Ambassador Douglas Lute
U.S. Ambassador to NATO
Ambassador Jacek Najder (Poland)
Deputy Ambassador Paul Johnston (UK)
From Wales to Warsaw: NATO Faces New Threats and Challenges
International Press Association
June 30, 2016
Moderator: Hello, colleagues. Please take your seats. Thank you.
My name is Hans de Bruijn, I’m the Secretary General of the International Press Association. On behalf of IPA and the rest of us [inaudible] event in a series of meetings with politicians, diplomats, and decision-makers. The last few days have, for all of us here in Brussels, been very exciting. We have been talking about the EU and the Brexit, but now it’s time to focus on another important event next week in Warsaw: the NATO Summit.
Many of you will go there, I hope so, so it’s very good to have the opportunity to discuss the priorities for the summit with three very distinguished guests.
The last time the NATO leaders met was in September 2014 in Wales and since then, the world has not really become a safer place. The Warsaw Summit will give the Western leaders a chance to talk, to develop answers to those threats and challenges.
To talk about this, we have here with us three ambassadors. Douglas Lute, U.S. Ambassador to NATO. Next to him, Mr. Jacek Najder from Poland. And at the far end the Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, Paul Johnston.
The three ambassadors will kick off this meeting with a short presentation, each of about five, six minutes, and then we will have ample time to have questions and answer.
Ambassador Lute: So how many of you are going to Warsaw? Good. Alright. So we’ll see many of you there. Of course we all travel so that we can be there a week from tomorrow. The [North Atlantic] Council travels a week from today and the sessions itself make up a total of five meetings for the leaders. So President Obama will join his 27 NATO colleagues in five sessions beginning on Friday afternoon. Then there’s a dinner Friday evening. And then three sessions on Saturday, and the whole thing wraps up by late afternoon on Saturday the 10th. So that’s the basic program. Saturday the 9th, I guess, sorry.
I think the way to think about this fundamentally, and what I’d like to do in my five minutes, is kind of lay out the context, then I’ll pass to my two colleagues to cover the two main themes of the Summit. There are decidedly, pretty distinctly, two clear themes. So they’ll cover each of them in turn and then we’ll be open to your questions.
I think the way to think about this is to begin again where we left off, and where we left off was the Wales Summit, which our moderator mentioned in September of 2014. My sense is that the combination of Wales and Warsaw mark a strategic phase line or a strategic inflection point in the history of NATO. So let me just unpack this briefly for you. Some of you perhaps are familiar with this methodology.
In the 67-year history of NATO, I see three distinct phases. The first is the 40 years of the Cold War, so this is 1949, the Washington Treaty; 1989, fall of the Berlin Wall; and just two years after that, ’91, the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Phase one was pretty clean-cut. I mean that’s when NATO was inaugurated, there’s a lot of continuity in those 40 years of the Cold War, but things changed dramatically in ’89 to ’91. NATO went through its first strategic shift, its first strategic inflection point. And NATO faced a period of adaptation. I mean that was, for those of you who were reporting on NATO at that time — some of you are too young to have reported but maybe you’ve read about this period — NATO was trying to find itself. NATO was trying to find its feet after its raison d’etre. And NATO did find its feet and it then entered into a second phase where, for 25 years, roughly ’89 to 2014 — if you’re still with me on the math, right? — we entered the post-Cold War phase, or NATO 2.0, phase two. This was, again, it featured a lot of continuity. On the political front we reached out to new members and the Alliance grew from 16 to 28, where we are today.
On the military front, we took our show on the road in contingency operations. First in the Balkans, so in 1995 in Bosnia, a couple of years later in Kosovo, and then still to this day, in our longest-ever, largest-ever combat operation in Afghanistan which NATO began working on in 2003 after 9/11.
So the 25 years from the end of the Cold War to recently was very much focused on a force posture and military operations that were out of area, or contingency, expeditionary operations. And that period was relatively consistent for about 25 years.
My argument is that we’re at another phase line, and that beginning in 2014 and still to this day, we’re moving into a new period in NATO’s long history. Why do I say that? Here’s the evidence I cite.
So the first thing that happened in 2014 that marks this change is a newly aggressive, newly assertive Russia under Vladimir Putin. So in late February, early March of 2014, the seizing, the occupying of Crimea followed quickly by the illegal political annexation of Crimea. Several months after that, so now we’re in late spring of 2014, the initial destabilizing activities in the Donbas which continue to this day. So both of these combined clearly indicate that we’re in a new relationship with a different Russia. Not the Russia that we imagined in phase two, where we talked about for some 20 years a strategic partnership with Russia. Well, any notion of strategic partnership came to an abrupt halt in the first months of 2014.
Then shortly after that, so now in June of 2014, you’ve got ISIL seizing the second-largest city in Iraq, Mosul. And so ISIL, which didn’t begin in 2014 — it really, though, jumped on to the international scene with the seizing of the city of Mosul.
So the combination of these events sort of brought NATO’s attention back very quickly away from the contingency operations it had been doing for 25 years, and back directly onto our frontiers.
So now the activity is very focused, it’s brought us back to the primacy of our initial core task — collective defense, defending the 28. And it brought our attention back to our immediate neighborhood, the immediate periphery of the Alliance.
So my argument is that if you combine these factors and add to them the migration of terrorism from instability on the periphery to our cities: so several miles from here the Brussels airport, but before that Paris, and now most recently, again tragically in Turkey, the attack in the Istanbul airport. You have ISIL striking European cities. And then also because of the instability on the periphery in this new phase three, if you will, the historic migration flows and refugee flows that have fled from the unstable, weak, failing and in some cases failed states, immediately on NATO’s door step.
So the combination of all these factors, I argue, put NATO at a strategic point where we have to assess what we’re doing and we have to adapt.
My argument is: we began that adaptation at Wales. But a large Alliance of 28 members operating on consensus does not adapt overnight. It takes us a while to do it right. And I think the next step in getting it right, and the next step in adaptation, is next week at the Warsaw Summit.
So we talk much in the council where we sit about the road from Wales to Warsaw, and this is fundamentally the story about how NATO is adapting yet again to a fundamental shift in the strategic setting and doing what is responsible, what is predictable, and really making what I think is a mature set of adaptations that address the strategic setting, which is very different.
Now we’re doing that in two fundamental ways and this now is the entre to my teammates here. We’re doing this first of all with regard to how we defend ourselves. So this is strengthening collective defense and Jacek will talk about that. The second theme — and this will be one of the big themes coming out of Warsaw — the second big thing coming out of Warsaw will be: what do we do about the periphery? And here we talk about projecting stability. So we don’t have an obligation to defend states beyond NATO’s territory, but we realize it’s in our interest to make them as stable as possible. Why? Because the more stable they are, the more secure we are.
So the two key themes are strengthening deterrence and defense, Jacek; and then Paul will talk about projecting stability. And I think a week from now — or actually more like ten days from now when the summit is behind us — you’ll see quite clearly that that’s how the leaders have spent their time and those will be the prominent decisions centered on those two themes.
Ambassador Najder: Thank you very much.
So exactly as Doug said, this is from Wales to Warsaw. We are not starting something absolutely new. We are just adding another layer to decisions which were made in Wales and also in Warsaw. We are going to say that we are delivering, that the Wales commitments are being met, and that we are up to our task in this regard.
What is going to happen in Warsaw? This is going to be the most significant accomplishment of Alliance deterrence and defense in decades.
One, it was exactly what Doug just described. This is because the security environment has changed. The most important part of this, at least from my national position, the most important part of this broad approach is something what we call in-house, forward presence. The main concept, the deterrence posture of the Alliance, will continue to be based on rapid threat enforcement, but this concept will be enhanced by the persistent presence of allied forces in the eastern periphery or in the eastern flank.
Enhanced Forward Presence will consist of four battalion-sized battle groups which will be deployed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and my country, in Poland. Don’t ask us who is going where and how it is going to be organized. This is going to be said by our leaders in Warsaw.
Ambassador Lute: So you have to come to Warsaw to get the —
Ambassador Najder: Yes, so we’re sorry, there is a trip to be made to get this information.
So there are going to be four host nations and there are going to be four framework nations. But the Alliance consists of 28, not 4, so the groups will be built of more than just 4 nations. Our allies will contribute to the strength of these battle groups.
So additionally, to whom and where, will make decision about very important things, about the command and control. So the command and control of this whole construct, military construct, will also be decided in Warsaw and will be well within the NATO force structure. It will be dedicated to the in-house forward presence.
This presence will be based on voluntary and rotational basis. There is going to be a list of forces just like VJTF, the decision which we made in Wales. There are countries which, who have volunteered to serve, to set up VJTF, Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, and the same will go with in-house forward presence.
Then not only the northeast part of the eastern flank will be addressed. We also have the eastern flank is a pretty long one. It consists of the corner from where I come from, but it also so the very much southern part of it where Romania and Bulgaria are located. And we have another concept for that. This is tailored forward presence. Because they are facing a bit different set of challenges, although challenge is the same, it’s a bit different defined.
But looking further to the south as Doug just mentioned, we are facing non-state actors with state-like capabilities and aspirations, and our defense and deterrence will also take into account this challenge.
So in sum, the Warsaw Summit will be about enhancing deterrence and defense posture for the whole Alliance against all possible threats, both from the state and non-state actors. Thank you very much.
Deputy Ambassador Johnston: Thank you very much. My starting point, perhaps surprisingly, would be 2010 rather than 2014 in the sense that it was at 2010 at the Lisbon Summit where NATO adopted its strategic concept, and in that strategic concept we said NATO had three core tasks. I think Doug referred to this in his opening remarks. Collective defense of the Alliance; crisis management, outside the Alliance territory; and cooperative security.
What we see now, six years old, I think, is that the essential validity of that construct, of those three core tasks, remains. But the way in which we need to do them, the challenges we need to face, are very different from what they were in 2010. We recognize this nationally. Our 2015 Strategic Defense and Security Review is rather different from the one we did in 2010. And we recognize this in NATO in a number of ways. One, as Jacek said, we are significantly enhancing our deterrence and defense posture to deal with the challenge that a different Russia, that Doug described, poses to us. And in terms of the wider range of threats we face, particularly but not only in cyber, we’re looking at the other two core tasks. That’s to say, cooperative security and crisis management, in a slightly more or significantly more holistic way. And this is where the concept of projecting stability that was endorsed by NATO’s foreign ministers when they met here in May, that’s where that comes from.
What it means in a way is quite simple. Really, that I’d say two main things: One, that our efforts as part of a broader international grouping to address instability in third countries has a direct link to our security path at home. Hence, NATO working in an unprecedented way with the European Commission, Greece and Turkey, to address migration — irregular migration flows — in the Aegean. So that’s part of the security challenge to Europe in a very broad sense, you know, uncontrolled migration. But also terrorism. So NATO giving support to the Counter-ISIL Coalition, pursuing its mission in Afghanistan, capacity building in Iraq. This is an evolution from NATO just doing, I don’t mean “just” disparagingly, but doing conventional crisis management operations, doing something that’s [inaudible] a much broader view of the security of more or less fragile countries, particularly on our southern periphery.
So what you will see at the Warsaw Summit is the Alliance increasingly stepping up to the plate in a number of different areas. Often it will be work alongside the European Union, but also other actors, the UN, regional actors, broadening our approach to sort of the political relationships we have with our eastern and southern partners, and as I say moving away from conventional crisis management into new forms of missions and activities that will embrace capacity building, training, sharing expertise in areas like CT or counter-IED. So it’s a broad pallet of things that the Alliance is doing.
It’s worth mentioning, of course, that we will have Montenegro at the Summit for the first time. And our open door policy, NATO’s enlargement policy, is also part of projecting stability in wider Europe. We’ll be meeting also with the president of Ukraine and the foreign minister of Georgia, two of NATO’s distinctive partners. So this will be, I think more than ever, an outward-facing Alliance, which recognizes the need to take part in international efforts to address instability beyond our borders as well as being resolute, confident, but also defensive and measured in the approach we take to our fundamental responsibility which is enshrined in Article 5, the collective defense of our allies.
Moderator: Thank you, all three of you. Before we start the question and answer, just to remark, this meeting is about the NATO Summit, and I can imagine that you have questions about one specific other subject to those ambassadors here. Please save them for the end of the briefing. Then we can first focus on the NATO issues.
Media: Iryna Somer, Ukrainian News Agency, UNIAN.
I would like to ask the three of you one question about the NATO-Ukraine Commission. What you would like to achieve? What do you expect? What is coming out of this meeting? Thank you.
Ambassador Lute: When President Poroshenko joins the 28 allied leaders, and the prime minister from Montenegro as well, in this session devoted to Ukraine, and this will be on the morning of the second day.
I think there are two big topics. One will be to hear from President Poroshenko the progress on the security track, but also on the political track, with regard to full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. So we want to hear, I know President Obama is anxious to hear directly from President Poroshenko, his report on the situation in Ukraine.
And then from the NATO side, NATO will inform first-hand President Poroshenko what it’s prepared to do by way of continuing its support for Ukraine’s effort to stabilize the situation and make progress towards its ultimate ambition to join more security the Euro-Atlantic community.
So there’s work to be done on both sides. There’s work to be done and to be reflected on in terms of what’s happening inside Ukraine, but also work for the Alliance to reflect how it’s willing to continue to assist Ukraine as it has been doing now for years. So it’s a two-way conversation, and I think it will be one of the most interesting sessions of the Summit.
Ambassador Najder: Very briefly, one sentence: this is, beside Minsk, a very important part on the Ukrainian side to inform us about reforms, internal reforms — political, civilian control over its armed forces. This information is needed to dispel some negative opinions.
Media: [Inaudible] German Radio. A couple of questions if you allow.
To the U.S. Ambassador, one topic you haven’t mentioned yet is the defense spending. How high on the agenda is that from a U.S. perspective to keep Europe in line with spending more for defense?
To the Polish ambassador, a question if I may. It’s no secret that Poland has been not altogether happy with the reassurance measures taken so far. Do you expect more to come after the summit? So do you expect this to be only a starting point for more reassurance to come?
And to every one of you if I may, just because it’s a very topic that might interest all of us reporting today, the French foreign minister just said that the next NATO-Russia Council would take place after the Warsaw Summit. Can any of you give confirmation for that?
Ambassador Lute: Let me take on defense spending, then pass to my colleagues.
So one of the things we started at Wales which will continue through Warsaw next week is a renewed commitment to an agreement on what constitutes sufficient investment in defense. And this is the well-known two percent benchmark. So two percent of GDP to defense budgets, and 20 percent of that defense spending on capital investment. So new equipment, modernizing equipment and so forth. So two percent and 20 percent.
So these were for the first time agreed at Wales in 2014 at the head of state level. Never before at that time 65-year history of the Alliance had the leaders actually agreed that these should be the benchmarks.
So they took that agreement at Wales, and so next week what President Obama insists on is that we will see how we’re doing, and there will be progress charts that reflect these benchmarks and all 28 allies listed. Some will be green, and some will not be green in terms of progress. So the rough numbers are as follows. Of the 28 allies, five, to include all three of ours, by no mistake, are at the 20 percent level and at the 2 percent level. So we all spent at least 2 percent of our GDP on defense, and we all commit of that money 20 percent to new equipment. So we’re all in those 2 percent and 20 percent clubs, if you will.
There are a total of five allies at 2 percent today. Among the remaining 23, right? 5 + 23 is 28. More than half have made real increases in their defense budgets since Wales.
So if you add this up across the Alliance, what it means is that about the last 20-year pattern, the whole phase two pattern in my little historical model, featured cutting of defense budgets. We have stopped that since Wales, and we are beginning to increase. That’s the breaking of a 20-year pattern. So we’ve got real increases. It’s not 100 percent across the board, but about two-thirds of the allies since Wales have made real increases in their defense budgets and that’s news because that’s the first time.
Now that’s not enough. What was agreed at Wales was to get to two percent, to move towards two percent, and it was agreed that we would do that together as an Alliance over a ten-year period. So we’re only two years into a ten-year program. The early returns are positive. We’re moving in the right — we stopped the cuts and we’re moving in the right directions, but the next eight years are a lot of heavy lifting because some of us are a long way from twos percent. But the initial sport report that leaders will get next Friday at the first session, and this is a prioritized item, it’s at the very first session, will be a presentation on how are they doing on the Wales commitments.
So from the U.S. perspective, there’s nothing higher on the priority list next week than the show and tell of the data that reflects the Wales commitments.
Ambassador Najder: I can simply assure you Doug is very tough on that, and it’s very good.
Then answering the questions. First, we as an Alliance, we are not meeting particular countries’ expectations in terms of how much, or how many, or in terms of defensive and deterrence. We are responding to certain security environment, and this security environment has not changed as it was in introduction. This environment keeps us vigilant, keeps us alerted, and we have to be up to this task.
Then about NRC, in principle we are of course ready to meet decision of our foreign ministers from April 1, 2014 stance. It means political channels of communications are opened. We are ready, and we are talking. Secretary General is talking to Lavrov, Deputy Secretary General is talking to Ambassador Grushko, and now ball is in our Russian partners’ court. We are waiting for their response.
Deputy Ambassador Johnston: My question starts on the NATO-Russia Council. When the ministers took their decision in the spring of 2014 and then the Wales Summit reaffirmed it, and I suspect Warsaw will further reaffirm it, and they made clear that all practical cooperation with Russia would be suspended because of what Russia had done, but that it was in NATO’s interest to keep open channels of communication.
In our view, and I think it’s the wider view as well. If we talk to Russia, and when we talk to Russia, we do so to pass on very clear messages that what they’ve done is wrong and unacceptable and will not be accepted by NATO. So I think we were all in our respective country seats when we had the meeting in April of the NATO-Russia Council at ambassadorial level. And if the Russians came to that meeting hoping to see an Alliance that was fractured, I think they were disappointed because they got a very clear message from all the allies that spoke about our views on the Ukraine crisis, our views on transparency and risk reduction. So we think it’s useful and important to be able to pass messages and have robust dialogue. But we’re very clear that this should not be seen by anyone as a return to business as usual because we have a position principle that what the Russians have done is a game-changer and NATO is in a very responsible way reacting to that. We did so from a position of principle and shared interest.
Media: Thank you, Ambassadors. Alix Rijckaert from Agence France Press, AFP.
I have a question on the operation in the Aegean. What are the expectations? Will it continue going on as it’s going on right now? I’ve heard Turkey is maybe not willing for it to last too long now that the flows of migrants have gone down.
And the anti-missile, the BMD. Will you declare operational capacity in Warsaw? Thank you.
Ambassador Lute: The U.S. is central to the BMD part of your question, so let me just take that. It is our aim at the Warsaw Summit to pass command and control, so military command and control, of the BMD system which NATO has in place, to NATO.
So most recently in early May we opened the site, the ground-based site in Deveselu, Romania, but today that site is under U.S. command and control. What we aim to do by Warsaw, and it’s not yet delivered, but we have a week, is to pass command and control from U.S. to NATO. Now that’s a very, it sounds easy, but it’s actually not easy. It’s a very technical and deliberate process because we take the command and control of this very sophisticated, modern, 21st century system seriously. So we have to pass a number of gates, a number of conditions, but we are optimistic that by Warsaw we will do so and when we do that, you will hear this referred to initial operating capability, IOC. What that really means is that NATO takes command and control and it’s initial in the sense that even after Warsaw the project won’t be complete. And that’s because also in May, we broke ground on a second site, this one in northern Poland, which won’t be complete until 2018.
So I think the message on ballistic missile defense coming out of Warsaw will be we’re making progress, we’ve passed the system to NATO command and control, but there’s still work remaining because the project isn’t complete for a couple more years.
Deputy Ambassador Johnston: I think the Aegean activity is remarkable in a number of respects. One, it was an example of extremely quick NATO decision-making. The German, Greek, and Turkish defense ministers came to us with a proposal and the decision in principle that NATO should conduct this activity was taken within something like 24 hours during the Defense Ministerial meeting in February. My government regards it as a really important activity by NATO, and indeed we’ve contributed UK vessels to the task. We think it’s meeting a real need. There has been significant progress, a substantial reduction in the number of illegal crossings since then, which is not just down to NATO, it’s down to the EU-Turkey deal and various other factors. But it’s remarkable in terms of the speed with which it was launched.
Also as I touched on earlier, this is a new type of NATO-EU cooperation in that it’s really commission-led activity that NATO is supporting with its activity. So we think it is useful, it is playing a role, it will be important to keep it under review. That process will continue at Warsaw and afterwards, but we regard it as one of the more significant new things NATO has done in recent months and years.
Ambassador Lute: If I may, on top of that, it may also serve as a model for how NATO and the EU can cooperate where we have common interests. Like maritime security in this case in the Aegean, but there are other maritime security theaters or venue where NATO-EU cooperation might come into play as well. And we’ve learned things about the Aegean, in the Aegean activity that we might apply elsewhere.
Media: Bryan McManus, AFP. Ambassador Lute on the BMD issues again, please. The way you phrase it there, it seems that the BMD would be sort of an achievement of Warsaw and a NATO commitment taking over and so on and so forth. Is BMD part of the NATO response to Russia, to Ukraine? Or is it something different? The two seem to be coming together. Thank you.
Ambassador Lute: They should not come together because they’re quite distinct. So the NATO BMD system is actually a system of systems, and let me just depict that, and then make clear from the outset that it has virtually nothing to do with Russia. So despite what you hear from Russia, they know well that the capabilities I’m about to outline are not targeted against Russia and actually have no practical impact on Russia or Russia’s strategic nuclear forces.
The system comprises four BMD ships that are based in Spain, and on occasion patrol into the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It’s made up of a ground-based radar system in Turkey, which is oriented not on Russia at all, but to the southeast on Iran, which has the fastest-growing ballistic missile threat to the European territories. It’s made up of a very sophisticated command and control software system, which is actually headquartered in Ramstein, Germany. And it is complemented by satellite-based detection systems, which cue the radar, which cue the ships, and which cue the system ashore in Romania. All of these are physically oriented towards the ballistic missile threat outside of the EuroAtlantic space. That is not Russia. That is primarily the ballistic missile threat which is developing out of Iran. It has from the outset been oriented in that direction. The Russians know this. The Russians know the physics of the matter. And the Russians know the reality that this is not targeting or in any way threatening them. It is a convenient narrative for them, but it happens to be a false narrative.
Media: Niklaus Nuspliger, the Swiss Newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. I first have a question to Ambassador Lute. Maybe you could quickly talk about the European Reassurance Initiative also and in what context to see the decisions that are expected in Warsaw, talking about the battalion. I mean you said you’re not going to say which framework nation is going to be present where, but I’m interested if we’re basically talking the same presence, the same American presence in Europe, or if what is going to be decided in Warsaw comes on top of that.
And the other question I had: you mentioned maritime security. I was wondering if there are any decisions planned on Active Endeavor, also maybe in the context of EU-NATO cooperation, thank you.
Ambassador Lute: Let me take the first part and I’ll pass the Active Endeavor question to my colleagues.
Jacek described the four battalions that are combat battalions, ready to fight, and they’re headed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland. Those will be under NATO command and control. They are NATO forces. And they’re there for the purpose of deterrence, so that’s one set of forces. On top of those forces, but separate and distinct, if you were here in February reporting on NATO you would have picked up the U.S. national effort to reinforce U.S. presence in Europe called the European Reassurance Initiative. So this is ERI. Everything has an acronym, unfortunately.
This program is not directly linked to the NATO program, but it complements. They sit side by side. The U.S. program will bring a fully combat-equipped brigade, a heavy brigade, so think tanks and armored vehicles and mobile artillery and so forth, to Europe on a nine-month rotational basis. When that rotational brigade arrives in Europe it will be the third U.S. combat brigade present in Europe. So today, there’s a combat brigade in Germany, there’s a combat brigade stationed in northern Italy, and this rotational brigade will constitute the third.
It will also, the ERI project, it will also bring to warehouses in Western Europe, prepositioned equipment for essentially a division of heavy equipment.
Now the troops for that equipment will be in the United States, but the equipment will be prepositioned in warehouses in Western Europe. So this notion of ERI features a third brigade that comes over on nine months at a time, and works alongside the NATO structure that Jacek described. And it features prepositioned equipment, and it features an exercise program and so forth. But they’re actually side by side and complementary, not one and the same.
Deputy Ambassador Johnston: Operation Active Endeavor. Warsaw, we expect that there will be a decision to transition the operation, which had until lately an Article 5 primarily counter-terrorism focused maritime operation into something that is not Article 5 but is rather broader-based. A maritime security operation which could carry out any of, I think, it’s seven maritime security objectives that NATO have, which covers things like counter-terrorism but also capacity building, situational awareness.
At the same time the NATO military authorities are looking at how NATO might be able to play a role alongside the EU’s Operation Sofia which under the recently expanded UN mandate plays a role, will play a growing role in relation to the sort of security dimension of Libya through its operations off the coast of Libya, in terms of capacity building and training for the Libyan Coast Guard and Navy, and actions to support the UN arms embargo, and more generally contributing to maritime security efforts. So NATO is looking at how it can play a role alongside the EU in support of that given our shared security interests in terms of Libya and the Mediterranean. So two important evolutions which we will seek to register progress on at Warsaw.
Media: Thank you. [Halam Badakar], Al Ahram Newspaper, Egypt. My first question is to U.S. Ambassador. Why don’t we see effective role played by NATO against ISIS or Daesh, especially in Syria? Because after three years, the international coalition led by U.S. doesn’t seem effective enough.
The other question, President Obama stated that his [inaudible] regrets concerning the role played by NATO in Libya. They finished Gaddafi regime and as they left, the whole country [inaudible] foreign terrorist. And now NATO — it seems that you would think about interfering in Libya again. So what do you think, what will happen in this point?
Finally, what is your comment on the last situation between Ankara and Moscow? It seems that both sides overcame the problem and we heard about a phone call between Putin and Erdogan. Thank you.
Ambassador Lute: Three easy questions. [Laughter].
First of all, with regard to ISIS. So it’s true that NATO does not command and control the coalition against ISIL. That’s a U.S.-led, 66 nations now are part of that international coalition. But it’s not true that NATO is not involved. So every one of the 28 allies, to include all three of our countries, are part of that coalition. So if you take 66, start with the NATO 28, and then on top of the NATO 28 members, 24 NATO partners that range from Australia all the way through Sweden and Finland also contribute to the coalition. So the vast majority, whatever that is, 52 of the 66 countries that are in the coalition, are either members or partners and therefore operate together because they know how to operate together because of past NATO operations. So especially in Afghanistan.
So NATO is very much a part of the coalition, but it is not commanding and controlling it. We don’t wish to compete with the coalition. We only need one command and control mechanism at a time and for now, it’s the coalition.
With regard to Libya, I’ll let President Obama’s remarks stand on their own, obviously. He’s my boss. But beyond that, NATO has said to the emerging government in Libya, that when the time is right for them, and when the politics are right for them, NATO stands ready to assist the government in Libya to build their own capacity. So, to work on their national security structure, to build the capacity inside their Ministry of Defense, to work alongside their military forces and so forth. We imagine we would do this alongside the EU, which would be responsible most likely for things like rule of law institutions, border security, Ministry of Interior.
So there are two capacity-building efforts on offer to the Government of National Accord, and when the time is right NATO will stand by that commitment to help the government of Libya. But they’ve got to get the politics right first. And I have a good deal of confidence that NATO will stand by its commitment to offer that assistance when the time is right.
I’m sorry, there was a third one.
Ambassador Najder: The third one was about Turkey and Russia. So in general I think we are not commenting on [inaudible] in between, but so in more general terms, if such conversations are producing, in its result a decrease in tension, a decrease of risk of miscalculation, it’s [inaudible].
Deputy Ambassador Johnston: One point on Libya which is of wider relevance to projecting stability — you used the word interfering. We’re quite clear that when it comes to capacity building inside Libya, we’ll only do it if the Libyan government asks us to do it, and indeed one of the principles of the projecting stability policy is about local ownership. This is NATO working with third countries to help them build their capacity. It’s not NATO intervening in third countries.
Media: Güldener Sonumut, NTV Turkey. I have small questions. Concerning this two percent GDP of expenditure, will it be, for example, wiser to just remind the Article 3 of Washington Treaty — where they always focus on Article 4 or 5 but never 3 — which would give a kind of, which would remind the duty of every single member state, rather than putting a benchmark, and when we know that, I won’t be technical but you like acronyms, is [inaudible] making a defense review every year with the military planners to know what is the backlog of members, concerning NATO and the Aegean mission. All the missions of NATO in member states including the UK, U.S., deployment in Turkey for reassuring. There was a beginning of a mission and an end date, and U.S. or Germany or Netherlands, were renewing every six months or one year. Whereas this mission is an open-ended mission, which gives the impression to Turkey that [inaudible] put an end to this mission. So [inaudible] on that.
And concerning EU-NATO, what should we expect from the summit of EU-NATO, also bearing in mind that EU has declared a global strategy for foreign policy and they want to have their autonomous military capabilities. Would it be something, I would say, plausible?
And finally, do you think that this missile defense BMD would cover all member states including Turkey? Thank you.
Ambassador Lute: There’s a lot there. The last one, on ballistic missile defense. We don’t want to go into the precise capacities of any defensive system because those who might take advantage of them would then be well informed. But the intent here is to protect our European allies, their populations, and the forces, European forces, that are inside that territory. So that’s clearly the intent.
On NATO-EU, maybe I’ll strike that one. I think one of the prominent announcements, the prominent news items that will come out of the summit next week, will be a significant step forward on NATO-EU cooperation.
You know, for something like 20 years, since the inception of the EU, it’s always made good sense that NATO and the EU should cooperate. Why is this? Twenty-two common member states, common territory, values are the same. If you look at the two founding documents, you’ve got common values. And today they face very much the same common challenges. I mean the kind of challenges I outlined up front, right?
So there’s every reason for NATO and the EU to be the closest of strategic partners. In reality, that has not been the case over the last 20 years. And I think there’s a point now, given the kind of challenges that we both face, both institutions face, to take a significant step forward at Warsaw, and agree that now is the time to move from rhetoric to concrete cooperation. And I think you’ll see some very prominent announcements coming out of Warsaw that indicate that the leadership of both NATO and the EU are ready to get on with business and begin cooperating as they should.
You mentioned Article 3 — so those who don’t have the Washington Treaty, I have my personal copy of the Washington Treaty here. Article 3 is not so well-known. The famous article in the Washington Treaty is Article 5, and that’s the attack on one is an attack on all article. But Article 3 is in front of Article 5, and what Article 3 says is each of the nations is obliged to do all that it can, internally, to be resistant to attack. To be what we would say today resilient, right? And defense spending should be devoted to that, as well as collective defense.
So you have an Article 3 responsibility, nationally, but then you have a collective responsibility under Article 5. So defense spending has got to go in both directions.
Now if we’re smart about this, the kinds of capabilities that you build for self-defense, on the day, could also be used for collective defense. So that’s the real trick. The trick is to identify both sets of requirements, and find as much as possible the overlap. So that the capabilities that you buy for self-defense can be, on the day, used for collective defense. A good example of this are the kinds of capabilities that Poland, frankly, is investing in now. So ballistic missile defense, theater-based ballistic missile defense. It can be used today to defend Polish airspace. But if another ally is threatened, Poland can deploy that capability elsewhere around the Alliance. So those kind of dual-purpose capabilities are the ones that are the high payoff.
Ambassador Najder: Briefly on the NATO-EU, we do expect both Juncker and Tusk at the dinner. We also expect the declaration, which will be announced sometime from now up to Warsaw, up to summit. We are looking into more close cooperation in, for example, planning and running exercises. We are working on two ways, two descriptions, kind of playbooks, how to interact and cooperate better. And this Article 3 is really becoming more and more well-known, and thank you very much for this question. Because the Washington Treaty is more than Article 4 and Article 5.
Media: German Public Broadcasting, Sebastian Schȍbel. Two questions, if I may. One, because you mentioned EU-NATO cooperation, could you give us your assessment of the current debate within the EU about that, with the Brexit referendum has been framed as the EU Army debate. Does NATO see any responsibility on the side of the EU to build up or to create some kind of common defense policy of some kind? Or isn’t it enough to just work with NATO?
And a second question, could you give us some concrete examples of recent experiences with Russia in terms of what is happening on the ground? I’m thinking of snap exercises, troop movements, anything that can give us a sense of your threat assessment in terms of Russia. Thank you.
Ambassador Lute: I’ll take the first one. On NATO-EU, look, we’ve also read the European Council’s Global Strategy which was just published a couple of days ago. In every one of these green tabs, in my copy, are highlighted the references to NATO. And the EU’s approach, written now and agreed at 28 inside the EU, is that NATO remains the foremost collective defense institution in the EuroAtlantic space. But it also says that EU members have an obligation to first of all meet the kind of investment benchmarks that the EU has set for itself, which are, by the way, quite parallel to the NATO benchmarks. Right? And the EU members have a responsibility to improve those capabilities.
Now the U.S. view on this is that we welcome this. I mean if the EU member states build their capabilities, and that member state is also a member of NATO, then NATO benefits. Our only concern, and our only sort of watch point on this, is that the capabilities built inside the EU should be complementary to NATO, not in competition. So complementary, not competitive is the issue here. And if they’re complementary, then it completely makes sense and we 100 percent support that.
We don’t think there are sufficient resources in either organization to compete with one another. So we’re very much in favor of complementary.
Ambassador Najder: Just a brief additional remark on the NATO-EU, there are some other comments, some other papers popping up here and there, in this NATO-EU context that are, there is an acceleration somewhere in the air. I think what is really necessary is a very cautious approach. We need some more time to assess what has happened and as Doug said, if decisions made within the EU are going to strengthen NATO, it will be very good news.
On the Russia assessment, as I said, we are being kept vigilant and alerted, and we are very much for any measures and decisions which will bring more transparency and to work for risk reduction. Very often Poland is being described as, by default, negative to any positive encounters with Russia. Just for your information, because I think it is forgotten and neglected. Before Crimea, together with Russia, we were with the very efficient cooperation between our air forces. It was, I have forgotten the acronym, it was kind of action together with Russian forces. If, for example a strange aircraft is appearing in our national airspace. We had Russian aircraft exercising with NATO aircraft in our airspace. It was before 2014.
We were, together with Germany, with an effort to bring more transparency to exercises, both NATO and Russian exercises, after huge exercising in 2013, and our exercises. Much, much smaller. It went in a bit, not very satisfaction, way at the end, but it was not our fault. Again, Poland, Germany and Russia. We were ready to cooperate on the elimination of the excess munition in the Kaliningrad district.
So it’s not that this kind of cooperation is simply impossible, and for us, as a neighbor, to have a good relationship with Russia based on trust I think it’s each and every country is willing to have good relations with its neighbor.
Deputy Ambassador Johnston: Two brief points on EU-NATO. The EU has had a common security and defense policy for the best part of 20 years. In one of the founding documents at the time of the Nice European Council in 2000 it was spelled out in black and white in the CSDP, the Common Security and Defense Policy will not constitute a European Army. And then in the Treaty of Lisbon, the current treaty, Article 42.7 says that for its members NATO will remain the foundation for the collective defense of its members. So I think people are quite clear that there are distinct, complementary, but very distinct rules for the EU and NATO to play.
Media: Ana Pisonero from Europa Press, the Spanish news agency. From what you said, sir, can we deduce that we’re not going to have any formal announcement of NATO saying like okay, we are going to do something similar in the central Mediterranean as we’ve done in the Aegean in the sense of just limiting it to intel sharing with the EU. Is this the case? Well, first of all, the EU hasn’t actually started to do its own task to control the arms embargo, which I know that it’s something that UK’s also interested in. And is there, how are the Gulf and Mediterranean Dialogue countries, how are they going to be represented at the Summit? And where are the discussions going to go? Because I understand the idea was to have new agreements with most of these countries.
And if I may, a quick question on defense spending. I guess it’s something that you don’t want to hear from a Spanish colleague, but just on the fact that we can’t just concentrate on the 2 percent, the 20 percent which okay, numbers, it’s something that everybody understands, but it’s also what you use and what you do with your capacities. And Spain is always one of the countries for something like we’re in the Baltics, we’re in the VJTF, we’re in the Mediterranean, we’re, so we have our capacities and we put it to use. You can’t bash us too much. Spain is also one of the countries that was most hit by the crisis. So just this thinking that it’s not only the nominal number that should be taken into account. Thank you.
Ambassador Lute: Let me take on the second part of that first. So for those who are below 2 percent, the first and most often heard explanation is the one you just offered, which is you’re focused on the wrong thing. You’re focused on inputs and what really matter are the outputs. So how do we use these forces, are they modern, are we active participants in NATO operations and so forth.
So we got into this. First of all, NATO measures outputs. And while we don’t publicize our output metrics, measurements, they’re not much better than the inputs. This should not come as a surprise, because if you could somehow get outputs with lower inputs, everybody would take that, right? But it turns out there’s no free lunch, okay? You don’t get outputs, you don’t get modern capabilities, unless you have sufficient inputs. And what was agreed at Wales is the definition of sufficient inputs.
Now it’s also true that nobody expects any one of the 28 allies to get there overnight. Why? Because we’re 28 democracies, which means we have 28 different sets of national priorities. We have 28 economies. They’re not all recovering from the 2008 recession at the same pace. So, this is not a mandate that’s one size fits all. It’s a commitment by heads of state and government for a ten-year plan to get our house in order, to begin to commit to defense spending. The kind of inputs that we need, and which will eventually produce the kind of outputs we need. Alright? So there’s a close correlation, a close link between inputs and outputs and I think that’s quite clear, based on the measurements we take internally and actually share with one another.
Deputy Ambassador Johnston: On the central Mediterranean, you’re right that the EU only just over a week ago took the formal council decision to respond to the Security Council resolution and to start expanse of Operation Sophia. We are asking military authorities to look into how NATO can conceive of a useful NATO role alongside that. And NATO and the EU are in touch about what that might involve, but it’s an area where we think both can play useful roles. On GCC and Med Dialogue and so forth, there would be those sort of partnership meetings at Warsaw. There will be a meeting of something called the Interoperability Platform which is about 22, I think countries who work particularly closely with NATO in operations.
But in the paper we adopted on projecting stability and what we see in the Summit Declaration, we will be reaffirming the great importance we attach to partnerships like Mediterranean Dialogue, relations with countries in the region collectively and individually, for reasons of situational awareness, capacity building, shared interests. So the fact that there aren’t formal partnership meetings doesn’t mean that the partnership dimension to the Summit is not still very important.
Media: David Price, EuroDemocracy and [inaudible]. Could you give us a bit more of an assessment about the Iranian missile threat as you see it at the moment, and also whether Hezbollah would, on the last assessment I saw had about 18,000 rockets and missiles. How is that —
Ambassador Lute: The U.S. ballistic missile defense system today, and we hope next week the NATO system, is largely focused on medium range ballistic missiles which to my understanding are beyond the capacity of Hezbollah. They’re more into the rocket regime. And as for the development of the Iranian capability, there are very good open sources on this. IISS and others do good work in terms of the capacity of the Iranian ballistic missile inventory. It is expanding, it is increasing range and it’s increasing accuracy, and while the JPCOA nuclear deal reduces the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon at least for a period of time, it says nothing about ballistic missiles, the delivery system, and it says nothing about the other types of warheads that those missiles could carry.
So from NATO’s perspective and from the U.S. perspective there’s still a substantial ballistic missile threat from outside the Euro-Atlantic space which NATO has an obligation to do what it can to defend against. And therefore, you have the NATO BMD system.
Media: (Alix Rijckaert, AFP) On Brexit.
Ambassador Lute: Well, you were very disciplined to save it to the last.
Media: Do you [inaudible] economic impact [inaudible] British finances. [Inaudible] expanding posture on military engagements abroad. This could have a big impact.
There are two countries here represented, so of course [inaudible]. Is this a concern for NATO as a whole, and [inaudible]?
Ambassador Lute: From the U.S. perspective, first of all we have to start with respecting the sovereign decision taken by the British people, so that’s where we start. This decision is going to represent change. The change will play out over — I mean, we’re one week into this. It’s going to play out over years. So it’s a little too soon to judge. But alongside that change, I think we can all expect a great deal of continuity. What are the forms of continuity? The U.S.-UK relationship. The U.S. relationship with the EU members. The NATO-EU relationship, largely continuous. And this one’s most important, the UK continued leadership inside NATO won’t be affected one bit by this decision. Why do I say that? And what’s the evidence of UK leadership?
The UK today is the only one of the 28 allies that leads in all of the following categories. It leads the High Readiness Response Force, the VJTF, in fact the UK takes the lead of that force next year. The UK is one of the lead contributors in Afghanistan. The UK is one of the four framework nations for enhanced forward presence. The UK is in the 2 percent club and the 20 percent club, which we’ve already described. The UK is one of the three nuclear powers in the Alliance. There is no other ally — to include this ally — that meets all of those criteria.
So I think it’s quite clear that while this represents a change and we will adapt responsibly to this change, okay? There’s a whole lot of continuity that forms the foundation of not only the UK’s position in NATO, but the UK’s position in Europe, and I don’t expect that to change dramatically.
I think it’s unfair to ask Paul to comment.
Deputy Ambassador Johnston: I can only echo Ambassador Lute, and I might —
Ambassador Lute: We did not collaborate on this response, by the way.
Deputy Ambassador Johnston: This is a special relationship. I don’t know if anyone’s here from Newsweek, but I recommend to you the Secretary General’s op-ed in Newsweek today. I’ll quote from it. “The UK will continue to play an essential role in NATO. This is because the UK is a major contributor. British defense spending represents almost a quarter of what European allies spend in total. The UK will lead one of the four battalions to be deployed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to bolster our ability to defend Alliance territory.” And only my modesty prevents me from reading out, well it doesn’t quite prevent reading the last sentence. “Britain’s world-class diplomats and military personnel are helping and will continue to help guide NATO forward.”
Ambassador Lute: Underline diplomats. [Laughter].
Moderator: Thank you very much. Three world-class diplomats here at this table.