Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations HARDtalk

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Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations

Stephen Sackur speaks to Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. How different and unpredictable is Trump going to be?

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We're about to see what kind of impact President Donald Trump


will have on the US and the world beyond.


Today, my focus is the international arena.


My guest has been close to the centre of US foreign


Richard Haass was a senior adviser to both Bush presidents and has


offered his insights to the President-elect, too.


From big power diplomacy, with Russia and China, to global


How different, how unpredictable is Trump going to be?


Richard Haass in New York City, welcome to HARDtalk.


You've just written a book with the cheery title


In your opinion, does the election of Donald Trump


to the presidency add to that sense of a world in disarray?


It's more the world the 45th President of the United States


It's the result, in part, of things the United States has done


It's in part simply a result of the end of the Cold War,


the loosening up our international relations, the rise of certain


Where I think he may have added it slightly,


Where I think he may have added to it slightly,


and not just him but first in the American political campaign,


candidates, including him, were saying things and endorsing


positions which, shall we say, were untraditional.


The fact that Senator Sanders, Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump,


all three rejected the major pending trade agreement, the so-called


that itself was a major departure from things.


Obviously, during the transition, some of the things he's said


But I would put the lion share of the explanation, if you will,


for the disarray he'll inherit and this daunting inbox he's


going to inherit more from things the United States and others have


Right, so what you're laying out is a proposition


is the preconditions are there for disarray


and that a US president, whoever he or she may be incoming,


can only do, and you just used your finger and thumb there,


can only do a little bit to change that sense of disarray.


So, to me, that is a recognition from you that actually


the United States of America and its commander-in-chief have much


less agency and leverage in the world than they used to have?


Perhaps, but I wouldn't drive it too far.


I think what we've learned is that when the United States stays


aloof from the world, the world is not self organising.


The centrifugal forces tend to get much stronger,


and when the United States does engage in the world,


we still have more capacity to act and to lead than anybody else.


We can't control it, we can't determine it,


but we can shape it more than any other single actor.


Let's talk a little bit about Trump, because we're going to get the big


picture, believe me, but it is important to tease


out what we've learned from the weeks of transition that


Donald Trump has a very particular style.


You're a guy who's steeped in foreign policy-making,


you're systems, a machines sort of guy.


Donald Trump doesn't seem to operate inside the machine,


he operates primarily through messages on Twitter.


Do you worry about the style that's he's bringing to Washington?


This wasn't exactly the style of diplomacy I studied


when I was a student at Oxford 40 years ago.


I worry that Twitter is all too easy a form of communication.


You've got to think once or twice before you press send.


I think the United States, as a country, has to think more


than once or twice because so many others are counting on us


and Twitter can be something that you, you're not doing it


in a careful enough way, and if others are basing their


security and their calculations on America, then we've


got to be very careful with what messages we send.


And it's not just about Twitter in itself, it's also about the degree


to which the United States' incoming president actually listens


There have been a few symbolic moments, if you like.


One was when asked on Fox News whether he was reading


the presidential daily brief, the intelligence brief, he said,


"Yeah, but only sort of reading it once a week,


"I don't have to be told because, you know, I'm like a smart person.


I don't have to be told the same thing in words every single day".


Again, speaking as a guy who's been inside the system,


that isn't really the way things have worked.


Do you think it's the way things should work, that a guy


There's that old expression, I think it was the former


governor of New York, that you campaign in poetry,


My own experience, from having worked with four presidents,


is when you govern, you're dealing at a level of detail that outsiders


I myself found the daily intelligence briefings quite


They actually do change quite a bit from day-to-day,


particularly when they give you the broader brush,


sets of analyses, as the CIA and others do.


So, to be perfectly honest, I hope that Mr Trump establishes


a better working relationship with the intelligence community,


and if he does, I think he'll actually find it to be a valuable


We've already seen one important episode.


When it came to the allegations which have emerged, which have been


verified as far as the US intelligence community is concerned,


from CIA, FBI, Director of National Intelligence,


all of them adamant that there is compelling proof


that the Kremlin authorised a hack of the Democratic National


Committee, because they wanted to influence the US presidential


Donald Trump chose to side with Putin's message,


rather than the message coming out of his own intelligence chiefs.


Now, that's something that happened, it's not something we have


It is, I think its raised questions about his relationship


Again, I'm hopeful, I'm not predicting,


I think it raises questions also about US policy towards Russia.


I would simply say that this hacking was not an exception,


We've seen Russia do what it did to Ukraine and Crimea


We saw Russian intervention in Syria, which was a war crime,


I would argue, by any measure and standard.


There's all sorts of evidence that the sort of political


machinations they did in the United States


I expect we're going to see an awful lot of that in places like Germany,


What we need is a comprehensive policy towards Russia that,


among other things, would say, you'll only get sanctions relief


if we see measurable changes and improvements in your behaviour.


I would also argue that we need to look very hard at


After the end of the Cold War, the United States and European


allies essentially stripped Nato of a lot of its military


and its land components, and I would think they need to be


reintroduced in places like the Baltic states.


Not so long ago you were in Trump Tower talking about,


I wasn't there and privy to it, but I imagine Russia came up.


What you've just said runs diametrically in opposition,


again referring to Twitter, to the opinions of Donald J Trump.


Quote, "I always knew he was very smart", talking of Vladimir Putin.


"Having a good relationship with Russia is a good


only stupid people or fools would think it is bad".


So tell me a little bit about this private conversation


Did you try to put him right, as far as you're concerned, on Russia?


In our conversations Russia actually didn't figure all that prominently,


it was more about developments in the Middle East,


It was about trade, it was about immigration.


We haven't spoken in the context of the hacking report


What I've been saying publicly on that does disagree somewhat.


Our goal should not be a better relationship with Russia, per se.


What our policy should be is we want a better relationship,


but only on a basis of Russian behaviour that takes


into account our interests and what we think are the norms


So we don't want to have, if you will, a cosmetically


improved relationship, we want to have a substantially


improved relationship, and that's really up to Mr Putin.


Yeah, well, it's sort of up to Mr Putin, but it's also up


For example, the degree to which in response


to the intelligence community's conclusions about hacking,


whether there's mileage in more sanctions.


For example, Senator John McCain and a bunch of other


Republican Congress people have said that they now want to seek extra


Sanctions are one of the possible responses.


I might be more interested in certain types of cyber


As I just mentioned, I'd be interested in strengthening


our military capability, both outside Ukraine


I'd also be more interested in providing certain types


of defensive military help to Ukraine.


There's already a lot of sanctions on Russia.


I'd have to be persuaded that additional sanctions would make


I'm not interested in symbols, I'm interested in substance


of things that will send a message to Mr Putin that he will receive.


The evidence, at least on the surface, would suggest not.


But again, we'll have to wait and see what he actually


At the moment you are an independent observer, a commentator


Politico, for example, which gets some stories


right and some wrong, said in mid-December you were one


of the top tips for the number two job at the State Department,


and that Trump was actively considering you.


Given everything we've discussed so far, could you conceivably work


Well, I think the answer is, when asked if I could work for any


president, and I've worked for four, you can only do it if,


one, you have a similar conception of the job,


what it actually would entail, and more important,


that your in sufficient alignment on the major policies.


You don't have to agree on everything, Stephen,


but you've got to agree on enough of the big things that


you can faithfully and effectively represent them.


I think in my case we would need to talk about it, because there's


Look, I've just come out with a new book,


I've written a dozen books before, so my views are not


It wouldn't make sense for me to be there, unless I thought


I could have a real chance to affect policy, to influence it


and that we were sufficiently in sync, so I could be an effective


representative of this president and this administration,


and those would be issues that we would have to resolve


to their satisfaction and to my satisfaction.


Let me just say, I don't know if I'm seriously


I don't know if I'll be asked to do anything.


Obviously we'd have you back if you do know that.


As you say, your analysis of a world in disarray seems to me to have


I'm going to be very shorthand about them,


but you say that the United States needs to be realistic


in its ambition, it needs to match its vision of ends


with means, rather than having very ambitious ends but not


the will and the means to enforce them.


I'm just wondering, let's talk about some other key areas.


For example, Nato, which of course I think 70% of the burden


for spending in Nato comes from the United States.


Does the United States, in your view, have an obligation


to maintain that level of commitment to Nato?


And what would happen if, according to Donald Trump


and some of his advisers, if the United States got much


tougher with allies and said if you don't front up more money,


I think the Europeans need to do more, not so much spend more,


though that would be welcome, they need to spend what they spend


The problem with European defence spending is not so much the level,


but that it's not co-ordinated, so you have tremendous areas


of replication and you have large areas of shortfalls.


But sure, I think the United States and Europe both have


to spend more on defence, simply because the threat


environment going forward is a lot more robust than we imagined it


You began with a larger point, and I take it, which is any time


in foreign policy you have a gap between your rhetoric


and your actual capacity, you run into trouble.


We've had that in the Middle East lots of times in recent years,


where we said certain people must go and we didn't have policies to back


it up, or when the Syrians used chemical weapons,


So I think that ought to be a lesson.


We've got to narrow the gap between American commitments


and rhetoric, and American capabilities and actions.


But the danger, and again I'm referring to stuff you've


written in the book, the danger is that at times that


looks like America abandons key values and principles.


For example, just pluck a couple of the air,


you're suggesting America needs to talk less loudly


about human rights inside China or inside Russia.


America needs to push less hard to expand the Nato


family, to countries like Georgia and Ukraine.


Now to some people around the world, you might call it realism,


In the case of a country like China, look, the priority, what we need


to focus on for the next couple of years is not trying


to make China democratic, no matter how hard we press,


What we can perhaps do is get China to work with us to deal


with the pressing North Korean nuclear ballistic missile threat.


In foreign policy, as in policy of any sort, you have


to choose your priorities where your interests are greatest


and your capacity to make a difference is greater.


In the case of Ukraine and Georgia, bringing them into Nato,


I would say they don't meet the qualifications.


In the meantime, we've got our hands full meeting the commitments


Going back to the guy who may or may not be your future


boss, Donald Trump, and the issue of China...


When he tweeted out that he saw no reason to be bound


by the One China policy, and he was absolutely thrilled


that the President of Taiwan had given him a phone call,


in your view that was not representing America's national


No, and I made it very clear in what I said and wrote


in the aftermath of those comments of his, that I thought


That we finessed this problem with China and Taiwan quite


successfully for decades, and what that has allowed us


to do, is to go ahead and forge a respectable


And by the way, it's been good for Taiwan as well.


It's flourished economically, it represents a democratic model


that's something of an alternative, to say the least, to


So my sense of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", so I disagree


with the idea of questioning the One China policy.


The more we talk and the more we run round some of the key issues


facing the globe today, the more I'm thinking,


despite your caution about declaring Trump a major addition


to the uncertainty and disarray in the world, that's precisely what,


in substance, you do seem to be saying, on a whole raft of issues.


Well again, I never assume there is a correlation


between what was said during a campaign,


The purpose of campaigning, shockingly enough,


The purpose of governing is something very different.


But assuming I continue to be on the outside of things,


and I think that's a pretty good assumption, where I see areas


of policy I agree with, I will stand up and say fantastic,


and where I see policies I disagree with, I will criticise them.


That's been my stance during the last eight years


of Mr Obama, and that will be my position going forward,


again assuming I continue to be here at the Council on Foreign


I'm interested in this concept you developed,


correct me if I'm paraphrasing it wrongly, but this idea


That is the idea that nation states these days do have obligations that


run far beyond their own borders, in terms of collective action on key


issues facing the world community, whether it be trade issues,


global trade issues or the huge challenge of climate policy.


I want to know if you believe the United States, looking forward,


is going to be meeting its sovereign obligations?


This is what I think is smart and necessary.


Nothing stays local for long any more.


What goes on inside countries is no longer simply their business alone,


whether it's a coal burning electricity plant, whether it's


a virus that comes out like Zika or Ebola that can affect everybody,


whether it's terrorists or hackers, what we've learned


is nothing as local, everything's potentially global.


I believe this ought to become the intellectual compass,


so to speak, of American foreign policy and that we ought to be


consulting and talking with other countries,


and also companies and NGOs and others about how we deal


with this global world, in which all these challenges


you mention are far ahead of their responses.


Will the Trump administration do this?


The clue is in the mantra "Put America First".


That doesn't seem to be recognising collective obligations in the sense


Obviously not, but again that was a campaign slogan.


Whether that's a governing slogan we will have to see,


and even if it remains a slogan, what will it actually mean


For example, does the United States change the basis of its regulatory


framework when it comes to where we are on climate


Does the United States actually pull out of Paris?


I hope we don't pull out of Paris, indeed the Paris agreement


is a model of an international agreement, where countries retain


the ability to decide for themselves what it is they want to do or don't


want to do when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions,


and they simply pledge to do their best, but they set


So it is fully consistent with American sovereignty.


I'm hoping that the Trump administration comes


It's the argument I've made to people around


Mr Trump privately already, that people should think twice


before they see the Paris agreement as a problem.


Let me tap into your personal experience to something we touched


on early on in the interview, but I would like to get a direct


It's about the way in which people acquire policy-making powers


in the national security and foreign policy arena.


I mean, you worked at the coal face for 30 years, you served a number


of different presidents, you worked as an official


in the State Department and you took, in the end,


some of the top jobs in national security and state,


What we see in the Trump administration is a Secretary


of State, Rex Tillerson, who has come straight from the CEO


position in big business, as we know, with an oil company


We see a Defence Secretary who has almost literally come


straight out of uniform, who has not had any sort


We see, for example, a son-in-law of the president,


with absolutely no foreign policy making experience at all,


who is now, it seems, in a post where he is expected


I think in the case of the Secretary of State, nominee Rex Tillerson,


this is someone with an awful lot of experience around the world.


I'd say the same thing about General Mattis, who is going


The real question is whether you can get a National Security Council


There I think there's some grounds for concern,


because you have so many people with positions of power


You've got a president, a vice President, a chief of staff,


a chief strategist, a national security adviser, now you've


got a special adviser, so it's a lot of people.


The question is - how are you going to orchestrate this?


How are you going to make sure that the policy


is made in the right way, and more importantly,


implemented in a way that is consistent with the decisions?


I think that's an enormous challenge for this administration,


You rather diplomatically didn't address the one name I put to you,


that some regard as most controversial of all.


Mr Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.


You've been around the Middle East diplomacy and peacemaking effort,


does it seem to you credible in any way that he should be given


I'd say we'll see exactly what his role is and how it fits


I don't know Mr Kushner, but I would simply say the idea


of trying to re-establish a degree of strategic trust between


the United States and Israel is essential and if he could help do


Right now you can imagine scenarios the US and Israel could face over


the next couple of years; the collapse of Jordan,


some problems with Iran, another war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.


So anyone who could help bring these two governments together,


In terms of the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process", quite honestly


I don't think it much matters who works on it.


I think the prospects for advancing that,


The parties are so far apart and the essential prerequisites...


I've been involved in Northern Ireland,


I've been involved in Cyprus, I've been involved in Middle East


peacemaking, and you've got to have protagonists that are both willing


and able to make serious compromises.


I simply don't see that between Israelis and Palestinians right now.


So I wouldn't think this is an area that deserves an awful lot of focus.


We're out of time, so it's a brief one.


On the eve of the Trump Presidency, are you optimistic about the next


four years of foreign policy-making, yes or no?


In a word, I am worried, given what the inheritance is.


I think anyone has got to be worried.


Richard Haass, thank you very much indeed for joining me on HARDtalk.


Good evening, fairly lively weather over the next few days. A week


weather front crossing the UK overnight, not a great deal of rain.


Pretty strong winds


Stephen Sackur speaks to Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. The waiting is almost over - we're about to see what kind of impact President Donald Trump will have on the US and the world beyond. Stephen Sackur focuses here on the international arena, with Richard Haass having been close to the centre of US foreign policy making for three decades and more. Richard Haass was a senior advisor to both Bush presidents and has offered his insights to the president elect too. From big power diplomacy with Russia and China to global trade and climate policy, how different and unpredictable is Trump going to be?