Though She’s Little, She’s Been With Us

Russian officials have threatened Montenegro, saying it would regret joining NATO and spreading information about the alliance in an attempt to prevent the country from joining, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Hoyt Brian Yee told lawmakers Wednesday. The efforts “are all attempts at the same thing, which is to maintain a traditional place of influence that Russia has had and to prevent Montenegro and other countries from moving closer toward NATO,” Yee said during a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing. NATO members’ foreign ministers formally invited Montenegro to become the alliance’s 29th member in May, but the Balkan nation won’t become an official member until each member’s government approves the deal. The Senate has not announced when it will vote on the accession of Montenegro. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Michael Carpenter said “Montenegro’s NATO membership will be a powerful rebuke to Russia’s malign influence in the western Balkans and demonstrate that no third country has a veto over NATO’s decisions to admit new members.” He also noted the country spends about 1.7 percent of its GDP on defense, ranking it in the top quarter of the alliance, and has “credible” plan to meet the alliance’s Wales Summit pledge to spend two percent of its GDP on defense by 2024. The small nation with a military of only about 2,000 members has deployed forces to Afghanistan and is part of the anti-ISIS coalition. In response to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who argued the United States would take all of the risk in a one-sided deal to protect Montenegro, Carpenter said, “…although they are small, and their military capabilities are what they are, they have been with us…”