US presidential candidate Donald Trump has said that, if he were elected president, the United States might not come to the defence of the Baltic states if they were attacked by Russia.
Donald Trump
© AFP/Scanpix

In an interview to the New York Times on the eve of accepting the Republican Party's nomination to run for president, Trump was asked about the United States' commitments to its NATO allies, something that the New York billionaire has called into question before.

Asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic states that are among the more recent entrants into NATO, Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations "have fulfilled their obligations to us".

He added, “If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.”

Trump has previously criticized NATO members for free riding and not contributing enough to the common defence. In the New York Times interview, he "re-emphasized the hard-line nationalist approach that has marked his improbable candidacy, describing how he would force allies to shoulder defense costs that the United States has borne for decades, cancel longstanding treaties he views as unfavorable, and redefine what it means to be a partner of the United States".

Linkevičius: Baltic states meet their obligations

Commenting on Trump's statements, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said that the Baltic states were meeting their obligations to NATO.

"The Baltic countries give no grounds to doubt the fulfillment of their obligations to the Alliance. Likewise, we have no reason to doubt that our allies will meet their obligations to the Alliance," Linkevičius told Žinių Radijas on Thursday morning.

He noted that Lithuania had been raising its defence funding. Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius has recently said it will reach 1.79% of the GDP in the 2017 budget, just short of NATO's 2% target.

Linkevičius has put Trump's statements down to "election rhetoric".

"The election campaign is a period based on which it is difficult to judge and draw conclusions, or even to comment on something. And when it is a country with a long tradition (...), its policy is predictable and, therefore, I would definitely not expect any radical turns, any radical changes," Linkevičius said.

"There are always nuances, but I have no doubt whatsoever that the United States has been, is and will certainly be the most important strategic partner and ally of Lithuania," he added.

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