BELGRADE (Bloomberg) - When Donald Trump barged past the leader of Nato's next member to bask in the media spotlight at the alliance's summit, footage of the incident soon flooded the Internet.
The US president was caught on camera jostling Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic out of the way to secure a prominent spot for a photo opportunity as Nato heads of state gathered on Thursday (May 25) in Brussels. While White House spokesman Sean Spicer said he hadn't seen the video, the press in and around the tiny Balkan country weren't amused.
"America First!" cried one CNN affiliate in the region, while Montenegro's Vijesti newspaper said Trump purposely "removed" Markovic to hog the limelight.
In neighbouring Serbia, the Alo tabloid called the move "brutal", with the Blic newspaper claiming Trump wanted to "show who's in charge".
Montenegro, a nation of 600,000 people, is set to become Nato's 29th member on June 5, the third former Yugoslav republic to join the alliance after Slovenia and Croatia.
Historic affinity to Russia has soured over Nato accession, with the Kremlin denying allegations it backed a failed coup attempt in October to overthrow Montenegro's pro-Western leadership.
Russia reveled in the controversy around Trump's shove. Alexei Pushkov, a member of the Upper House of Parliament, said it demonstrated Montenegro's "genuine place" within Nato.
Milan Knezevic, leader of Montenegro's opposition and anti-Nato Democratic People's Party, said by phone that Trump's behavior "is clear proof that there's no such thing as equality in Nato", showing that the country is just a "smudge" on the alliance's map.
Markovic himself brushed off the incident.
"It's only natural for the president of the United States to be in the front row," he said in a statement on the government website.
Markovic thanked Trump for supporting his nation's Nato membership and downplayed the scene as "harmless."