Tucker Carlson sat down with Donald Trump for an interview on Tuesday evening and used the opportunity to question the value of America’s commitment to NATO.
“So let’s say Montenegro — which joined [NATO] last year is attacked — why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?” Carlson asked before he quickly clarified that he was “not against Montenegro.”
“I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same questions,” said Trump. “Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. Very strong people. Very aggressive people. They may get aggressive and then congratulations, you’re in World War III, but that’s the way it was set up.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (generally known as NATO) was set up by the United States in the aftermath of WWII with the express purpose of preventing a third global conflict. NATO’s most famous provision known as “Article 5” requires the collective defense of all members — including Montenegro — asserting that an attack on one is an attack on all.
During the Cold War, NATO existed primarily for Western European countries aiming to hold the line against Soviet expansion. After the Soviet Union collapsed, the alliance itself quickly expanded to include the nations of Eastern Europe and projected American power deep into the Russian’s former sphere of influence.
In practice, Article 5 has allowed Europe to outsource its defense (and the attendant costs) to the United States, though it has only been invoked one time after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Trump’s remarks to Carlson suggest that he is no fan of NATO’s current security guarantees. It is unclear how Russia might respond to a weakening of the alliance, but in 2017, the Telegraph reported that Russia did attempt to sponsor a coup in Montenegro the year before and assassinate the country’s prime minister, Milo Djukanovic.
Reps for the Montenegrin government did not immediately respond to request for comment, but Prime Minister of Montenegro Duško Marković did address the matter in the nation’s parliament.
“He said that the Montenegrin people is brave and that he does not want the US citizens to fight for others and for other NATO member states,” said Marković in a translation provided to TheWrap by his spokesperson. “He did not say that only on that occasion, but he also said the same at the NATO Summit, you know it because he said it publicly, not in terms of justification of NATO’s existence, but of NATO funding.”