Expressing concerns over a “whole bunch of issues” about his successor Donald Trump, outgoing US President Barack Obama has said the President-elect will soon realise that certain elements of his temperament would not serve him well unless he corrects them.
“I think what will happen with the President-elect is there are going to be certain elements of his temperament that will not serve him well unless he recognises them and corrects them,” Mr Obama, 55, said.
“Because when you’re a candidate and you say something that is inaccurate or controversial, it has less impact than it does when you’re President of the US. Everybody around the world is paying attention. Markets move. National security issues require a level of precision in order to make sure that you don’t make mistakes. I think he recognises that this is different, and so do the American people,” Mr Obama said.
Mr Obama also maintained that Mr Trump is committed to maintaining America’s core strategic relationships, including Nato as the President embarked on his last foreign trip while in office to reassure concerned allies after his successor’s election.
“In my conversation with the President-elect, he expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships. And so one of the messages I will be able to deliver is his commitment to Nato and the Transatlantic Alliance,” Mr Obama told White House reporters here before leaving on a week-long three-nation trip.
“I think that’s one of the most important functions I can serve at this stage, during this trip, is to let them know that there is no weakening of resolve when it comes to America’s commitment to maintaining a strong and robust Nato relationship, and a recognition that those alliances aren’t just good for Europe, they’re good for the United States, and they’re vital for the world,” he said.
During the election campaigning, even as late as last Monday, Mr Obama had said that 70-year-old Trump was temperamentally unfit to be the President of the country.
“Do I have concerns? Absolutely. Of course, I’ve got concerns. He and I differ on a whole bunch of issues. But the federal government and our democracy is not a speedboat, it’s an ocean liner — as I discovered when I came into office. It took a lot of really hard work for us to make significant policy changes — even in our first two years, when we had larger majorities than Mr Trump will enjoy when he comes into office,” Mr Obama said.
“I think the President-elect, rightly, would expect that he’s judged on whether we improve from that baseline and on those metrics, or things get worse. If things get worse, then the American people will figure that out pretty quick. If things get better, then more power to him. I’ll be the first to congratulate him,” he said. Mr Obama met Mr Trump at the Oval Office last Thursday.
Meanwhile, Nato head Jens Stoltenberg on Tues-day said he was sure that Donald Trump would meet all US commitments to the alliance, just days after urging the President-elect not to go it alone.
“President-elect Donald Trump stated during the election campaign that he is a big fan of Nato,” Mr Stoltenberg said in Brussels as he arrived for talks with EU defence ministers.
“And I am certain that he will be a President… Who will live up to all the commitments of the United States in the alliance, because a strong Nato is important for Europe but it’s also important for the United States.”
Mr Trump’s upset election badly rattled nerves in Europe after he appeared to call into question Washington’s near 70-year security guarantee by saying he would only help Nato allies if they paid their way.
In a stark warning in Britain’s Observer newspaper on Sunday, Mr Stoltenberg wrote “going it alone is not an option… This is no time to question the partnership between Eur-ope and the United States.”
But the Nato chief noted Tuesday that the two sides were on the same page, with Mr Trump having also called for increased defence spending in Europe. “I absolutely agree with him; that has been the message from US leaders for many years,” Mr Stoltenberg said. “The good thing is that we now see that Europeans are actually investing more in defence… Therefore contributing to better burden sharing,” he said.
The Ukraine crisis shook Nato out of years of complacency and defence cuts, with leaders agreeing to its biggest military build-up since the end of the Cold War based on a commitment to devote two percent of national output to defence.
Mr Stoltenberg also said the military alliance wanted dialogue with Russia, after US President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Monday to work towards “constructive cooperation”.