Jeremy Corbyn refuses to say he would defend Nato ally invaded by Putin
Jeremy Corbyn has refused to say he would come to the defence of a Nato ally invaded by Russia if he were prime minister.
The Labour leader said he would rather "engage" with president Vladimir Putin and “achieve a world where I would not go to war”.
His challenger for the leadership Owen Smith meanwhile said Britain “would have to come to the aid of a fellow member of Nato” in such a circumstance.
Labour MP Wes Streeting branded Mr Corbyn's stance "a gross betrayal of Labour's internationalist values".
Article 5 of the Nato treaty commits each member state to view an attack against one as an attack against all.
Asked multiple times during a Labour leadership debate in Birmingham tonight if he would respond militarily to a Russian invasion of a fellow Nato country, Mr Corbyn said:
“I would want to avoid us getting involved militarily by building up the diplomatic relationships and not isolate any country in Europe.
“I don't wish to go to war, what I want to do is achieve a world where we don't need to go to war, where there is no need for it - that can be done.”
He added that he would build up a “good dialogue” with Russia and “ask them” to respect borders.
Faced with the same question, Mr Smith said: “Were there an invasion of a Nato state by Russia I am clear that we would need to come to the aid of that state militarily.
“I believe in us supporting one another, I believe in collaboration, I believe in us working across countries. And the nature of that accord, that treaty, is to do that.”
Mr Smith said such a conflict would be “calamitous” and Britain must work diplomatically to ensure Russian “aggression” is contained.
But he added: “We shouldn’t be anything other than robust in facing up to Putin, especially if there were military action against a Nato country.”
'LIKE TRUMP - THOUGHTLESS AND IRRESPONSIBLE'
Ilford North MP Mr Streeting said the public would conclude Mr Corbyn was "unfit to hold the office of prime minister" if he refused to uphold the Nato of principle of mutual defence.
"It is a gross betrayal of Labour's internationalist values," he told PoliticsHome.
"The only other significant politician to be so reckless and cavalier about the future of NATO is Donald Trump. They are different sides of the same coin: thoughtless and irresponsible."
The result of the Labour leadership contest will be announced on 24 September.