National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been advocating for President Donald Trump to back the addition of Montenegro into the NATO military alliance, infuriating Russia in the process.
If Trump goes along with Flynn’s proposal, the administration’s policy towards Russia will take an interesting turn, as recently, the president has been accused of mysteriously friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Supporting Montenegro’s entrance into the military alliance would anger Russia, which sees the alliance as little more than gradual Western encroachment into its sphere of influence and at times overt provocation, Politico reports.
On its own part, Montenegro has accused Russia of trying to interfere in its domestic affairs to thwart the country from joining the alliance. Polls in Montenegro show a hotly divided population, with 39.5 percent of Montenegrins in support of joining and 39.7 against. The poll was conducted in December 2016.
“What Russia has done against Montenegro is a unique case,” Jorge Benitez, NATO expert at the Atlantic Council, told Politico. “No NATO candidate country has ever faced such a dire attack or threat in the process of finishing its membership into the alliance.”
The Atlantic Council is on record as supporting NATO expansion.
Moreover, the move to add Montenegro would also solidify the legitimacy of the military alliance in Trump’s eyes, despite the fact that in the recent past he’s referred to it as outdated and obsolete. Defense Secretary James Mattis seems to have brought Trump around on the issue, prompting the president to endorse the existence of the union, but still maintaining that costs will have to be negotiated downwards for the U.S., and also that other allies will have to step up and pay their fair share.
Following pressure from Trump, NATO Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg recently said the alliance will ramp up its activities against the Islamic State by training Iraqi troops to disarm improvised explosive devices.
Trump’s “America First” doctrine has worried advocates of NATO expansion, who figured that approach entails Montenegro’s membership is on the rocks, but if Flynn is able to persuade Trump otherwise, new life will be breathed into a military alliance that some observers wondered would even exist under the new administration.
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