in particular champion Macedonia; Macedonia met all the criteria for membership in 2008 but has been stymied from joining due to a name dispute with Greece.
Despite the small size of Montenegro’s military (just over 2,000 total service members in the army, air force, and navy), the nation has already contributed respectably to the NATO alliance. In May 2010, Montenegro joined the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. Currently, Montenegro has a small detachment of troops serving in in Afghanistan as part of Operation Resolute Support. In addition, Montenegro has been part of the State Partnership Program since 2006, partnering with the Maine National Guard. These contributions demonstrate a willingness by Montenegro to contribute to global security. In addition, Montenegro has pursued reforms—most important, reforms to its military—and it should be given full membership in NATO as it has been promised.