Obama Says Trump Seeks to Assure Leaders of U.S.-NATO Commitment

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Obama News Conference: Trump, Presidential Transition
  • President says he doubts Trump will undo Iran nuclear deal
  • Obama plans to reassure foreign leaders Trump ready to lead

President Barack Obama said Donald Trump told him he can assure European leaders the U.S. won’t back off its commitments to the NATO alliance under the Republican president-elect.

Obama also said during an hour-long news conference on Monday that he doubts Trump would go through with a campaign promise to scrap the Iran nuclear deal.

The president is preparing to depart for meetings with European leaders in Greece and Germany and with Asian and Pacific leaders in Peru, where he’ll assure foreign leaders the billionaire real-estate developer will be ready to lead the free world by his Jan. 20 inauguration.

Just over a week ago, Obama said Trump couldn’t be trusted with the U.S. nuclear codes. Describing Trump as more pragmatist than ideologue, Obama, who met with the president-elect at the White House last Thursday, made the case that the turn the U.S. takes in international diplomacy might not be as sharp as the Republican’s campaign rhetoric suggested.

He added that Trump might even rethink a campaign pledge to withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement the Obama administration negotiated. 

Questioning NATO

During the presidential campaign, Trump questioned the U.S. commitment to the NATO alliance that has been a cornerstone of U.S. global strategy since World War II, saying that European allies should pay more for their own defense. Asked about how the U.S. would respond to a hypothetical Russian attack on one of the Baltic nations in NATO, Trump responded that he would consider their contribution to the alliance before deciding whether to meet the NATO treaty obligation to defend a member state.

But at the White House meeting last week, the incoming Republican indicated he had "great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships," Obama said Monday. Obama said the assurance he will convey to NATO members in Europe is to "let them know there is no weakening of resolve" under the Republican president-elect.

"There is enormous continuity, beneath our day-to-day news, that makes us that indispensable nation when it comes to promoting order and prosperity around the world," Obama said, describing U.S. military and diplomatic relationships in foreign countries. "That will continue."

By the time he takes office, Trump also may rethink his declarations that he would break the Iran nuclear deal because the agreement is achieving its aims, Obama said.

Following Agreement

When the accord was struck in 2015 between Iran and major world powers, "the main argument against it was that Iran wouldn’t abide by the deal," Obama said Monday at a White House news conference. "We now have over a year of evidence that they have abided by the deal."

Trump said during his campaign that the Iran agreement was a bad deal and that he would force the Islamic Republic to renegotiate it. He has not addressed the agreement since winning the Nov. 8 election.

"My suspicion is that when the president-elect comes in and is consulting with his fellow Republicans on the Hill, that they will look at the facts," Obama said. "To unravel a deal that’s working and preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain," particularly if it leaves Iran free to reconstitute its weapons programs, he said.

Obama said that as 200 countries have joined the global climate change agreement, foreign governments have come to expect the U.S. will stand by the commitment. In much of the U.S., state regulations already require meeting standards set in the agreement, he said.

"These international agreements -- the tradition has been you carry them forward across administrations," Obama said.

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Obama News Conference: Trump, Presidential Transition
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