Montenegro is smaller than Connecticut and it has far fewer people, but the former Yugoslav republic is now punching well above its weight in international relations. Despite Russia's objections, NATO invited the country to join the alliance on Wednesday, marking its first expansion since Albania and Croatia joined in 2009, reports Reuters. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg—who declared "the beginning of a very beautiful alliance" during a meeting at alliance headquarters in Brussels—insists that the move was made without Russia in mind, Reuters notes, though the BBC reports that NATO diplomats say it's a message to Moscow that it cannot impede the alliance's expansion.
Reuters describes Russia's position as such: "Moscow opposes any NATO extension to former communist areas of eastern and southeastern Europe, part of an east-west struggle for influence over former Soviet satellites that is at the center of the crisis in Ukraine." The BBC notes that with a military of around 2,000 people out of a population of 650,000 and a navy that "largely comprises two ex-Yugoslav frigates," Montenegro will not be a major military contributor to NATO as its 29th member. Russia has described NATO negotiations with Montenegro as "confrontational" and "yet another serious blow" to the current security situation, reports the AP, which notes that Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and—most alarmingly for Russia—Georgia are also on course to join NATO. (Read more Montenegro stories.)