NATO and Montenegro, a new discussed membership

The enlargement of NATO is a process that allows a new member state to join NATO. The process is regulated by the article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This article describes how the non-members join NATO and outlines NATO’s ‘open door’ policy. Furthermore, the article poses two limits to the states who want to join: only European States are eligible and they need the approval of all the existing member states, who can propose other criteria that have to be attained, as the case.[1]

When a country decides to join the collective system of defense, it has to meet precise requirements and has to be involved in a multi-step process to facilitate political dialogue and military integration. This is the case of the one of the latest countries that have been invited to join the Alliance: Montenegro. The Country, member of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) since 1996, is eligible under the art. 10 of North Atlantic Treaty. The Accession Talks started on 15th February 2016, to discuss the details of the membership including political, military and legal questions.

Montenegro has been an independent state since May 2006, as decided by a referendum where the 55,5% of the electorate expressed favorably. From that moment on the Montenegrin Parliament started the procedure to declare the State’s independence from Serbia, which confirmed it on 4th June 2006. One of the first issues discussed in Parliament was whether to create or not the armed forces. It was basically agreed that the armed forces would have an important role to contribute to the defense of the region. Consequently an institution of defense with modest armed forces of about 2,400 men was created. In November 2006, Montenegro established its own Ministry of Defense.[2] In the same year NATO invited Montenegro to join the Partnership for Peace (PfP), the NATO program aid to create trust between NATO and other States in Europe and former Soviet Union. 2006 saw also the participation of Montenegro to the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP), whose aim was to provide the basis for the identification of capabilities disposable to be shared with the other Members of the Alliance for multinational training, exercise and operations.[3] The result of this step culminated in 2008 with the adoption of the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP),[4] a plan that helped the country to choose. This first step brought Macedonia, in 2009, to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP). The MAP is a NATO program of advice, assistance and support tailored to the individual needs of the country that wants to join the Alliance. In 2010, the first MAP cycle for Montenegro thanks to which the key challenges necessary to meet the NATO standards were identified was concluded and it helped with the identification of the areas to be strengthened. The process of integration continued for Montenegro, as foreseen by the Alliance, with an intensification of the dialogue with NATO and with a little contribution to the ISAF mission. From 2012 to 2014, the bilateral meetings increased more and more until June 2014 the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, assessed at the end of 2015 the definitive invitation of the Country to join the Alliance.[5] On September 2015, the NATO Leaders endorsed the accession of Montenegro in the Alliance which culminated on the 2nd December 2015, when the accession talks started.[6]

The accession to NATO has been discussed in the internal front since 2010, when the negotiations stage started. The ruling Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro and the Social Democratic Party of Montenegro wanted Montenegro to be part of the Alliance and started a two-year campaign to promote it. The results of this was an internal fracture in the newborn Government since the Prime Minister and his coalition, Milo Dukanovic, put pressures on the parties because according to him Montenegro could not afford to maintain a neutral position in an area with a precarious stability, such as the Balkans. The accession to NATO seemed the double face of the Euro-Atlantic process of integration. The results of this campaign pro NATO were positive but very much criticized. The principal critics arrived from the Nansen Dialogue Centre, which underlined the significant financial effort that the accession would have brought. The other political parties tried to balance this pro accession campaign with other initiatives and requests. Need to be mentioned the “No to NATO” campaign, launched by the Serb Nationalist List and the demand for a referendum. But, as it has been verified by different polls launched during these years of negotiations, the 47% of the population agreed with the accession to NATO and the 39% is against it.[7]

The invitation of Montenegro in NATO brings with it consequences and reflections on the NATO-Russia relations. The relations between the Alliance and the former Communist Country started in 1991 when Russia joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. This was followed by the participation of the Country in the Partnership for Peace Programme in 1994. Another important milestone was the creation of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) on 2002. The cooperation started thanks to this step, should have bring cooperation and dialogue between the two entities but since 2008 the Russian’s military action in Georgia and Russian- Ukraine conflict in 2014 brought to suspend the relations between NATO and Russia. During the Wales Summit in 2014, NATO leaders condemned Russian behavior and demanded the Country to stop and try to comply with international obligations.[8]

The invitation to Montenegro to become a full member of NATO generated a hard reaction from Russia. The Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, considered this decision an ‘artificial’ one that will not bring any concrete extra security measure to the Alliance. So, Montenegro’s integration is a mistake and a provocation, resulted from an irresponsible policy. As consequence to this, Russia decided to suspend all the joint projects with Montenegro, even if it seems they have not. This is could be considered a measure of retaliation from Russia against NATO, as a warning to a possible enlargement to East. The Western replies tried to tone it down. Both John Kerry, US Secretary of State, and Paolo Gentiloni, Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, underlined that the NATO enlargement towards Eastern Europe is not against Russia.[9] Consequently Russia changed its behavior and, as recently decided on last April, will meet again the NATO counterpart in the frame of the NATO-Russia Council.[10]

What will change for NATO and what will change for Montenegro after the acquisition of the full NATO membership? From a geopolitical point of view, the accession of Montenegro will not result in major changes in the Atlantic area of influence, but for sure it will worsen the fragile relationship between the US and Russia. To avoid an unnecessary escalation and an exacerbation of the relations, it would have been better to postpone the final part of the integration process of Montenegro.

Regarding the equilibrium in the Balkans, it will be twisted since Serbia, still very close to Russia, would be under major pressure to keep it inside the Russian sphere of influence. As a response to this Russia would have to use, as a retaliation, economic measures, thus damaging the unstable economic situation of the Country. Plus, with a further enlargement of NATO to East, Russia will lose its powers since Bosnia, Macedonia and Georgia can be caught in the Atlantic area of influence.

Thanks to the Montenegro accession, NATO will improve its ‘open door’ policy. Montenegro in the meantime will modernize its own armed forces, trying to adapt them to the US and the EU standards. The defense policy of the Country will change and the accession of Montenegro will probably have also a relevant impact on the migration roots and policy, since the Country will take a different position closest the Western one. Any kind of relations with Russia, interrupted when Montenegro was invited as new member of NATO, probably will partially be restored. This would happen only after the next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, that take place soon in the 2016.

At the NATO Warsaw Summit, which will take place on 8 and 9 July 2016, Montenegro has been invited as an observer. After the Summit will be possible see the developments of this accession that is going to be a massive earthquake for the Balkans.

Alessandra Vernile

Master’s degree in International Relations (LUMSA)


[1] Art. 10: The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty. Any State so invited may become a Party to the Treaty by depositing its instrument of accession with the Government of the United States of America. The Government of the United States of America will inform each of the Parties of the deposit of each such instrument of accession. See:

[2] See:

[3] Not all the countries that participate to PfP are forced to join the PARP, since this is a programme opened to all partners on a voluntarily basis.

[4] The IPAP from 2010 shifts to the Annual National Programme within the MAP framework.

[5] See:

[6] See:

[7] The 14% is undecised. See: Montenegrins vote online to stay out of NATO. Results of the last poll held in December 2015.

[8] See:

[9] See:

[10] The Council suspended its activities on April 2014. See:


Montenegrins vote online to stay out of NATO.

Montenegrin National Security Strategy.

Montenegro begins Accession Talks with NATO.

The North Atlantic Treaty.

Relations with Montenegro.

NATO-Russia Council.

Relations with Russia.

NATO invites Montenegro to join alliance, defying Russia.

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