April 26, 2018: Telephonic Briefing by Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison

Kay Bailey Hutchison

U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

Telephonic Briefing

April 26, 2018


Moderator:  Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State.  I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from across Europe and thank all of you for joining the discussion.

Today we are very pleased to be joined from Brussels by Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO.  As you know, tomorrow is the NATO Foreign Ministerial, so this is a very timely discussion.

We thank you, Ambassador Hutchison, for taking the time to speak with us today.

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Ambassador Hutchison, and then we will turn it over to your questions.  We will try to get to as many as we can during the time that we have.  As a reminder, today’s call is on the record.

With that, I will turn it over to Ambassador Hutchison.  Ambassador?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Thank you very much.  I’m pleased to be talking to members of the press from throughout Europe.  We are all looking forward to our Foreign Ministerial that is happening tomorrow.  I think we have very important topics.  This is the last Foreign Ministerial before the Summit that we will have with heads of state this summer.  So we’re very much looking forward to welcoming the Foreign Ministers of our allies to Brussels, to NATO, tomorrow.

The main theme of the Ministerial will be a breakfast talking about Russia and the activities of Russia that have happened since Warsaw and how we plan to address those issues.  The projecting stability in the south, making sure that we are fighting terrorism wherever it is.  We are ready for working with partners that are not members of our alliance but want us to be involved with projecting stability.  We will have a working group about Afghanistan for the members that are taking part in the Afghanistan issue, as well as many of our partners.  And we will also have a session on the open door in the Western Balkans.

We will talk about burden sharing, of course, something that we are working to increase.  We have a very good message about the increases of all of our allies in defense spending since 2014.  But we still have a way to go, and I think all of us acknowledge that and we want to emphasize the importance of defense spending for the overall security umbrella for all of our allies and partners.

So with that, I’ll stop and be happy to take your questions.

Moderator:  Thank you very much for those remarks.  We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call.

Our first question was submitted in advance by Erion Kacorri from News 24 Television in Albania.  And they ask, does U.S. and NATO see any danger in the region, especially from countries such as Russia?  Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well, I think that all of us acknowledge the activities of Russia that are destabilizing for the globe, for the stability of our globe.  What happened in the UK, the nerve agent, the Russian nerve agent that has severely impacted citizens of UK.  That cannot be tolerated.  And the NATO Council took a very strong stand against any use of chemical or nerve agent weapons used in any of our member countries.

What has happened in Syria with Russia propping up a dictator that is using chemical weapons against his own people.

There is no deniability that innocent civilians and even children have been killed by chemical weapons that are being put forward by the Syrian government, but they are being propped up by Russia.  Russia agreed to be a guarantor that there would be no more chemical weapons used in Syria, and yet we saw that happen just in the last month.

These kinds of issues cannot be tolerated.  We must stand against this kind of Russian misinformation allowing the use of chemical weapons in a country that it’s very involved in protecting.  This kind of behavior is very destabilizing.

So the answer to your question is, yes, we’re concerned about this kind of activity that is happening in many areas, in many ways throughout our alliance.  But our alliance is unified and we are going to protect our members from maligned influence, from hybrid warfare, from breaking of treaty obligations to use of weapons that are out of the bounds of normal behavior by another country.

And of course we’re going to stand firm against their invasion of the Ukraine, the takeover of Crimea and the areas that they are also invading in Georgia.  This kind of behavior must be reversed, and we are standing solidly for that in NATO.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Our next question comes to us from Değer Akal who is with Deutsche Welle Turkish Service.

Question:  I have two questions regarding Russia/Turkey.

How do you view Turkey’s security policy orientation?  Erdogan is harshly criticizing the U.S. while he’s increasing cooperation with Russia.  How does this, from your perspective, influence NATO policies and cooperation between allies?

And my second question would be, Turkey concluded an agreement with Russia for the purchase of S-400 missile systems.  U.S. officials are warning the Turkish government that this could lead to sanctions.  What would it mean if a NATO member would impost sanctions to another NATO member?  Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well thank you for the question.

Let me say that Turkey has been a solid ally in NATO.  They’ve been a member since very early in NATO’s formation, and we have had very strong Turkish commitments and help in all of our NATO missions throughout the time that they have been a member.

We are very concerned about the purchase, apparently, of the S-400.  A Russian missile defense system is going to hurt interoperability with a NATO ally.  There is no question.  On two fronts.  On the United States front we have a law that has already passed that would put sanctions on any country that buys equipment from Russia.  And this is a law that can’t be waived by anyone, by the President or anyone else, and so it is very troubling on a bilateral issue.

On the issue of NATO, it is an interoperability question, and it is going to hamper total interoperability with Turkey to have Russian missile defense systems when we have so many pieces of equipment, airplanes as well as other types of operations, that will be affected by having a missile defense system that is from a non-NATO ally.

It’s a very tough situation and we have urged Turkey to look for other sources for a missile defense system.  We don’t in any way argue that they have the right to defend themselves.  But they need to be aware of the consequences of buying the equipment from a known adversary of NATO that has been doing the things that I mentioned earlier that are very much against NATO allies.

So we hope that they will reconsider and we want to have Turkey as the strong ally in NATO and with the United States that we have always had with that country.

Moderator:  Thank you.

For our next question we will turn to Alexey Gorbachev from Nezavisimaya Gazeta in Russia.


Ambassador Hutchison:  I’m not hearing anything.

Moderator: Mr. Gorbachev, are you asking a question?

All right.  In that case we will turn to our next question in line which is from Dejan Sajinovic from Nezavisne Novine in Bosnia.

Question:  Ambassador, thank you very much.  Hi, everybody.

My question would be very short, you mentioned the Western Balkans that will be part of the discussion.  I would like to know what precisely you’re going to discuss about, especially having in mind that three days ago we had in Bosnia a visit of high Russian delegation.  [Valentina Matviyenko] She was her.  She was considered third highest person in Russia after Putin.  And in a month, there will be a big political rally in Sarajevo by Mr. Erdogan.

So what kind of plan does NATO and the United States have regarding our region?  Thank you very much.

Ambassador Hutchison:  Yes, I would say that we acknowledge the great progress that Bosnia-Herzegovina has made in the conditions that were set of registering the defense properties.  And I think they have done so much toward reaching that goal.  There are a few left that seem to be in the hands of others that are not under the control of the government of Bosnia.  And so I think that is being acknowledged, and we are very hopeful that we will have a continuing and very strong relationship with Bosnia-Herzegovina.  We want to have eventual membership in NATO by Bosnia-Herzegovina, and we will all be working toward continuing the progress that would go in that direction.

Moderator:  Thank you.

We will now go back to Mr. Gorbachev, if you could go ahead.


Moderator:  Okay, I think we’ve dropped his line again, so we will turn instead to a question submitted in advance.  That was on Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Question: Bosnia-Herzegovina had hoped that NATO Membership Action Plan, the MAP, would be activated already.  What are the chances that it will be activated by June?

Ambassador Hutchison:  I think that there is a discussion going on about what would be the next step for Bosnia-Herzegovina and that is very much in the discussion process.

The Chairman of the President Group was here I think last week, and he was very impressive.  I met with him and we discussed all of the things that they’re doing and the reforms that they are making, and I think they’re on the right track.  And timing, I’m not sure yet, but they are certainly on the right track.  They’re making progress in the same direction, and I think there is wide acknowledgement of that.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.

For our next question we will turn to Siiri Welling from Lännen Media in Finland.

Question:  Hello, and thank you.

The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced last Friday that the country will stop its nuclear missile tests.  And also tonight Kim Jong-un will meet the South Korean leader Moon Jae-in.

So my question is, will there be any discussion about the North Korean situation in tomorrow’s NATO meeting?  And if so, what are NATO’s plans considering North Korea?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well, thank you.  Most certainly because all of our Foreign Ministers are aware of the pending talks with North Korea and of course the tests that have happened over the last year that have been very troubling, and there will be talk about it.  There’s not a specific NATO role or a NATO effort other than NATO did make a strong statement after the testing of a very long-range ballistic missile condemning that.  I think NATO is very supportive of any effort that would have North and South Korea talking to each other.

Our common goal is to denuclearize Korea, the peninsula.  And secondly, to assure that there is non-proliferation of nuclear weapons everywhere in the world, and most certainly we don’t want a country to be adding nuclear weapons.  And what Kim Jong-un has been doing for the last year has been very disconcerting to everyone that believes that a non-nuclear world is our ultimate goal.

So we’re all very concerned and very interested as separate countries, and I think we all look forward to the meeting with the South Korean leader and then later the meeting with President Trump that has been in the planning stages that we hope will go forward, with an ultimate goal of denuclearizing Korea.

Moderator:  Thank you.

We have time for one more question and it will go to Erion Kacorri from News 24 Television in Albania.,

Question:  Hello.  Your Excellency, the Albanian Defense Minister, Ms. Olta Xhacka has offered NATO bases to the United States or NATO during the visit to Washington, DC where she met U.S. Secretary of Defense Mr. Jim Mattis.  Would U.S. and NATO be open to such a request?  And when would this happen?

Ambassador Hutchison:  I don’t have information for you on further basing or timing of further basing, but I will say that Albania is a valued member of NATO, and they have been doing so many of the right things, the reform things, that make them a strong ally, and we are very pleased with Albania as our strong ally.  And anything specific on basing, I don’t have any awareness of that request.  But I certainly value the friendship and the alliance that we have with Albania.  Thank you.

Moderator:  Thank you.  Unfortunately, that was the last question that we have time for.  Ambassador Hutchison, do you have some closing words that you would like to offer?

Ambassador Hutchison:  I’m very pleased with the interest in our Foreign Ministerials.  I think that we have a growing strength in Europe that is very promising and one that we have been working to build not only since 1949 when we created NATO by treaty, but also just in the last few years.

We realize that now we do have risks in the world from many different arenas, and we are coming together and growing our membership to fight for values, for democracy, for human treatment of people that would be an empowering commitment for keeping democracies and freedom strong.

And thank you for your interest, and we hope that we can build more alliances in Europe to make sure that all of our people in our countries that are partners and friends and allies, that we keep everyone free and able to have a good quality of life.  That is our goal, and we are an umbrella for security to produce that goal.

Moderator:  Thank you, Ambassador Hutchison for joining us, and thank all of you for participating and for your questions.

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