FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska (AP) - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin left open the option Thursday of waging war with Russia if it were to invade neighboring Georgia and the former Soviet republic were a NATO ally.
"We will not repeat a Cold War," Palin said in her first television interview since becoming Republican John McCain's vice presidential running mate two weeks ago.
Palin told Charles Gibson of ABC News that she'd favor including Georgia and Ukraine, both former Soviet republics, in NATO despite opposition by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Asked whether the United States would have to go to war with Russia if it invaded Georgia, and the country was part of NATO, Palin said: "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.
Pressed on the question, Palin responded: "What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against ... 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 added: "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 Putin and some of his desire to control and to control much more than smaller democratic countries."
Palin spoke the same day Putin insisted that Russia has no intention of encroaching on the sovereignty of Georgia, following a brief war that left Russian troops in firm control of two breakaway regions. Putin also aggressively defended the decision to send troops to Georgia, saying Russia had to act after Georgia attacked South Ossetia last month.
On other matters, Palin said she "didn't hesitate" when McCain asked her to be his running mate, a surprise selection that shook up the presidential race.
"I answered him 'yes' because 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. So I didn't blink then even when asked to run as his running mate," said the 44-year-old Palin, who has been in office less than two years.
Questioned about whether she felt ready to step in as vice president or perhaps even president if something happened to the 72-year-old McCain, Palin said: "I do, Charlie, and on January 20, when John McCain and I are sworn in, if we are so privileged to be elected to serve this country, we'll be ready. I'm ready."
Gibson also read Palin a comment she made in her former church - "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God" - and asked whether she thought the United States was fighting a holy war.
Palin said she was recalling Abraham Lincoln's words when she made the comment and said: "I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words."
She said she didn't know if her son Track who is headed to Iraq was on a mission from God.
"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," Palin said.