US Vice President Mike Pence (L) shakes hands with Montenegro's Prime Minister Dusko Markovic (R) prior to their joint press conference in Podgorica on August 2, 2017.
US Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that the future of the Western Balkans lay "in the West", on the last leg of a tour aimed at reassuring Eastern European allies anxious by Russian Federation.
Pence is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Montenegro in over 100 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which began in 1905 when Washington recognised the independence of the Kingdom of Montenegro.
Pence also expressed the United States' unwavering support for Montenegro and admiration for the country's resolve in the face of Russian attempts to divert it from its Euro-Atlantic path, the release said.
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On August 2, Pence was due to attend the Adriatic Charter summit - a gathering that also brings together leaders from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, and Slovenia. "He sent me here as a tangible sign of our commitment to Montenegro as the newest member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation", he added. His Montenegro trip is widely regarded as a show of support both for Montenegro as the newest North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member, and the entire Balkan region amid claims of growing Russian influence.
Montenegro's accession to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on June 5 - and Georgia's hopes of joining the military alliance - have stirred fury in Moscow, which considers both countries to be in its historic sphere of influence.
According to Montenegrin authorities, Russian state agencies backed an alleged plot to overthrow the pro-Western government in Podgorica last October. Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.
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