Putin sees chance under Trump to 'crack the NATO alliance': Former US ambassador to NATO

PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Russian Security Council meeting in Moscow, June 16, 2017. PlayAlexei Druzhinin/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN POOL/EPA
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The former U.S. ambassador to NATO said the unpredictability of the Trump administration may open opportunities for opponents.

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"This sort of unpredictability over the first five months of this administration possibly opens potential opportunities for opponents," Douglas Lute, former U.S. representative to NATO under President Obama, said in an interview on "This Week" Sunday. "Here, I think, Russia, in particular."

Asked by "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz what Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks when he hears President Trump talk about Russia, Lute said Putin sees the chance to "crack the NATO alliance."

"I suspect he sees an opportunity to do what military force alone could never do, and that is crack the NATO alliance. If he can crack it politically or if he can provoke internal fissures inside the alliance, then Putin sees enormous opportunity to achieve a longstanding Russian goal," Lute said.

PHOTO: U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute gives a press conference on Dec. 1, 2014 at organization headquarters in Brussels.John Thys/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute gives a press conference on Dec. 1, 2014 at organization headquarters in Brussels.

Lute added that Trump’s failure during a speech in Brussels last month to reaffirm NATO’s Article 5, which commits that an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all, will lead other members of NATO to “hedge their bets.”

“They believe they can’t rely on U.S. leadership as they have for the past 70 years,” Lute said. “We should think about what that 70 years has featured … U.S. leadership, which has been the backbone of recovery from World War II all the way, seeing us all the way through the Cold War period. And then beyond the Cold War, seeing NATO as a stabilizing force outside NATO boundaries, so in the Balkans. And today, even today, in Afghanistan.”

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