CLEVELAND - Donald Trump has raised new questions about his commitment to the defense of Nato allies on the eve of his acceptance of the Republican presidential nomination, The New York Times reported.

In an interview with the newspaper on Wednesday, Trump also expressed little willingness to speak out against purges or civil rights crackdowns by authoritarian allies like Turkey, the Times said.

“I don’t think we have the right to lecture,” the Times quoted him as saying during the 45 minute interview in a downtown Cleveland hotel suite. “Look at what is happening in our country,” he said. “How are we going to lecture when people are shooting policemen in cold blood?”

The Times said that Trump re-emphasized the hardline nationalist approach that he has taken during his campaign, describing how he would force allies to shoulder defense costs that the United States has borne for decades.

Asked about Russian activities that have alarmed the Baltics, Nato’s newest members, 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.”

“If they fulfil their obligations to us, the answer is yes,” he said.

A cornerstone of the 28-member trans-Atlantic alliance is its Article 5 commitment that an attack one member state is an attack on all, a pledge invoked after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Presidents of Baltic states Estonia and Lithuania were quick to fire back Thursday. Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves insisted on Twitter that his nation of 1.3 million people bordering Russia is meeting all its Nato spending commitments.

“Estonia is 1 of 5 Nato allies in Europe to meet its 2 percent defence expenditures commitment,” he said, adding Estonians had “fought, with no caveats” in Nato operations in Afghanistan. “We are equally committed to all our Nato allies, regardless of who they may be. That’s what makes them allies,” Ilves said.

Sharp-tongued Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters in Vilnius “It’s not necessary to interpret the words of presidential candidate Mr. Trump.”

“We know the US will always be our most important partner,” she said, adding that Lithuania would meet Nato spending obligations by 2018.

Trump, who said he would press the theme of “America First” at his address Thursday night to the Republican National Convention, said allies would adjust to his approach.

“I would prefer to be able to continue” existing agreements, he told the Times, but only if allies stop taking advantage of an era of American largesse that was no longer affordable.

The remarks also drew fire from presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which said they showed Trump “is temperamentally unfit and fundamentally unprepared to be our commander-in-chief.”

“It is fair to assume that Vladimir Putin is rooting for a Trump presidency,” said Clinton foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan.


Boos for Sen Cruz as Trump’s rival offers no endorsement


WASHINGTON - US Senator Ted Cruz, a fierce rival of Donald Trump, bashed Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and establishment politicians during his speech at the Republican convention Wednesday evening — but did not endorse Trump, drawing angry boos from the billionaire businessman’s backers in the hall.

Analysts say Cruz’s decision not to endorse Trump has raised questions about whether Republicans can finally unite behind Trump to defeat Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in the November election.

Cruz received a standing ovation as he took the stage on the third day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He, however, earned a chorus of boos after he withheld an endorsement of his former rival.

“We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love,” said Cruz, who came in second to Trump in the Republican nomination contest. “If you love our country and love your children as much as I know that you do, stand and speak and vote your conscience,” Cruz added, as the crowd chanted “Trump! Trump!”

Trump walked into the stage before Cruz finished speaking and gave a thumbs-up to the people chanting in his support.

Trump later wrote on Twitter that Cruz broke a promise they had made to endorse him in the November presidential election against Democrat’s Clinton. “Wow, Ted Cruz got booed off the stage, didn’t honour the pledge! I saw his speech two hours early but let him speak anyway. No big deal!,” Trump tweeted.

Trump delegates cat-called and pointed fingers at the Texas senator as he told the delegates to “vote your conscience” — but did not mention Trump, the Republican nominee.  Cruz named Trump only once in his entire speech and that was to say only “I congratulate Donald Trump on winning the nomination.”


Muslim voters launch anti-Trump campaign


WASHINGTON - Muslim leaders in the United States have begun to register a million voters to help counter Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims.  According to the leaders, Muslim voters could influence results in so-called swing states, such as Virginia and Florida, which are very important in the November presidential election.

“We want the Muslim community to understand that if you give up your rights voluntarily, no one will come and give it back to you,” Osama Abu Irshaid, who is a member of the board of the US Council of Muslim Organizations, said.

The umbrella organisation is spearheading the campaign against Trump who has proposed a temporary ban on Muslim travelers and called for racial profiling of 3.3 million American Muslims.

Imams, or prayer leaders, have been called on to encourage their congregations to register to vote. Organizers have sent activists to college campuses, bus stations and gas stations in Muslim neighborhoods for the registration.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said the campaign actually started in December 2015 and is part of an effort to counter an “unprecedented rise in Islamophobia.”

He said that 300,000 Muslims have registered so far. Trump has said he doesn’t like the concept of racial profiling, but it may be necessary. “Other countries do it.

You look at Israel and you look at others, and they do it and they do it successfully,” the outspoken billionaire said. He has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the United States.

He has also sought for a database to track Muslims across the United States and said that the US would have “absolutely no choice” but to close down mosques.