Opinion: Should Montenegro Be Part Of NATO?

With the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States, the earth has moved. Things are not going to be the same. Nowhere is this more evident than in Europe and especially within the NATO alliance.

Mr. Trump stated during the campaign, to much derision from the U.S. policy elite, that America’s relationship with NATO needs to fundamentally re-examined. Countries that are not paying their fair share should be confronted. The one thing that Mr. Trump is sure to do is to place a clear priority on the needs and security of the United States; the needs of a globalist Europe will come second. Key NATO governments need to do some soul-searching about the role they are playing in the West’s collective defense.

The sovereign debt of the U.S. is now over $20 trillion, on its way to $30 trillion. The president-elect is right — we can no longer afford to defend the world. We especially do not need to be picking fights where our national security and influence are not clearly at stake. The world is no longer black and white.

That leads me to my point. Why are we even discussing right now enlarging NATO? Does expansion enhance our national security? Sure, it may allow some countries to sleep better at night, knowing the U.S. nuclear umbrella is overhead. But do we really want to be putting our men and women on the line for some of these countries? Our national treasure? The blood of our soldiers?

Consider the case of tiny Montenegro, located in the Balkans and a part of the former Yugoslavia. Last year the country received an invitation to join NATO. Its former leader, Milo Djukanovic, just stepped down, most likely under Western pressure after October’s parliamentary elections. In charge of the country for the past quarter-century, Mr. Djukanovic is widely seen as corrupt and has been involved in multiple investigations and scandals, including gun-running, cigarette smuggling, bank fraud and illegally profiting from the privatization of state-owned utilities.

The October election, which would have given him another term in power had he not subsequently resigned, was marred by voting irregularities and reports of criminal behavior. Many analysts believe Mr. Djukanovic will continue to pull the levers of power, as Vladimir Putin did while ally Dmitry Medvedev was serving a single term as president, allowing Mr. Putin to return to the throne four years later in 2012.

Montenegro’s NATO champions also should be required to explain the “coup” which many believe was staged to pull votes from the opposition during the October elections. Twenty Serbian nationals, whose country has close ties to Russia, were arrested for a supposed assassination plot to kill Mr. Djukanovic. But most of the suspects have now been released, the weapons for the alleged plot have never been found, and Mr. Djukanovic pulled a similar stunt during the 2006 elections, at that time claiming to be the target of a plot by “Albanian terrorists” — who were released without charges as well.

One of the leaders of the latest “coup” has ties to Mr. Djukanovic and worked for Montenegro’s National Security Agency. Local media said that the real organizer of the coup was Radoitza Rajo Bozovic, who just happens to be a good friend of Mr. Djukanovic and a former commander of the “Red Berets” special forces of the Ministry of Security of Yugoslavia. Previously he headed the special police of Montenegro, while no public proof has emerged of the alleged Russian ties of the plotters.

The bottom line is that Montenegro and its leadership have a long history of corruption. Why does the United States want to offer Montenegro the nuclear protection and the security guarantees that come with NATO membership? NATO is needlessly providing Mr. Putin and his Kremlin team ammunition to weave a false narrative that NATO is being the aggressor on the continent, an argument they use to justify Moscow’s build-up of its own forces along the border. When NATO mindlessly expands to absorb former Soviet states and allies, the alliance gives Mr. Putin the excuse to increase military spending even as he slashes domestic social programs.

The election of Donald Trump allows for a re-evaluation of the entire NATO alliance. Further enlargement should be put on hold until America decides what battles it can and wants to fight. Until we grow our way out of our debt and revitalize our military and economy, we cannot be taking on new commitments. As Mr. Trump would say, that is just stupid.

Originally posted at The Washington Times

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