How they see us: Can NATO survive Trump?
Under NATO’s founding treaty, an attack on one alliance member is considered an attack on all, said Vijesti (Montenegro). But U.S. President Donald Trump seemed to call into question NATO’s central principle of mutual defense last week by suggesting that he would be reluctant to defend Montenegro, which joined the pact last year. Our tiny nation is home to 600,000 “very aggressive people,” Trump said, adding that this bellicosity could easily drag NATO’s 28 other members into World War III. Smaller than Connecticut, Montenegro is in fact too insignificant to cause any such trouble. Montenegrin Foreign Minister Srdjan Darmanovic brushed off Trump’s comment as “a good joke,” insisting “we are a very peaceful nation.” The government issued a statement noting that Montenegrins have already served alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan and that the key to NATO membership is not how big or small you are, “but the extent to which you value the values of freedom, solidarity, and democracy.”
Trump is right to question whether Montenegro should have been allowed into NATO, said Charles Crawford in The Daily Telegraph (U.K.). After all, the Balkan nation is in Russia’s crosshairs. In 2016, Russian-backed rebels tried to assassinate its prime minister and foment a coup against the government, part of an effort to derail Montenegro’s accession to NATO. When that failed, Moscow launched massive cyberattacks. Russia believes Montenegro is within its sphere of influence: The country broke away from Serbia—a staunch Russian ally—in 2006 and still has a large Serbian minority, as well as plenty of Russian oligarchs’ beach houses. If NATO isn’t truly committed to defending Montenegro, then it was a mistake to let this micronation into the club. Because “failure to respond to an attack on one member risks encouraging more and more aggression.”
Europe simply isn’t ready for a world in which the U.S. isn’t committed to NATO, said Claudia Major and Christian Mölling in Der Tagesspiegel (Germany). In a best-case scenario, Europe would need 10 to 15 years to replace American troops and equipment deployed on the Continent with weapons systems of its own production. Europe, then, needs to pursue two tracks: “First, try to save the transatlantic relationship”; second, start building up our own military capability.
In the meantime, Trump’s hostility to the alliance puts us all in danger, said former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt in Handelsblatt (Germany). Imagine that next month a NATO nation tells us that Russia has launched a “secretive, Crimea-style military operation within its borders.” That 2014 attack involved Russian troops disguised as locals, and Putin denied anything was happening right up until he annexed the territory from Ukraine. Would Trump invoke NATO’s collective defense? Or would he “question the intelligence, belittle U.S. allies, and validate Putin’s denials?” That we don’t know the answer tells us that “NATO is in peril, and its fate now lies in Trump’s contemptuous hands.”