Montenegro to enter NATO in May, following spooky October coup attempt
Montenegro is expected to become the 29th NATO member state at the Alliance summit in Brussels this May, says the Montenegrin Foreign Minister Darmanović. It is still waiting for the ratification by the US, Canada, Netherlands and Spain due to procedural reasons.
Another NATO expansion is expected to have a big impact on NATO-Russia relations. Especially because Russia has extensive ties to the country and deems NATO expansion in the Balkans as ‘provocation’. Moscow allegedly attempted to undermine Montenegro’s NATO bid in October when it tried to orchestrate a coup involving assassination of the then-PM Djukanovic. The allegations were backed by UK Secretary of State Boris Johnson. Besides being a popular holiday destination for Russians, Montenegro’s Adriatic port of Bar has a strategic value for Moscow.
The Democratic Front is now pressing for a referendum to rally public hostility to the Alliance. The party, led by MP Knezevic – one of the coup suspects, allegedly received millions from Russia to run strongly anti-NATO campaign last year. Borrowing words form MP Knezevic himself, Montenegro has become a “testing ground for a geopolitical confrontation” between Russia and the West.
Georgia offering NATO help in Black Sea confrontation with Russia
Confrontation between NATO and Russia in the Black Sea remains the highlight of 2017. In December 2015 Russia hijacked two Ukrainian drill rigs in its Exclusive Economic Zone off the shore of Crimea and replaced it with its own. This January Russian guards allegedly fired on Ukrainian An-26 aircraft flying closely over the rigs, Russia denies such allegations. As we have informed, earlier this year Russian Su-24 jets buzzed US Navy destroyer in the Sea. Russia also plans to deploy another set of S-400 anti-aircraft missiles in Crimea later in 2017.
In response NATO approved stepping up its presence in the Sea, and held the Sea Shield exercise this year. However, besides Romania, other NATO-member Black Sea littoral states remain cautious. Both Bulgaria and Turkey have considerable ties to Russia, and Turkey’s relations with Europe and NATO are now especially tense.
NATO’s build-up in the Sea is, moreover, limited by the 1936 Montreux Convention. NATO-aspiring Georgia is offering to help, asking the Alliance to assist in re-building its navy, destroyed by Russia in the 2008 war, or (and) a coast-guard base in Poti. This move did not go unnoticed by the Russian state media.
Cutting foreign aid: Trump’s Hard Power Budget
First blueprints of the proposed national budget of the new American administration were released on Thursday.
- With significant cuts in foreign aid or clean water programmes in favour of the military, the proposition is already facing opposition even from Republicans. The presidential budgets are never adopted without significant changes, but offer glimpse into the presidents’ priorities.
- European diplomats urge Congress not to cut the vital funding, which, among others, helps counter Russia’s hybrid warfare.
- The proposal includes 37 % slash in State and Foreign aid funding. The administration wants to use it to cover the $54 billion increase in defence spending. The current defence budget for 2017 is around $600 billion, while the State department budget is about $50billion.
- Much of the aid (about 40%) currently goes to countries where the US troops are fighting, and towards training their militaries.
- Cuts in the State department also include more than 50 % cuts in funding for the UN. These cuts would, likewise, have a big effect on the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and smaller projects such as Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.
Netanyahu meets Putin to discuss Syria
Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow, where he met Vladimir Putin. According to the prime minister communication with Russia is important for Israeli security. The situation in Syria, where Russia is the biggest supporter of the current regime of Bashar al-Assad, was the primary topic of the talks. Israeli PM voiced an opinion that any agreement which would allow Iran (Assad’s ally and Israel’s primary adversary) to shape events in Syria is unacceptable and there could never be peace with Iran in Syria. On the other hand, Netanyahu approved of Russia’s participation in the war on terror, as Israel opposes any form of terrorism and shapes its politics in such manner. It is unacceptable that victory over Daesh would lead to upsurge of state sponsored terrorism by Iran and its proxies, said Netanyahu.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a biweekly basis provides short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into broader context. Responsible editor Ondřej Zacha.
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