Pence: U.S. committed to adding western Balkan countries to NATO

Aug. 2 (UPI) — During an Adriatic Charter Summit speech in Montenegro, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the White House is committed to increasing NATO membership, citing “America first does not mean America alone.”

Pence made the remarks in Montenegro’s capital city of Podgorica on Wednesday.

Montenegro and the Republic of Macedonia co-hosted the Adriatic Charter Summit — attended by Pence and the leaders of other fellow charter members: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia.

Kosovo, which has applied to become a charter member, also attended the summit, along with Serbia, an observer.

Pence said President Donald Trump sent him to Montenegro as the first U.S. vice president to visit the country to “celebrate the progress of the western Balkans here at this historic Adriatic Charter Summit.”

Pence said Trump sending him to the summit is a sign of the administration’s “enduring commitment” to western Balkans.

“The Adriatic Charter has played a leading role in bringing the western Balkans into unity with Europe and alliance with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and, under President Donald Trump, the United States of America will continue to support each of you as you pursue this future together,” Pence said.

Pence said the White House is committed to a Europe that is “whole, free and at peace,” adding that the United States supports Kosovo in becoming a full member of the charter.

Montenegro became the latest charter member to successfully join NATO as the alliance’s 29th member.

Pence said Montenegro’s ascension into the most powerful alliance in the world means NATO’s door is open for new members.

“Under President Trump, the policy of the United States will always be to put the security and prosperity of America first — but as the president has made clear, and I hope as my presence here today demonstrates, America first does not mean America alone,” Pence said. “The bond between the United States and Europe has been, is now and always will be essential for we are stronger together than we will ever be apart.”

The Adriatic Charter — formally ratified in 2003 — is an association of countries designed to help founding and new members become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance. Albania and Croatia became NATO members in 2009 and Montenegro became a NATO member in 2017.

During the summit, the regional leaders discussed “advancing the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of countries in the region, advancing reforms, promoting regional reconciliation and joint contribution to regional and global stability,” the U.S. Embassy in Montenegro said in a statement.

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