Actual membership won’t actually happen until all 29 involved nations’ parliaments sign off on the plan, but NATO today formally invited tiny Montenegro to join the alliance, making it the smallest economy in NATO.
Montenegro would be the first new NATO member since 2009, when Albania and Croatia joined, and adds yet more former Warsaw Pact territory to the alliance, further antagonizing Russia. Russia complains NATO is trying to encircle it by absorbing former allies.
NATO is constantly looking to expand, but after Montenegro the options are increasingly limited. Of the other potential members, Georgia and Ukraine are both virtually impossible to include because of existing territorial disputes, Bosnia’s bid appears to be on hold over NATO demands that they bring all military under central government control, and Macedonia is being blocked by Greece, who demands that they change their name.
The recent expansions appear to be of less and less practical military utility and more about spiting Russia over that nation’s calls to stop growing the alliance along its frontiers.Montenegro, for instance, has less than 2,000 active military members, and materially its entire air force, excluding the VIP transport plane, is in storage.