Palin takes hard line on Russian aggression

Taking a hard line on national security, Sarah Palin said on Thursday the U.S. could be forced into war against Russia to help defend future NATO allies from possible aggression by Moscow.

In the Alaska Governor's first interview since she was picked as John McCain's vice-presidential running mate, she told ABC News she supported Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO, and believed the U.S. would have to fight alongside the two nations if that decision provoked Russian military action.

"I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you're going to be expected to be called upon and help," she said.

Asked whether that meant the U.S. would have to take military action against the Kremlin, she replied, "Perhaps so."

Ms. Palin's sit-down with ABC News anchor Charles Gibson was her first extended media interview since she joined Mr. McCain on the Republican presidential ticket two weeks ago.

Her sudden rise from relative obscurity in Alaska has generated enormous public interest, but the McCain campaign had limited her public appearances to scripted political rallies.

The 44-year-old mother of five, who is in her first term as governor, said she had no doubt she would be ready to step in as president if Mr. McCain was unable to serve a full term.

"I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink," she said.

"So I didn't blink then even when asked to run as his running mate."

She also addressed a controversy over remarks about the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

In June, she told the Assembly of God in her hometown Wasilla, Alaska, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." Palin attended an army deployment ceremony in Alaska on Thursday for her eldest son Track, who will be serving in Iraq.

Asked to explain her words, Ms. Palin initially disputed its accuracy, telling Mr. Gibson, "I don't know if that was my exact quote."

Pressed to answer, she said, "I don't know if the task is from God, Charlie. What I know is that my son has made a decision. I am so proud of his independent and strong decision he has made, what he decided to do and serving for the right reasons and serving something greater than himself and not choosing a real easy path where he could be more comfortable and certainly safer."

She added: "I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words."

Her comments on Russia come as U.S. relations with Moscow deteriorated to a post-Cold War low after Russia invaded Georgia last month.

Both Mr. McCain and his Democratic counterpart, Barack Obama, have condemned Russia's action, with Mr. McCain proposing Russia be expelled from the Group of Eight.

Russia has opposed the admission of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO alliance.

Ms. Palin said she "definitely" supports a U.S. strategic alliance with Ukraine and Georgia because "the Rose Revolution, the Orange Revolution, those actions have showed us that those democratic nations, I believe, deserve to be in NATO."

The U.S. needs to strengthen NATO because it "is the group that can be counted upon to defend one another in a very dangerous world today," she added.

It also needs to be "vigilant" against potential Russian aggression and she would support future "economic sanctions perhaps" against Moscow.

"It doesn't have to lead to war and it doesn't have to lead ... to a Cold War, but economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, again, counting on our allies to help us do that in this mission of keeping our eye on Russia and [Russian prime minister Vladimir] Putin and some of his desire to control, and to control much more than smaller democratic countries."

Mr. Putin's "mission, if it is to control energy supplies, also, coming from and through Russia, that's a dangerous position for our world to be in, if we were to allow that to happen." she said.

[Source: National Post, Washington, 11Sep08]

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