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Biden to Baltics: don't take Trump seriously

August 23, 2016

The US vice president maintained there is broad bipartisan support for the NATO alliance in the US, regardless of Trump. He called the US commitment to NATO a sacred honor that would always be upheld.

US Vice President Joe Biden gives a speech in Riga.
Image: Getty Images/AFP/P. Malukas

US Vice President Joe Biden reaffirmed the United States' commitment to the NATO alliance and its allies after meeting with leaders of the Baltic states in the Latvian capital, Riga on Tuesday.

He said the US remains committed to the collective defense of all NATO members, including those on its easternmost flank.

"I want to make it absolutely clear to all the people in (the) Baltic states: we have pledged our sacred honor, the United States of America... to the NATO treaty and Article Five," Biden, a Democrat, said in the Latvian capital.

"The fact that you occasionally hear something from a presidential candidate in the other party, it's... nothing that should be taken seriously," Biden said.

His comments were meant to allay fears provoked by recent comments made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who cast doubt on America's inviolable commitment to its NATO allies.

Crimea tensions prompt UN crisis meeting

Trump recently said that if he were elected president his commitment to defending NATO members would not be automatic.

In addition to Trump's controversial remarks, the Baltic states - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - have been unnerved by recent acts of Russian aggression, most notably Moscow's annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, as well as the ongoing separatist movement in eastern Ukraine that is backed by Kremlin.

The fighting there has claimed nearly 8,000 lives since April 2014.

Bipartisan support for NATO

US Vice President Joe Biden and Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis talk.
Joe Biden talks with Latvian President Raimonds VejonisImage: Getty Images/AFP/P. Malukas

Excepting Trump, Biden said there is strong bipartisan support for the trans-Atlantic alliance.

"There is continued overwhelming bipartisan commitment in the United States of America in both political parties to maintain our commitment to NATO," he said.

The Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has a definitive but not insurmountable lead in opinion polls.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said she was confident that the US would continue to support the alliance wholeheartedly, regardless of who became the next president.

"It is important for us that we are ready, all parties, to confirm our strategic partnership ... and we are sure that no matter what changes will be after the elections in (the) United States, their commitments ... to NATO, to (the) Baltic region, will stay," she said, speaking after Biden.

Ukrainian troops put on high alert

Russia accuses NATO of being an aggressor because of its eastward expansion. Taking in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in 1999 was distasteful for the Kremlin, but the 2004 enlargement, which saw seven former Soviet bloc nations - including the three Baltic states - join the alliance was a particularly bitter pill for Moscow.

Russia still regards its former Soviet territory as its sphere of influence.

bik/jil (Reuters, AP, dpa)