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25 May, 2017 17:00

Montenegro manhandled? Video shows Trump shoving PM aside at NATO summit

Montenegro manhandled? Video shows Trump shoving PM aside at NATO summit

The leader of NATO’s newest member state had a first-hand lesson in power dynamics at the alliance summit in Brussels, when he found himself pushed out of the way by US President Donald Trump.

Video of the interaction shows Trump grabbing the shoulder of Prime Minister Duško Marković of Montenegro and pushing him aside so he could get through to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Trump then adjusts his jacket and answers a question from Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, as the flustered Marković smiles and nods behind them.

Dusko Markovic himself did not appear to be insulted, however, saying that he hadn’t even noticed the maneuver and that Trump should be standing in the front row.

“It didn’t really register. I just saw reactions about it on social networks. It is simply a harmless situation,” he told reporters after the summit, as cited by AP.

“It is natural that the president of the United States is in the front row,” he added.

Montenegro is a Balkans country of 600,000 with a military of only 2,000 members. The former Yugoslav republic will formally join NATO next month.

The government in Podgorica rushed to join the alliance after last year’s election, claiming that Russia was targeting it for a coup. Moscow has denied the allegations and condemned the move as “a demonstrative act of violation of all democratic norms and principles,” because the government refused to hold a national referendum on the issue.

The US Senate ratified Montenegro’s membership in March in a vote of 98-2. When Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) objected, policy hawk and Trump foe John McCain (R-Arizona) accused him of “working for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”

Montenegro is the first member to join after being bombed by the alliance – for 78 days in 1999 – when NATO attacked former Yugoslavia on behalf of ethnic Albanian separatists in Serbia’s Kosovo province.

Once a staunch ally of Russia – going so far as to declare war on Japan in 1904 – Montenegro turned to Washington after former Communist official Milo Đukanović was elected president in 1997. Đukanović held the post of prime minister until 2016, when he was succeeded by party colleague Marković, and remains influential behind the scenes.

The president’s critics in the media had a field day with Trump’s “manhandling” of Marković, and sparked the social media hashtag #trumpshove.