Trump Says US May Not Defend NATO Allies

     (CN) – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump late Wednesday night suggested he would not automatically defend NATO allies from a Russian attack, comments that his running mate desperately tried to walk back Thursday morning.
     Trump said U.S. support in the event of such an attack would be contingent on the specific ally’s contributions to the alliance.
     Trump made the comments in an interview with The New York Times, ahead of his speech to formally accept the Republican nomination for president late Thursday.
     While Trump said he would prefer to continue the nation’s existing agreements with its NATO allies, he said that would only be possible if they stepped up financially and stopped depending on American Cold-War era largess.
     Asked specifically whether he would automatically intervene if Russia attacked the Baltic States, Trump said he would consider defending them only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”
     Trump’s statements are dramatically at odds with longstanding U.S. foreign policy.
     NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a military alliance of European and North American democracies created after World War II to strengthen international cooperation as a counter-balance to the rise of the Soviet Union.
     Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign was quick to pounce on Trump’s statements.
     “The president is supposed to be the leader of the free world. Donald Trump apparently doesn’t even believe in the free world,” Clinton senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement shortly after the interview was published.
     “Ronald Reagan would be ashamed. Harry Truman would be ashamed. Republicans, Democrats and independents who help build NATO into the most successful military alliance in history would all come to the same conclusion: Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit and fundamentally ill-prepared to be our commander in chief,” Sullivan added.
     On Thursday morning, Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence tried to blunt the controversy, assuring reporters in a series of interviews that’s he’s confident the GOP president nominee would stand by the nation’s allies.
     However, even Pence insisted that NATO members “must pay their fair share.”
     Pence told Fox News that a Trump administration would tell U.S. allies “The time has come for them and for their citizens to begin to carry the financial costs of these international obligations,” Pence told Fox News Thursday morning.
     Trump also told The Times that he would not criticize Turkey for cracking down on political opponents and restricting civil liberties following last week’s attempted coup. Of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump said: “I give great credit to him for being able to turn that around. … Some people say that it was staged, you know that. I don’t think so.”
     The U.S. has no “right to lecture” Turkey and other countries when “people are shooting policemen in cold blood,” Trump said.

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