US Senate moves closer to unblocking Montenegro’s Nato membership

US Senate moves closer to unblocking Montenegro’s Nato membership
By bne IntelliNews March 28, 2017

US senators voted overwhelmingly to end the debate on Montenegro’s Nato membership at a session on March 27, paving the way for a vote on the issue later this week. The vote is expected to unfreeze the adoption of the protocol on Montenegro’s Nato membership, which has been stuck for months. 

Montenegro’s Nato accession has become a test case for the new geopolitics following the election of the US President Donald Trump. US Democrats have previously claimed that some Republican senators are trying to prevent Montenegro entering into the military alliance, amid suspicions of Russian influence over US policymaking. Moscow is staunchly against the accession of Montenegro, a former Balkan ally, becoming a Nato member. 

Only two Republican senators - Rand Paul and Mike Lee - voted against ending the debate. 

Rand had previously blocked an attempt to discuss the protocol on Montenegro’s accession to Nato, prompting former US presidential candidate and fellow Republican senator John McCain to accuse him of working for Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Although Montenegro was invited to join Nato in December 2015, the country’s full accession was delayed by the US Senate. The only other country which has not yet adopted the protocol is Spain, which is not expected to have any objections.

Now the senators are expected to vote on the resolution by March 30. The final vote will be held by the US Congress’ upper chamber and then it should be signed by Trump.

Earlier in March, Reuters reported that the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had sent an open letter to the leaders of the Senate, urging the ratification of the protocol.

In May 2016, Nato foreign ministers signed the protocol on the country’s accession to the alliance. Since then, Montenegro has been able to participate in meetings as an observer, but it will only become a full member after the protocol is ratified by the parliaments of all member states. The country was hoping to become a full member of Nato by spring this year.

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