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Montenegro Doesn’t Belong In NATO

The U.S. once created military alliances to advance its own security. Today Washington treats them like social organizations, which nation should be invited to join irrespective of qualification. 

So it is with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s vote last week to admit Montenegro, a quaint but geopolitically irrelevant Balkan state, into NATO. If the measure is approved by the full Senate, Americans will Montenegro NATOhave yet another essentially useless defense dependent, this one a corrupt, long-time gangster state. 

NATO was established to shield war-ravaged Western Europe from the Soviet menace after the end of World War II. However, Dwight Eisenhower warned against turning the alliance into a welfare program, with the Europeans forever dependent on U.S. defense subsidies. 

Alas, his successors didn’t listen and today a continent with a larger population and economy than America skimps on its own military while expecting Americans to come to its aid. And the U.S. has steadily expanded the number of defense dependents. President-elect Donald Trump is right to call the alliance "obsolete." 

While tossing out members mistakenly inducted, like the Baltics, would be difficult, Washington should at least stop adding members who add nothing to America’s security. 

But the alliance has invited Montenegro to join. It is a postage stamp country with about enough people for one U.S. congressional district. 

What is the case for adding Podgorica to America’s lengthy defense dole? Rather hilariously, the Heritage Foundation headlined a recent study “Support for Montenegro’s Accession to NATO Would Send a Message of Strength.” 

The country has 2080 men under arms. To transport them are eight, count them, eight armored personnel carriers, and seven operational helicopters. 

If the West’s survival depends on Montenegro’s inclusion in NATO, we should all be heading for the bunkers. And any capabilities which the country develops are likely to be paid for by American taxpayers with funds to upgrade the Montenegrin legions. 

If rebuffed by NATO, it has been argued, Montenegro might offer Russia a naval base on the Adriatic. Such an inconstant partner would be a dubious treaty ally. 

Exactly what the inferior Russian navy would do with such a base is not evident. And such a facility, surrounded by NATO members and on waters dominated by NATO members, would be even less defensible than the Baltics. 

Last year Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael R. Carpenter testified that Montenegro shared the alliance’s “values of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.” In fact, whatever Podgorica’s virtues, reflecting the best of the West is not one. 

For instance, last year the group Freedom House rated Montenegro as only “partly free” in political rights and civil liberties. And the trend was down. Civil liberties took a particular hit “due to restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly.” 

In its 2015/2016 report, Amnesty International stated: “Threats and attacks against independent media and journalists continued: few perpetrators were brought to justice. Police used excessive force during mass protests organized by opposition parties.” There was unlawful surveillance of critical NGOs. 

Finally, the State Department put out a 42-page report last year assessing Montenegro’s human rights practices. While plenty of nations are worse, Podgorica is hardly a winner in the democracy sweepstakes. 

Besides voting irregularities and corruption, State noted “Other human rights problems included impunity for war crimes, mistreatment by law enforcement officers of persons in their custody, overcrowded and dilapidated prisons and pretrial detention facilities, violations of the right to peaceful assembly,” and more. 

On his way out of the Oval Office President Barack Obama argued that Podgorica’s inclusion would “demonstrate to other countries in the Balkans and beyond that NATO’s door remains open.” But since America should not take on additional useless defense dependents, there is no reason to send the message that the membership door is open. 

Instead, Washington should declare that Europe’s cheap ride is over and the U.S. no longer will add nations to NATO like most people accumulate Facebook friends. Podgorica should concentrate on fixing its domestic affairs and preparing for European Union membership. 

Most likely the Obama administration is using Montenegro to strike at Moscow. Carpenter argued: “Montenegro’s NATO membership will be a powerful rebuke to Russia’s malign influence in the Western Balkans.” 

Actually, Russia’s armed services certainly would not be bothered. But the Kremlin would notice, seemingly validating the security concerns of a power which allied officials claim threatens to harm America and Europe. 

During the campaign Donald Trump rightly described NATO as “obsolete” and criticized the cheap-riding Europeans. The American people desperately need someone in Washington who cares more about defending them than other nations. The transatlantic alliance shouldn’t include Montenegro.

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NATO Membership

It appears that NATO needs some serious housecleaning. From what you report about the state of Montenegro's civil liberties and human rights, they don't belong in NATO. But neither does Turkey anymore, for the same reasons.