Former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said he is in agreement with US President Donald Trump’s disruptive approach to politics and foreign policy. “I’m a strong believer in the need for reform of government agencies and departments. They have gotten fat and sloppy and they’re not user friendly. They are inefficient. They cost too much,” Gates told CBS News on Sunday.
Gates, who has the rare distinction of serving in the Bush and Obama administrations said there was a need for disruptive approach on the foreign policy as well. “Broadly philosophically, I am in agreement with his disruptive approach,” Gates said.
“We’ve had three administrations follow a pretty consistent policy toward North Korea and it really hasn’t gotten us anywhere. So, the notion of disrupting and sort of putting the Chinese on notice that it’s no longer business as usual for the United States I think is a good thing,” he said.
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“I think when it comes to the issues I’d advise him to stick to the script. But, he is going to have some very tough conversations and he’s going to be talking about some very tough and complicated issues in all of the places that he visits. Any time the President does things that are humanising, it’s good,” he said.
Trump leaves on a five-nation maiden foreign trip next week. He will visit Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, Brussels and Italy. Gates strongly defended Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Oval Office.
“For a long time, Soviet foreign ministers would come in to see the President all the time, routinely. Jimmy Carter stopped that after the invasion of Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan resumed it in 1984, I think. And so the fact of a meeting like that is not that big a deal,” he said.
Asked about the allegations of Russian interference in the US elections last year, Gates said Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to communicate to the rest of the world that Western elections are illegitimate.
“I think this is a guy who saw the US basically come out against him in his reelection campaign in 2012. He saw the US being behind all of the colour revolutions in Eastern Europe and in Georgia and Ukraine and so on. So his view is the West has been interfering in his politics for years,” Gates said.
“I think that he has decided, in a very strategic way, to turn the tables and do everything in his power to, as we’ve described Russian elections as illegitimate, to try and communicate to the rest of the world that Western elections are illegitimate,” the former defence secretary said.
Gates said for the first time the US has been able to draw the attention of China on North Korea.
“I think that the disruptive nature, the tough talk on North Korea, the military deployments, sending the missile defence system to South Korea, I think these are all good things to have done.”
As a result, Trump has gotten Chinese attention to a degree that his predecessors have not, that this is a very serious matter for the United States, Gates said.