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Trump says U.S. may not defend ally NATO nations

By Amy R. Connolly
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said if elected he would consider abandoning guaranteed military protection to fellow NATO countries. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said if elected he would consider abandoning guaranteed military protection to fellow NATO countries. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

CLEVELAND, July 21 (UPI) -- Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said if elected he would consider abandoning guaranteed military protection to fellow NATO countries, instead first reviewing their contribution to the 28-nation alliance.

Trump, in a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, said the promise of U.S. military support to partner NATO nations should not be guaranteed. More specifically, he said he would only come to the aid of NATO allies such as Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia -- Baltic states that have recently joined NATO -- against Russian threats after reviewing whether they "have fulfilled their obligations to us."

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"If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes," he said.

Trump said the United States must "fix our own mess" before working to fix other nations. He re-emphasized his stance on forcing allies to commit to paying defense costs the United States has shouldered for decades, reviewing longstanding treaties he deems unfavorable and redefining U.S. partnerships. Other countries would adjust, he said. Trump made similar comments in April.

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"I think right now when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it's very hard for us to get involved in other countries when we don't know what we are doing and we can't see straight in our own country," he said. "Just look about what's happening with our country. How are we going to lecture when people are shooting our policemen in cold blood. How are we going to lecture when you see the riots and the horror going on in our own country."

Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's campaign pounced on Trump's comments Thursday morning, reiterating the campaign's position the Trump is "temperamentally unfit and fundamentally ill-prepared to be our commander in chief."

"For decades, the United States has given an ironclad guarantee to our NATO allies: We will come to their defense if they are attacked, just as they came to our defense after 9/11. Donald Trump was asked if he would honor that guarantee. He said ... maybe, maybe not," Senior Policy Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. "The president is supposed to be the leader of the free world. Donald Trump apparently doesn't even believe in the free world."

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In other comments made in the Times interview, Trump praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the recent failed coup attempt, saying, "Some people say that it was staged, you know that. I don't think so." He did not call for Erdogan to follow the rules of law in his crackdown on oppositionists.

"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," he said.

Trump underscored his willingness to "pull out of NAFTA in a split second" unless Mexico and Canada negotiate new terms that would discourage American companies from leaving the United States.

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He also spoke about modernizing America's nuclear arsenal. "We have a lot of obsolete weapons," he said. "We have nuclear that we don't even know if it works."

Trump is scheduled to address the Republican National Convention on Thursday.

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