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news 03 Mar 17

Montenegro Opposition Asks Bannon to Block NATO Accession

With ratification of Montenegro's NATO accession stuck in the US Senate, two Montenegrin opposition leaders have asked Trump advisor Steve Bannon to help keep the country out of the alliance.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
 
Steve Bannon. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Don Irvine.

Anti-NATO opposition politicians in Montenegro have written to White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, seeking his aid in getting Donald Trump's new US administration to reconsider America's support for Montenegro's membership of NATO.

US Congressman Mike Turner, former NATO Parliamentary Assembly President and, Chairman of the US Congress Armed Services Subcommittee, wrote to Trump on Thursday urging him to support Montenegro’s accession.

Turner said Montenegro had “proved itself a worthy partner to the US It completed essential reforms and contributed to NATO-led missions.”

In his first major speech to Congress on Tuesday, Trump assured US allies that he was committed to NATO, despite earlier calling it "obsolete".

In the letter, Turner quoted Trump as saying "America is willing to find new friends and to forge new friendships where shared interests align".

“I am asking the President to publicly support Montenegro’s accession to NATO. This will advance US interests by strengthening the Alliance, maintaining international security, and stabilising the Balkan region,” Turner’s letter said.

In Montenegro, two pro-Russian opposition leaders, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic, have meanwhile sent a letter to Bannon asking him to urge the US administration to reconsider the country's readiness to join NATO.

The letter claims that the reports of Hoyt Brian Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs at the US State Department and Michael Carpenter, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, presented earlier in September before the US Senate Foreign Committee, were inaccurate.

The letter claimed that Montenegro had not met the conditions for accession to the Western military alliance and was far from able to ensure its own security.

"This is why the authorities in Montenegro are forced to resort to the use of force against the opposition and invent imaginative yet baseless theories of coup attempts masterminded by Russia," the letter to Bannon said, referring to the government's claim that it narrowly averted a pro-Moscow coup on election day last October.

According to a BBC article published on February 2, Bannon, formerly the driving force behind the right-wing Breitbart News website, is a key player in Trump's White House.

Bannon's role as chief strategist gives him a direct line Trump and his influence has already been seen in key decisions made by the new President.

Some US media have called Bannon “Trump’s brain" and even as the person who got Trump into the White House, by managing his presidential campaign.

Apart from Bannon, copies of the letter by Mandic and Knezevic were also sent to Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee, considered the main US opponents of Montenegro’s membership of NATO.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee twice voted in favour of Montenegro’s bid in December and January, but objections by Paul and Lee have blocked a vote in the full Senate.

"I'm not so sure what they [the Montenegrins] add to our defence. So I'm not so sure it's a great idea that somehow Montenegro's going to defend the United States," Reuters quoted Paul as saying on Wednesday.

Earlier, Paul said that allowing a tiny country such as Montenegro, which could not play a significant role in defending the US, could further anger Russia.

NATO endorsed Montenegro's accession bid at its summit in Warsaw in 2016. So far, 25 of 28 NATO allies have approved the accession protocol and but the endorsement of the US is seen as crucial.



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