President Trump said in an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson that he's consistently wondered why the U.S. would be willing to go to war to defend smaller NATO countries like Montenegro or Albania.

Why it matters: The mutual defense pact is the bedrock of NATO, and the only time it has been invoked was after the September 11 attacks.

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Data: iCasualties fatalities database for Iraq and Operation Enduring Freedom; Get the data; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Since the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom (2001) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003), NATO allies have suffered casualties alongside the U.S., though U.S. casualties are far higher. The countries with the most losses, aside from the U.S., are the U.K. and Canada. Montenegro, which joined NATO last year, has had troops working with NATO's Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan since 2010.

What Trump said: Prompted by Carlson, who asked why "my son should go to Montenegro to defend it from attack, Trump responded: "I understand what you're saying. I've asked the same question. ... They have very aggressive people.  They may get aggressive and congratulations, you're in World War III."

  • The context: Trump, along with all NATO allies, signed the Brussels Summit Declaration just last week, stating support for Article 5 which says an attack "against one Ally will be regarded as an attack against us all." The Brussels Declaration reads: "No one should doubt NATO's resolve if the security of any of its members were to be threatened."

Montenegro said in a statement: "[A]s a new NATO member and a candidate for the EU membership it contributes to peace and stability not only on the European continent but worldwide, along with U.S. soldiers in 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. Therefore, the friendship and the alliance of Montenegro and the United States of America is strong and permanent."

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