In message to Russia, Trump approves Montenegro's accession to NATO


US President Donald Trump speaks in the White House on April 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump has backed the expansion of NATO by approving Montenegro’s accession to the Western military alliance, in what many observers view as a message to Russia.

“Today, President Donald J. Trump signed the United States instrument of ratification of the Protocol for Montenegro’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),” the White House said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Trump’s signing off on Montenegro’s accession comes on the eve of his meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House in Washington, DC.  

The Balkan nation will officially become the 29th member of NATO if the Netherlands and Spain approve the accession later this year.

The decision to expand NATO comes despite the fact that Trump has called the military alliance outdated and obsolete. He has repeatedly called the United States’ commitment to the alliance into question, demanding allies pay more toward collective defense.

The Republican president has said NATO members should either pay for US military support or rely on their own military might at the time of war.

Trump has frequently suggested that US defense of a NATO member would depend on its contributions to the military alliance.

The move is also surprising because it is made by a president who has repeatedly spoken out in favor of improving ties with Russia, which has opposed Montenegro joining NATO, calling it a “provocation” that would reinforce the alliance’s presence in the Balkans.

Last month, the US Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve Montenegro’s admission to NATO.

US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) (C) speaks while flanked by Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) (R), and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) (L) during a news conference on Capitol Hill, on March 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by AFP)

The ratification was approved by a vote of 97-2, well above the two-thirds majority needed in the 100-member chamber.

Only Republican Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah voted against Montenegro’s membership.

Sen. Paul argued that joining NATO would bring the tiny Balkan nation under the United States’ security blanket with little in return.

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