Donald Trump might not be widely regarded as a fountain of historical knowledge, but based on what he told a Fox news interviewer, he does seem to recall that the devastating First World War was caused by political friction in the Balkans. During the interview in question, Trump was asked,
“Let’s say Montenegro, which joined last year, is attacked. Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack?”
The US President responded by saying,
“They’re very strong people, they’re very aggressive people. They may get aggressive and, congratulations, you’re in World War Three”.
While the population of Montenegro is just over 600,000 (the population of New York City is 8.5 million by comparison) and with the armed forces of Montenegro being comprised of only 1,950 active duty individuals, the country is hardly a military mover and shaker. Furthermore, Montenegrin culture is traditionally considered among the most laid back in the region while when most southern Europeans think of Montenegro it is in the context of tourism rather than terrorism.
That being said, Montenegro is in Europe’s most geopolitical fraught region and because of this, there is a great amount of truth to what Trump states. At present the west Balkan country currently most at risk of both internal and external confrontation is the country that used to call itself Macedonia, while today the Prime Minister of said country calls it Northern Macedonia (while the President does not) and finally, the official UN name for the country and the name still most typically used in neighbouring Greece is “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”. For the purposes of this article the nation shall be called “Macedonia” for the sake of brevity.
Already one can see the beginning of conflict when a nation’s Premier and President cannot agree on what their country is or should be called. Making matters more fraught, Macedonia’s ethnic Albanian minority have become emboldened in their agitations for wider communal autonomy, something which threatens the fragile inter-ethnic Ohrid Agreement which in 2001, prevented the country from plunging into civil war.
Compounding this is the fact that the current Prime Minister depends on the support of ethnic Albanian nationalist parties to remain in power while increasingly, the ethnic Albanian population of Macedonia have become drawn to the political agitation movement known as ‘Greater Albania’. According to this extreme geopolitical program, Albanian ultra-nationalists seek to capture and annex parts of Macedonia, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro.
Finally, with some Bulgarian nationalists claiming that if the western portions of Macedonia become either a second Albania (in a would-be confederation model) or simply part of the existing Republic of Albania, eastern portions of the country should then become part of Bulgaria as according to Bulgarian nationalists, the Slavic Macedonian ethnic-identity was merely a political invention to justify the fact that the territory in question should not form part of a slightly Greater Bulgaria.
Therefore, between the internal problems of Macedonia which dovetail into the wider problem of a would-be war for a regional Greater Albania that would pit the current Republic of Albania against all of its neighbours, including Montenegro – one can see that Donald Trump is in fact making a logically legitimate point as was interviewer Tucker Carlson. After all, if a majority of Americans could not find these small countries on the map, let alone have any meaningful connection to any of them, it is absurd to think that American lives should be risked by entering such a conflict.
While non-interference appears to be Trump’s view, members of the Obama administration and many current influential elements within the US “intelligence community” and military-industrial complex continue to openly support the fast-tracking of Macedonia’s NATO membership while covertly many in the US so-called deep state also favour the Greater Albania project based on the fact that the US has inherited Austria’s historic Serbophobic role in the region, while Washington’s deep state leaders have found over the decades that using Albania as a de-facto NATO satellite state has proved to be fruitful.
Therefore, the prospect of a war between NATO states and non-NATO states is in fact very real while the possibility of NATO members fighting one another in the Balkans (an unprecedented phenomenon since NATO’s founding) is also one that cannot be dismissed.
Because of this, while singling out Montenegro was not the best example, Donald Trump is factually correct that a war triggering Article 5 of the NATO charter is increasingly likely in the Balkans while he is also correct that while such a war might serve the strategic goals of the American elite, such a war would do nothing to protect the lives of Americans who remain blissfully non effected by the conflicts in Europe’s historic powder keg.