NATO invites Montenegro to join alliance defying Russia

Kremlin: “irresponsible” action that undermines trust

Kerry listens to a question during a news conference at the NATO ministerial meetings at NATO Headquarters in Brussels

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO invited tiny Montenegro on Wednesday to join the military alliance in its first expansion since 2009, defying Russian warnings that enlargement of the U.S.-led bloc further into the Balkans is “irresponsible” action that undermines trust.

In a scripted session at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, Montenegro’s Foreign Minister Igor Luksic strode into the imposing conference hall to loud applause from his peers as NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg declared: “This is the beginning of a very beautiful alliance.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the decision to invite Montenegro was not directed at Russia. “NATO is not a threat to anyone … it is a defensive alliance, it is simply meant to provide security,” Kerry told a news conference. “It is not focused on Russia or anyone else.”