Montenegro's Moment

Why NATO Should Act Fast

John Kerry greets Montenegro's Defense Minister Milica Pejanovic (L) as she and Foreign Minister Igor Luksic (R) join the session welcoming Montenegro as a new NATO member, in Brussels, December 2015. Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

By finally inviting Montenegro to join NATO, the treaty organization has taken a significant step toward ending Russian chicanery in this small but significant Balkan country. But it will have to act fast to secure its gains. If NATO fails to close the deal, Moscow will have an opening to further destabilize the region and undermine Western interests in Bosnia–Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia.

In principle, there is little reason to fear. Completing the process of membership requires that Montenegro iron out a few technical details regarding its accession and that the legislative branches of NATO members, including the U.S. Senate, approve the formal protocols. But all this takes time, and Montenegro faces elections in October. This creates a perfect opportunity for Russian subversion.

The potential for Russian interference was evident in October, when Montenegrin protesters and police clashed during demonstrations against the country’s President, Milo Djukaonovic

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