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Economy

US leadership needed in uncertain times: ex-NATO chief

Anders Fogh Rasmussen wants America to step up to fight terrorism, populism

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former secretary-general of NATO.

BRUSSELS -- Uncertainty over the outlook for global order is expected to further increase in 2017 in light of such coming developments as the start of negotiations for the British exit from the European Union and the ascent of Donald Trump to the White House.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, former secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, recently spoke to the Nikkei Asian Review about measures to achieve global stability. Rasmussen urged the U.S. to regain the "will to lead" the world to counter the spreading threat of terrorism globally and the outbreak of populism across countries.

Edited excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: How would you describe 2017 in one sentence or key word?

A: The world is on fire. Wherever you look, you will see war, civil war and terrorism. I think it is clear that President Obama has reluctance to use force or even threaten to use force. It has not made the world safer -- on the contrary, [it is] on fire.

So the world needs a policeman to restore international law and order. I don't see any other candidate to do that than the U.S. The next few years will determine the future world order and America's place in it. It will fall to the next U.S. president to make the crucial decisions that will define that future. If the U.S. withdraws to concentrate on nation-building at home, the forces fighting against liberal democracy will gain ground and the U.S. will be faced with stronger foes, weaker friends and a more insecure world. We need America's will to lead the world.

Q: Why did you suggest building an alliance for liberal democracy as soon as possible in your book "The Will to Lead"?

A: Because we have seen expansion of not only terrorism, but also autocrats. We have seen freedom and democracy recede. That is why I think the world's democracies should strengthen their promotion and protection of freedom and democracy. That's why I suggest to build an alliance for democracy and to strengthen cooperation.

In my book I suggested as one of [Trump's] first-term initiatives to convene all leaders of democracies in the world. Trump should gather them in Washington. And I suggest that in this alliance for democracy, countries, members of that alliance, help each other against terrorism and all threats. Of course, democracies don't agree on everything. They shouldn't -- they are free societies. But they share some basic values and ideas. That is why they also should coordinate policies with each other.

Q: What is the main cause of the European crisis?

A: On the one hand, it is very clear that Europe needs strong leadership if you are to move away from this critical situation. On the other hand, people don't want more powerful EU institutions. I think we will have to so to speak invent a new cooperation model in Europe. A model where we point to some key area where we need a strong Europe. I am in favor of handing over the responsibility for external borders to the EU. So certain areas should need more Europe, and everybody should participate in those areas. And then other areas don't need that. You can allow people to decide themselves whether to join the EU or just partly. I think such a flexible cooperation model is the only way forward.

One of the basic points for Brexit was immigration restriction. And you can't stop immigration and still be a member of the internal market. That's not possible. You have to accept also free movement of people. And if you won't accept free movement of people, then you can't participate in the internal market. That is why I think it will be a "hard" Brexit. Japan has made a lot of investment in U.K. The car industry and many other industries have invested heavily in the U.K. I really think Japan and other countries will now have to consider where they should move their investment in the future.

Q: How should NATO get along with Mr. Trump? What do you expect at the next NATO summit?

A: The next summit should take place in early spring. Ideally within 100 days after his inauguration. And I think NATO should send three important messages.

Firstly, NATO allies will pay 2% [of gross domestic product on defense] sooner than we decided in 2014. [European defense spending has been low] because we harvested what I called the peace dividend after the end of the Cold War. We considered the Russians as our partner, but they are not. In that new security situation, Europe must invest much more in defense. We will speed up [efforts to achieve the] 2% target.

Secondly, he in particular should say, "No doubt, America will always defend any allies against any attack." That's a message to those who may be concerned about Article 5. And thirdly, we should say, "OK, we will also help Ukraine." I think increasing help to Ukraine would be a key indication that we will spend in solidarity with our friends.

Interviewed by Nikkei staff writer Manabu Morimoto

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