Michael Totten, on the latest prospective addition to NATO - Why Vladimir Putin Covets Montenegro. Basically, he needs a Mediterranean beachhead. In 2013 Russia suugested that a couple of Montenegran ports could be used as a base for their warships. The Montenegrans weren't interested. Then last year there was a Russian-backed plot to assassinate the Prime Minister and install a pro-Russian party. They're serious about this.
“In the Balkans there were no states founded on rule of law, democracy, freedom,” Prime Minister Marković told Sohrab Ahmari at the Wall Street Journal in January. “We want to escape from this vicious circle that has been going on for so many centuries, and move toward NATO.”
If the Assad regime falls in Syria, Russia may lose its only Mediterranean port. And since Montenegro is gearing up to join NATO, Russia could be stuck without a backup forever because it’s the only place along the entire northern shore of that sea that doesn’t already belong to the West.
“They are ready to admit even the North Pole to NATO just for the sake of encircling Russia,” Russian Admiral Vladimir Komoyedov said in 2015. Moscow doesn’t get it, though. If Russia were a friendly country like Canada, the West would treat it like Canada. The reason the West doesn’t—and won’t—is because Russia invades and butchers its neighbors and annexes sovereign territory at gunpoint.
What will the West gain when Montenegro’s membership in NATO becomes official? Not much. Barely half a million people live there. The Boise, Idaho, metropolitan area is more populated than that. With roughly 2,000 soldiers, its miniscule army will hardly boost NATO’s military capacity by an iota.
Vladimir Putin wants it and needs it much more than we do, badly enough to assassinate an elected head of state and instigate a regime-change. That’s precisely why he shouldn’t have it.
For years now, the Kremlin has been violently expanding its power, its influence and even its territory in Europe and Asia. Every time Putin racks up a victory and gets away with it, he grows more confident that he can take more. That’s how it goes with expansionist dictators everywhere. So if you don’t want to go to war against Russia—and only an insane person would—the fewer wins in Putin’s column, the better.
Montenegro sees its future as part of the West. So does its neighbour Albania - already a NATO member (since 2009). Joshua Stanton, in a post on the Human Rights Council:
I believe that it is usually in our long-term interest to take the side of persecuted peoples, because people tend to have long memories about who supported them in the darkest days of their histories. A case in point here is....Albania. (Our successes are seldom as well-publicized as our failures.) Once one of the world’s most despotic states, Albania now enjoys friendly relations with the United States. Pro-American sentiment is strong, largely because its people remember the U.S. role in ending the slaughter in Kosovo. As a partial consequence of this, Albania has become a valuable ally. While not a perfect democracy, it has evolved rapidly into a representative government with regular free elections. Its human development index has risen steadily in recent years, to the point where it is now considered a middle-income country. Albania is an example of a nation whose long memories paid long-term dividends in creating a friendly government and friendly policies.
For Jeremy Corbyn, of course, it's NATO's expansion which is fueling tensions in Europe. It should be scrapped.