(Adds Republican U.S. senator McCain on importance of NATO)
By Carmel Crimmins
DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Donald Trump’s comments about NATO being “obsolete” reflect how the world has changed, but should not be interpreted as meaning that it needs to be consigned to history, a senior adviser to the U.S. president-elect said on Tuesday.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Monday that Trump’s comments had aroused concern across the 28-member alliance. Trump, who is due to be sworn in on Friday, criticised NATO for not defending against terrorist attacks.
“NATO is working but there are things about it that need to change and there are parts of it that are, in the words of Trump, ‘obsolete’”, Anthony Scaramucci, a hedge fund manager who is joining Trump’s White House staff as an adviser, told an audience at the World Economic Forum (WEF).
NATO has been seen since the 1950s as the keystone of western European defences, extending its zone of activity in the post-Cold War period to the borders of Russia.
“We have to think about changing the (NATO) treaty to front face the 21st and 22nd centuries,” Scaramucci said, adding the focus should now be on finding common cause with Russia.
“Let’s try to find a way to get along better (with Russia). We need to focus less on combatting Communism and more on rejecting radical Islam,” he said.
Trump’s comments about countries needing to pay their way in NATO reflected his background as a businessman and property developer and made sense, Scaramucci said.
Scaramucci also said the United States wanted to create more symmetry in trade agreements and have a “phenomenal relationship” with China, calling on Beijing to “reach now towards us and allow us to create this symmetry”.
In Washington, Trump’s views on NATO are not shared by many fellow Republicans. John McCain, the influential Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, noted how NATO allies sent their troops to fight in the war on terrorism declared by then President George W. Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks on New York and Washington.
“I don’t think we should ever forget that - that they were willing to send their young people to Afghanistan to fight, not because they were attacked, but because we were attacked,” McCain told CNN on Tuesday.
Addressing concerns that have been raised about the way Trump has communicated his ideas and thoughts so far, Scaramucci said people should not be worried or alarmed by the president-elect’s tweets.
As for his own business interests, Scaramucci said he had signed a deal for the sale of his Skybridge hedge fund. (Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; Writing by Alexander Smith; Editing by Mark Potter and Frances Kerry)