Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic is convinced that his country can expect to become a full member of NATO by the middle of next year because accession negotiations are progressing very well.
"I expect negotiations to be completed in a month and half. After that the process of ratification will follow in the parliaments of member states of the alliance. Based on the experience of other countries, we can realistically expect that by mid-2017 Montenegro will be a full member of NATO," Djukanovic said in an interview with the Russian TV Rain, carried by Montengrin media.
Djukanovic said that Montenegro's accession to the European Union and NATO would mean a guarantee of security for the country and other countries in the Western Balkans and that that "cannot disrupt good relations with Russia that have continued for more than 300 years, but it (Montenegro) has the right and is capable of determining its own path for the future."
"Our path toward the EU and NATO is in our interest and it is in no way intended to cause any damage to anyone. We regret the way Russia perceives our membership in NATO. We hope that this will pass and that it will not permanently disrupt relations between Montenegro and Russia," Djukanovic said.
Commenting on earlier statements that Russia was behind street protests in Montenegro, Djukanovic said that the opposition in that country has "unambiguous support from Russia."
"Almost all the leaders of those street protests have spent more time in Russia over the past few months than in Montenegro and were received by senior Russian officials who sent signals... that Russia supports them in their efforts to prevent Montenegro's accession to NATO," Djukanovic said.