The former commander of NATO forces smacked down President Donald Trump and Fox News host Tucker Carlson for questioning the importance of the alliance.
Retired admiral James Stavridis, the former Supreme Allied Commander Europe, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" the pair's questions were ridiculous and ahistorical.
"It's a treaty," Stavridis explained. "We've made an international agreement. We have an obligation and it stood in place for 70 years."
Carlson and the president asked Tuesday night on Fox News why the U.S. should back tiny Montenegro, whose people Trump claimed were "aggressive" and might trigger a world war, but Stavridis said the reason was simple and important.
"By defending Montenegro, we buy the partnership of 28 nations that collectively have 52 percent of the world's GDP," Stavridis said. "By the way, the Europeans have the second largest defense budget in the world after the United States. Bigger than China's and bigger than Russia's."
Stavridis, current dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said the U.S. had benefitted from the treaty possibly more than any other member state.
"They went with us to Iraq, to Libya, to the Balkans, to Afghanistan," Stavridis said. "When I was a NATO commander I signed, sadly, thousands of condolences, about third of them to Europeans who died fighting because the United States has been attacked. The only time Article 5 has been invoked was after 9/11 -- we were the beneficiaries of that. I think that's a pretty good equation in terms of NATO."
In an earlier segment, Stavridis compared Trump's acceptance of a soccer ball from Russian president Vladimir Putin to a volleyball that served as a companion to Tom Hanks' stranded character in "Castaway," and the retired admiral clearly was disturbed by that image.
"The big beneficiary is the guy who flipped the soccer ball to the president," Stavridis said. "That's Vladimir Putin, because that creaking sound you're hearing is the transatlantic bridge between the United States, Canada and our European allies, and it's creaking under pressure from Donald Trump."
"That's a very bad place for the United States of America to be," he added, "because in Europe we find our greatest pool of allies, partners and friends, and to walk away from that is a big mistake."