Days after President Donald Trump challenged whether the U.S. should honor its Article 5 collective defense commitments to defend tiny NATO member Montenegro, the Pentagon reassured its Eastern European allies it would continue to be a deterrent presence against Russian aggression and committed an additional $200 million to the defense of Ukraine.
The funds will go toward “training, equipment and advisory efforts to build the defensive capacity of Ukraine’s forces,” the Pentagon said in a statement Friday.
The new funds bring the total amount of U.S. assistance to $1 billion since Russian-backed forces invaded Crimea in 2014.
“If they were seriously planning on withdrawing from NATO, I think it would create a unifying event unlike anything you’ve seen in U.S. history,” says Republican Sen. Thom Tillis.
The new funds are a sharp contrast to comments Trump made to Fox News after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s comments seemed to stun NATO member countries, who have been working with the U.S. to increase military rotations and shorten the amount of time it would take for forces to assemble along Europe’s eastern flank to deter against any further Russian incursions. Montenegro joined the alliance in 2017.
“You know, Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people... . They are very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in World War III. But that’s the way it was set up," Trump said.
On Thursday the government of Montenegro issued a response to Trump’s remarks, emphasizing their commitment to NATO and contributions to Afghanistan.
“In today’s world, it does not matter how big or small you are, but to what extent you cherish the values of freedom, solidarity and democracy,” the government said.
The Pentagon said the funds would also “enhance Ukraine’s command and control, situational awareness systems, secure communications, military mobility, night vision, and military medical treatment.”
No timeline was provided on the delivery of those systems. Ukraine is not a member of NATO.