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Montenegro's NATO Bid

A Litmus Test for Trump's Russia Policy

Russian paratroopers during a joint Serbian-Russian military exercise near Belgrade, November 2016. Marko Djurica / REUTERS

The future of U.S.-Russian relations seems to hinge on the answer to one question: Will U.S. President-elect Donald Trump and his nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, kowtow to their friend Russian President Vladimir Putin and acquiesce to his so-called sphere of interests, or will they exploit their close relationship with the Russian leader to advance core U.S. goals?

The answer may come soon after Trump’s inauguration. Montenegro, the Balkan country that broke away from Serbia a decade ago, is the unlikely canary in the coal mine of the Trump administration’s Russia policy. Next month, the U.S. Senate is set to ratify Montenegro’s long-standing bid to join NATO. So far, 19 out of 28 NATO allies have approved Montenegro’s accession. After several years of hesitation, the process even gained the strong backing of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

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