Trump blasts Montenegro, questions NATO mutual defense

WASHINGTON DC: Days after a widely slammed summit with his Russian counterpart, President Donald Trump drew fresh scorn Wednesday for calling North American Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) under girding principle into question and for attacking “tiny” Montenegro, whose accession to the alliance enraged Moscow.

Trump’s comments, which a former US ambassador to NATO decried as a “gift to Putin,” came in an interview with Fox News when 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 III,” he added. Montenegro, a former Yugoslav republic with a population of about 630,000, joined NATO last year, becoming is 29th member. Its military only numbers about 2,000 personnel.

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The only time Article 5 was ever 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 seeking retribution for the nation’s harboring of the terror group. “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.

Senior Republican leader Senator John McCain, who has called Monday’s summit with President 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 & questioning our obligations under NATO, the President is playing right into Putin’s hands.” But 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 told reporters.

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Bandow noted that Montenegro joined NATO on Trump’s watch. “This president allowed that to move forward last year. So if you allow it to happen, why are you complaining about it?” Bandow said.

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