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Pompeo: US, Montenegro to sign military deal

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo participates in a joint press availability with Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio at Villa Madama in Rome, Italy, on October 2, 2019. (State Department photo by Ron Przysucha)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States and Montenegro are finalizing their biggest bilateral arms deal, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said during a short trip to NATO’s newest member.

“The U.S. looks forward to delivering $36 million worth of light tactical vehicles to our NATO ally once this agreement is finalized,” Pompeo said on October 4.

Pompeo, who arrived in Podgorica from Italy, held talks with President Milo Djukanovic and Prime Minister Dusko Markovic during his short trip.

Montenegro, the smallest former Yugoslav republic, joined NATO in June 2017 amid opposition from Russia, which has long opposed any further enlargement of the Western military alliance.

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Pompeo also highlighted cybersecurity cooperation with Montenegro, praising intelligence sharing through which “we’ve been able to develop a patch against the latest Russian malware that now protects millions of devices worldwide.”

He reiterated that the United States will stand with the people of Montenegro as a friend and ally.

From Montenegro, Pompeo traveled to Ohrid, in North Macedonia, where he met with President Stevo Pendarovski and is scheduled to also hold talks with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

A senior U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity said on September 27 that Pompeo will discuss “Russian efforts to sow discord” in Montenegro and North Macedonia during his visits.

The U.S. official cited an alleged 2016 coup plot in Montenegro that aimed to halt the country’s plans to join NATO.

A Montenegrin court has handed jail sentences to opposition politicians.

Russia also sought to stir up opposition to an agreement between then-Macedonia and neighboring Greece that paved the way for the former Yugoslav republic to join NATO and the European Union, the U.S. official said.

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From North Macedonia, Pompeo will travel to Greece later on October 4.