Former US Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute: NATO allies 'believe they can't rely on US leadership'

Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute weighs in on foreign policy challenges confronting the Trump administration.
7:13 | 06/18/17

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Transcript for Former US Ambassador to NATO Douglas Lute: NATO allies 'believe they can't rely on US leadership'
I'm joined now by former U.S. Ambassador to nato Doug lute. He served under both presidents bush and Obama. He's now a senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy school. Ambassador lute, welcome back to "This week." Good to see you. Happy father's day. Thank you, Martha. Good to be with you. We're five months into the presidency. You were nato ambassador for four years. Do you think our allies and adversaries understand president trump's take on nato? What day do understand is the first time in 70 years, the U.S. Rock solid commitment to the alliance is in question. It's very disorienting to our allies. This unpredictability over the first five months of this administration. Possibly opens potential opportunities for opponents. Here, I think, Russia, in particular. But it also, because it's been so uncertain with the president saying one thing, key advisers saying something else. I was just going to say that yp you have key advisers, Matis, tillerson, saying absolutely. Article five. How do they read that? The vice president, the secretary of defense. All going to nato and being clear and unequivocal about the U.S. Commitment to the alliance. Then you have the president for the first time at the head quarters on may 25th, seemingly reversing all that. Deliberately not sticking to the commitment. The bedrock pledge of the alliance. Being rather disrespectful of allies in public in the public presentation. Allies are whip sawed between key advisers and the president himself and wonder, I think, who actually speaks for this administration. Is it dangerous? What will allies do? They will, and here the president is right. They'll undoubted LE recommit to increasinging defense spending. This is where the president is correct. They'll also begin to hedge their bets. Because they can't rely, they bloef hay can't rely on U.S. Leadership, as they have for the past 70 years. We should think abwhat that 70 year sz has featured. U.S. Leadership the the backbone of recovery from World War II. Seeing us all the way through the cold war period. Beyond the cold war seeing nato as a stabilizing force. In the Balkans. Today in Afghanistan. What we had Russia hacking into our elections. How do you think they're reacting to this? Americans are centered on what the Russians did to our election process last year. That really is just the latest gamut. This game began at least in 2014, when Russia seized a sovereign part of a neighboring state, Ukraine. The crimea peninsula. Russia holds that peninsula today. It's destabilized eastern Ukraine with Russian troops, propaganda, so forth. It's conducted a series of no-notice exercises on nato's periphery. They should be announced if advance and nato observers shoumd be there to stab lids the situation. It's modernized its military. It's promoted very dangerous incidents at sea and in the air. There's a whole pattern of things into which this election Troe controversy falls. When they hear president trump talk about Russia, what is going through the minds of Russians? I suspect he sees an opportunity to do what military force alone could never do. That is crack the nato alliance. If he can crack it politically or provoke internal fissures inside the alliance, Putin sees enormous opportunity to achieve a long-standing Russian goal. I want to ask you about adviser Mcmaster. He's long-standing military. He's still active duty. A general that was I think the first day when they made the announcement. Since then, he's been in civilian clothes. You were active duty. Same thing. Three-star, active duty, army general when you were in the white house. Is that a tough line to toe? Are there things an active duty military general should not do, should not say in the white house? Do you have to stay in certain lanes? I think H.R. Mcmaster sits in the most difficult position in Washington. Whether he's an active duty officer or not this is a really tough job. I think he's up to it. I think his job is complicated by the fact that he's still on active duty. Why do I say that? An active duty military officer like the lowest private in the army must all abide by the chain of command? He remains in the chain of command. I think that complicates his role. What about talking about policy or defending the president? Is that all fine for active duty? I think to some extent, this puts him on a tight rope. He's trying to be apolitical. Everything in the white house is political. And at the same time, nonpartisan, which is a long-standing tied with where our active duty forces remain nonpartisan. He's, I think, there's an internal tension he has to deal with between politics and partisanship. I want to ask you one final question. Not very long here. About ISIS. Moving into mosul. Into raqqa. There were reports, not confirmed, about Al baghdadi being killed. What do you see happening after that? It's very good progress. In terms of eroding the caliphate. As ISIS loses territory in both Iraq and Syria, and potentially loses key leaders. I think some of the credibility. Some of the image of invulnerability of ISIS will begin to erode. We shouldn't be mistaken here. This is not tend of ISIS. The ideology exists. And thousands of foreign fighters who have pledged allegiance to the ideology also exist.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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