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U.S. Senator Backs Montenegro's NATO Membership, Warns Of Russia's Intentions

U.S. Senator John McCain (left) speaks during a joint press conference with Montenegrin Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic in Podgorica on April 12.

PODGORICA -- U.S. Senator John McCain has said Montenegro's accession to NATO is crucial to stability in the region in the face of Russian actions abroad that he called "not acceptable."

McCain made the comments following an April 12 meeting with Montenegrin Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic in Podgorica, the capital of the Balkan country.

The meeting came one day after U.S. President Donald Trump signed U.S. ratification of Montenegro's NATO membership, which Moscow has fiercely opposed.

"I believe the Russian behavior requires our solidarity and our strength, in order to preserve principles and fundamentals of democracy," said McCain, an Arizona Republican who is one of the most vocal critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the U.S. Congress.

Officials in Montenegro have accused Russia of involvement in an alleged coup plot late last year, purportedly aimed at impeding the country's further Western integration. Russia rejects the allegation.

Moscow has long chafed at NATO's expansion and described Montenegro's upcoming accession to the military alliance as a "provocation."

McCain's trip coincided with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to Moscow, where he was meeting with senior Russian officials on April 12.

With reporting by Reuters