Trump at NATO summit 2018
Credit: Dan Scavino Jr/Twitter

During the transition, Trump told the New York Times that he might not come to the aid of NATO countries if they were attacked by Russia. While in attendance at his first NATO meting in 2017, the president initially refused to commit to NATO’s Article 5. Finally, some of his advisors convinced him that his reluctance to do so was a problem and he reversed course.

President Trump on Friday committed to the collective defense of NATO, ending a weeks-long saga over his willingness to endorse a cornerstone clause of the 28-nation alliance.

During a news conference with the president of Romania, Trump pledged that the United States is committed to NATO’s Article 5, which says an attack against one member is an attack against all, triggering collective defense.

During an interview with Tucker Carlson that aired last night, the president once again raised questions about his commitment to NATO’s Article 5.

One of the patterns we’re seeing emerge with Trump is that, even when his advisors convince him to backtrack on an incendiary claim (i.e., the U.S. might not honor Article 5 or Russia didn’t interfere in the election), he eventually returns to his original position.

It wasn’t a coincidence that Carlson and Trump discussed this in relation to the newest NATO member, Montenegro. First of all, most Americans will have never heard of the tiny country with a population of only about 600,000 people. So Fox viewers would probably agree with Carlson that they wouldn’t want their son going to defend the country from an attack. The response would have been quite different if the example of a country under attack by Russia was the United Kingdom or France.

A few of us, however, will remember that it was the president of Montenegro, Dusko Markovic, that Trump shoved out of his way to take a front row position for photos at the 2017 NATO meeting.

What’s interesting about all of this is that it is actually yet another in the long line of examples of Trump adopting Vladimir Putin’s position. Just prior to Montenegro joining NATO in 2017, there was an attempted coup in that country.

Just how serious Moscow is about Montenegro was revealed in a sinister plot that was unmasked last fall, shortly before its execution. In mid-October, Montenegrin authorities arrested some 20 people, most of them citizens of neighboring Serbia, for conspiring to overthrow the government in Podgorica and assassinate Prime Minister Milo Djukanović, the wily politician who ruled Montenegro from 1991 until 2016. Soon it emerged that the plot ringleaders were two Russian nationalists…

…there is solid evidence that the Kremlin was directly behind the plot against Montenegro. As explained this week by Milivoje Katnić, the country’s top special prosecutor, the coup and assassination plot was the handiwork of Moscow. The ringleader was Eduard Shirokov, an officer of Russia’s military intelligence service, known as GRU. This was a fully Kremlin-orchestrated clandestine operation to kill Prime Minister Djukanović and overthrow the government, Katnić elaborated.

Well now…the plot thickens, doesn’t it? I’m not saying that Montenegro should be too worried about an imminent attack. Instead, as I suggested, it is no coincidence that this is the country chosen by Carlson and Trump for this discussion. We have yet another incidence of the president collaborating with Russia right in front of our eyes. This time it’s a case of trashing a country that Putin doesn’t like while questioning NATO’s Article 5 that includes a country like Montenegro. That one pretty much hits all of Putin’s talking points for his asset in the White House.

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.