What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Former NATO secretary general on ‘very serious’ divide between U.S., Europe

On Capitol Hill Tuesday, national security experts raised the alarm about authoritarianism's global rise. Among those participating was former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who called Russia and China “hostile geopolitical rivals.” Rasmussen talks to Judy Woodruff about how President Trump is weakening NATO, fears of a U.S.-Russia arms race and his trust in U.S. intelligence.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    National security experts sounded the alarm on Capitol Hill today, warning lawmakers that the rise of authoritarianism around the world is a threat to global security.

    In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who served as NATO secretary-general from 2009 to 2014, singled out Russia and China as hostile geopolitical rivals because of their efforts to undermine democracy in the United States and Europe.

    And Mr. Rasmussen joins me now.

    Welcome back to the "NewsHour."

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    Thank you.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, you spoke in your testimony about the need, the critical need, you said, for the world's democracies to present a united front.

    What are you most worried about?

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    I'm worried about the weakness among democracies because we don't have a clear American global leadership.

    And when the U.S. retrenches, the U.S. will leave behind a vacuum that will be filled by the bad guys. And that's what we're witnessing right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Filled by the bad guys and could lead to what? Are you worried a war down the road? What worries you?

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    It worries me that we see conflict, we see aggression from Russia against Ukraine. We see how China is pulling its neighbors.

    We see how Assad in Syria, he has clamped down on people who just wanted freedom. So, all in all, we see restricted freedom. We also see challenges to global trade.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And what does it mean? Is this mainly an economic worry? Is it a true security worry that freedom could be lost as a result of all this?

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    It's a security worry. It's a worry about human rights, rule of law.

    And, of course, it's also, at the end of the day, an economic challenge.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I want to ask you about a particular arms control issue that's arisen recently.

    As you probably know, the Trump administration pulled out of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Agreement, the so-called INF Treaty. Does this now spell to you the possibility of an arms race between the U.S. and Russia?

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    Of course.

    It is technically a race, and that we will now see a renewed arms race. However, I do understand the American reaction. From my time in NATO, I do know that the Russians have violated the INF Treaty, and, of course, the U.S. must react one way or another.

    I hope this threat from the U.S. could force the Russians back to the negotiating table, with the end to negotiate a more robust and updated treaty.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Of course, all this is happening as there is focus on the U.S. divisions with NATO. President Trump has been very critical of NATO, says they're not paying their fair share of the costs of defense.

    We just saw in a meeting last week Vice President Pence spoke at the Munich Security Conference. How serious is this split right now between the U.S. and the rest of Europe and Europe and NATO?

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    It's very serious, but I also have to say, militarily, NATO has been strengthened.

    We have seen more American troops deployed to Eastern Europe to defend the alliance. We have seen increased European defense investment to protect against a possible threat from Russia.

    So, militarily, NATO has been strengthened. But, politically, NATO has been weakened because the American president has raised doubts about his commitment to Article 5. And Article 5 is the famous article that we will help each other if an ally is attacked.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And how much of a concern is that? If God forbid Russia were to go into Estonia, how confident are you that the U.S. would come to Estonia's defense?

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    I think, when push comes to shove, the U.S. will, of course, help Estonia or any other ally in need, of course.

    But the fact that somebody has raised doubts about the American commitment to Article 5 might tempt Putin to test our resolve. And you should never, ever define such temptations. He has demonstrated in Ukraine that he's willing to use the vacuum left behind when the West doesn't fulfill its obligations.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    I want to ask you about cyber-security as well.

    There's a report today in The Washington Post that the United States military blocked Internet access to this infamous entity in Russia that interfered in the 2016 election, was trying to interfere in the U.S. election in 2018.

    Is it your sense that the Trump administration is pushing back sufficiently on these Russian efforts to disrupt, not just elections and democracy here, but in Europe as well?

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    Well, I think more could be done.

    But, of course, also, the American administration learned lessons from 2016 and has done a lot to counter such meddling in our elections in the future. But this is also the reason why I have established a bipartisan Transatlantic Commission. We call it the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity.

    And the purpose of that commission is to monitor election campaigns, to detect whether we see foreign meddling, and also to develop new technologies to prevent, for instance, the fake videos and audios and things like that.

    So I think we all have a responsibility to do much more.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you think President Trump takes the Russian efforts to disrupt U.S. elections seriously enough?

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    Well, I don't know if the president himself personally, how strongly he's engaged in it, but I have no doubt that his administration, and not least the intelligence community in the U.S., are very much engaged in this.

    A unanimous intelligence community stated that the Russians meddled in the 2016 elections. And from my past experience as secretary-general, I can only — I can say that I have full trust in the American intelligence community.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former secretary-general of NATO, thank you very much.

  • Anders Fogh Rasmussen:

    You're welcome.

Listen to this Segment

The Latest