Russia lambasts Nato as Montenegro signs member deal

Moscow accuses Nato of harming Europe’s security and casts doubt on proposed talks

US secretary of state John Kerry with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg  and Montenegrin prime minister Milo Djukanovic in Brussels on Thursday. Photograph:  Olivier Hoslet/EPA

US secretary of state John Kerry with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and Montenegrin prime minister Milo Djukanovic in Brussels on Thursday. Photograph: Olivier Hoslet/EPA

 

Nato has signed a membership agreement with Montenegro, prompting an angry Russia to accuse the military alliance of undermining European security.

Moscow also gruffly questioned Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg’s announcement that the alliance intended to hold talks with Russia before its summit in Poland in July.

The former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro signed a Nato accession protocol on Thursday, and will become a full member once the alliance’s current 28 states have ratified the deal.

Mr Stoltenberg said Montenegro’s Nato membership would “bring more stability and security to the region . . . therefore promoting prosperity” and “shows once again that Nato’s door remains open” to new members.

US secretary of state John Kerry said Montenegro’s accession demonstrated Nato’s determination “to make membership decisions that are free from outside influences and underscores our resolve to stand together against any kind of threat”.

Russia opposes Nato expansion that it claims is aimed at weakening its influence and military potential.

“In general, we see Nato’s further expansion as a negative process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday.

“This process adds nothing from the point of view of European security and, on the contrary, threatens to escalate tensions.”

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“We will discuss how Nato can do more to project stability . . . and at the same time address how Nato can continue to adapt to a more assertive Russia to find the right balance between defence and dialogue,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

The Nato-Russia council, a body formed in 2002 to smooth relations between the cold war adversaries, met for the first time in almost two years last month, having being suspended after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Mr Stoltenberg said another meeting would probably be held before the Warsaw summit, after foreign ministers “agreed in the current situation that we need a platform [like] the Nato-Russia council to pursue transparency, predictability and to work for enhancing mechanisms for risk reduction to avoid dangerous situations, situations which can spiral out of control.”

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov expressed “bewilderment” at the announcement, however, and suggested Moscow had not been consulted on the matter.

“Why on earth did he say that? The Russia-Nato council works on the basis of consensus,” Mr Lavrov said. “If they want to discuss this, let him discuss this with us instead of making his way to the microphone.”