US Senate allows Montenegro's NATO membership

Flags of Montenegro and NATO; Photo: NATO

WASHINGTON – The US Senate voted above two-thirds needed majority to allow the accession of Montenegro to NATO. 

The US Senate ratified Montenegro’s NATO Accession Protocol on Tuesday. Resolution on the membership of Montenegro was overwhelmingly backed by senators from both parties – 97 to 2 in favour of Montenegro’s accession. Only two “no” votes came from senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee, according to Voice of America, CdM reports.

To complete the ratification procedure in the USA, the President Donald Trump’s signature is needed. In the past few days, his administration has assessed that Montenegro’s membership in NATO is of great interest to the United States.

As Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen told VOA, with a nearly unanimous vote, the Senate has sent a clear message that it stands firmly with Montenegro and against the Kremlin’s bullying.

“Montenegro’s membership in NATO will strengthen both the alliance and democracy and the independence of Montenegro. The United States has always strongly advocated for freedom and democracy in Europe. Today, the Senate strengthened Montenegro’s right to self-determination,” said the senator from New Hampshire.

She also assessed that the admission of Montenegro was in the interest of the country, Europe and US national security.

“Montenegro is a small but geopolitically important country. With its membership, the alliance will complete control over the Adriatic coast and thus strengthen its southern border,” said Shaheen, adding that the protocol ratification will show solidarity with “the countries such as Montenegro, which Vladimir Putin is trying to intimidate. Now it is crucial that we send a message that we will not tolerate such behaviour,” said Shasheen.

After the vote in the Senate, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina briefly told VOA: “A great day for Montenegro and NATO, a bad one for Russia,” he said.

Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine told VOA she was thrilled because of the vote in the Senate and the protocol ratification. She said she was particularly happy because the National Guard from her state, Maine, was a partner of the Montenegrin Armed Forces. Senator Collins also remarked that she was glad disinformation campaign sponsored by Moscow had failed.

Senator Ben Cardin, one of the greatest ratification supporters said that the “approval would enhance US security”.

“It will strengthen the alliance and it will send a strong message of resolve to Russia as it invades its neighbours and the international order. Montenegro’s membership will positively affect the entire continent and will send a clear message to other aspirants,” Cardin said.

The Republican Senator from Utah, Mike Lee, who had delayed the vote for months along with his party colleague Rand Paul by refusing to allow a quick vote, said during the debate on Tuesday he did not know how the admission of Montenegro, with a small military force, can contribute to the strengthening of collective security.

e added that taking obligations stipulated by article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty only increases the possibility of “sending our brave soldiers to a potential conflict”.

“NATO expansion also does not address certain systemic problems in the organisation,” he added, expressing hope that Montenegro will be “a constructive force” in resolving the “operational problems” in the alliance.

Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, said he was confident that Montenegro’s accession would strengthen NATO. “It is a small country with a tiny army, which, however, occupies a very important position in the world,” Murphy said, adding that Montenegro is ready to be a member of the alliance.

He added that he was pleased the Senate would overwhelmingly back NATO expansion.

“Accession of Montenegro is also important for further strengthening of stability in the Balkans, especially having in mind that Russia wants to destabilise the region, to create a crisis in Europe and NATO,” said Murphy, adding that Russian citizens took part in an attempted coup on the election day in Montenegro.

“The alleged Russian support to the coup attempt in Montenegro should not be rewarded by turning NATO’s back to the country that showed so much courage to oppose Russian aggression,” the Republican Senator from Wisconsin Ron Johnson, adding that Russia under Vladimir Putin represented an increasing threat to its neighbours and to world peace.

Parliaments of 26 NATO member states have completed their ratification procedures, whereas 23 countries fully completed their national procedures regarding this issue. Until now, Montenegro’s accession protocol has been ratified by: Iceland, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Albania, Turkey, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia, Italy, Latvia, Croatia, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Italy, Norway, the Czech Republic, Greece, France and Canada. In the parliaments of Portugal, Germany and the Netherlands, only the parliament procedures have been completed.

Spain is the only country left to ratify the Accession Protocol.