WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement regarding recent comments by the Republican presidential nominee about the United States commitment to NATO:
“After nearly seven decades ensuring the security of Europe, NATO may be facing one of its biggest threats, and he happens to be running for President of the United States. The Republican standard bearer has again made clear that he does not view America's commitment to NATO as ironclad, suggesting that we might not abide by our Article 5 obligations if Russia invaded the Baltic countries.
“Our allies hear this and question whether American leadership is a sure thing. At the same time, this is music to President Putin's ears. His goal for years has been to fracture Western unity and undermine NATO's resolve. He seems to have a willing partner in the Republican party: its policy platform calls for softening America's position on Russia's occupation of Eastern Ukraine, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin, the Russian strongman.
“American foreign policy requires a steady hand at the helm, a deep understanding of complex issues, and a firm commitment to our values. Those requirements are incompatible with cozying up to tyrants and backing away from our international obligations. America’s leaders must be clear-eyed about the challenges we face and must maintain our nation’s commitments to our allies.”
Today, the New York Times published the transcript of an interview with Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump which included the following excerpt:
SANGER: Since your time is limited, let me ask you about Russia. You’ve been very complimentary of Putin himself.
TRUMP: No! No, I haven’t.
SANGER: You said you respected his strength.
TRUMP: He’s been complimentary of me. I think Putin and I will get along very well.
SANGER: So I was just in ——
TRUMP: But he’s been complimentary of me.
SANGER: I was just in the Baltic States. They are very concerned obviously about this new Russian activism, they are seeing submarines off their coasts, they are seeing airplanes they haven’t seen since the Cold War coming, bombers doing test runs. If Russia came over the border into Estonia or Latvia, Lithuania, places that Americans don’t think about all that often, would you come to their immediate military aid?
TRUMP: I don’t want to tell you what I’d do because I don’t want Putin to know what I’d do. I have a serious chance of becoming president and I’m not like Obama, that every time they send some troops into Iraq or anyplace else, he has a news conference to announce it.
SANGER: They are NATO members, and we are treaty-obligated ——
TRUMP: We have many NATO members that aren’t paying their bills.
SANGER: That’s true, but we are treaty-obligated under NATO, forget the bills part.
TRUMP: You can’t forget the bills. They have an obligation to make payments. Many NATO nations are not making payments, are not making what they’re supposed to make. That’s a big thing. You can’t say forget that.
SANGER: My point here is, Can the members of NATO, including the new members in the Baltics, count on the United States to come to their military aid if they were attacked by Russia? And count on us fulfilling our obligations ——
TRUMP: Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.
HABERMAN: And if not?
TRUMP: Well, I’m not saying if not. I’m saying, right now there are many countries that have not fulfilled their obligations to us.