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memri
August 2, 2018 No.
7604

Russia-NATO Update – 'Why Should My Son Defend Montenegro?' Trump: I Ask The Same; Russian Commentators Weigh In

Russia-NATO Update is a new monthly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest news on Russia-NATO relations from the Russian and East European media.

On July 17, the day after his summit meeting in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump gave an interview to FOX news journalist Tucker Carlson.

In the interview, the host asked Trump: "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?"

Trump answered: "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."

"I understand, but that's the way it was set up," Trump then added. "Don't forget I just got here a little more than a year and a half ago but I took over the conversation three or four days ago, and I said, 'you have to pay! you have to pay!', and the [NATO] secretary general said that because of President Trump last year we had an addition 44 billion dollars raised for NATO." [1]

Commenting on Trump's statement, the government of Montenegro released a communiqué, stressing that Montenegro is proud of its history and tradition and "peaceful politics." It then underlined that the friendship and the alliance between Montenegro and the US is "strong and permanent."[2]

It is worth noting that Montenegro joined NATO in May 2017. Montenegro's NATO membership triggered anger in Russia, which views NATO's eastward expansion as a threat to its own borders. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Montenegro's accession to NATO a "purely geopolitical project." "Obviously, it doesn't strengthen NATO's security. It will most likely lead to additional expenses on the part of NATO member states because they'd have to also develop Montenegro's territory in military-technical terms," added Lavrov. [3]

Below are reactions by Russian commentators to Trump's statement on Montenegro:


(Source: Foxnews.com)


(Source: Travelquaz.com)

Russian Analyst Solonnikov: Trump Used A Catchy Expression

Dmitry Solonnikov, head of the Institute of Contemporary Statehood Development, opined:

"Beautiful words, beautiful game. Donald Trump loves to shock the public with various statements. Sometimes he subsequently withdraws them (his own words), but in this situation it is just a beautiful, catchy expression."

Solonnikov then added that despite various territorial conflicts between the Balkan states, it is unlikely that any local confrontation will lead to a global conflict.

(5-tv.ru, July 19, 2018)

RIA Columnist Ilyin: Trump Considers Everyone To Be Secondary To The US

Sergey Ilyin, columnist for RIA and Sputnik radio wrote that Trump had put NATO's Article 5 in doubt obliging all NATO members to come to the collective defense of an attacked member state:

"Apparently Trump should be treated, as the Bible puts it, according to his deeds and not his words. On July [17], the American leader slammed into Montenegro with harsh criticism. It's not easy to grasp quickly why he freaked out about this country. Could it be Melania, who whispered something into his ear? She is Slovenian, and Slovenia as well as Montenegro was a part of Yugoslavia once. Is the mysterious "skeleton buried" exactly there? Does Melania bear any personal antipathy towards the Montenegrins? God knows...

"Trump basically lacks time until the next round of elections. Thus, he intends to cordially reformat the current, globalists' established and agreed-upon order of things, the current world architecture. Since he lacks the time, he has to do it rudely. Trump needs the second term as he needs air to breathe, since otherwise his opponents will tear him apart. In order to achieve that he needs real actions, tangible changes that will be visible to voters.

"So, he tries to resolve this best way he can. In this context, Montenegro is just an indicator. Slightly more than a year ago Trump signed off on Montenegro's accession to NATO. A month later, in quite a rude manner he physically shoved the Montenegrin Prime-Minister Dushko Markovic at the NATO summit,[4] which led to stormy discussions. Yet, it's just the details, which demonstrate American leader's attitude towards secondary players. The problem lies in the fact that he in general considers everyone to be secondary [to the US]."

(Ria.ru, July 19, 2018)

Former Diplomat Platoshkin: NATO Does Not Want To Protect Montenegro

Nikolay Platoshkin, former Russian diplomat to the US and dean of the International Relations and Diplomacy faculty at the Moscow University of the Humanities, thinks that Trump deliberately mocks Montenegro, since he doubts the country's usefulness for NATO.

The former diplomat added: "Trump makes many statements in a personal capacity. Apparently he has read that Montenegro has opposed Turkish invasions for couple of hundreds of years and thus he decided that the Montenegrins are very belligerent and aggressive.

"In fact Montenegro is the last country at the moment to join NATO. It happened a year ago. If it is dragged into a conflict, thus it will lead to full scale military actions, which other NATO members don't want to be dragged into, but will be [nonetheless]."

(Gazeta.ru, July 19, 2018)

Russian Expert Tarnavsky: Trump Talked Straight To The Average American About The Problem Of NATO's Collective Defense

Aleksandr Tarnavsky, member of the Russian delegation to NATO's parliamentary assembly, said:

"Trump has not targeted Montenegro on purpose. Yet when he took a swing – everybody got theirs. I can say that on the one hand Trump is clearly correct in what he said. On the other hand, he is wrong…

"Whom was he addressing? He was addressing an average American. For [Trump], it is most urgent [to talk to an average American] - November midterm elections to the Congress are close. In fact, it is a referendum for any President – especially for Trump. Impeachment is pending."

Tarnavsky added that Trump explained that he understand the worries of the "average American", since according to article 5 on collective defense in the NATO treaty ,[5] the US will have to fight for a tiny country in Europe. "That's what an average American will get, if the [fifth] article works to full capacity," said Tarnavsky.

(Radiorus.ru, July 20, 2018)