World Warfare III? Not us, say puzzled and anxious Montenegrins.
Public officers within the tiny Balkan nation in southeastern Europe didn’t know what to say initially when U.S. President Donald Trump instructed Montenegro might set off a world Armageddon with a army of fewer than 2,000 members.
That the chief of the world’s dominant superpower would characterize the nation’s inhabitants of about 620,000 as “very sturdy” and “very aggressive individuals” first rendered their authorities speechless. It discovered its voice Thursday, and what got here out was much less a battle cry than a refrain of “Kumbaya.”
“We construct friendships, and we’ve got not misplaced a single one,” learn an announcement issued within the capital Podgorica in response to the media’s clamoring for remark.
“It doesn’t matter how large or small you might be, however to what extent you cherish the values of freedom, solidarity and democracy.”
Residing in a area that has seen greater than its share of unstable conflicts, Montenegrins say they’re much extra all in favour of tourism than battle. Montenegro, a former Yugoslav republic like Slovenia, the house nation of U.S. first woman Melania Trump, is understood for its lengthy Adriatic Sea seashores.
“I laughed after I heard that and figured it may very well be commercial,” retiree Slavka Kovacevic, 58, stated of Trump’s depiction whereas taking a break from her morning procuring.
Trump ventured his ideas on Montenegro throughout an interview with Fox Information host Tucker Carlson performed Monday after the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. They have been discussing NATO’s mutual protection pact.
If the army alliance’s latest and smallest member have been provoked, having NATO behind it might embolden “a tiny nation with very sturdy individuals” to interact, the president stated of Montenegro.
“They’re very sturdy individuals. They’re very aggressive individuals, they might get aggressive, and congratulations, you might be in World Warfare III,” he added.
The remark was not the primary time that Trump had taken discover of Montenegro in a approach that attracted outsized consideration. At a NATO summit final 12 months, his first as president, Trump shoved Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic out of the way in which whereas attempting to get in entrance for a leaders’ group photograph.
WATCH: Did President Trump shove his technique to the entrance of NATO’s group photograph?
Again then, Markovic refused to make a fuss over the American president’s manners. Markovic additionally took the excessive highway concerning Trump’s feedback this week, noting in a parliamentary debate on Wednesday that they have been made inside the context of questioning NATO financing and never meant to insult a specific ally.
“Subsequently, the friendship and the alliance of Montenegro and the US of America is robust and everlasting,” Markovic’s authorities stated in its assertion Thursday.
Trump’s views have some foundation in historical past. Montenegro, which implies “Black Mountain,” does boast of a heroic warring custom solid over centuries of conquest and modern conflicts within the troubled Balkans.
Montenegro was a uncommon nation within the area to retain a stage of autonomy throughout the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Its previous ties to Russia, with whom Montenegro shared a predominantly Slavic and Orthodox Christian tradition, have been so sturdy that its leaders have been stated to have declared a battle on Japan in 1904 simply to help Russia.
Montenegro turned a part of Yugoslavia after World Warfare I. Through the breakup of Yugoslavia, Montenegro was bombed by NATO forces in 1999 earlier than it break up from Serbia in 2006.
“I simply need to remind all of the American public opinion and President Trump that Montenegro was an ally with American troopers in two wars, within the first world battle and the second world battle,” former parliament speaker Ranko Krivokapic instructed The Related Press.
“Montenegrins will not be aggressive … however the nation of courageous warriors,” he stated.
Because it occurs, Maine Gov. Paul LePage was visiting Montenegro in hopes of strengthening ties with enterprise and political leaders when the president’s interview aired. Maine and Montenegro have had a partnership since 2006 that LePage says initially centered on catastrophe reduction, emergency administration and border safety.
The Balkans have a troublesome historical past, however “everyone likes Montenegro,” the governor stated in a video the U.S. Embassy in Montenegro posted Tuesday. The embassy adopted up with an announcement Thursday during which it stated “the US is proud to name Montenegro an ally.”
Though its land mass and army are small, Montenegro was seen as an necessary addition to NATO when it defied Russia and joined final 12 months. Together with having been a Russian ally within the Balkans, the nation sits on a southern stretch of the Adriatic Sea that Moscow has been eager to regulate.
Montenegrin authorities accused Russia of being behind a foiled coup in 2016 that was meant to kill the nation’s pro-NATO prime minister. Russia has denied the allegation. Given the current tensions, some Montenegrin observers nervous Trump’s feedback may have to be taken critically.
Former parliament communicate Krivokapic described Trump’s comment as “very unusual.”
“I hope (it was) only a mistake, nothing else,” Krivokapic stated. “And I hope that Montenegro was not a part of (the) Helsinki talks.”
The response of Miljan Kovacevic, 34, a lawyer in Montenegro, was extra akin to his prime minister’s post-shove aplomb.
“He’s the president of America, however he has not achieved too nicely together with his statements recently,” Kovacevic shrugged.
Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade.