Montenegro split off from Serbia a few years ago, after the other Yugoslav republics left Serbia. Montenegro is a country of about 650,000 people with a GDP a bit over $4.6 billion. Its military employs 2,080—1500 in the army, 350 in the navy, and 230 in the air force.
The official invitation, long in the making, came today, after NATO’s 28 foreign ministers met in Brussels. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg opined that “Montenegro has come a long way on its path to join the Euro‐Atlantic family.” Extending the invitation was “a historic decision,” signalling “our continued commitment to the Western Balkans,” he added. Completing the membership process is expected to take up to a year and a half.
Montenegro is a nice country. But what does it have to do with American security?
What was once an alliance expected to defend wrecked and impoverished Western Europeans nations from mass murderer Joseph Stalin and his Red Army has turned into the geopolitical equivalent of a Gentleman’s Club. Everyone wants to be a member simply because it’s the thing to do. No one is threatening Montenegro. And no one in Europe would notice if someone was threatening Montenegro. But the small Balkan land wants to join NATO and its people are presentable. So Podgorica is being invited to enter the “North Atlantic” Treaty Organization.
It’s hard to blame Montenegro’s government and people—though many are opposed—for wanting to join. The Montenegrin ambassador will sit in military councils in Brussels as the equal of representatives of Germany, France, Britain and America. Washington will lavish aid upon Podgorica to upgrade its armed services. Membership lets Montenegro one‐up Serbia, which remains outside NATO’s charmed circle. And the country will be protected from the next Hitler, presumed to be lurking just over the horizon plotting global domination.
But what is in the deal for America? The U.S. collects allies like most people accumulate FB -0.96% friends. America nominally is a superpower, but Washington officials crave attention and affection from other states. So presidents and legislators continually write guarantees on the money and lives of the American people for foreign countries, even when, like Montenegro, they are utterly irrelevant to U.S. security. Imagine what would happen if Podgorica was left alone, adrift in international waters. Well nothing, actually. Montenegro, and more importantly, America, would be just fine.