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Don’t Include Corrupt, Military Midget Montenegro in NATO

Historically, countries made alliances to improve their defense or otherwise advance important security interests. In contrast, the U.S. uses NATO as a form of international welfare, inducting nations with little military capability or even economic strength. 

The latest recipient of defense charity is expected to be Montenegro, whose membership application influential Senators hope to rush through the lame duck session. 

Montenegro NATOMontenegro is a postage stamp nation with the population of one congressional district. However, it should surprise no one that officials in Podgorica want to get on NATO’s transatlantic gravy train. 

Last week a new government was sworn after messy elections in October. Newly installed Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said his government expected to complete the accession process this coming spring, and that membership would “provide the level of security we haven’t had in the past.”. 

In fact, the transatlantic alliance won’t safeguard Montenegro, which is threatened by no one. But membership will offer official status and further open the financial spigots in Washington. 

Alas, it might take some work to ensure that money does not get siphoned off in a country some have termed a “mafia state.” In fact, the previous prime minister, Milo Djukanovic, had a “long history of corrupt and criminal activity,” noted analyst James Nadeau. 

Still, might Montenegro’s inclusion provide some benefit to other alliance members? Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael R. Carpenter cited Montenegro’s many virtues before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. For instance, he claimed that Podgorica shared the alliance’s “values of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law,” even though they are rarely evident in Montenegrin politics.  

Moreover, he said the armed forces with fewer than 2,000 personnel would “be a net contributor to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area,” a line more appropriate for stand-up comedy than a congressional hearing. Finally, he claimed that “Montenegro’s membership will also bring the Alliance one step closer to realizing the strategic vision of a Europe, whole, free and at peace.” How bringing a corrupt military midget into NATO would do so Carpenter left unexplained. 

Some advocates of Montenegrin membership point out that the country has access to the Adriatic. But Podgorica so far has shown no inclination to invite in Russia, as some fear. Nor is it clear what Moscow would do with a base given NATO’s naval superiority. 

In fact, there’s no better evidence that the alliance is “obsolete,” as candidate Trump opined, than its determination to induct the movie locale for the James Bond movie Casino Royale. The U.S. collects allies like most Americans collect Facebook Friends. 

At least the latter don’t cost anything. Not so NATO “allies” which are constantly clamoring for American money, troops, attention, and reassurance. 

President Barack Obama called for Senate ratification as Montenegro’s inclusion was “yet another milestone in advancing the Euro-Atlantic integration of the Balkans.” Yet Balkan integration should be a European, not a Euro-Atlantic project. What was the European Union designed for but to join small, fractious, and unimportant parts of that continent to the major players?  

Perhaps most disturbing of all, inducting Montenegro would give the corrupt military midget influence in Brussels. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said approvingly: “Membership will give Montenegro the ability to help shape NATO policy.” Why is that good? 

The Obama administration’s real agenda may appear at the end of Carpenter’s testimony: “Montenegro’s NATO membership will be a powerful rebuke to Russia’s malign influence in the Western Balkans.” 

Vladimir Putin is no friend of human liberty, but so what? Adding new members of minimal military value in order to consciously antagonize the one power that is supposed to be threatening Europe is a bizarre tactic. It certainly won’t help maintain the peace. 

Including Montenegro is a big deal. Yet rather than encourage a serious debate, Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is trying to push ratification through the lame duck session during the holiday season. 

Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) rammed Montenegro through the Committee, but the Senate should put off any vote until next session. Legislators should give the issue more than five minute’s thought. 

And if the measure makes it to the floor, it deserves a decision on the record, rather a voice vote, by which Albania and Croatia were rushed through in 2009. The American people should know which legislators are putting foreign interests before their security. 

Candidate Donald Trump got NATO right. It no longer serves America’s defense. He should speak on behalf of the American people who are expected to pay for everyone else. 


Doug Bandow is a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.

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UN first, then NATO - onto the ash heap of history!

The larger and less helpful entangling alliance is the UN, and it is time to reclaim Turtle Bay as US territory, not an international enclave of criminals.

NATO should either be smaller, consisting solely of members able to defend themselves and to join meaningfully in common defense for larger wars, or it should be dissolved and replaced with mutual defense pacts with clear and simple rules, and true mutual benefits.

Enough of the US being obligated to fund two corrupt and useless international organizations.