Report

Former Secretary of State Albright: ‘Trump Is Like a Gift to Putin’

In an interview, the prominent Clinton backer said Russia’s hack of internal Democratic party servers was connected to Trump’s friendliness toward Moscow.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 26:  Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright delivers remarks on the second day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 26: Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright delivers remarks on the second day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Philadelphia, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

PHILADELPHIA — Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has a sobering take on Campaign 2016: Whether or not Donald Trump is elected, the tone and substance of the Republican nominee’s campaign has already damaged U.S. national security.

In an interview, Albright said she’d recently returned from a conference in Warsaw where Baltic leaders openly expressed fears that a Trump presidency would encourage Russian aggression and leave them without the de facto American protection they’ve enjoyed for decades.

“Trump is like a gift to Putin,” she said, she said in a wide-ranging conversation in her hotel suite in Philadelphia earlier this week.

She pointed to the Moscow-attributed 2007 cyberattack on Estonia and recent physical aggression by Russia against Moldova and Georgia, saying Russia is inevitably taking Trump’s comments as an invitation to push further.

“The statements he’s made about NATO are fairly stunning, and in fact, are exactly the kind of thing that Putin would like to see,” she said. “Whatever the direct linkages, there’s no question that Trump is like a gift to Putin in terms of the things he’s saying specifically about NATO and the Baltics. So they have to celebrate every time Trump says exactly the kind of things he’s saying, in Cleveland [during the GOP convention], and previously.”

Albright served in Bill Clinton’s’ administration and is a prominent supporter of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Echoing an argument being made by other Democrats, Albright said Moscow had reason to do everything in its power to help Trump, who has spoken warmly about Russian President Vladimir Putin and hinted that he would leave nations like Ukraine to fend for themselves.

“They are truly freaked out about Trump,” she said of these allies.

Global leaders are already fretting about whether Trump means what he says, Albright said, describing several in Warsaw eagerly telling her about their contributions to NATO and how they are stepping them up. “They are very, very nervous, especially this particular group [the Baltic states], about the sanctity of Europe and our relationship with Europe.”

The American intelligence community believes that Russian hackers broke into Democratic National Committee computers and leaked nearly 20,000 internal emails just before the Democratic convention got under way. American spies are still trying to determine whether the hacking was part of a deliberate attempt to help Trump by painting the DNC — and, by extension, Clinton — in an unflattering light.

Trump, meanwhile, raised eyebrows Wednesday by encouraging Moscow to hack into Clinton’s private email server to find the thousands of emails she has said she deleted before turning the remainder over to the State Department. Clinton’s use of the private server has done serious political damage to her campaign, but Trump’s comments escalated the controversy over the DNC hack to new heights.

In the interview Monday, Albright said that she believes that “there is no question” that the hack was connected to Trump’s warm views of Moscow and an intent to influence the upcoming U.S. elections.

Albright argues that Clinton is the most qualified candidate ever to be commander in chief, but also says that the world’s sole superpower electing a woman leader would send a powerful message.

When Albright used to speak in White House meetings in the 1990s, she said, a male official would sometimes drum his fingers in what she took to be a coded way of saying “don’t be so emotional.”

Albright, born in communist Czechoslovakia, has been able to overcome that kind of quiet sexism as the first woman U.S. secretary of state and beyond. Two of her successors — Republican Condoleeza Rice and Clinton — were also women.

During Clinton’s tenure as the nation’s top diplomat, Albright said her granddaughter, then 7 years old, asked, “‘What’s the big deal about Grandma Maddie being secretary of state? Only girls are secretary of state.’”

“Maybe soon we’ll get to where it’s not so unusual to have a woman president,” Albright said.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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