Donald Trump's attitude to negotiation could provoke a war, says former British military chief

General Sir Richard Barrons says the US President's approach could lead to him doing something 'mad'

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Donald Trump's confrontational approach to negotiation – based on his experiences in business – could provoke a war, according to a former leading British general.

General Sir Richard Barrons, who was commander of the UK's Joint Forces Command, raised significant concerns about Mr Trump’s mentality, saying he feared the US President might do something "mad".

While Mr Trump 's "win-lose" philosophy might appear “psychologically normal” to someone who has spent his life at the head of a large company, they could be “deeply dangerous" on the international stage, Sir Richard warned.

"In my tiny and unpleasant exposure to the commercial world, it seems to me you go into a negotiation … and you know you can walk away. But in geopolitics there's no walking away," he told the Association of European Journalists in London, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"If Mr Trump is confronted – given the nature of his approach to his life so far – he may respond in a way that is psychologically normal for him but deeply dangerous for the rest of us."

He outlined a potential scenario in which US and Chinese navy ships became involved in a confrontation in the South China Sea, parts of which are disputed by several different countries in the region.

Saying the Chinese military was “ambitious” but “very inexperienced”, Sir Richard said if a Chinese commander locked onto a US aircraft with its fire-control radar, this would be perceived as an offensive act.

"What if that American commander isn't so confident that he just chins it off, if he launches his missile in response, which under self-defence he's entitled to do? And sinks a Chinese ship? Where does that take us?” he said.

"Wars generally start for really bad reasons and the red mist descends and you lose control … I think the risk of that is evident."

He also said that he was friends with General James Mattis, the Secretary of Defence, General John Kelly, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and General Michael Flynn, Mr Trump’s national-security adviser. 

"Particularly John Kelly and Jim Mattis are first-rate military warriors who understand how to operate at a strategic level. They understand the interface between the military, politics and policy and are steeped in hard campaigning," he said.

"What they are not is politicians in any way and they've gone into political jobs … if their jobs come down to using their judgement and experience that they have, they'll provide superb advice.

"But if they're dragged into a political way of doing business, this will be uncharted waters."

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