Russian President Vladimir Putin has a plan to divide the U.S. from its allies, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Tuesday, and President Donald Trump is “playing into that plan either on purpose or by accident.”
In an interview with PBS NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff, Albright said that “President Putin is a KGB agent and he’s very smart and he has played a weak hand well.”
“There are a number of things that were said that I think really make us wonder what [Trump’s] role is with the Russians and frankly what the Russians expect out of him,” Albright said. To Putin, she added, “Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.”
Albright criticized the way Trump treated U.S. allies last week at a NATO summit and the praise he gave Putin after their meeting in Helsinki. Albright spoke with Woodruff hours after Trump claimed that he misspoke when he said at a Monday news conference with Putin that he didn’t see any reason why Russia would meddle in the 2016 presidential election, despite the assessment of multiple U.S. intelligence agencies and statements from other Trump administration officials that it did.
Trump said Tuesday back at the White House that he meant to say that he didn’t see any reason why Russia “wouldn’t” interfere.
The president framed his remarks as a clarification, but Albright said she is still unclear on how he feels about Russia or whether he believes Putin.
“I think he must think we’re genuinely stupid because if one watched what he was doing in his press conference, he made it quite clear that he was believing Putin much more than his own people,” Albright said.
“I think that Russia is his friend and [he] only cares about collusion because he’s so uncertain about his own victory,” she added.
Albright said Trump’s remarks, combined with his criticism of NATO allies last week, “adds up to total confusion about what the role of the United States is.”
“I think he’s so unclear and is only interested in superlatives,” said Albright, who worked on the National Security Council and as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. before becoming secretary of state. “I think he may in fact get his wish and go down in history as the least democratic president we’ve had.”
Other highlights from the interview
On other countries’ NATO spending: Albright said she thinks it’s important that U.S. allies increase their NATO spending, something other presidents before Trump have also requested. But she took issue with the president’s tone, saying Trump bullied other countries into something and then took credit for it. It “underlines the fact that people don’t know what he’s saying or why he’s saying it.”
On the United States’ relationship with its allies: “I am concerned about lasting damage” from Trump’s remarks at NATO, Albright said. Allies are concerned and confused, said Albright, who said she just spent several weeks in Europe. “I am nervous that the longer this goes on that it’s harder to fix and that the allies will take different roads and will decide that we are not dependable.” “They’re all trying to figure out what their next steps are,” she added.