Montenegro silently celebrates joining NATO

Montenegro silently celebrates joining NATO

PanARMENIAN.Net - Once the Balkan stronghold of pro-Russian sentiments, tiny Montenegro is on Monday, June 5 silently celebrating its entry into NATO in a historic turn that has made the Kremlin furious, The Associated Press says.

Despite the Russian anger and a deep split within the nation of some 620,000 people over the issue, Montenegro is formally becoming the 29th member of the Western military alliance at a ceremony in Washington on Monday.

To get there, Montenegro has stood up against its former ally Russia, which has sought to maintain strong historic, political and cultural influence in the Slavic country it considers a special zone of interest.

Bringing Montenegro into NATO further diminishes Russia’s influence in southeast Europe, and blocks it from the so-called “warm seas” in Europe that could be used as staging grounds for military interventions in the Middle East.

Russia has threatened economic and political retaliation, including a campaign to undermine the Montenegrin tourism industry, which relies heavily on Russian visitors. It has also banned imports of Montenegrin wine and recently deported a ranking official from a Moscow airport.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova recently warned potential Russian tourists that “there is an anti-Russian hysteria in Montenegro.”

“We do not rule out the possibility of provocations, arrests for suspicious reasons or extradition to third countries” of Russians, Zakharova said.

Her claim was dismissed by the president of the Russian-speaking diaspora in Montenegro, Alexander Khrgian, who runs his law office in the coastal resort of Budva.

He said that about 15,000 Russian-speaking people who permanently live in Montenegro feel safe.

“I have been living in Russia for 25 years and now I am here for more than 10 years, and we love Montenegro. It is a wonderful country with wonderful climate,” he said.

“People know that Russia and Montenegro have very close cultural links. That is why we are here like at home.”

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