Speaking in Washington, the former Republican presidential nominee pushed back at Trumps criticism of Nato by praising the alliances response to 9/11
Senator John McCain, the former Republican presidential nominee, has taken a swipe at Donald Trumps hostility to Nato by praising the alliances response to the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.
McCain also pleaded on Thursday with the next president be it Trump or Democratic rival Hillary Clinton to surround themselves with national security experts including David Petraeus, the wartime general who last year pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information.
Responding to a question from the Guardian at the Brookings Institution thinktank in Washington, McCain said: As far as Mr Trumps views are concerned, Im not exactly sure what some of his views are because sometimes he makes contradictory statements.
I agree with him to this extent, that our Nato allies should pay more and Ive been urging all of that, all of us have, for years and years. But lets not forget that after 9/11, the United States of America was attacked, Europeans werent attacked, and yet we invoked Article 5 and all those European countries came to our aid and sent troops to Afghanistan.
The Arizona senator added: You know, over a thousand of those Nato troops, non-Americans, were killed and several thousand wounded? So maybe we also ought to show some appreciation for what our Nato allies did for us in Afghanistan.
Trump, the Republicans presumptive nominee, has previously accused Nato allies of ripping off the United States and called on them to pay back their share. And if it breaks up Nato, it breaks up Nato, he once shrugged.
His other surprise foreign policy pronouncements have included allowing Japan and South Korea to obtain nuclear weapons, saying he would have no problem speaking with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and predicting that he would not have a good relationship with British prime minister David Cameron.
These have drawn criticism, including from Republican stalwarts such as Robert Gates, the former defense secretary; James Baker, the ex-secretary of state; and Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA. Clinton told CNN this week that Trump was not qualified to be commander in chief.
But in an ongoing effort to challenge such perceptions and gain gravitas, Trump this week met Henry Kissinger, the 92-year-old former secretary of state and joint winner of the 1973 Nobel peace prize.
On Thursday McCain said with a wry smile: All I can say is that I understand Mr Trump met with Henry Kissinger. That is one meeting I am sorry I was not able to sit in on.
There has been no love lost between McCain, who spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, and Trump since the latter remarked: I like people that werent captured.
At the gathering in Washington, McCain could hardly have been described as a cheerleader for his fellow Republican, offering a fairly even-handed assessment of him and Clinton. Obviously I have significant disagreements with Mr Trump on a number of issues. I also have some disagreements with secretary Clinton as well. One of my disappointments, and I say very frankly to all my friends, is secretary Clintons switch on the issue of TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership]. I think a devastating blow to us and Asia would be failure to enact TPP.
The senator, who lost the 2008 election to Barack Obama, continued: Heres my hope and I ask this of both candidates. I hope that you would sit down and bring in some of the finest military and diplomatic leaders that this country has ever been graced with. David Petraeus. Ryan Crocker. Jim Mattis. John Allens a great leader in Afghanistan.
I would recommend either to Hillary Clinton or to Donald Trump, call in these smart people; theyve lived it for the last 15 years, some of them as junior officers and some of them as junior diplomats, and they can give you the advice and counsel you need to shape a national security strategy. Thats why one of my disappointments about this administration is that they havent called in those people.
Most of McCains hour-long session was devoted to the 2017 National Defense Authorisation Act, which was approved last week by a Senate committee. He issued a stark warning of a dangerous mismatch between growing worldwide threats. Each of our military services remains underfunded, undersized and unready to meet current and future threats, he said.
Military personnel are being forced to cannibalise parts from old aircraft to keep combat planes flying, he added. We are at risk of losing the military technological dominance that we have taken for granted for 30 years.
McCain noted that the current military chiefs of staff, when asked to name the greatest security threat to America, named Russia, not Islamic State, a view that he agrees with. He pledged to fight for more funding on the Senate floor and said he would push for a reduction in the size of the White Houses National Security Council.
As he left the building, McCain was asked if he fully endorses Trump for the Republican nomination. He told the Guardian: I support the nominee.