July 10, 2018: Press Briefing by Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison

Kay Bailey Hutchison

U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

NATO Press Briefing

July 10, 2018


Ambassador Hutchison:  Good afternoon.

Well thank you very much for being here.  There’s a lot of excitement around our place and we are looking forward to a successful summit and since we’ll be showing the strength and unity of the NATO alliance.  We’re on the cusp of our 70th Anniversary of the most successful defense alliance in the history of the world.

I do want to start by saying we are also proud of the strength and unity of the World Cup semifinalists, all of whom are members of NATO.  So we are in all respects strong and unified.

Let me say that I am very encouraged by the work that’s been done not only over the last year, which has been very important.  And I’ve found in NATO that there is such a long process of committees looking at everything that we do, missions and priorities, policies, and that’s truly a good thing because everything gets vetted on several fronts and most certainly in this year we have done so much.  We have accomplished so much that will be such a productive summit when all of those accomplishments and missions and policies come out and show the strength of this alliance.

Of course burden sharing is a very important part of that, and I think all of our allies are very willing to recommit to the Wales pledge.  Everyone on our alliance knows that for the capabilities that we need to have we must have the cash that buys those capabilities, and that is what burden sharing is.  It’s making sure that we have that capacity.

I know that the Secretary General has just announced a projection that all the things that we have done and the commitments that have been made between now and 2024 will produce $266 billion in new spending by our NATO allies that are not the United States.  That is a significant wow number.

In addition to that, just looking at since 2017 when President Trump began to make this very hard push for burden sharing, we are seeing $41 billion just in the 2017-2018 increase in spending that has been done by non-U.S. allies.

So I think we are going in the right direction and strengthening the capabilities of this alliance and that’s what burden sharing is.

Underpinning that is also the new command structure that SACEUR has been working on with [SACG] and all of our allies through all of the processes that are necessary for the military recommendations all the way through to the Council approval.  That is our NATO command structure that is going to make us fit for purpose.  The goal of 30-30-30-30 — 30 battalions, 30 ships, 30 air squadrons in 30 days to get to any place that might be attacked by any outside force against any of our countries.  That’s a significant goal and the new NATO command structure will be making this fit for purpose to meet that goal.  We think by 2020 we will have all of that in place as well.

The deterrence that we have accomplished in the last few years and most certainly has increased this year, enhanced forward presence that are solidifying our Baltic countries, plus Poland, also the efforts in Romania and Bulgaria on the Black Sea.  We have so much going that is adding to our deterrence.

One more point that the President made last May was the importance of addressing the terrorism that has affected so many of our countries.  We’ve all seen the tragic results of terrorist activities and I think the strengthening of the counterterrorism that is being done by NATO will be another important deliverable for our summit.

Our efforts in Afghanistan, what we hope will be a new mission in Iraq to help train and advise these countries, their police forces, their armed forces, so that they are able to project more stability in their countries going forward, and we think that is the way to address terrorism where it is, wipe it out where it is, so that it doesn’t come into any of our NATO allied countries or our partners.

And of course I would be remiss not to mention a wonderful summit delivery, and that is the open door which we hope will open for the people of what will be the Republic of North Macedonia.  If the people select that name in a referendum, accession talks will begin for their membership in NATO.  I think that shows that our open door has remained open and that it is an important part of strengthening our alliance, strengthening their own armed services, their own countries, their democracies, their rule of law, their human rights.  That is all part of becoming a member of NATO, and so many of these newer countries have met those standards and become members of NATO in our security umbrella.

With that, I will take your questions.

Media:  — Madame Ambassador.  [Inaudible].

Just a question on Italy, if I may.  There is a new government, and if I’m not mistaken Italy’s defense spending is projected at 1.15 percent of GDP this year.  Does the U.S. expect Italy to spend more on defense?

Ambassador Hutchison:  It’s not the U.S., it’s NATO.  It’s our common commitment.  And Italy is doing a wonderful job in Afghanistan.  They are a framework nation.  We appreciate that very much.

We do want all of our NATO allies to meet the two percent.  It’s important for our capabilities.  I believe the new coalition government in Italy has reaffirmed the commitments that they’ve made, the commitments of Afghanistan which are crucial for our success there.

I will make a personal note here and say that I visited Herat, where the Italians are in command and control, and we’re so impressed with what they’re doing there and appreciate that effort and believe that with the added spending on defense that they will also add other capabilities to be a major player in NATO.

Media:  [Inaudible].  I want to ask you about our country, Georgia.  What can we expect on the summit?  Because usually we hear that Georgia has all technical tools to become a NATO member, but we need political consensus.  So what the obstacle this political consensus and also [inaudible] because is it necessary step for Georgia as a NATO member or some other possibilities? Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  We appreciate very much Georgia’s partnership with NATO.  It is one of our enhanced partners.  A very special category.  We will have a separate meeting with the leaders of Georgia with our heads of state, their heads of state, to talk about what they are doing, the importance of their partnership in our alliance.  And we hope in another time as we move forward that eventually we would love for Georgia to be a member of NATO if they choose to do so.

Media:  Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post.  Thank you, Madame Ambassador.

I have two questions.  One, President Trump pulled the United States out of the G7 Communique last month.  What have you done to ensure that he doesn’t do the same thing again tomorrow with NATO?

And my second question, President Trump just said that his meeting with Putin this week may be the easiest of all, saying that the NATO meeting is going to be harder.  Why would a meeting with President Putin be easier than a meeting with U.S. allies?  Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  Thank you.  Let me just say, Michael, that this is an alliance and we are all together in the umbrella of security for the North Atlantic and Europe.

I think it is very important that the President’s messages, and he’s very plain spoken about it, do, are given here, and they will be given here, I’m sure.  And that is part of the continuing push to make sure that our alliance is fit for purpose, which means that everyone meets the commitments that have been made and that we all embrace.  Part of those commitments are in the declaration.

The declaration that will come out of NATO is not a communique.  It’s not a press release.  It is the basis for everything we do for the next two years or until the next summit.  It is the basis for our policy priorities.  It is the basis for our command structure.  It is the basis for all of the operations that we take on and assure are being productive as we hoped they would be.  It’s our Supreme Court decision.  It is the law of NATO.  And it is our precedent.  It’s what we refer to time and time again.  The Wales pledge.  The Warsaw pledge.  There will be a Brussels pledge and it comes out of our declaration.

So I think it is not in any way like the communique at G7 which was a press release, a statement.  It is so many of the U.S. priorities that are in that declaration that are how we will proceed until the next summit.

Media:  Ambassador, do you have an explanation why President Trump focuses so much on Germany when it comes to burden sharing?  And do you fear that this might be a liability for the relationship between the two countries going forward?

Ambassador Hutchison:  We have a great relationship with Germany.  They have been a major partner.  Again, they too, are a framework nation in Afghanistan.  There are only four framework nations — Germany, Italy, Turkey and the United States.  They are doing a great job there, and they have already announced that they are going to increase their efforts there.

I will say that Chancellor Merkel has been very forward-leaning about spending more, and we will recommit with Germans, also being right there with us, to the Wales pledge.  The Wales pledge is to make every effort toward the two percent by 2024.  That is going to be part of our declaration, and I thought that Chancellor Merkel speaking to her own Bundestag saying Germany must do more.

And I think the reason that the President has focused on Germany in many ways is because they are the strongest economy in Europe and they have not been able to do what they should, I won’t say haven’t been able to.  They haven’t done what they could do in building the capabilities, in building the ships, in building the capabilities that are necessary to be the major player that they could be.

I think the President believes that Germany is one of our strongest partners and one that has the capability, and he believes that he is pulling them toward us, not away from us by saying you can do more.  You’ve shown the discipline of a strong economy.  If you will do more in security it will make the whole alliance stronger.

Media:  [Inaudible], Russia.

Madame Ambassador, Putin-Trump meetings some day after the Summit. There have been many concerns, both in Europe and the United States, that this meeting kind of overshadow NATO Summit do you feel like that [inaudible] could that have?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well, thank you for that.  Also I think Michael’s question on it I didn’t fully answer.  But I believe the President believes that it is important to have a relationship with Russia so that we can talk about the importance of Russia doing better.  They can do better, but they’re not.

The maligned influence, their violation of the INF Treaty, what they’re doing in Syria, in Afghanistan.  There are so many areas in hybrid where Russia has come below the Article 5 line, but nevertheless, an effort appears to be trying to disrupt our NATO partnership.

What we would hope is that all the meetings that have been had with President Trump but also the other leaders of the free world, President Putin has had meetings with most if not all of them.  We all are saying the same thing.  When NATO has a Russia Council with the Ambassador from Russia we talk about the concerns that we have about Ukraine, the concerns that we have about Crimea, the other concerns that I mentioned, and the President is going to take those same messages to President Putin.  He has said that he will.

So I think if we all speak with the same voice and say you can come into the community of nations.  You can be a major player for good.  But not when you’re violating your commitments, violating treaties, going into a sovereign nation and trying to kill a citizen as happened in the UK.  So many areas where Russia needs to turn around and say they want to be a part of a free world, not one that is trying to disrupt a free world.

Media:  Kerrie Shultz, thank you very much.

Ambassador, I appreciate what you said about the relationship with Germany and I understand where you’re coming from on the pledge to spend more.  But when the President says things like he can’t guarantee the protection of Germany.  I’m sure other allies are wondering if the same is true for them, Italy’s spending only 1.15%. I mean how do you square that statement with Article 5?

Ambassador Hutchison:  I’m not sure that when he said I can’t guarantee, I think he was talking about it in a different context.  I can’t guarantee, but I think you can do more.  I believe that’s the case.

Regardless of whether that’s the exact interpretation, he is committed to Article 5 protection just as it is in the NATO Charter.  He will do that in his remarks here.  He did it last year when he was here.  I think he did.  If he didn’t, he did it in Poland for sure.  He is committed to it.  And I think that any indication that we are walking away from the NATO Charter and the commitments that we’ve made would be erroneous.  We are committed to Article 5.  We are committed to the NATO alliance.  We believe that the NATO alliance strengthens America because we speak for 29 voices to a Russia that is one; to an Iran that is one; to a North Korea that is one.  We are 29, and that strengthens us all.

Media:  Kuwait News [inaudible] Madame Ambassador, will there be a meeting at the sidelines of the summit on the International Coalition Against Daesh.

Ambassador Hutchison:  What was the question?

Moderator:  Will there be an ISIS meeting.

Ambassador Hutchison:  Oh, yes.  There is, the ISIS meeting.  Yes.  It will be conducted jointly with the Secretary of State and the Secretary General.  And it will be the coalition of which your country is a member, a partner in the D-ISIS Coalition.  And by the time that they meet I think we will have affirmed that there is going to be a new mission in Iraq that comes from the D-ISIS Coalition and becomes a training and advising mission that will strengthen not only the military and the police forces, it will establish military education, health and crisis management for health services, and I think it’s going to be a major step in the right direction.  Again, assuming that the government of Iraq asks us to be a part.  We are ready to accept.

Moderator:  [inaudible] Did you mean the NATO mission in Iraq?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Yes. What did I say?

Moderator:  The Coalition.

Ambassador Hutchison:  Oh, no.  I said that the coalition is going to then turn into a NATO mission — I’m not saying that.  Let me correct.  I’m not saying that the D-ISIS Coalition will break up.  I’m saying that there will be a new mission that NATO will take on that is [made up] of many of the members of the D-ISIS Coalition.

Media:  [Inaudible] The Economist.  We’ve heard different things about the level of U.S. forces in Europe.  On one hand we hear about new [inaudible] being set up, new units in the Baltic states, and Poland.  All that suggests that the level of U.S. forces will change to rise.  On the other hand, we’ve seen the speculation that if America becomes disappointed with say Germany, it might just pull its troops out of Europe.

Could you guarantee that the level of U.S. troops will tend to rise and not fall?

Ambassador Hutchison:  I can’t guarantee anything but I can say that it is my expectation that we will be increasing efforts here.  We certainly value the troops that are stationed in Germany, of which there are over 30,000.  And they’re not just for Germany, they’re not just for NATO.  They are for the United States a well.  Certainly a NATO hub.  And as you know, they will be getting one of the two new headquarters missions where we expect the military mobility effort to emanate from their new headquarters.  That’s a major area of strength that we need to pursue, the military mobility.

If we’re going to be in a crisis with [30] troops, [30] air squadrons, and [30] ships we need to be able to get them through Europe in 30 days.  So it’s going to be very different for us to strengthen in that way, and Germany is a major part of that.

Media:  [Inaudible].  What will be your message to those in Macedonia who oppose the name agreement with Greece?  And also the referendum to the invitation?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well, of course it’s going to be the people of Macedonia who decide the name of their country.  That’s a sovereign issue which is their right to decide, of course.

We would like for Macedonia to be a member of NATO, and for that to happen there has to be an agreement on the name that would allow us to have a unanimous decision to begin the accession talks.  And I think that it would be a major setback on NATO membership if they turn down the agreement that has been made between Greece and the present state of Macedonia.

Media:  When President Trump last spoke about — Jeff [inaudible] with The Daily Mail. How are you?

When President Trump last spoke about Crimea, he used the language of invading a sovereign country.  He said that President Obama lost Crimea.  So my question to you is what confidence do you have that when he meet with President Putin particularly one-on-one meeting that he’ll take sort of the hard line that you just outlined rather than saying [inaudible] approach?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well, I believe it has been the position of the United States and NATO that Crimea was taken illegally and I hope very much that we are able to return Crimea to its rightful place as a part of Ukraine.  And then of course in the eastern part of Ukraine, there is a lot of trouble that is being fomented by Russian forces.

So I think it’s very important that the sovereignty of Ukraine be recognized and that is the U.S. position and it certainly is the position of NATO.

Now could there be some other negotiation?  If there’s a negotiation in which everyone agrees to a different outcome.  Maybe the President is talking about putting something out there.  But the position of the United States and NATO is that Crimea is a part of Ukraine.

Media:  Thank you very much, Madame Ambassador.  Donald Tusk has addressed President Trump directly today as you probably know, and rebuked him for criticizing Europe almost daily.  Do you think this is a wise approach?  And have you offered any of your European allies some quiet advice on how to handle the next couple of days?  Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  I haven’t given anyone advice who doesn’t ask for it.  And I think that the President is negotiating on several fronts with the EU, and I think that these are two separable issues and two separated alliances.  EU is an economic alliance and trade is their issue.  The security alliance is NATO.  I think the importance of our unity in NATO is what makes us different and makes our issues remain separate.  And I will say that in all of the disagreements that have happened between President Trump and the United States position and the EU or the European position, our allies in NATO have remained steadfastly focused on the NATO issues.  We are in agreement.  We are in unity on our security issues.  And we are an alliance that is pulling together, increasing our capabilities, and we’re doing it together in a very united and strong way.

Media:  Thank you.  [Inaudible] The Wall Street Journal, two questions, if I may.

Firstly, on the remarks you just made there, do you, President Trump has been very clear in linking trade and security.  Do you believe that once it gets into the room of the NATO summit he will also be steadfastly focused just on security issues?

And secondly, I just wanted to clarify, you seem to suggest that President here would recommit publicly to Article 5 in a way in fact he didn’t as you mentioned, he did it in Warsaw. Can I just be clear that that is what you expect him to do this week here.

Ambassador Hutchison:  I do expect that he will come out publicly, although the meetings are not public, but I think he will in the meeting recommit to Article 5, and I think it will be clear in the declaration that we all recommit to the importance of Article 5.  So I don’t think there is any issue whatsoever.  There’s no window of difference between any of our allies about Article 5.  It’s the foundation of NATO.

On what he will say I don’t know how he will make his statements exactly.  That’s certainly for him to decide.  But at NATO we are very firm on the security issues.  We are united on the security issues.  And that includes the U.S. position.

Thank you very much.  I appreciate you being here and look forward to a great summit.  Thank you.

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