With Isis, Syria and the Russia/Ukraine conflict making waves throughout the international community, NATO involvement (or lack thereof) has been in the news often. Recently, NATO has extended an offer to Montenegro to join the alliance; this will be the first invitation in six years since Albania and Croatia joined in 2009. While adding a member to NATO would normally draw significant media attention, this offer is especially important due to the timing and location of Montenegro. NATO has been attempting to gain support from Russia to fight ISIS and solve the problems in Syria, especially after the Russian plane was taken down over Egypt. However, at the same time NATO has been extending further east making Russia extremely uncomfortable and ruining any efforts to unite against the Islamic State. Russia’s discomfort is due to the West imposing their influence on the countries surrounding Russia – which can potentially have a direct impact on Russian economy and national security (NY Times).
The tension with Russia and NATO has been building through the Ukraine conflict and annexation of Crimea has only been growing since. Just before the offer to Montenegro, Russian fighter jets had been entering NATO airspace over the Balkans and Turkey. Turkey did not respond kindly to this, shooting down a fighter jet headed to bomb Turkmen in Syria. Some believe this action was a sign the NATO no longer views Russia as a strategic partner but rather a full blown adversary. Vladimir Komoyedov, chairman of Duma’s defense committee, said “They are ready to admit even the North Pole to NATO just for the sake of encircling Russia.” John Kerry, who was present during the offer to Montenegro, denied this allegation claiming that this offer was simply another step in admitting all of Europe to NATO. It’s hard to be sure what the true motivations for inviting Montenegro into NATO is, especially since it has historically been an enemy of NATO members. In defense of John Kerry, Montenegro has recently made positive contributions to NATO, contributing 45 servicemen to a NATO coalition in Afghanistan and joining several European organizations.While the timing of the offer may support Komoyedov’s statement, the member countries of NATO claim they are unwilling to link NATO-Russian conflict, despite Putin’s attempts to, to the conflicts with ISIS. Many hope that keeping these issues separate will allow the countries to help each other where their interests overlap the most i.e. Syria and Isis. Russia’s full participation in the nuclear deal with Iran during some of the most intense times in the Ukraine conflict as an example, many are hoping that unification over the Islamic State will eventually come about (NY Times).