Russia, even after the Cold War ended, has never warmed much to the idea of an expanding NATO. The alliance, formed mostly as a military front against the Soviet Union and its own alliance, the Warsaw Pact, has added 12 new countries since the end of the Cold War, gradually expanding throughout Eastern Europe. Now NATO has invited Montenegro to join, and Russia doesn’t like this at all.
NATO invited tiny Montenegro on Wednesday to join the military alliance in its first expansion since 2009, defying Russian warnings that enlargement of the U.S.-led bloc further into the Balkans is “irresponsible” action that undermines trust.
In a scripted session at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Montenegro’s Foreign Minister Igor Luksic strode into the imposing conference hall to loud applause from his peers as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg declared: “This is the beginning of a very beautiful alliance.”
Despite American Secretary of State John Kerry’s protestations otherwise, Russia called it a “mistake, even a provocation,” mostly because it sees the expansion of NATO as part of a “containment” policy by the West, in which the United States and its allies try to stop Russian influence–or even conquest–from expanding further.
But the accession of Montenegro to NATO isn’t just significant because of the way Russia sees it, it’s because of the nature of what the tiny Balkan nation is unto itself. A former part of Yugoslavia, it was actually bombed quite heavily by NATO during the breakup of that country, despite its leadership’s opposition to Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic at the time. It’s also quite physically beautiful, and as a Slavic country, it sees more tourists from Russia than from any other country.
Maybe that will change, however, as if a country pisses Russia off it can definitely see some tourism repercussions.
But before the comments all just turn into a furious genitalia-waving contest about “hurrrrrr screw Russia, America does what it wants Russia don’t matter,” whether you like it or not, Russia does matter. It’s a major geopolitical player, and it’s relied upon for everything from natural gas supplies to Europe, to cooperation over the skies and on the ground in Syria. So there’s that, and it’s not going to change even if Zombie Reagan came back from the grave to haunt us all and drown us in jellybeans. Yes, that’s how he does it.