FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska -- In her first sit-down with a national news media outlet since becoming the Republican vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin responded to a series of specific questions about foreign policy and national security with a series of general answers that put her firmly on the side of doing "whatever it takes" to protect the nation. And she left open the option of waging war with Russia if it were to again 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, Gibson asked Palin if she supports the "Bush doctrine."
The nominee paused two seconds before asking "in what respect, Charlie?"
"What do you interpret it to be?" Gibson said.
"His world view?" asked Palin."I believe what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism."
"The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self defense," Gibson said. Does the United States have that right, he inquired?
"In order to stop Islamic extremists ... who would seek to destroy (America) ... we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink in making those tough decisions," Palin said.
Gibson pressed Palin on whether she would be in favor of a "cross-border" attack into Pakistan, if necessary, to get at terrorists who aim to harm America.
The Alaska governor repeated her view that the United States must do whatever is necessary to protect itself. Saying he was getting lost in a "blizzard of words," Gibson asked one more time whether the U.S. has that right.
"I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell bent on destroying America," Palin answered.
Palin also told Gibson that 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.