The collective decision of the NATO Alliance on Wednesday to extend an invitation to Montenegro to begin accession talks toward NATO membership represents formal recognition of Montenegro’s accomplishments in fulfilling a range of demanding reforms and requirements for membership over the past decade. Montenegro’s membership in the Alliance is not about attempting to provoke Russia or to counter or undermine Russia’s interests. Although the “historic” decision comes at a time of high tension for the NATO-Russia relationship, the invitation results from the culmination of a process that was initiated long before the crisis in Ukraine, tensions over Syria and NATO member Turkey’s downing of the Russian aircraft.

Russia’s security would by no means be diminished as a result of Montenegro’s membership in NATO. However, NATO membership should contribute significantly to security in Montenegro and the wider, historically war-torn Balkan region. Particularly for a small nation, participating in cooperative defense and security efforts with NATO partners that involves sharing resources, expertise, and consultative decision making on a broad range of security areas can only benefit Montenegro and its neighbors.

Most important, these are decisions to be made by the members of the NATO Alliance and the population of Montenegro. Nations that are not involved in this process should not be able to delay or veto the decisions or to jeopardize the progress of aspiring NATO member nations.

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