President Donald Trump yesterday (17 July) appeared to put in doubt the United States’ obligation to defend NATO allies.
At the end of his European tour, which included a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, a visit to the UK and the latest NATO summit in Brussels, Trump spoke to Fox News, appearing to waver on whether the US would come to the defence of all NATO allies.
He also suggested that if the US would come to the rescue of a small country, the result would be World War III.
Article 5 of the Atlantic Treaty requires all members to help defend fellow member nations that have been attacked.
Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson first asked Trump, “What is the purpose of NATO right now?”
Trump talked again about how countries should be paying and said, “It’s not a new fact. This is something that people have known for a long time.”
At one point, Carlson posed this question to the President:
“Membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member that’s attacked. So let’s say Montenegro, which joined last year, is attacked. Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?”
TUCKER: "Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?"
TRUMP: “I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same question." https://t.co/Mlkf9AEcAv
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) July 18, 2018
Trump agreed, saying, “I understand what you’re saying, I’ve asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. They are very aggressive people, they may get aggressive, and congratulations, you are in World War III. But that’s the way it was set up.”
In social media, Trump’s Montenegro comment was compared to the famous 4 May 1939 article title “Why die for Danzig?”. The appeasement tactics of that time encouraged Hitler to invade Poland in September 1939.
This Montenegro thing may become the Trumpist “Why die for Danzig?” line.
— Mark R. Yzaguirre (@markyzaguirre) July 18, 2018
Montenegro became the 29th member of NATO in June 2017, despite Russian objections.
According to reports, Russia tried to organise a coup to derail Montenegro’s NATO accession.
The pro-Russian opposition in Montenegro – which opposed the country’s NATO membership – rejected the accusations as propaganda and boycotted the Parliament.
The country is seen as the Western Balkans’ frontrunner for EU accession.
As Trump was speaking, a delegation of the European Parliament visited Podgorica. According to the declaration adopted, MEPs expressed satisfaction that Montenegro had opened talks on 31 of the 35 negotiation chapters and provisionally closed three of them.
The MEPs also express satisfaction that a major part of the opposition, including members of the joint EU-Montenegro parliamentary committee, returned to parliament.
Media in Podgorica quoted the head of the European Parliament delegation, MEP Petar Kouroumbashev (S&D, Bulgaria), describing Montenegro as the leader in EU accession talks and that it should not be part of any package with other EU hopefuls.
— Peter Kouroumbashev (@PKouroumbashev) July 17, 2018
An anecdotic detail is that Trump pushed aside the Montenegrin Prime Minister Duško Marković during the 2017 NATO meeting.
Pres. Trump tells Tucker Carlson "Montenegro is a tiny country…they are very aggressive people" (Below Trump w/ Montenegro PM last year) pic.twitter.com/AAHfECmCbV
— Ryan Browne (@rabrowne75) July 18, 2018
At last week’s NATO summit, Trump greeted the President of Montenegro Milo Djukanović by nearly elbowing him in the face.
— Georgi Gotev (@GeorgiGotev) July 18, 2018
Trump doesn’t understand why #NATO countries agree to defend each other? He forgets 9/11 when all the allies came to our defense. They went into Afghanistan+are still there with us 17 years later. That’s why he was wrong to demean NATO last week. https://t.co/x66lsbU7eR
— Nicholas Burns (@RNicholasBurns) July 18, 2018
From February: Montenegro to increase troop presence in Afghanistan, per request of US. https://t.co/T1r3kkWElQ
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) July 18, 2018
The people of #Montenegro boldly withstood pressure from #Putin’s Russia to embrace democracy. The Senate voted 97-2 supporting its accession to #NATO. By attacking Montenegro & questioning our obligations under NATO, the President is playing right into Putin’s hands.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) July 18, 2018