There's anxiety in Europe over Trump and NATO, former British minister says

Story highlights

  • Trump's relationship with Russia is worrying, Alexander said
  • "There's real anxiety," he said
The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The authors work for the podcast.

Chicago (CNN)America's European allies are experiencing "real anxiety" over President-elect Donald Trump's commitment to NATO in light of his burgeoning relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the former British Minister of State for Europe.

"There's very real concern in Europe over the language that President-elect Trump is using in relation to Vladimir Putin, partly as a consequence of the actions that he took in Ukraine, partly because of his determination to divide Europe and weaken Europe," the Rt. Hon. Douglas Alexander, the Labour Party's former shadow foreign secretary, told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files" podcast, produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics.
    "There's real anxiety, not just amongst people who have long worried about Russia's influence on the continent, but amongst a growing section of the population who think actually this is the first time that we've seen international borders transgressed in this way in recent decades," Alexander said.
    Specifically, Alexander said Trump's campaign statement that NATO was "obsolete" has caused concern in the Baltic states, especially in light of Trump's suggestion that he might not honor the treaty's pledge of mutual defense against outside aggression.
    "If you're in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, there is deep fear as to whether he takes seriously the terms of collective security, which is the fundamental basis of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the alliance that has served the interests of Europe so well over the decades," Alexander said.
    President Barack Obama on Monday said Trump had assured him during a White House meeting that he remains committed to NATO.
    Alexander argued that Russia's alleged determination to disrupt Western political processes is not only contained to America.
    "I'm afraid there's growing evidence that the kind of brazen meddling that we've seen in the US political system over recent months is finding an echo and a reflection in politics in Europe," he said. "You know, some of these far-right parties are securing loans and funding from Russian banks and Russian organizations."
    Alexander, who served as chief strategist for Ed Miliband's losing campaign and lost his own seat in Parliament in the May 2015 general election, noted the similarities between the Democratic Party's recent setbacks in the US with the Labour Party's defeats last year and in this year's vote to leave the European Union.
    "Economic anger is a big part of it, but so also is a sense of cultural loss," he said. "And for many people, they feel a deficit of money, but also a deficit of recognition -- that people feel their way of life, their neighborhood, the culture of which they are a part, is not being recognized and valued in the ways that the economy and society are changing."
    During the hour-long conversation with Axelrod, Alexander, currently a visiting fellow at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, plotted a path forward for center-left parties on both sides of the Atlantic.
    "We need to be about more than anger. We need to be about answers," he said. "And the only winning formula, I think, for center-left parties to secure that majority support, is to combine authenticity with credibility."
    To hear the whole conversation with Alexander, which also touched on how the closure of a car plant ignited his interest in politics, his work for Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, and much more, click on http://podcast.cnn.com. To get "The Axe Files" podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.