NATO Montenegro to join alliance in June

Montenegro's accession would complete NATO's presence along the Adriatic coast with Greece, Albania and Croatia already members.

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NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg play

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg

(AFP/File)
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Montenegro will formally become NATO's 29th member in early June, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday, amid bitter Russian opposition to the move.

"It shows that NATO's door is open," Stoltenberg said ahead of a leaders summit attended by US President Donald Trump and the Montenegro premier Dusko Markovic.

"I welcome the prime minister here today but I will be also be present when the documents of... joining the alliance will be deposited in Washington," he told reporters when asked about his trip.

NATO officials confirmed that Stoltenberg will be in Washington on June 5 when Montenegro formally lodges its accession documents with the US Senate, which is the guardian of NATO's founding treaty.

Russia says NATO's steady expansion into the former communist states of eastern Europe threatens its own security and cannot go unchallenged.

"Moscow cannot but consider the strategic consequences of this step and thus we reserve the right to take decisions aimed at protecting our interests and national security," Russia's foreign ministry said after Montenegro's parliament approved NATO accession last month.

The vote was boycotted by pro-Russian parties and opinion is sharply divided in the tiny Balkan country of just 620,000 people once part of Yugoslavia.

It declared independence from Serbia, a traditional Russian ally, in 2006.

Montenegro's accession would complete NATO's presence along the Adriatic coast with Greece, Albania and Croatia already members.

Moscow considers Montenegro, whose population is mostly Slavic Orthodox, to be within its historic sphere of influence.

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