March 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate voted 97-2 to admit Montenegro, a small Balkan nation, into the NATO military alliance.
All 28 current NATO members also must approve the treaty for Montenegro to join the alliance.
Two Republicans -- Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah -- voted against the measure.
As part of NATO's Article 5, member states agree to defend any NATO country threatened by force.
"I want to send a clear signal to our friends in Montenegro and to the Russians about how we feel," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said recently.
"You are achieving the objectives of trying to dismember this small country, which has already been the subject of an attempted coup," McCain said on the Senate floor.
Paul said before the vote: "Most Americans couldn't find Montenegro on a map. Are you willing to send your kids there to fight?" he asked. "That's what this is about."
Lee agreed with Paul.
"I don't see how the accession of Montenegro, a country with the population smaller than most congressional districts and a military smaller than the police force of the District of Columbia, is beneficial enough that we should share an agreement for collective defense."
Authorities in Montenegro say that pro-Russian factions attempted a coup last October during parliamentary elections, allegations that the Kremlin denies.
Russia has a "negative" view of the "further eastward enlargement of NATO," Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said last month.
For seven years, Montenegro has applied for NATO membership. The only country to approve the membership so far is Spain.
Montenegro means "Black Mountain" in Serbia and 50 percent of its 5,188 square miles contain thick forest. It is bordered by Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Albania and the Adriatic Sea. It has a current estimated population of 626,212, according to Worldometers.
Monenegro became a sovereign state in a referendum in May 2006, breaking away from Serbia, which was part of the former Yugoslavia.