US, Montenegrin generals promote partnership

U.S. National Guard chief, Lt. Gen. Steven Blum and Montenegro’s army commander announced Thursday the start of a military partnership as part of stepped-up relations between the two nations.

During a visit to Podgorica, the Montenegrin capital, Blum said the day marked a “first historic step in an important bilateral partnership” between the United States and the newly independent Balkan state.

The two will soon sign the Status of Forces agreement, the basis for U.S. military personnel to hold exchanges, training exercises and other cooperation with Montenegro, Blum said.
The state of Maine was specifically chosen to develop a Partnership Program with Montenegro.

“Both of our nations share common goals of democracy, responsible global conduct and strong national security,” Blum said.

Montenegro army Gen. Jovan Lekic said his country “still has far to go” to attain the standards of Western armies.

In October, the U.S. National Guard launched a similar partnership with Serbia, Montenegro’s former partner in the country the U.S.-led NATO alliance bombed in 1999 to halt the war in Kosovo.

Montenegro, a state of 620,000 people, gained independence from Serbia in June. Last month, at the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, Montenegro was invited along with Serbia and Bosnia to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace program, considered a stepping stone to full alliance membership

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