NATO’s youngest member claimed it had a ‘history and tradition and peaceful politics’ and pledged permanent friendship to the US, after President Donald Trump called Montenegro’s people ‘aggressive’ and capable of starting WWIII.
“Montenegro is proud of its history and tradition and peaceful politics that led to the position of a stabilizing state in the region,” the Montenegrin government said in a statement on Thursday, adding that the country “contributes to peace and stability not only on the European continent but worldwide, along with US soldiers in Afghanistan.”
The former Yugoslav republic joined NATO in May 2017, giving the alliance almost complete control of the Adriatic coastline. It was the first new member since 2009, when Croatia and Albania were admitted to the US-led alliance.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson brought up Montenegro during the interview with Trump following the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.
“Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?” Carlson asked Trump,
“I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same question,” the US president replied. “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.”
US media and Democrats, already worked up over Trump’s summit with Putin, accused the president of undermining Article 5, under which an attack on one NATO member is an attack on all.
Presumably to dispel the notion its people were aggressive, Thursday’s government statement described Montenegro as “the only state in which the war didn’t rage during disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.” This airbrushes from history both the 1999 NATO bombing to separate Kosovo from Yugoslavia, of which Montenegro was then a part, and the 1991 conflict over Croatia’s secession, which saw troops from Montenegro fighting near the city of Dubrovnik.
“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,” argued the government in Podgorica, in reference to its size (5,333 square miles) and population (630,000 or so).
“We build friendships, and we have not lost [a] single one,” the government added. Again, it appears that the destruction of kinship with Serbia and the traditional friendship with Russia – which once led Montenegro to declare war on Japan in solidarity with Czar Nicholas II in 1904 – simply doesn’t count.
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Moscow has also questioned Montenegro’s claim to be the paragon of democracy, since the country’s NATO membership was never approved in a referendum, receiving only parliamentary approval.
Back in June 2017, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Montenegro’s admittance to NATO a “purely geopolitical project” that would do nothing to strengthen the security of either NATO or Montenegro. He also denounced the “hysterical Russophobic voices, which are heard coming from Podgorica.”
Montenegro’s Prime Minister Dusko Markovic tried to smooth the ruffled feathers in the parliament, explaining that the US leader wasn’t questioning the necessity of NATO, but expressing his dissatisfaction with how the block was funded.
“Let’s leave Trump alone. He’s said it before, and this isn’t the first time,” Markovic told lawmakers on Wednesday. Markovic was similarly deferential to Trump last year, after the US leader jostled him aside at the NATO summit.
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