Kerry reassures NATO on US pledge, after Trump remarks

BRUSSELS: The United States is committed to the collective defence of NATO members, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday in a bid to reassure European allies worried by comments by Donald Trump.

Republican presidential hopeful Trump spooked fears in eastern Europe earlier this year when he questioned Washington’s adherence to NATO’s key Article 5, which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

“In the United States, we will never forget that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty was triggered for the first time after 9/11,” Kerry said in a speech at a think-tank in Brussels, Belgium.

“And I can assure you, that whatever you may have read in recent times, the United States will never fail to meet its own Article 5 obligations should any NATO member come under attack.”

Kerry insisted however that Russia had nothing to fear from NATO, despite rising tensions between Moscow and the West over the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and the Syria war.

“NATO is a defensive alliance. The Russian people, in particular, should know that despite what their leaders sometimes tell them, our alliance does not seek to weaken, contain, or divide their nation,” Kerry said.

He said he had “probably spent as much time with the Russian foreign minister (Sergei Lavrov) as I have with any other foreign diplomat.”

NATO leaders agreed at a summit in July to boost their defences in the east to face an increasingly assertive Russia. Moscow has accused NATO of provocation and of trying to encircle it.

Trump said in July that in the event of a Russian attack on the Baltics, NATO’s newest members, Washington might assess whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us” before deciding to come to their aid.