MONTENEGRO in NATO : WHY ?

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Montenegro’s admittance is a critical test of the alliance’s open door policy, which has been a pillar of NATO since its inception.

Russia has worked hard to keep Montenegro from becoming NATO’s 29th member state, exerting outsized influence to stop its membership bid.

Backing Montenegro’s membership is not only the right thing for the Senate to do, it would send a clear signal that no third party has a veto over NATO enlargement decisions.

For almost 70 years, NATO has served as the bedrock of transatlantic security, with myriad benefits for the United States.

Montenegro is a small but geopolitically important Balkan nation, situated in a region of Europe that has more than once drawn U.S. service members into combat.

Montenegro’s inclusion also sends a message of strength to Russia and makes clear to our allies that the U.S. remains as committed as ever to transatlantic security.

Montenegro is a small but geopolitically important Balkan nation, situated in a region of Europe that has more than once drawn U.S. service members into combat.

NATO has helped stabilize a region with a history of inter-ethnic strife; Montenegro’s membership would further improve the stability of the region.

Montenegro is also close to important U.S. bases, including Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy, which hosts P-8 sub-hunting planes that patrol the Mediterranean, and the U.S. Naval Base at Souda Bay, Greece, which hosts the NATO Missile Firing Installation, the only location in Europe where the alliance can test-fire missiles.

Currently, the Balkan nations of Albania and Croatia are NATO members, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia are candidate countries.

Montenegro’s military is relatively small, but it has already proven itself a worthy partner for the U.S. Montenegrin troops took part in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan from 2010–2014, and its men and women in uniform continue to contribute to the follow-on Operation Resolute Support, helping to advise, train, and assist Afghan security forces.

Montenegro has donated 1,600 weapons and 250,000 rounds of ammunition to the Afghan National Army.

 This November, Montenegro hosted CRNA GORA 2016, a NATO civil-emergency response exercise. In addition, Montenegro has been part of the State Partnership Program since 2006, partnering with the Maine National Guard.

Speaking in December, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg underscored the benefit of Montenegro’s membership in the alliance:

NATO membership is not only good for Montenegro, but it’s also good for NATO in the way that Montenegro contributes to our collective defense and to the security of the whole Alliance, by its strategic location where they are close to the Adriatic Sea and by bringing partnerships into the Alliance and also by the fact that Montenegro has some military capabilities which are important also to NATO.

If all goes as planned, Montenegro will be the newest member of NATO.

According to NATO Deputy Secretary-General Rose Gottemoeller, “The accession process is moving forward smoothly” and “pending all those parliamentary processes being complete” Montenegro could become a NATO member in the spring of 2017.

But how does the tiny Balkan nation of Montenegro contribute to NATO’s collective security and – by extension – U.S. security?

The short answer is: It doesn’t.

There are currently 28 countries in NATO. Outside of the United States and Canada, they are all European nations.

If European defense is the raison d’être for NATO, it’s hard to see how Montenegro contributes to the alliance.

The combined GDP of NATO’s European members is over $17 trillion.

With a GDP of $4 billion, Montenegro’s economic capability to contribute to NATO is infinitesimal. Indeed, Montenegro’s GDP is about a third the size of Albania’s, NATO’s smallest economy.

Risultati immagini per 2017 NATO BUDGET

Rather than adding a country with such a tiny economy, NATO would be better off getting all of its member nations to meet the 2 percent of GDP defense spending requirement. Right now, the only countries spending at least that much are the United States, Greece, Poland, Estonia and the United Kingdom. Germany – NATO’s largest European economy – spends only about 1 percent of its GDP on defense.

Risultati immagini per 2017 NATO BUDGET

The resulting shortfall of Germany and other countries not contributing their fair share to NATO is something like $100 billion. So adding Montenegro will do little to close the deficit.

And with a military consisting of some 2 thousand active duty service members, the Montenegrin Army, Navy and Air Force – such as they are – are not going to add any significant military capability to NATO.

From a U.S. perspective, adding a country like Montenegro to NATO is a negative prospect. First, Montenegro doesn’t add any real capability – economic or military – to the alliance. Second, under NATO’s Article 5, the United States could be obligated to defend a country that is irrelevant to U.S. national security.

Not that anyone is threatening Montenegro, but if the country were invaded by a foreign power – even Russia – it wouldn’t make the United States any less secure.

So why should the United States risk war with a foreign power – including Russia – over a country that doesn’t matter to U.S. security?

Moreover, Montenegro would be yet another European country not spending 2 percent of its GDP on defense – meaning even more freeriding at U.S. taxpayer expense.

If anything, adding Montenegro to NATO is potentially dangerous since Russia is not too keen about the prospect.

Indeed, Russia has warned that Montenegro’s accession would result in unspecified “retaliatory actions.” But why poke the Russian bear?

Russia is not a direct military threat to the United States or even to Europe. Its military is a pale shadow of the former Soviet Union’s and – despite annexing Crimea and military intervening in Ukraine – Russia is not threatening to invade and overrun Europe.

Given that NATO’s European members’ GDP is more than ten times Russia’s and they spend about five times more on defense, calling Russia a threat to Europe borders on hyperbole.

That said, Russia still has nuclear weapons and that last thing the United States needs to do is needlessly antagonize the one country in the world that poses a potential existential threat.

Nor would it help to fuel the paranoia that the United States and NATO are trying to encircle Russia (not an unreasonable assumption if the situation were reversed.)

Ultimately, the accession of Montenegro is less about NATO and more about the European Union (EU). Montenegro applied to join the EU in 2009 and has been in negotiations with the European Commission since 2012.

Montenegro’s prime minister (and former president) Milo Dukanović claims that NATO membership is “one more important step towards Montenegro’s full membership in the European Union.”

But Montenegro’s candidacy for membership in the EU – which is more about trade and economics – isn’t a compelling reason to make it the 29th member of NATO.

Montenegro isn’t a vital component of either European or U.S. security.

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