During a visit to Montenegro US Vice President Mike Pence said the country was playing a leading role in advancing stability and security of the Western Balkan region. The experts Sputnik talked to wondered if Mr. Pence really knew anything about the country he had come to.

Serbian political analyst Aleksandar Pavic said that “if Montenegro is a guarantor of stability, we can kiss Balkan stability goodbye.”

“Montenegro can’t put out the forest fires raging on its territory, even outside its capital, and if it is a guarantor of Balkan stability, then these flames of ‘stability’ will engulf the entire region before we know it,” Pavic said in an interview with Sputnik Serbia.

Marko Vesovic, who writes for Dan, a daily newspaper published in Montenegro, told Sputnik that the military and political potential of tiny Montenegro, with a population of less than 600,000, is next to zero and that Mike Pence’s words do not mean that Montenegro can serve as a security guarantor to anyone.

“A country whose army consists of less than 1,000 men is useless in terms of ensuring any regional security, but it is still being used as a ‘positive example’ of a country, which has joined NATO. This is a signal to Serbia, the leading regional power, that if it agrees to become part of the Euro-Atlantic integration process, the US might consider some of its interests,” Marko Vesovic said.

“The US wants to exercise full political control over the Western Balkans and it needs Montenegro to show Serbia how it would profit from joining NATO,” he added.

Marko Vesovic said that nothing had changed in Montenegro since the country joined the North Atlantic Alliance in June.

“Crime, corruption and mafia-style governance haven’t gone anywhere. The state apparatus sticks to its tried-and-true modus vivendi. Nothing’s is being done to punish corrupt politicians with links to the mob whose number is too large for comfort,” he complained.

Montenegro joined NATO on June 5, 2017 as the 29th member of the Western defense alliance, despite the fact that about half of the country’s population was opposed to the move.

Montenegro was invited to join NATO in December 2015, as part of the first expansion of the alliance into Eastern Europe in six years. Podgorica accepted the invitation, triggering mass protests across the country.