Trump Suggests Montenegro Could Cause World War Three: 'Very Aggressive'
TEHRAN(Tasnim) - Donald Trump has drawn fresh scorn for attacking Montenegro, whose people he described as “very aggressive”, suggesting the small nation could be the cause of a third world war.
Days after a widely-criticized summit with his Russian counterpart, Trump’s comments were decried as a “gift to Putin”.
In an interview with Fox News, Trump also called into question NATO’s founding principle. He was asked about Article 5, NATO’s common defense clause which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.
“Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?” Fox host Tucker Carlson asked.
Trump responded: “I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same question.”
“Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people ... They’re very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in world war three,” he added, The Guardian reported.
Montenegro, a former Yugoslav republic with a population of about 630,000, joined NATO last year, becoming its 29th member, a move that enraged Moscow. Its military numbers about 2,000 personnel.
Montenegro’s relations with Russia have deteriorated in recent years as the Balkan nation moved to join NATO. It also hopes to join the European Union, much to the anger of Putin, who sees the west perennially creeping towards Russia.
Moscow has been accused of meddling in Montenegro’s elections, and a failed 2016 coup was allegedly planned by pro-Russian militants.
Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said Trump’s comment was “not in the context of justification of NATO’s existence, but of NATO funding”.
“He replied to the question in which he said that the Montenegrin people are brave and that he does not want citizens of the US to fight and get killed for other NATO members states,” Markovic told parliament late Wednesday in the capital Podgorica.
The only time Article 5 has ever been invoked was by America after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks conducted by al-Qaeda. Nearly 17 years on, NATO troops are still operating in Afghanistan after the US-led invasion of the country.
“Trump sows further doubt whether the US under his leadership would defend our allies. Another gift to Putin,” Nicholas Burns, who was US ambassador to NATO after the 9/11 attacks, wrote on Twitter.
Some observers derided Trump’s claim that Montenegro is aggressive, recirculating online a video of last year’s NATO summit where the US president appeared to shove Montenegro’s prime minister aside at a photo shoot.
Senior Republican leader senator John McCain, who has called Monday’s summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki a “tragic mistake,” said Trump was doing exactly what the Russian strongman wanted.
“The people of Montenegro boldly withstood pressure from Putin’s Russia to embrace democracy,” McCain said on Twitter.
“The Senate voted 97-2 supporting its accession to NATO. By attacking Montenegro and questioning our obligations under NATO, the President is playing right into Putin’s hands.”
But the State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Trump has been unequivocal in his support of NATO’s collective defense.
“The summit declaration that came out at the end of the summit stated clearly that any attack against one ally would be regarded as an attack against all,” Nauert said.
Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, called Trump’s remarks “extraordinary”.
“It is not just that the president throws Montenegro under the bus; he makes the US commitment to NATO conditional and makes clear his discomfort w Article 5 and collective security, the core of the alliance,” Haass wrote on Twitter.