WHEN Donald Trump shoved Montenegro’s prime minister aside to get to the front of the pack at a NATO meeting on May 25th, a film of the incident went viral. But most people were interested in Mr Trump, not poor Dusko Markovic. For Mr Markovic the meeting was supposed to be a celebratory preparation for Montenegro’s formal accession to the alliance on June 5th. Instead the symbolic humiliation was seized on by those in the Balkan country who opposed joining. The Russian media, meanwhile, have been gloating.
In terms of muscle, Montenegro does not add much to NATO’s strength. It has 1,950 military personnel, 13 helicopters, two frigates and three patrol ships. Its defence budget is €50m, or 1.7% of GDP. But its soldiers have taken part in NATO, European Union and UN operations, including the war in Afghanistan. Mr Trump hectors NATO’s leaders about the need to spend 2% of GDP on defence, but he still signed off on Montenegro’s accession.
Montenegro’s value has nothing to do with how many soldiers it has. Rather, its accession means that, apart from an insignificant strip of Bosnian coast, the entire northern shore of the Mediterranean from Portugal to the Syrian border belongs to NATO. The Bay of Kotor was a secure base for the Yugoslav and, before that, Austro-Hungarian navies. In 2013 Russia inquired about using Montenegrin facilities for its…Continue reading