A Gallup survey of central and eastern European attitudes toward NATO contains some interesting findings. For instance, it found that only 21% of Montenegrin respondents associate NATO with protection of their country, while 29% perceive it as a threat and 35% associate it with neither protection nor threat. There is evidently little popular enthusiasm for NATO there, and there is still quite a lot of residual hostility that dates back to the 1999 NATO bombing campaign. Last week, the main opposition party called for a referendum on joining the alliance, and suggested March 24–the anniversary of the bombing campaign’s start–as the date. Expanding the alliance is a bad idea in any case, but if most people there don’t want to join it is even harder to justify.
There are several other reasons why bringing Montenegro into the alliance makes no sense, but the apparent lack of popular support for the alliance makes it a poor candidate for membership. If almost a third of the people in Montenegro thinks of the alliance as a threat to their country, that will make it an exceptionally weak member that the alliance doesn’t need and shouldn’t want. The U.S. doesn’t need to take on any more security commitments than it already has, and it definitely doesn’t need to take on an ally when a large bloc of its citizens don’t want to join.