The Washington Post reports that the United States Senate has approved by 97 to 2 procedural vote that will lead the way for the approval of Montenegro, a republic on the Adriatic coast that was once part of Yugoslavia, to join NATO. The inclusion of one of Europe’s smallest and newest countries will not add much to the alliance’s combat power as its entire military establishment, Army. Navy, and Air Force, numbers less than 2,000 personnel. But Montenegro joining NATO will represent a slap in the face of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, which has been keen to add that country to its sphere of influence and gain basing rights to its navy.

The sole voice raised against the vote belonged to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, who was perhaps channeling his father former Congressman Ron Paul’s isolationist tendencies. He claimed that the move to admit Montenegro would unnecessarily antagonize Russia and would constitute a burden upon the American taxpayer. However, his views were countered by Russia hawks such as Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona.

However, Putin’s aggressive moves in the Ukraine and Syria, not to mention his casting a covetous eye on Poland and the Baltic States, have motivated even the Trump administration to move to beef up NATO.

President Trump is pushing for NATO countries such as Germany to live up to their treaty obligations and devote at least two percent of their GDP to their military. Even as Trump seeks to establish a rapprochement with Russia with a view toward making it an ally in the war on terror, strengthening NATO sends a message that being overly aggressive against the United States and her allies has consequences.

Montenegro has already participated in a number of operations in tandem with NATO and the United Nations, contributing a small number of troops to Afghanistan and participating in peacekeeping operations in Liberia, Cyprus, and Somalia as military observers. Its troops, all professional, are trained by the German Bundeswehr.

Montenegro’s membership in NATO has been pending since 2015. All of the alliance member states have to approve for the country to be admitted to the alliance.

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