Newly-built real estates are seen behind tourists in city marina in Budva, Montenegro, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic
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Tiny Montenegro will take a huge step toward integrating with the West when it becomes the 29th member of NATO this week, but it risks paying a heavy price for spurning Russia. For nearly a decade after Montenegro split from Serbia in 2006, Moscow cultivated close ties with the former Yugoslav Republic, and money poured in from Russian investors and tourists.Montenegro blamed Russia for an alleged plot to assassinate its prime minister last October, which officials said was aimed at blocking its entry to NATO.Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said a recent Russian ban on imports of wine from Montenegro was linked to its NATO membership.For a country of just 650,000 people with 2,000 military personnel and an area smaller than Connecticut, Montenegro has strategic value out of proportion to its size.Still, NATO is a divisive issue among Montenegro's own people. Many see Russia as a historic friend – a traditional ally against the Ottoman Empire, and the first nation to establish diplomatic relations with Montenegro in 1711 .Many remember a 1999 NATO bombing raid that killed 10 people in Montenegro, part of a wider intervention by the alliance to end Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic's campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.
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