WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States should maintain its commitment to protect the nations of Eastern Europe against Russia through the NATO alliance, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stated in a nationally televised debate.
"The president is right, we have to protect Eastern Europe against any kind of Russian aggression," Sanders said in his debate with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Thursday night.
Russia's aggressive actions in Crimea and Ukraine have brought about increased tensions in Europe, Sanders noted, adding that he supported President Barack Obama commitment to increasing the power of NATO.
However, Sanders also said the United States had to focus on improving its relations with Russia.
"We have got to do our best to develop positive relations with Russia… It is a complicated relationship," he suggested.
Sanders so far has confounded expectation by achieving a virtual tie with Clinton in the Iowa caucuses and beating her by a margin of more than 20 points in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.
Russia has repeatedly refuted any allegations of aggressive actions and interference in its neighbor’s affairs. Moreover, Russian officials have warned that the amassing of troops and weapons by the United States and NATO on Russia’s borders are provocative acts contrary to previous agreements and can destabilize the region.