US Secretary of State John Kerry has criticized President-elect Donald Trump for a newspaper interview in which he branded NATO “obsolete” and said Germany had pursued a “catastrophic” policy on refugees.
Kerry told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour it was “inappropriate” for Trump to “be stepping in to the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner.”
Trump’s interview in the Times of London and the German publication Bild had rattled allies. The German foreign minister said it had caused “astonishment and agitation” within NATO.
As well as repeating his criticism of NATO, Trump said the German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made a “catastrophic” mistake in accepting one million refugees. He also said sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea could be eased in return for a deal to reduce nuclear weapons, and suggested his son-in-law Jared Kushner could lead a Middle East peace effort.
In his CNN interview, Kerry defended Merkel as “one of the strongest leaders in Europe” and “most important players with respect to where we are heading.”
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Trump would have to deal with the consequences of his remarks after his inauguration later this week, Kerry said. “He’ll have to speak to that – as of Friday, he’s responsible for that relationship,” Kerry told CNN.
Merkel shrugged off the criticism on Monday. “We have known what his position is for some time, and my position is also known,” she told reporters in Berlin.
But her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, suggested NATO was rattled by Trump’s comments. Steinmeier said he had spoken with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, “who is concerned that President-elect Trump regards NATO as obsolete.”
He noted Trump’s position was “in contradiction” to that of Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s nominee for defense secretary.
Trump used the interview to suggest a new deal with Russia, saying sanctions imposed on Russia after it seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 could be eased in return for a nuclear weapons deal.
He also heaped praise on Kushner, saying he could play a peacemaker role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Do you know what? Jared is such a good guy; he will conclude an Israel agreement that no one else can do. You know, he is a natural talent, he is amazing, he is a natural talent,” Trump said, according to Bild.