Donald Trump’s suggestion that the US might not come to the defence of Nato allies is another sign of his “lack of preparedness” on foreign policy, said US President Barack Obama.
In an interview aired on Sunday over Trump’s recent comments to the New York Times – in which the presidential nominee suggested that allies who have not paid their Nato dues would not be guaranteed of getting help if Russia invaded – Mr Obama said they were an admission that the US might not live by Nato’s “most central tenet.”
He said Mr Trump’s comments were “an indication of the lack of preparedness that he has been displaying when it comes to foreign policy”.
Nato members promise that an attack against any of them is considered an assault against all.
Mr Trump told the Times that he would not predict the US response in the case of a Russian attack of smaller Nato allies like Estonia or Latvia. “If they fulfil their obligations to us, the answer is ‘yes,'” Mr Trump said.
Mr Obama responded: “There is a big difference between challenging our European allies to keep up their defence spending, particularly at a time when Russia’s been more aggressive, and saying to them, ‘You know what? We might not abide by the central tenant of the most important alliance in the history of the world.'”
In contrast, Mr Obama said that presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who served as secretary of State in his first term, is supremely capable of taking over the reins of power in January.
“I genuinely believe that there has never been a candidate better prepared for the presidency than Hillary Clinton,” Mr Obama said.
Asked what it takes to be an effective president, Mr Obama cited the ability to build a team of talented, hard working people and “make sure they are all moving in the same direction.” Another factor, he said, was “personal discipline in terms of doing your homework, and knowing your subject matter, and being able to stay focused.”
And to make all this work “you have to really care about the American people… not in the abstract,” Mr Obama said, noting that is crucial because that will help ground the president in that difficult job and prevent them from being overly influenced by polls, pressure and difficult developments.
If you don’t have that sense of grounding, “you will be buffeted and blown back and forth by polls and interest groups and voices whispering in your head,” he said. “And you will lose your centre of gravity. You will lose your moral compass.”
Mr Obama’s comments to CBS News’ Face the Nation came on the eve of the opening of the Democratic National Convention. He is scheduled to speak on Wednesday.