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Would Trump honor NATO commitment to defend Montenegro?

CNN's Barbara Starr reports.

Posted: Jul 19, 2018 1:17 PM
Updated: Jul 19, 2018 2:02 PM

The tiny Balkan nation of Montenegro responded Thursday to US President Donald Trump's remark that it is a "very aggressive" country by saying it was proud of its "peaceful politics" and "stabilizing" influence in the region.

Trump's comments on Montenegro came during an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson, where he appeared to waver on whether the US would come to the defense of all NATO member countries.

In a statement, the government of Montenegro said: "We build friendships, and we have not lost (a) single one, and at the same time we are able to boldly and defensively protect and defend our own national interests."

"In today's world, it does not matter how big or small you are, but to what extent you cherish the values of freedom, solidarity and democracy. Therefore, the friendship and the alliance of Montenegro and the United States of America is strong and permanent."

As a new NATO member, the government added, Montenegro "contributes to peace and stability -- not only on the European continent but worldwide."

Montenegro, in southeastern Europe, became the 29th member of NATO in June last year.

NATO requires all members to help defend fellow member nations that have been attacked, as Carlson noted to Trump in the interview, which aired Tuesday evening.

"Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?" Carlson inquired.

Trump responded: "I've asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. ... They are very strong people. They are very aggressive people, they may get aggressive, and congratulations, you are in World War III."

Article 5 of the NATO treaty provides that "an attack against one Ally is considered as an attack against all Allies." While at the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, last week, Trump signed the NATO communiqué, which explicitly endorsed Article 5.

A former NATO supreme allied commander, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, told CNN's "New Day" on Thursday that Trump's wavering commitment to NATO's mutual defense provision would worry Montenegro.

"This is the worst nightmare for the Montenegrins," said Clark, who was a Democratic candidate for president in 2004. "They thought they were safe, they got into NATO, they rely on NATO to give them the assurance to be able to build a democracy and move their economy forward."

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