Amwal Al Ghad English - 2016-07-21 09:46:39
In his strongest remarks to date on the future of the western military alliance, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Wednesday the U.S. would only defend NATO members attacked by Russia after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”
In an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, the billionaire cast doubt on whether he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization the assurance that they have U.S. military support in the event of an attack. He specifically referred to the small Baltic states which share borders with Russia.
Trump’s comments deepen his criticism of NATO after he called it “obsolete” in April during campaigning for the nomination. They come less than two weeks after the NATO summit in Warsaw agreed to enhance deployment of forces in Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia as a deterrent following Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
President Vladimir Putin is overseeing the biggest Russian military buildup at its western border since the collapse of communism. The Kremlin is spending 20 trillion rubles ($314 billion) on an ambitious defense upgrade through 2020, while NATO’s plans involve rotating four battalions through the region.
For an explainer of Russia’s military position, click here.
“The geopolitical situation is worrying, we see how the Kremlin is trying to increase its sphere of influence,” Inara Murniece, speaker of Latvia’s parliament, said in a Latvian television interview Thursday. “We will have to speak about security a lot no matter who is the next U.S. president.”
There are “no grounds to doubt the commitments that Lithuania has and we therefore do not doubt our allies’ commitments,” Lithuanian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kestutis Vaskelevicius said by phone Thursday.
Trump’s refusal to guarantee that the U.S. will defend its allies follow successful efforts by his campaign team to remove proposals at this week’s Republican convention for a future administration to arm Ukraine in its conflict with Russian-backed separatists. Instead, the platform amendment pledged to offer only “appropriate assistance.”
The NATO treaty states that an armed attack against any member state in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all, allowing parties to take action against the aggressor. NATO calls the so-called Article 5 commitment a “cornerstone” of the alliance and it was invoked for the first time after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
“If Trump doubts NATO solidarity in the case of Article 5, then his election is dangerous for Baltic security,” Artis Pabriks, a former Latvian foreign and defense minister who’s now a member of the European Parliament, said on Twitter.
Estonia “fought, with no caveats, in NATO’s” operation under Article 5 in Afghanistan, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said on Twitter. It’s one of five NATO allies that meets its commitment to spend 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense, he said.
Trump also said he would not “lecture” NATO ally Turkey about purges of political adversaries or crackdowns on civil liberties after the attempted coup in that country, saying the U.S. had first to “fix our own mess.”
Turkey on Thursday imposed a three-month state of emergency as the government pursues those it sees responsible for the failed takeover that left almost 250 people dead. Thousands of army officers, judges and prosecutors have been detained, and a wider purge is under way that encompasses universities, schools and the civil service. Financial markets have been thrown into turmoil.
Trump praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, giving him credit for seeing off the failed coup. “Some people say that it was staged, you know that,” he said. “I don’t think so.”
“When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger,” Trump said. More»