Montenegro has said Russia should not be alarmed by the Balkan country's joining NATO, after Moscow warned of retaliation against Montenegro's "hostile course" and condemned the country's "anti-Russian hysteria."
Montenegro on June 5 formally became NATO's 29th member, when Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic handed over his country's accession papers in a ceremony at the U.S. State Department in Washington.
"We are witnesses of Russia's unfavorable position towards Montenegro’s accession to NATO," Predrag Boskovic, Montenegro's defense minister, said on June 6.
"I sincerely hope, Russia will understand this has nothing to do with any anti-Russian sentiment, and that there is no anti-Russian hysteria in Montenegro," Boskovic said at a news conference in Montenegro's capital, Podgorica, after meeting with his Slovak counterpart, Peter Gajdos.
"On the contrary, this is also in the best interest of Russia, as peace in the Western Balkans is in Moscow's best interest," he added. "I honestly hope the Kremlin administration will understand, too, that relations between Montenegro and Russia should improve, as they’re currently at their lowest possible level."
However, on June 6, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reinforced Moscow's stance, saying Montenegro was "dragged into NATO."
"We have already clarified our position," he told a news conference in Moscow, adding that the European Union and the United States are "obsessed" with the Balkans.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on June 5 before the ceremony in Washington that "the anti-Russian hysteria that continues in Montenegro has only caused regret."
"In the light of the hostile line of Montenegrin authorities, the Russian side reserves the right to take retaliatory measures on the basis of reciprocity. In politics, as in physics, every action generates a reaction."
With reporting by Reuters and TASS