President Obama has expressed confidence that Donald Trump would maintain America's strategic partnerships. Before departing on his final trip abroad, he lauded his working relationship with German Chancellor Merkel.
Shortly before his departure for Europe US President Barack Obama sought to reassure a nervous country and a worried global community that president-elect Donald Trump would maintain America's alliances.
"Do I have concerns?" Obama added. "Absolutely."
The president is heading off on a three-nation valedictory trip, which includes a stop in Germany, and a final meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he said, "has probably been my closest (international) partner."
Obama sought to reassure skittish European leaders after a divisive campaign marred by charges of racism, sexism, a potpourri of offensive rhetoric and a questioning Trump who cast doubt security relationships in Europe and Asia.
The foreign press has been filled with fear and loathing at the prospect of a Trump presidency, including the latest cover of the German magazine "Der Spiegel," which featured a comet-like image of the president-elect hurtling towards earth with the caption: "It's the end of the world (as we know it)."
In what appeared to be Obama's most revelatory comment during a lengthy press conference that stretched well beyond an hour, Obama said of Trump, ''he expressed a great interest in maintaining our core strategic relationships," including "strong and robust NATO" partnerships.
The president reminded the assembled press core that "the trans-Atlantic and NATO alliance has endured for decades under Democratic and Republican leaders."
On his final international trip Obama will stop in Greece, before arriving for a two-day visit to Germany on Thursday and wrapping up his trip with a stop in Peru.
A smooth transition
The president said his team would accelerate efforts to ensure a smooth transition to the Trump administration.
Strikingly, Obama declined to criticize Trump, who just a week earlier he had described as "woefully unprepared for the job" of president and couldn't "handle the nuclear codes."
The president's posture came as the president-elect came in for a storm of criticism from human rights advocates for his selection of Steve Bannon to be his chief strategist.
Bannon was a key figure in Trump's campaign and the owner of the Breitbart website, which critics say spews xenophobia and hostility towards minorities
Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a non-governmental organization that opposes all forms of racism and bigotry, said on CNN that he was very troubled by Trump's appointment. He said he views Bannon as a proponent, if not instigator, of such rhetoric
"We saw anti-Semitic memes coming out of [the] campaign," he said, adding, "and a surge in hate crimes across the country, including swastikas in Philadelphia and Maryland."
While Trump has made some conciliatory comments towards women and minorities in the aftermath of the election, the ADL chief said that's not enough.
"The statements are fine," Greenblatt said, "but we want to see action."
bik/bw (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)