February 13, 2018: Press Briefing by Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison

Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison

U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

Press Briefing

February 13, 2018


Ambassador Hutchison:  Good afternoon.  I’m very pleased to be here today.  I understand that you’ve just had the Secretary General, and we are all looking forward to this Defense Ministerial.  It’s my second one, and I really have enjoyed seeing all of the ministers get together.

I think we have a very good program that is going to begin to march on to the summit with our heads of state this summer.  So let me just go over a few things.

The burden sharing, of course, is one of the areas of interest for all of us.  We are working on trying to get the burden sharing to a point that we can do the common defense, the common deterrence, and address the needs that all of us face in a very dangerous world today.  So that will be a part of the discussion, and a very important one.

Most importantly, we also will be discussing Afghanistan and the mission that NATO has and the importance of the Afghanistan mission and how we can continue to go forward, working with the Afghan Army to help with the security threat in that area.

Alliance modernization.  The new NATO Command Structure will be an area of discussion by the defense ministers.  This will be a decision they will make in June.  The Military Committee in the lead-up to this ministerial is making a plan going forward that will make us a more “fit for purpose” NATO alliance, which is what we have had to do since 2014, when we began to see that there was a looming threat from Russia as well as a terrorism threat to all of us from other countries.

NATO-EU.  This is something that we are hoping to be able to move forward in a positive way, and a way in which we can complement each other’s efforts in security.  We want a stronger Europe.  We want to make sure that everything that is done in the EU is something that is complementary with NATO so that we truly do have a common defense and a common purpose on the security front.

I would say that those are the major issues that we will be facing in different ways.  Certainly, the Nuclear Posture Review that America has just made is an area of interest to many of our ministers, and I’m sure there will be discussion about that as well.

With that, let me open the field.

Press:  Ambassador, Daniel Brössler with Süddeutschen Zeitung.  About burden sharing.  To what degree are you happy with the national plans on defense spending?  And specifically, do you think what you hear from Germany is sufficient in the coalition agreement?  There is no real commitment to the two percent goal, so would you say the United States are expecting more, especially from Germany?  Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  We have certainly been watching the coalition efforts in Germany and have waited to begin to look at what Germany can do.  It seems that they are now in agreement with the principles in the parties.  They have not yet voted all of this in.  But I think from what we’re hearing, that Germany is going to step up in several areas.  In the amount of cash, the amount of increase in defense spending, they will be doing more.  Not at the two percent that we had hoped would be in a plan.  But Germany is one of our strongest partners.

They are a framework nation in Afghanistan.  They have said in their principle agreement that they will increase their efforts as requested by our Secretary of Defense in Afghanistan.  They are also part of the forward presence deterrence measures in Europe.  They are part of KFOR.  They’re a valuable ally.

So we will continue to work.  Are we going to still push for more from Germany, as well as our other allies in the cash and contributions part of our burden sharing?  Yes, we are.  But are we going in the right direction?  Yes, we are.

Moderator: Wall Street Journal, Julian Barnes.

Press:  Ambassador, I wonder if you could talk to two points.  One is the United States, in the President’s budget unveiled yesterday, had a very large increase for the European Deterrence Initiative, another $1.7 billion to the $6.5 billion.  Is there any worry about the free rider problem?  That this will — the U.S. is increasing its defense of Europe.  Will this take the pressure off allies?

And secondly, I wonder if you can talk about the Turkey situation.  Do you expect the Secretary of Defense to meet his Turkish counterpart on the sidelines of the alliance meeting?  And what has your message to Turkey been?  Have you been trying to address the situation in northern Syria at recent meetings?  Do you think the situation can be de-escalated?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Thank you for both of those questions.  First of all, on the area of the increase in the European Deterrence Initiative that the President’s budget is putting forward.

Of course, it is very important to note that America is — alongside our European allies — doing a separate initiative that is America only, and that is the European Deterrence Initiative.  We are hoping, and I think the Secretary of Defense is hoping, that with this very positive commitment, and the reassurance to Europe that America is here with you, hand in hand, for European security and for all of us in the alliance.  That if we step up in this way, the Europeans will meet our initiative and our commitment with more on their part as well.

Some of our allies are stepping up to the plate in a very significant way, and France would be one of those.  We believe that Germany will, as well, as they are up and going and as their economy is increasing and productive, and their government is set up, we believe Germany will do more as well.  And there are some of our allies who are in that category already, of meeting the two percent, having a plan to meet the two percent.

And I want to emphasize that in the overall, everyone is going in the right direction.  There may be one country that’s not quite there, but in the main, our alliance is going in the right direction.  And if what has been put forward in the plans comes to fruition in 2018, we will have the largest single-year increase in NATO contributions in the history of the alliance since the Cold War.

So we are going in the right direction.  Are we where we want to be?  No.  America is stepping up to the plate in an even greater way.  We expect our allies to do the same, and we believe they will.

On the issue of Turkey.  Turkey is one of our most important allies.  They have been with us in every major commitment we had made.  They are a framework nation in Afghanistan as well.

We are now in a situation with Turkey that everyone is trying to work through, as allies do.  I have a great relationship with the Turkish Ambassador here.  I respect him very much.  He’s been very measured and productive while forcefully asserting his country’s positions.  Our Secretary of Defense is doing the same and will do in this next few days as well with his counterpart.  Our Secretary of State is on the way there as we speak.  And President Trump has talked to President Erdogan more than once.

So yes, we’re doing everything to try to handle the situation as allies do.  Turkey is an important ally to America and to NATO.

Press: Lorne Cook, Associated Press.

On the Iraq training mission. I understand the United States has a certain idea of what that might look like.  Can you give a sense of how big are we talking about?  Are we talking in the dozens or is this something far more substantial?

Ambassador Hutchison:  This is something that I think will be part of a much bigger coalition, an international coalition if you will.  When D-ISIS is finished, when ISIS is defeated in Iraq, I think the global players will come together to try to help support Iraq, help stabilize the country, help train in many areas, help train the military, help train the police, help train the medical workers.  There is a lot to do in Iraq, and I believe moving forward, this is a decision that will finally be made by the heads of state.  We, NATO, will be a small part, really, of this bigger coalition.  Some will come in with humanitarian aid, some will come in with rebuilding.  NATO is coming in with security help and training for the Iraqi troops.

So I think there will be a strong commitment made to Iraq going forward, and I think after this ministerial and the [foreign ministers] who will be meeting later in the spring, that there will be a plan that will be put forward to the heads of state, that we hope can be successful in helping on the security portion, which would be NATO’s part.

Press: Damon Wake, from AFP.

You mentioned in your introduction the NATO-EU issue and it’s something the Secretary General touched on in his press conference as well.  Are there particular areas of the European defense cooperation plans that give you concern?  If so, what are they?  And were you pleased that the Secretary General earlier said that he would raise this issue with the EU during this week’s meetings?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Certainly, there have been efforts by the EU through the years.  When I was in the Senate, the EU came in to start looking at ways that they could be part of a security force, and I think some of the heads of state in Europe have said we want to have European security.  And I think there is a place for that.

We want to ensure that it is a very transparent sharing of information, sharing of opportunity.  That any EU effort would be complementary with NATO and for a NATO purpose, because we are the common defense umbrella for Europe, and the United States and Canada.  I think that it is fair to say that in these early stages, everyone wants to see exactly what Europe will do.

There are some things that could be so helpful to NATO, such as military mobility in the time of a crisis.  To be able to have ways to move our troops into the place that needs the help.  Certainly, in terrorism, we need to be able to share information.  There are hybrid efforts being made by people who do not have our interests at heart.  There are cyber attacks that we know are happening in many of our Allied countries.  And if we can share information and have a stronger deterrence on those areas, that we can share with the EU, that could be very productive.

So we’re taking one step at a time, one careful step at a time with the EU, knowing that if we do this right it can be very helpful.  Not duplicative, not wasting money.  But instead, enhancing all of our security, and that’s our goal.

Press:  Teri Schultz with NPR and Deutsche Welle. Ambassador, you mentioned that you expect the NPR [Nuclear Posture Review] to come up.  I wanted to know — particularly when it comes to the INF, you now have NATO’s full backing on U.S. allegations that Russia has long violated the INF.  What do you expect to be the next steps when it comes to trying to bring Russia back into compliance? There were stories that the U.S. is very much expecting NATO to do more and to have a firm plan by the summit time.  Can you explain that at all? Thanks very much.

Ambassador Hutchison:  I think that from the NATO standpoint, our allies would like for Russia to come into compliance with all of its obligations and treaties.  From the NATO standpoint, we’re concerned about Ukraine, the taking over of a [part of a] sovereign nation.  That is a very important part of our NATO effort.

From the NATO standpoint, we certainly want the NATO-Russia Founding Act.  We want to be able to have a situation in which we don’t see Russia meddling in other people’s elections and other people’s infrastructure.  The INF Treaty is a U.S.-Russia commitment and they are in violation, and it is in all of our allies’ interest for Russia to come into compliance.  But I don’t foresee a NATO plan for that.  That is a bilateral issue that we hope we can resolve with Russia coming to the table and talking about what they have, which is a medium range ballistic missile with a launcher that can put it out there, because if they are in that violation, it will affect European security.  We hope and we are trying very hard to stay in compliance ourselves, but there’s a time table here.  If Russia does not come into compliance, they will have to face the consequence of not having a treaty, and I don’t think that’s really in their interest, and it’s not in ours either.

Press:  UNIAN.  Thank you.  Ambassador, Hungary has continued to block NATO-Ukraine Commission at the ministers’ level.  I would like to know your opinion, what you think about this.  And do you see a way out from this situation?

And following up on what you said previously, you mentioned timeframe for Russia.  What does it mean?  What is that timeframe?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well, there’s a timeframe on the INF Treaty in which we will not be able to allow Russia to have the capability that we have agreed neither of us would have without getting a deterrent opportunity as well.

So going forward, we support a NATO-Ukraine meeting at the heads of state level, and certainly at the ministerial level.  We hope that Hungary will sit down under the rules of international law and that Ukraine will sit down with them, and they will work something out that is in their interest.  We should not be unable to have a NATO-Ukraine Commission because it is an important NATO effort to try to keep the boundaries of Ukraine and to allow them to hopefully be able to have a stable government and a place where they are not encroached on by Russian intervention.

Press:  Ana Pisonero, from the Spanish News Agency Europa Press.  Coming back to burden sharing, Spain has been one of the allies that has publicly — in the Congress — already said they will not meet the two percent target by 2024.  Can the U.S. live with that?  Considering that Spain is an ally that contributes quite a lot to missions and also is hosting several U.S. contingents in the country.

And my second quick question, if I may, is on the new command structure.  Decisions haven’t been made on locations, but there’s quite a consensus amongst allies that one will go to Germany (the logistics command) and there seems to be consensus as well that the other one will go to the U.S. Is this the case?  Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  I didn’t hear the first part of your question.  Did you name a country that isn’t going to be in the two percent?

Press:  Spain.

Ambassador Hutchison:  We very much hope that Spain will come in with a plan to meet the two percent in 2024.  That would be important to us.  Spain is certainly an important ally.  We would like for them to work harder and hope that when they see that America and other countries are stepping up or meeting the test, that they will as well.

And it’s not that we’re focused on two percent.  It’s that we’re focused on the amount of money that we believe is necessary to address the risks that we are commonly facing, and it is in our interest to do that for all of our common security coverage.  So that’s why we are so intent.

I know we talk two percent, but that’s because in the overall, that is what we need to have the capabilities and the ability to withstand any kind of threat, whether it be terrorism, hybrid, cyber, which are new threats that are fairly recent coming forward, as well as, of course, Russia’s interventions.  So we hope everyone will make that step.

What was your second question?

Press:  The command structure.

Ambassador Hutchison:  Oh, the command structure.  Yes, of course.  That is something that I have learned — you can’t get ahead of the committee structure in NATO.  Now it is different from the committee structure in the United States Senate, I will tell you.  We have one committee that puts forward a bill and we amend it and we vote up or down, and then it goes forward or not.  Not so much at NATO.

So having said all of that, I cannot say that there is a place yet because the Military Committee has put forward plans, the defense ministers will look at those plans.  They will probably go through another committee process, and then hopefully in June we’ll have an answer.  It’s a very different situation here, but at least we do go forward with unanimity and consensus in NATO, which also is not like the United States Senate.  So I think it’s a good thing the way they do it.  So I will not be able to confirm or deny.  Thank you.

Press:  Michael Peel, Financial Times.

Ambassador, just to go back to the EU point.  Are there two specific areas that are concerning you?  One is the capacity of expeditionary forces set up in the EU or bilaterally between European countries to distract from the EU’s ability to join NATO operations.  And is there a marked concern that there will be a greater conglomeration of the EU defense companies that will make it even harder for U.S. companies to get access to this market?

And on the flip side, you mentioned the EU-U.S. cost sharing in nuclear posture.  Have you had any concerns expressed to you by NATO allies including in Europe about that and whether it’s too strong, particularly on the nuclear side?

Ambassador Hutchison:  No, I haven’t had any concerns raised.  I think there was a long consultation that our American Departments of Defense and State met with NATO allies on several occasions, talking about what we were looking at, what was on the drawing board, where the areas of concern were, and I think there was not really a surprise in the Nuclear Posture Review.  It was very carefully crafted to stay within the New START standards, and America is in line with the New START restrictions on nuclear weapons.  The effort to modernize and assure that our stockpile is viable is in the works, and I think everyone who is in a nuclear alliance would want to have the knowledge that our stockpile is in operating order.  That’s what we’re trying to do with this Nuclear Posture Review.  So I think on that front we’re good.

On the area of the marketing — which is a good question from the Financial Times — I think that the administrative rules will determine that.  They have not been written yet.  But certainly, we do not want this to be a protectionist vehicle for EU.  And we’re going to watch carefully, because if that becomes the case, then it could splinter the strong security alliance that we have.  So far there’s a fair process in procurement.  We want to have a fair process.  We want the Europeans to have capabilities and strength, but not to fence off American products, of course.  Or Norwegian products.  Or potentially UK products.  I think it’s very important that there be transparency and openness in all of those areas where PESCO would be in a bidding process.

So that’s to be determined.  It has not been set yet.  At this point it’s important that there be NATO representatives along with the EU representatives and that this effort be completely transparent and open to everyone that will make our security stronger.

Press:  A point about expeditionary forces, whether you’re concerned that EU, that an EU expeditionary force, or bilateral expeditionary forces between European countries, risk distracting European countries from their NATO commitments?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well, it’s a risk but one that we hope will not materialize.  Of course, I think we have a system in place now where our bilateral, individual forces train together, they have interoperable equipment, and that’s the purpose of NATO – it’s to bring our individual armed forces together so that we can be interoperable as a NATO force.  I don’t think that that can be duplicated by yet another alliance activity.  I think that would be duplicative and not money well spent, and certainly not efficient.

But I think we have a good system where we do contribute our troops.  We learn from each other.  We work together.  And we operate the same equipment.  I think it’s working, and in Texas we say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Press:  Thank you very much.  I would like to know regarding to Pakistan in supporting of Taliban.  Can you [inaudible] the United States — what’s the next step?

Ambassador Hutchison:  The next step is for Pakistan to work with the United States, with NATO, to stop the treacherous activities of the Taliban.  If Pakistan will come absolutely to our side, our NATO side and help build a strong Afghanistan as opposed to the treacherous activities of the Taliban.  And what happened two weeks ago is unacceptable.  Pakistan has a chance to be a major force for good if they will, and the next step is for them to work with us, to come together, to see how we can get the Taliban to lay down their terrorist activities and become a part of a unified Afghanistan that would be a strong neighbor of Pakistan.

Press: [Inaudible] from GEO Television News, Pakistan.

The Secretary General just announced that they are sending more trainers to Afghanistan.  Last 16, 17 years, billions of dollars have been spent on Armed Forces of Afghanistan and Afghan National Police.  This policy of a military solution continues?  Or will there be any thought to give, really, dialogue a chance and engage neighboring country Russia, Iran, Pakistan?  Because the Afghanistan question cannot be solved without regional approach, and South Asia Strategy, as you announced, also lacking that regional approach in there.

Ambassador Hutchison:  We do want a regional approach.  That was part of the new strategy for Afghanistan, that there would be a regional approach.  That it would include all the countries who would come together in a way that is possible, including India, the other neighbor.  China.  As well as those that you have mentioned.  Anyone that is willing to be constructive and helpful and will help to build Afghanistan we would like to have at the table.  But that means stopping the terrorist activities and the funding of terrorist activities that have gone on for too long, that are bleeding the capabilities to build that strong neighbor that could be an ally and a trading partner and a strength in the region rather than what is happening there now.

Thank you very much.

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