Political News

Former British PM Tony Blair to Trump: Keep your allies with you

Posted November 16, 2017 11:59 a.m. EST

— For former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, US President Donald Trump's "America First" priorities are not inherently problematic. However, Blair says they must be promoted in a way that does not isolate the US from its global allies.

"In one sense, why wouldn't you put America first? We should put Britain first. I mean everyone should put their country first," Blair told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.

"My only plea to President Trump, or whoever is the American president, is approach things in a way that keeps your allies with you and keeps the western world united because we're going to need that as we go through this big geopolitical change," the former Prime Minister said.

That change, Blair believes, will be the emergence of China as the dominant global power.

"China's got a right to take its proper place in the world," Blair said. "But just the consequences of this are so dramatic that we need that cohesive set of alliances staying strong and staying behind the values we believe in."

Blair said he would have "obviously" preferred that the US not signal its intention to pull out of the Paris climate agreement, but added he hopes that it will stay committed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, despite Trump's criticisms of the institution.

"If America started, for example to pull itself back from NATO, and I don't believe you will, but if you did, well that void's not going to be filled by anyone else. That's dangerous," Blair said.

Blair's tenure as Prime Minister has come to be remembered in large for his decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He told Axelrod that it was the "most difficult decision" he had to make in office, but that he believed it was the right choice based on the intelligence at the time.

US and British forces launched the invasion based on the claim that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, but the intelligence reports the claim was based on turned out to be false.

Blair said he still believes the region is "in a better position" without Hussein in power.

"I can regret much about it but I can't regret the actual decision in removing him," he said. Pressed on whether he believed the chaos caused by the war allowed for the rise of terrorist groups like ISIS, he said he believed such forces were "deep rooted" in the region.

"In the end the answer to them is not to keep a whole lot of repressive dictatorships in power. The answer to them in the end is to evolve those societies in the direction of greater freedom and greater democracy," Blair countered.

Asked about his controversial history as an adviser to countries whose human rights records have been scrutinized, such as Kazakhstan, Blair said, "do not believe what you read in, a large part, the British media about my post prime ministerial activities."

Specifically addressing Kazakhstan, Blair said he was "helping them very specifically on reforms" and that the work was not for profit.

"My work in the Middle East has always been not for profit. And the work we've done in Africa has always been not for profit," he said.