PODGORICA, Montenegro – Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday described Montenegro's membership in NATO as a "historic achievement" for the Balkan country that traditionally was an ally of Russia in the turbulent region.
He added that "we truly believe the future of the Western Balkans is in the West. And we look forward to affirming the commitment of the United States to building relationships and strengthening ties between the European community, the Western Balkans and the United States of America."
Pence is the highest-ranking American official to visit the small Adriatic state in 100 years. Russia considers Montenegro its traditional Slavic ally.
Pence said earlier during a formal dinner with Montenegro President Filip Vujanovic on Tuesday evening that "your courage, particularly in the face of Russian pressure, inspires the world and I commend you for that."
Pence said "I bring greetings from President Donald Trump. He sent me here as a tangible sign of our commitment to Montenegro as the newest member of NATO."
Russia is accused of masterminding an attempted coup in Montenegro in October to prevent it from joining NATO.