The U.S. commitment to NATO is a matter of "sacred honor," and the world's sole remaining superpower "has never reneged on any commitment we have made," Vice President Joe Biden told foreign heads of state at a meeting in Latvia.
Biden sought to allay fears spurred by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who made headlines in late June by saying he will consider changing or withdrawing from the 28-member North Atlantic Treaty Organization if he is elected president.
Pointing out that the U.S. pays the lion's share of defense costs for NATO, Trump said that the U.S. would help defend NATO allies from potential threats if victims of those theoretical attacks "fulfilled their obligations to us," The New York Times reported.
“If they fulfill their obligations to us,” Trump said, “the answer is yes.”
Speaking in Latvia on August 23, the vice president told foreign leaders that Trump's threat is "nothing that should be taken seriously, because I don't think he understands what Article 5 is."
Biden was referring to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which deals with collective defense. Article 5 says that an attack on one NATO ally is interpreted as an attack on all NATO countries, and that collective defense is a cornerstone of the treaty, binding its members and strengthening their alliance.
"I want to make it clear, absolutely clear to all the people of the Baltic States, we have pledged our sacred honor -- the United States of America -- our sacred honor to the NATO treaty," Biden said, according to USA Today. "We mean what we say, we have never reneged on any commitment we have made. Our sacred honor is at stake."