NATO’s relationship with both the former Soviet Union and now Russia are, by definition, never were going to be good, but following Turkey’s downing of a Russian bomber and NATO’s formal invitation to Montenegro to join its ranks, things aren’t getting any better.
Russia bristles at NATO, Montenegro invite
When NATO member Turkey shot a Russian bomber out of the sky recently, things were always going to go poorly between Turkey and Russia. For the most part, that has simply meant a series of sanctions designed to harm Turkey on the part of Russia. However, Putin recently hinted at more to come.
“If somebody thought that after committing a treacherous war crime — the killing of our people — it would be possible to get away with mere restrictions on the trade of tomatoes, or some other restrictions…then they are grossly mistaken,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday during the annual state of the nation. “They will regret what they’ve done for a long time,” he continued.
However, NATO didn’t necessarily do itself any favors when it chose to formally invite Montenegro to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
While Montenegro only has armed forces numbering around 2,000 soldiers, and little to no strategic value, Russia finds the invitation to be nothing less than “provocation” and “encirclement.” While Montenegro’s coastline would indeed give NATO access to the entirety of the Mediterranean coastline, that’s hardly encirclement.
Montenegro, as a nation, is fairly divided in public opinion about whether or not NATO membership is a good idea. However, it would seem that the timing of NATO’s invitation is meant more as a means by which to show Putin that he doesn’t have a power to veto NATO’s plans. Those plans have included setting up a road map or “membership plan” for Montenegro that has been in place for years.
NATO speaks about Montenegro
NATO, if their statements are to be believed, are interested in projection of strength AND a diplomatic relationship that is better than the present one with Russia.
“There is a strong message from all allies that there is no contradiction between a strong defense, deterrence and political dialogue,” said Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO’s secretary-general. “The message is the opposite. As long as we are strong, as long as we provide deterrence, we can engage in political dialogue. That is the only way.”
Russia has continuously protested NATO training exercises in former Soviet states and NATO’s reaching out to those countries with invitations to join NATO. This was made quite clear when NATO had hoped to add Georgia to its ranks in 2008. Instead of joining NATO, Putin and Russia invaded the former Soviet republic making membership all but impossible.
It’s this way of thinking that remains on display.
“On all levels, Moscow has always noted that the continuing expansion of NATO, of the military infrastructure of NATO to the east, can only lead to retaliatory measure from the east, from the Russian side, in terms of guaranteeing the security and maintaining a parity of interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday, according to official Russian news agencies.
Kerry tries to settle Russia down with regards to NATO
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to make it clear to Putin that NATO’s invitation to Montenegro wasn’t aimed at Russia but did suggest that it would be “a great mistake to react adversely” toward Montenegro.
“Countries have chosen of their own free will to want to join NATO to be part of a Europe that is whole and free and at peace,” the Secretary of State added. “NATO is not a threat to anybody….It is a defensive alliance.”
NATO sends more warships to the Black Sea
While NATO is indeed a defensive alliance, it still has the ability to get under Putin’s skin quite easily.
Sputnik reported today that four warships have been sent by NATO to the Black Sea moving them closer to both Ukraine and Turkey.
In a press release from the U.S. States’ Sixth Fleet, U.S. military command announced that the it was sending the guided missile destroyer, the USS Ross, “to promote peace and stability in the region” as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Joining the USS Ross will be the missile frigates Francis Almejida, Blas de Lezo, and Winnepeg sent by Portugal, Spain and Canada respectively.
Operation Atlantic Resolve is a “demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and to enduring peace and stability in the region, in light of Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine,” according to the U.S. Army.
No Russia-NATO council meeting planned
While both sides maintain that they are open to working with each other through the council, Russia’s Permanent Representative at NATO Alexander Grushko does not see that happening soon.
I don’t think any concrete steps on the part of NATO will follow soon,” he told the Rossiya-24 television channel on Friday when asked about the chances for a meeting.