U.S. President Donald Trump has said that Montenegrins are "very strong, very aggressive" people and suggested he fears NATO's newest member could drag the alliance into a major war.
In an interview with Fox News TV recorded in Helsinki and aired on July 17 in the United States, Trump was asked about NATO's Article 5, which says that an attack on one alliance member is an attack on all members.
When asked by the interviewer, "Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?" Trump replied, "I understand what you're saying. I've asked the same question."
He said that Montenegro is "a tiny country with very strong people, by the way. They're very strong people, they're very aggressive people. They may get aggressive and, congratulations, you're in World War III."
Trump then acknowledged that under Article 5, which enshrines the principal of collective defense, NATO would have to defend Montenegro if it is attacked because "that's the way it was set up."
The Montenegrin Embassy in Washington told RFE/RL that it could not immediately respond to Trump’s remarks.
Trump caused a stir when he shoved Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic aside as he pushed to get into a group photo at a NATO summit in May 2017.
Markovic reacted mildly, saying later that the push "didn't really register."
In his comments to Fox News, Trump went on to stress that every alliance member must meet its financial commitments, saying, "You have to pay, you have to pay."
At a NATO summit last week in Brussels, Trump urged alliance members to speed up increases in their defense spending.
NATO allies in 2014 vowed to seek to meet a target of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense by the end of 2024.
Montenegro became NATO's 29th member in June 2017, marking a historic geopolitical turn toward the transatlantic alliance amid opposition from Russia.
Moscow has long opposed any further NATO enlargement and has bitterly criticized Podgorica's accession to the alliance.