ATLANTA (AP) —President Jimmy Carter warned that President Donald Trump should steer clear of any military action involving Syria or other world hot spots and avoid a nuclear attack at all costs.

“I pray that he would keep our country at peace and not exaggerate or exacerbate the challenges that come up with North Korea, in Russia or in Syria,” Carter said in an interview Wednesday. “I hope he realizes very profoundly as I did, and as other presidents have done, that any nuclear exchange could involve catastrophe for all human beings.”

The 93-year-old former president added that even a lesser military attack “is a dangerous thing” than can spiral out of control.

His remarks come as Trump continues to threaten attacks on Syria in response to a suspected chemical attack on civilians. As recently as Thursday morning, Trump said on social media that an attack would come “very soon or not so soon at all.” Russia has countered that such a move would have “grave repercussions.”

Trump has previously had threatening exchanges with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un but now says he’s in talks about having a summit with Kim. Carter has for decades advocated that the U.S. deal more directly with the insular communist dictatorship.

An outspoken Baptist, Carter argues that Americans are experiencing the long erosion not just of spiritual faith but of confidence in public institutions.

“A lot of folks have lost faith in the superiority of democracy,” Carter told The Associated Press, noting widening wealth disparities, more open discrimination against minorities and immigrants, a political process controlled by money and an endless cycle of wars and international entanglements.

Carter, a Democrat, has been critical of Trump, a Republican, on some fronts, and he said “a lot of people” have “realized they made a mistake” supporting Trump. Yet Carter made clear that his critique is not about the current occupant of the Oval Office.

In fact, he said, Trump’s election was a product of many ills Carter identifies, not their cause.

“A lot of average Americans and working people in our country didn’t feel that we were getting a fair shake from government … and they wanted to see something new,” Carter said.

The problems that fueled Trump’s rise, Carter said, are of graver concern than anything surrounding the administration, including whatever results from a widespread inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller.

“I pray that he will promote human rights, equality among all people, and that he will value the truth,” Carter said, though he added that the long-term survival of democracy will turn on “the resilience of the American public” and “our constitutional foundation.”


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