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​The NATO alliance should continue to grow, officials from three Eastern European countries said Wednesday at an Atlantic Council event in Washington, D.C. Montenegro’s membership would contribute to a whole, peaceful, and free Europe, the country’s Minister of Defense Milica Pejanović Đurišić said. NATO members’ foreign ministers formally invited Montenegro to become the alliance’s 29th member despite Russian protests in May, but each member’s government needs to approve the deal before it becomes official. But Đurišić noted many Balkan nations are not part of the alliance. “There are a number of gaps, illogical ones,” she said. “So we’ve got to have it filled somehow.” Georgia also aspires to join the alliance. Georgia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikheil Janelidze argued NATO has become stronger after each enlargement process. Enlargement, in turn, has increased regional security and economic growth, he said. Janelidze said Georgia expects a clear signal on its integration into the alliance during the Warsaw summit in July. “Everybody knows Georgia is ready to be a member,” he said. The head of the Ukraine’s parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Hanna Hopko, said the alliance countries should be more open to allowing new members, including Montenegro and Georgia. NATO needs to be “more proactive based on lessons learned [of] how to prevent a potential conflict,” she said.