Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said Thursday she is ready to be vice president and warned the U.S. needs to be vigilant in the face of Russian aggression, including being ready for war if it means defending NATO allies.
In her first full interview since becoming the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Mrs. Palin told ABC News she takes a strong pro-Israeli and activist view of the U.S. role in the world. She said the U.S. "should not second-guess" Israel's decisions on defense, including a future strike on Iran, and she defended the doctrine of a pre-emptive attack if American lives are at stake.
"If there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against the American people, we have every right to defend our country," she said.
She said she didn't hesitate when Republican presidential nominee John McCain tapped her two weeks ago to be his running mate.
"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," Mrs. Palin said in the interview broadcast Thursday night.
Mrs. Palin has faced scrutiny with speed unprecedented for a nominee, with cable news networks devoting near-saturation coverage to her family, her record, her churches and her politics since her selection.
That only made Thursday's interview all the more anticipated - a fact ABC was well aware of, billing its coverage as "the interview everyone's been waiting for." The network planned to broadcast more of the interview on its "Nightline" program Thursday, and to broadcast further interview segments Friday.
Mrs. Palin was in Alaska on Thursday at a send-off ceremony for her son, who is in the Army and is deploying to Iraq. It was the first time she has not been on the campaign trail with Mr. McCain since last week's Republican convention.
She has spent much of her time getting up to speed on Mr. McCain's stances and helping him draw huge crowds. But Thursday she was on her own, and ABC anchor Charles Gibson tested her knowledge of foreign affairs, asking her whether former Soviet republics Ukraine and Georgia should be admitted to NATO, and how far the U.S. should go in defending them if they are admitted.
She said both should be admitted, based on their recent democratic progress, and said the U.S. would go to war with Russia if that nation attacked NATO allies.
"Perhaps so. 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, taking the same strong-line position Mr. McCain took in siding with Georgia in its recent brief war with Russia.
"We have got to show the support, in this case, for Georgia. The support that we can show is economic sanctions perhaps against Russia, if this is what it leads to," she said. "It doesn't have to lead to war and it doesn't have to lead, as I said, 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 [Prime Minister Vladimir] Putin and some of his desire to control and to control much more than smaller Democratic countries."
Mr. Gibson at one point implied Mrs. Palin was stumbling over the question, telling her he was getting "lost in a blizzard of words there" when she was fumbling over how far the U.S. could go to pre-empt an attack.
Mr. Gibson also asked her about her travel experience, and she acknowledged that before a recent trip to Kuwait to visit Alaskan National Guard troops she had only visited Mexico and Canada and had not met personally with any foreign leaders.
But she did stress that during her recent trip she also met with wounded U.S. troops at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany - something Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama failed to do during his recent overseas travels. And at another point, she noted she has been in touch with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
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