February 12, 2019: Press Briefing with Kay Bailey Hutchison

Kay Bailey Hutchison

U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

Press Briefing

February 12, 2019

 

Ambassador Hutchison: Good morning. I’m very happy that we are going to have a Defense Ministerial tomorrow and our new Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan is going to be here. He’s very much looking forward to meeting with his colleagues and getting to know them so that they can continue to have open communication.

The Defense Ministerial as I know the SecGen has reported is going to be packed with a lot of information and information sharing, starting with Macedonia and welcoming the accession protocols for what we hope will be our newest member as soon as possible, and that is North Macedonia.

The INF Treaty will be one of the sessions. I know that everyone has been very careful over the last few months to look at where the INF Treaty is, the violations that have been reported, the evidence that we have shown our allies of the Russian violations, and now America has started the process of withdrawing from the treaty unless Russia does come back in to show that it is in full and verifiable compliance. Our allies want to know what the future will be, and the future will be that we will start the development of a defensive mechanism and we will keep our allies informed all along the way. We will consult at every turn.

Burden sharing will be one of our discussion items, as always. We must make sure that our alliance is strong and secure, that it can provide the umbrella that we are here to do, and that means the three C’s — Cash, Capabilities and Contributions. All of those are going in the right direction. I think the President has been forceful in asking our allies to step up. I will say in my 20 years in the Senate every President with whom I worked also asked our allies to step up, and our allies have been very forthcoming. They tell me that they believe they should do more and they are doing more. I think the record is very, very, good that we’re going in the right direction on the cash side. On the contribution side, the contributions to our missions are robust and they are throughout our alliance being supported. And the capabilities that the cash buys is something that all of our allies agree to provide as that is the strength of our security umbrella.

We will be talking about our deterrence and defense. As you know, the four 30s — 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons, 30 ships in 30 days anywhere that they would need to go — is our goal. It’s a bold goal, and one that we are going to work toward as I think that has been what our SECEUR has put forward as the way to assure that our alliance is fit for purpose.

The EU in the mobility section, we’ll talk about our working with EU in compatible ways. I know that people ask well, is the EU getting into security? And where it gets into security issues that strengthen EU and the alliance, the NATO alliance is good as long as there’s no duplication. We will be supportive of that.

We’re also going to be talking about our cyber security which is in our deterrence and defense, and it will also include telecommunications. Assessing where we are in the next generation of infrastructure. I think Secretary Shanahan will talk about where we think we ought to be going to assure that the security of NATO communications is strong and that we are looking at all of the risks to assure that it stays strong.

And we will of course talk about Afghanistan. We had Ambassador Khalilzad yesterday, our U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan. He gave a very good brief about where we stand.

One thing, to just go back for a moment. When we had the new strategy for Afghanistan in 2017 the end result that we all agreed as allies we would seek is a peace agreement that is led by Afghanistan. Afghan led peace. What we would consider the conditions that we are spending so much to provide. And now that we have a Special Envoy, Ambassador Khalilzad is particularly a strong person in this regard, having been born in Afghanistan. He is an American. He has served as an ambassador in many parts of the world.

He is now in the process of beginning to try to put together that peace consultation, not even yet ready for any peace talks, because you have to get the players at the table and agree on what will be discussed, who will be there, and how it can go forward. We’re not there yet, but I think Ambassador Khalilzad is doing very well in beginning to set the places that we would hope would begin a real peace agreement for Afghanistan, for the security of the country as well as the elimination of terrorism in that country that could grow and be exported to NATO allies or ourselves.

With that, I think that’s the outline of the Defense Ministerial and I’ll be happy to take questions.

Question: James Marson, Wall Street Journal.

[Inaudible] the Russians have this missile system that the United States says violates the INF Treaty, I want to know how has the presence of this system changed the U.S. and its allies’ thinking about conventional forces in Europe, or how could it change that view?

Ambassador Hutchison: We have been trying to bring Russia back into compliance for at least five years, but we saw evidence even before that that Russia was violating the treaty. We also know that there are other countries that have missiles that would violate the treaty, but they’re not parties.

So we have started looking at how we would have a defense. And let me say up front that we have consulted with our allies. It has been even in our summits and ministerials for the last few years, trying to bring Russia back to the table. But at this point America felt that it was time for us to have a defense and not be left without a defense with Russia having missiles that were in violation.

So you say what is going to happen going forward. First of all, the defense that we would be working on is conventional, not nuclear. What we determine is the best way to develop a defense has not yet been set because we’ve been compliant with the treaty. We now, though, are taking the steps within the treaty to move out and start working on a defense capability.

We don’t know what it will be, but we will consult with our allies at every step so that they would know what our thinking is on the best defense.

Question: You’re also meeting this week with [leading] [inaudible] and I wonder if you can share current as U.S. [inaudible] thinking on proposals for a EU army [inaudible], other efforts [inaudible] defense cooperation, defense [inaudible]. [Inaudible].

Ambassador Hutchison: The efforts will be encouraged, duplication will be discouraged. We know that the Europeans want to do more in defense and we welcome that. Going together to provide more research and development is certainly good and it strengthens all of our security umbrellas. I think that where it duplicates or is in competition with NATO, that would be very destructive. No question about it. And that’s why we are working with the EU representative, Ms. Mogherini as well, to assure that as the regulations are being put in place by the EU, that it will not keep a third parties from being part of efforts that would put together a defense system, and we want all of our allies to have the same opportunities to work together for interoperability and to strengthen NATO.

Question: [Inaudible]. The U.S. [inaudible] Kosovo Army in [inaudible]. [Inaudible], and we [inaudible] National Guard [inaudible] in Kosovo because of the [inaudible]. What do you think about it?

Ambassador Hutchison: I don’t know about the tax issues between Kosovo and Serbia. Those are bilateral. But on the issue of the Kosovo Security Force, NATO will continue to work with the Kosovo government to try to set up an armed services that is done in the right way, inclusive of all minorities, and assuring that as it grows in strength that it is also a force for good for the security of Kosovo. But we want Kosovo and Serbia to work together for normalization. And as much as there can be normalization, I think many of the other issues in both countries will be lessened and we want to have minority rights, that’s certainly a part of their history that we want to try to overcome and be inclusive on both sides of that border.

Question: [Inaudible]. Ambassador, will you support or does America support Moscow Process, and Moscow [inaudible]? And [inaudible] to go out [inaudible], that it is affiliated, that Afghan National Army has to be dismantled before any peace deal reached?

Ambassador Hutchison: I think you have to get into the peace talks and the peace discussions before you talk about an end result.

I think that you have to determine as best you can what would be the first steps to getting to the table. I think the different parties have different requirements for that.

The group that met in Moscow could be a force for good. I think Ambassador Khalilzad is not being judgmental because we don’t know yet if all of those parties can be brought to the table.

We would hope that all of the outside potential forces, the regional actors, would be positive about helping Afghanistan go into a peace accord that will make Afghanistan a stronger country and a stronger neighboring nation. And I don’t think we should be talking about barriers to come to the table so much as trying to get all of the parties to agree on a common goal, which is a strong and independent Afghanistan that will not allow terrorist networks to grow, and be harbored in Afghanistan or in any of the outside countries neighboring Afghanistan.

Question: Lorne Cook, Associated Press. You mentioned the conditions of peace would be Afghan-led. Is there any more you can say about that? Are we talking about benchmarks in these talks that might allow sorts of [inaudible] the United States and its Allies to [inaudible] movements? Or do we need a series of these talks to [to be going on before we can do something concrete [inaudible]?

Ambassador Hutchison: I think by Afghan-led we mean that all of the key players in Afghanistan would be at the table. That’s why the Taliban is being a part of trying to bring everyone in. They’re also going into an election season, so there will be factions within that election process that we would hope all would be included in some representative way. None of that has been decided, but most certainly if you have a faction left out, that’s not going to provide a lasting peace that would assure that Afghanistan does have the strength to withstand terrorist operations or maligned influence.

Question: Thank you. [Inaudible]. A question about Russian [inaudible]. There are also stories that I saw that the American soldiers [inaudible] directly [inaudible]. [Inaudible]?

Ambassador Hutchison: I don’t have information to share. I have read the reports that you have stated, and I think part of an exercise is finding out where you might have vulnerabilities or vacancies, I think those will be looked at very carefully. I think that’s why you learn from those experiences and try to assure that your citizens are secure.

Question: Ambassador, [inaudible] Bloomberg. How concerned are you about alleged Chinese cyber attacks? Do you think that there should be a united response from NATO on this matter? Or do you expect that the EU will follow in your footsteps after the Chinese nationals were indicted [inaudible] that they fall into [inaudible]?

Ambassador Hutchison: Cyber is one of the major areas that now clearly has affected many of our NATO countries, and we are looking at better defenses. Part of our defense and deterrence initiatives includes a cyber hybrid support teams that would be able to go out and work towards defending in cyber.

The other thing is, we are now looking at the 5G next generation telecommunications networks as an infrastructure, and we are looking at assessing more of what the potential risks are and how we can assure that our NATO interoperabilities, our NATO communications will always be secure ensured. And I think that the new technology is an area that we are very concerned about, and I think Secretary Shanahan and our government has been also assessing what opportunities there are for interfering in the new technology or the new infrastructure in communications could be that would be part of cyber.

Question: [Inaudible]?

Ambassador Hutchison: I think we’re in the assessment phase, but I think it is becoming an issue as we are getting into so much more technical defense operations and our allies as well as our adversaries are getting more and more sophisticated. And we need to know where we are and what we need to do to assure, first of all, that our countries have telecommunication networks that are secure and that our interoperability was well is secure.

Question: Thank you very much. [Inaudible]. I will ask about [inaudible]. Commanding General of the United States Army in Europe Ben Hodges talking about Georgia and future [inaudible]. I believe that [inaudible] to NATO, the NATO Founding Act supports [this power], but I know that many doesn’t share this position and they’re concerned that [inaudible] occupied by Russia. However, [inaudible] example of NATO invited [inaudible] country when [inaudible] were occupied [inaudible]. What do you think about this, and our future [inaudible]?

Ambassador Hutchison: I think it is a matter for Georgia to decide if it were going in a direction of seeking an accession like that, that they would bring that forward. That’s not something that NATO would propose. But I think that is really an issue for Georgia to decide how it would want to proceed if that were, if they were using a German model.

Question: And what do you think about future [inaudible].

Ambassador Hutchison: We are very positive about Georgia. We know that so many reforms have been taken and that the country is a democracy, it observs human rights, it has the rule of law, and I think that everyone considers and that it is in enhanced partnership status, that Georgia will one day be a member of NATO. So I think Georgia has to make the step. If they decided to do that then of course we would be looking at what they would present and go from there. But there’s such a positive feeling going forward for the enhanced status that Georgia has.

And let me say that Georgia particularly is so much a part, as a partner of NATO in our missions. They are as much a producer of defense for our missions as any of our allies, and we appreciate and acknowledge that and hope that they will always be close with us in whatever capacity.

Question: [Inaudible], although it’s [inaudible]. Do you see it as a sign of [inaudible]? And what [inaudible]?

Ambassador Hutchison: I think that the breakfast that is going to be held by the UK for the Ukrainian Defense Minister is very positive. My Minister is certainly looking forward to working with him, meeting him, and I think that all of our NATO Defense Ministers are, because that is one of the most important areas of concern that we have right now with Russia, is their takeover of a sovereign, part of a sovereign nation. Certainly Crimea, and they are fomenting so much maligned influence in the eastern part of Ukraine. That is something that our alliance has stood against. They’ve called Russia to return the ships that have been taken from Ukraine, the sailors that are still in Moscow prisons. This calls for meetings at the defense level with our allies and Ukraine, and we want to be helpful.

We hope Russia will return the ships, return the sailors, and start a process of letting Ukraine come forward and have its chance to reform and build the strength of its sovereign nation, and I think the breakfast that is being held will be a positive step in the right direction.

Question: [Inaudible]. [Inaudible] analysis that ISIS will be, whether [inaudible] Syria. Do you have an [inaudible] ISIS [inaudible]? Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison: We are very much committed to the killing of ISIS in Syria or in Iraq or anywhere that it is. Afghanistan as well. ISIS is a terrorist network that must be eradicated and America is committed to doing that.

Thank you.

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