BRUSSELS -- NATO welcomed Montenegro as its newest member with a flag-raising ceremony at the Western alliance's headquarters in Brussels.
"NATO is an alliance of democracies, united by a single purpose: to stand with each other and defend each other," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on June 7, calling it a "historic day."
"Montenegro joins NATO as an equal, with a seat at our table, and an equal voice in shaping the future of the alliance," said Stoltenberg, who congratulated Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic and the people of the Balkan country "for everything you have achieved."
"Montenegro's accession sends a message to other states that seek membership: that if a country travels the path of reform, embraces democracy, and the rule of law and proves itself willing to and able to contribute to our collective defense, sharing the responsibilities as well as the rewards, then it, too, can join the alliance," Stoltenberg said.
Vujanovic described the event as "a great day for Montenegro."
"With NATO membership, our future will be stable, secure, and prosperous," he said. "And we will make decisions about the most important issues within the strongest, most organized, and most efficient alliance in the history of mankind."
Russia has criticized accession for the Adriatic coastal state, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asserting on June 6 that Montenegro was "dragged into NATO" and his ministry saying Moscow reserves the right to take "retaliatory measures" on what it called "anti-Russian hysteria" there.
Montenegrin officials have charged 14 people in connection with an alleged Russia-backed plot to take over parliament in October and assassinate then-Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic in a bid to keep the country out of NATO.
Montenegro became NATO's 29th member at a ceremony in Washington on June 5.