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Trump's actions don't match his national security rhetoric, says former NATO ambassador

  • President Donald Trump made some strong points in his national security speech, but his actions haven't backed up his words, former diplomat Nick Burns said.
  • The president's speech on Monday followed the unveiling of his 68-page strategy document earlier in the day.
  • Burns said Trump has weakened the U.S. position on trade and is not seen as a leader of the West.

President Donald Trump made some strong points in his national security speech, but his actions in office so far haven't backed up his words, former diplomat Nick Burns told CNBC on Monday.

The president's speech on Monday followed the unveiling of his 68-page strategy document earlier in the day. The administration's approach reflects Trump's "America First" campaign pledge and looks at China and Russia as two countries challenging U.S. power.

Burns agreed that China and Russia are competitors with the U.S. for global and regional power. He also said the power of the U.S. economy is the foundation for the country's global influence.

President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a national security strategy speech at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017.
Jim Lo Scalzo | Bloomberg | Getty Images
President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a national security strategy speech at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017.

However, he said Trump has weakened the U.S. position on trade.

"He is not seen by the Europeans as the leader of the West, as every other American president. He's been so critical of the European allies," Burns said in an interview with "Power Lunch."

The CNBC contributor and former U.S. ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush also criticized Trump's immigration policy.

"He's trying to shut down immigration, I think, in a way that will hurt our economy and hurt the ethos and spirit of the country," he said.

"The actions of the last 12 months are a lot more important than this speech and this document, and the two don't really meet in the middle."

Trump has also been critical of NATO allies who he said are not paying their fair share. At his first NATO meeting in May, he called upon members to spend more in defending terrorism.

Burns agreed that NATO allies need to spend more, but noted that 20 of the 28 European allies began to raise defense spending in 2014.

"He needs to be a critic, obviously, but he also needs to encourage and lead, and he hasn't done that. It took him five months to say that he actually agreed with the heart of NATO: An attack on one is an attack on all," he said.

Meredith Sumpter, who directs the Asia practice at the Eurasia Group, said major powers are watching Trump's actions closely. If the U.S. is walking away from "the mantle of global leadership," they have key questions about trade and international institutions, she said.

"They are at this moment where they are wondering if the U.S. is not going to lead internationally then who will and what does that mean?" she said in an interview with "Power Lunch."