The new government in Skopje is stepping up its efforts with the goal of FYROM (Macedonia) becoming a NATO member.

Tanjug is reporting this on Tuesday, citing an article published by Bloomberg.

The Macedonian government is “arguing that membership in the military alliance will protect the nation from Russia ‘interfering’ in its affairs,” the US agency said, quoting the country’s defense minister and deputy PM, Radmila Sekerinska, who spoke last week.

“Influences interfering in this strategic goal aren’t helpful, and they’re not friendly. We’ve seen some leaks, even before the government was elected, about Russian attempts for influence in key political and security areas. And we have been concerned about them. We believe Macedonian NATO membership can put an end to these attempts,” she said.

In the article, entitled, “Republic of Macedonia eyes NATO to ward off Russian interference,” Bloomberg noted that since June and “the first change in leadership in more than a decade,” Skopje has been “trying to rejuvenate its efforts to join the European Union and NATO.”

Sekerinska is quoted as saying that PM Zoran Zaev’s government is “seeking to improve ties with Greece and commit to domestic reforms within nine months to be able to join NATO as soon as possible.”

The country needs to address issues regarding the rule of law and judicial independence that are now “seen as a problem for Macedonia’s NATO entry,” Sekerinska also said, adding that Skopje strives to follow the example of Montenegro and will therefore “start boosting defense spending in 2018 from below one percent of gross domestic product.”

According to Bloomberg, Sekerinska “hailed last week’s visit of US Vice President Mike Pence to Montenegro, which she said delivered a key message’ that removed all doubts from earlier this year about whether the US remains committed to NATO and the region.”