June 5, 2018 - "NATO has become bigger with its new member - Montenegro. All this has helped to strengthen NATO, has helped to strengthen Montenegro because we are stronger together than by ourselves. Based on the idea that is essential to NATO, if one ally is attacked, all allies are attacked. Montenegro's accession to NATO has made Montenegro a more secure place and has made NATO a stronger place," said Stoltenberg at a press conference after the meeting with President Milo Djukanovic.
"As we know, we are marking a year since Montenegro entered NATO. One sovereign state in one strong alliance. With its place at the table, with an equal saying in shaping our future. This is an important day for Montenegro and an important day for the entire Alliance. The reception of Montenegro has helped to promote stability in the Western Balkans because security promotes prosperity. And this contributes to the European-Atlantic security," said Stoltenberg.
Stoltenberg praised Montenegro for increasing the number of troops in the Mission Decent Support to Afghanistan, which increases defense costs to reach the promised two percent of GDP by 2024.
"Montenegro has proven itself to be a powerful and highly trusted Alliance member," said the General Secretary.
The General Secretary stressed that NATO is also proving itself towards Montenegro.
"Therefore, NATO will begin air patrols over Montenegro with the help of airplanes from Italy and Greece. This peace mission will guarantee the safety of your sky from civilian and military aircraft in distress or any threat. NATO provides this support to allies without their aircraft force - which is a strong signal of NATO's solidarity," he said.
PHOTO: Cabinet of the president of Montenegro
Stoltenberg added that he and Djukanovic had an excellent meeting, where they also talked about the preparations for the NATO Summit in July in Brussels. He added that a new mission in Iraq would be launched at the Summit, which aims to help the government to defend the country and prevent the return of ISIL. One of the topics will be Russia, adding that they agreed that the right choice is double-track policy involving deterrence and dialogue.
“Both Djukanovic and I have stressed the importance of the dual track policy towards Russia. We need to be strong, united and firm, we must react when Russia violates the international rules. For example, when it violates sovereignty and territorial integrity of neighbors such as Ukraine or when Russia is responsible for a cyber-attack or attempt to interfere with our domestic democratic processes as we have seen in a number of countries that are NATO allies. Therefore, then we should be strong, clear and united in our response. And this is why all the allies are in favor of economic sanctions. And now, this aside, Russia is our neighbor. We cannot isolate Russia. We will strive to achieve better relations with Russia, especially when the tensions are high and strong as now. It is what I just heard from Montenegro that they are trying to have better relations with Russia, that they do not intend to isolate themselves from Russia and to isolate Russia. It is the same message NATO sends as an alliance. Dialogue and effort to achieve better relations, but on the other hand to clearly say that we are protecting each other. And we do not accept the behavior of Russia when they violate international rules or use military force against their neighbors, " said the General Secretary.
On whether the abolition or mitigation of sanctions would contribute to improving the relations with Russia, Djukanovic said: "I saw that part of the political dissidents, a part of the analysts and a part of the independent professional media tried to interpret my assessment as the turning point of Montenegro and turning Montenegro away from NATO to Russia. There is nothing like this and it is not a misunderstanding, it is a very tendentious attempt to speculate in relation to the country's politics and politics in which I am the protagonist. Therefore, our position in relation to Russia is very clear. Montenegro does not only declare itself with strong words and strong statements, but with a sincere and persistent policy of belonging to that system of which we are an integral part. There is no dilemma for us to comply with European foreign policy and security. If we are a country that has progressed so much in the negotiations with Europe it is understood that we will, without any restriction, share the foreign policy and security interests of Europe. If we are a part of NATO, it is understood that we share NATO policy with respect to a particular issue. There is no dilemma for us that endangering the territorial integrity of Ukraine and some other actions, such as those we saw in Montenegro in the electoral process in the fall of 2016, are unacceptable and should be condemned. That is why, to say, we are part of a world that unfortunately had to come to sanction Russia, with the intention of turning them away from such a takeover and returning to the area where we will be able to cooperate in the way we cooperated in a previous period. We believe that this is a question of determination and persistence to defend the system of values to which you belong. We belong to the European system of values and we believe that such behavior, which I have briefly pointed out, is actually an attempt to break the European value system and therefore there is no dilemma we will defend this system of values."
He, however, strives for a dialogue.
"And my call to NATO to try to get out of the atmosphere of mutual punishment is nothing but the voice of responsibility to accept reality, and the reality is that Russia is in our neighborhood. We are not all identical. Same as our countries are not identical. We must learn to live in differences that will not endanger us but will help us to cooperate and to harmonize, as much as possible, through time. I believe in such an evolutionary process. That is why I have said that our commitment is not to remain permanently in sanction and punishment status. It is our commitment to try to get back to the time that was only a few years ago when we had constructive cooperation within the council NATO Russia. We believe in such an approach, and therefore there is no hidden intent in this statement," he said.
Djukanovic is on a two-day visit to Brussels. This is his first official visit abroad since becoming president of Montenegro on May 20th. Stoltenberg pointed out that Djukanovic was the first president of a NATO member state to be accommodated in the new headquarters of NATO.
"Thank you for the contentious conversation and for this privilege to have a prime meeting in this building in relation to other chairmen of NATO members," said Djukanovic, adding that it was logical that the first foreign address of his visits as elected president would be in Brussels as the seat of NATO and the European Union.
"This was an opportunity to discuss how Montenegro used this first year. The first year we tried to make use of the real space as a new member of the Alliance, and I believe we have demonstrated the expected responsibility," he said.
Text by Milos Rudovic, on June 4th, 2018, read more at Vijesti