July 6, 2016: Press Call on the President’s Travel to Poland and Spain

Press Call on the President’s Travel to Poland and Spain

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications

Ambassador Doug Lute, U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

Charles Kupchan, Senior Director for European Affairs, NSC

July 6, 2016

 

Via Conference Call: 4:42 P.M. EDT

MR. PRICE:  Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks for joining this afternoon’s call.  We wanted to preview the President’s travel to Poland and Spain, the trip that will begin tomorrow.  In order to do so, we’re hosting an on-the-record call.  We have three senior administration officials on this call.  We have Ben Rhodes — he is the Deputy National Security Advisor.  We have Charlie Kupchan, the Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council staff.  And we have Ambassador Doug Lute — he is the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO.

This call is on the record, but it is embargoed until the conclusion of the call.  So please, we ask you not use this material until the call concludes.  But, with that, I’ll turn it over to Ben to start us off.

MR. RHODES:  I’ll just begin by giving an overview of the President’s schedule, and then Ambassador Lute can speak a little bit about the NATO agenda, and Charlie can speak a little bit about the European elements and other NATO elements.

First of all, this trip comes at an important time.  There are many different subjects that will benefit from our ability to consult closely with our allies — certainly NATO as the foundation of transatlantic security and the cornerstone of global security, but also our ability to engage with European allies in the context of the aftermath of Brexit, some of the tensions with Russia over the last several years, and the broader concerns about the counter-ISIL effort and the refugee situation. So many different pressing issues that will be on the agenda at Warsaw and throughout the President’s time in Europe.

We fly tomorrow to Poland, and then begin the substantive schedule on Friday, July 8th.  That morning, the President will begin with a U.S.-EU meeting.  It will be a meeting with the leader of the EU — Tusk and Juncker.  This will be a very timely opportunity to discuss the aftermath of the Brexit vote and our continued, very strong support for the European Project, which has been at the center of so much security and prosperity for Europe and the United States and the world.

So they’ll review the circumstances in the aftermath of Brexit.  They’ll also be able to discuss a range of issues we’re cooperating with the Europeans — and Charlie can go into greater detail.  That obviously would include terrorism, migration, economic issues, Russia.

Following the U.S.-EU meeting, the President will have his bilateral meeting with Secretary General Stoltenberg.  This is our traditional meeting with the Secretary General in advance of the NATO Summit to simply make sure that we are on the same page on the big summit agenda items.

Following that, the President will then have a bilateral meeting with President Duda of Poland, the host of the summit.  We will be discussing both the U.S.-Poland bilateral relationship — and Charlie can go into some greater detail there — as well as Poland’s leadership of the summit.

Then later that afternoon, the President begins the first of several sessions that Doug can walk you through with the NAC — the North Atlantic Council.  There will be the first session and then that evening there will be a working dinner.

And then Saturday morning, the NATO Summit continues with sessions in the morning and afternoon — and again, Doug can walk you through those — that will include what we’ve done in recent years in having Afghanistan be one of the subject areas.  And of course, the President today announced our post-2016 troop decisions as a means of demonstrating our leadership as it relates to Afghanistan and looking to formalize the Alliance’s plan, which includes a number of important contributions from NATO allies, both in terms of troops going forward and also support for the Afghan national security forces.  And again, one of those assessments will also include the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which my colleagues can speak to.

I mentioned the last one because after the conclusion of the NATO Summit, the President will also have a Quint meeting with President Poroshenko of Ukraine as well.  And so this will be the President’s meeting with the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy — a format that he’s worked with on many issues, but in particular on Ukraine, it’s an important opportunity to reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to stress the urgency of moving forward with the implementation of the Minsk agreements, and expressing our continued determination to maintain sanctions on Russia should they not follow through on those commitments.

And then at the conclusion of that meeting, the President will then have his press conference to wrap up the summit before flying Saturday night to Seville, Spain.

In terms of Spain, this is really the largest European country that the President has yet to visit.  We felt it was very important that we take this opportunity to visit Spain, an important NATO ally, an important member of the European Union, and the agenda that we’ll work through in Spain will encompass the different elements of our cooperation.  And I’ll touch on those as we go along.

The first thing the President will do is he will join the King of Spain for a number of cultural visits.  They’ll tour the Alcázar and the Santa Maria de la Sede Cathedral, and spend some time together as well.

Then, following the visit with the King of Spain, the President will visit our Naval Station in Rota, where he’ll have the opportunity to tour the USS Ross destroyer.  And he’ll also have an opportunity to speak to some of our troops who are stationed at the facility, highlighting our close cooperation with Spain as a NATO ally, the work we’re doing together in the Mediterranean on missile defense, and a range of other issues.

Then the President will fly to Madrid and spend the night.  And then on Monday, July 11th, the President has his program in Madrid.  He will begin with a bilateral meeting with the Interim President Rajoy of Spain to discuss the full bilateral agenda between our two countries.  After that, he will be hosted by the King and Queen at a luncheon where he’ll have the opportunity to reaffirm the importance of our bilateral relationship.  On the back end of that luncheon, he’ll also have the opportunity to meet with a number of the other political party leaders. Recognizing that we’re in a fluid political moment in Spain as they are sorting through the aftermath of their election, we want to make sure that we are interacting with all of Spain’s major political parties.

And then, that afternoon, the President will have a town hall event with young people, as he does in many parts of the world.  And again, this will give him an opportunity to continue to discuss the importance of not just the U.S.-Spanish relationship but the transatlantic relationship more broadly, how we can work together to facilitate economic growth, which has been the challenge for Spain; how we can work together to deal with shared security threats; but also, importantly, at this moment, to discuss the values that bring us together and how our continued commitments to the values that the United States and Europe stand for — democracy, pluralism, openness, open markets — is critical to our ability to deal with our shared challenges.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Doug to go through the specifics of the NATO sessions.  I just know we return home that evening, Sunday evening — or Monday evening, to the United States.

Doug.

AMBASSADOR LUTE:  Sure, Ben.  I’ll just add a few details to the outline Ben has already provided.

From NATO’s perspective, this summit comes at a real demarcation point, or an inflection point, in the now almost 70-year history of the Alliance.  And I say that because it’s a combination of Russia’s now more assertive, more aggressive actions to the east of NATO, to the southeast, NATO’s long border, 1,500 kilometer border, which is the Turkish border, with the conflicts in Syria in Iraq — so obviously the civil war in Syria and the rise of ISIL across that northern boundary in both Syria and Iraq.  And that all happens on NATO’s southeast corner. Then directly to the south of NATO, you have the mass migration flows coming across the Aegean into the Balkans and across — from North Africa across the central Mediterranean into Italy.

So all these factors in multiple directions combine to really mark this as different in NATO’s long history.  By my count, there hasn’t been another inflection point like this for the Alliance since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in ’89 to ’91.  So this is a bit of a historic point, and it’s a great point for the summit, especially as the President wraps up his tenure as the leader of the Alliance.

Two key themes will play out across the five sessions that Ben outlined.  So on day one — this is Friday — the leaders will kick off immediately at a sort of closed session, just Alliance members, plus this time, as a footnote, Montenegro, which is becoming our 29th member — process of becoming the next member.  Those 29 leaders will come together and talk about NATO core business.  This is, in a way, back to basics for NATO.  This is the hard business of dissents and deterrents of the 28, soon to be 29 territories of Alliance member states.

Here the theme will be very much a matter of following up from what was begun at the last summit, at Wales in 2014, where the Alliance took measures to place a larger proportion of its force posture on a higher-readiness standard.  So today, for really the first time in NATO’s history, we have a 13,000 troop force.  Today, it’s based in Spain — happens this year to be based in Spain.  That’s ready to move anywhere on Alliance territory in just days.

This very high-readiness force was exercised this summer, and is really the keystone deliverable from the last summit.  This time, at Warsaw, we’ll complement that rapid-reaction force by also putting a modest and responsible force presence along the eastern flank of the Alliance.  Most prominently, this will feature four NATO battalions from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in those four Alliance states.  And the U.S. has announced that, along with other allies, it will be lead one of those four NATO battalions.

Of course, that forward presence is complemented by the decisions the President made earlier this year in reinforcing U.S. force structure in Europe.  And the highlight there is that beginning early next year, we’ll have a heavy-armor brigade, U.S. armor brigade home-based in the states, but rotating to Europe on a nine-month rotational basis, and also buttressing alongside the NATO contribution our deterrence and defense along the eastern flank of the Alliance.

That’s the picture in the northeast of the Alliance.  In the southeast, we’ll have a Romanian-led multinational brigade as well.  So really, along the east from — along the east flank of NATO, from Estonia in the north through Bulgaria in the south, you’ll have forward presence backed up by rapid reaction.  And that in a nutshell is the rapid — that is the deterrence posture that will come out of that first session in the Warsaw summit.

The dinner session will be largely focused on NATO’s relationship with its largest, most militarily capable neighbor, Russia.  And obviously, the NATO-Russia relationship has been fundamental to the Alliance from 1949, when the Alliance was commissioned, and it’s equally fundamental today.  So that dinner session will give the leaders an intimate sort of private opportunity to talk face to face about this very important relationship.

From NATO’s perspective, the foundation of our relationship with Russia is a balance between strength and dialogue.  So we’re going to do what we need to do on the strength side of the equation, but we’ll equally be open to dialogue with Russia, because we think that balance represents the right and responsible approach to NATO-Russia relations.

So, Saturday, three sessions.  Most of these center around a second major theme of the summit, and that is how NATO projects stability beyond the borders of the 28-member states to its periphery.  Because fundamentally, NATO understands that if our neighbors are more stable, then the Alliance itself is more secure.  So we do that in three sessions on Saturday.  We start, as Ben said, with a session focused on Afghanistan.  President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah will be there.  We’ll deliver, I think two key objects with regard to NATO in Afghanistan, and that is a decision to sustain the current NATO mission beyond this year, beyond 2016.  And certainly the President’s decision and announcement today to buttress U.S. forces as part of that NATO mission is a very welcome statement.

The second key theme we’ll deliver on Afghanistan is a funding commitment that extends international funding for the Afghan army and police all the way out to a 2020 horizon.  These two steps combined — sustaining the NATO mission on the ground and extending NATO — or international funding all the way out to 2020 are designed to build the confidence that the Ghani-Abdullah government needs to continue to make progress.

The second session on Saturday is, again, back at 28 — or actually 29 with Montenegro — and here, the Alliance will take on the question of what can it do more to project stability on its — just outside its boundaries.  We’ll talk about NATO contributions to the counter-ISIL international coalition.  We’ve got some discrete supporting capabilities that we’re prepared to commit to the coalition in support of the coalition.  We’ll talk about how we can work alongside the European Union to contend with the mass migration across the Mediterranean and in the Balkans.

And overall, we’ll also address how to deal with weak or failing states by buttressing their ability to stabilize themselves and defend themselves.  So the middle session on Saturday has everything to do with projecting stability beyond NATO’s borders.  And then the last session, as Ben mentioned quickly, President Poroshenko from Ukraine will join the Alliance leaders.  He will give us a firsthand take on what’s going on, both politically and in terms of the security situation in Ukraine.  And in return, the Alliance will recommit to Ukraine the kind of support that we’ve Ukraine as a key partner over the years.

And in a nutshell, that’s the five sessions of the summit.  And I’ll turn it next to Charlie.

MR. KUPCHAN:  Thanks, Doug.  Let me just pick up on what Doug was saying and try to touch on the major themes that we’re going to do not just at NATO but across the trip.  And as Doug was saying, the sort of centerpiece on the East is the move from reassurance to deterrence and defense.  And the key troika of steps are the rapid action plan, which is about moving forces quickly when needed, enhance forward presence in the Baltics-Poland, and a tailored forward presence in Bulgaria-Romania, and then the steps that the United States will be taken unilaterally through ERI with the brigade — the armored brigade that Doug mentioned, as well as the prepositioning of equipment.

A couple other issues I would mention in this basket would be a new initiative on resilience of NATO members.  This is going to be civil preparedness, emergency response, hybrid cyber, where we are committing member states to invest in those sorts of preparation; enlargement, where Montenegro has already been invited to join and we’re in the process of ratifying its accession protocol; and then making sure that we follow through on the defense spending commitment that was made at Wales.  And for the first time in several years, we are seeing the downward trend in NATO defense spending be halted, and in 2016, overall defense spending will be larger than it was in the prior year.

And then in the South, just again to touch on the main themes — Afghanistan; counter-ISIL, where NATO will be getting more directly involved in the counter-ISIL mission; more on the Med, where we’ll be taking the lessons that we’ve learned in the Aegean with NATO backstopping the EU-Mediterranean mission, and looking what can be done in the Central Mediterranean on migration, on assisting Libyan capacity, and on the arms trafficking agenda; investing in our partnerships with a host of countries in the Middle East and North Africa as capacity-building.  And then finally, we will be announcing initial operating capability, capacity on the missile defense — BMD, which is being positioned in Romania and eventually in Poland to deal with potential missile threats from the Middle East.

And then finally, I would highlight the degree to which we will be leaning in to deepening cooperating between NATO and the European Union not just on the migration front, but on hybrid and cyber issues, and also launching an initiative to routinize  NATO-EU consultations.  And especially in the prospect of a potential British exit from the European Union, we see a seamless level of coordination between NATO and EU is increasingly important.

Just to touch quickly on a few of the other meetings that will take place.  At the outset on Friday, the President will have a chance to sit down with Presidents Tusk and Juncker of the European Union.  And as Ben mentioned, this will be an early opportunity for the President to discuss the implications of the British referendum to get a better sense of European thinking on how the negotiations will proceed, and to provide an opportunity for the President to weigh in on his views about how best to handle the prospect of a British exit from the European Union and what its economic and geopolitical implications might be.

In the bilateral with the President of Poland, President Duda, we’ll be focusing on the bilateral relationship between the United States and Poland — the important investments that both sides have made in that relationship, as well as on a host of other issues, including our concern about the ongoing dispute within Poland about the constitutional court.

And then the meeting of the Quint powers with Poroshenko provides a very important opportunity to take stock of the increasing efforts of Germany, France, and also the United States in a supporting role to implement the Minsk agreements.  There are intense conversations going on among the parties, and this will be a good opportunity to share views with Poroshenko about the status of those negotiations.

In Spain, as Ben said, we see Spain as a major country that the President has not yet had an opportunity to visit.  It fits very much in with the NATO Summit in as much as Spain is a key NATO partner.  The United States in Moron and in Rota has close strategic cooperation with Spain.  And it’s important that we are visiting Rota, in particular, because four U.S. Navy vessels that have been stationed there are centrally involved in the Eastern Med Mission that contributes to the ballistic — the anti-ballistic missile capability that NATO is initiating.

I think I’ll stop there and turn it back to Ben to field some questions.

   I wanted to follow up on something that Charles said.  You said that you’ll be announcing something about a missile operating capacities — I wanted to get some clarification on that.  And then I also wanted to ask — it was mentioned about trying to follow up on the agreement in Wales, about the increase in military spending.  And I was just wondering, is there just going to be rhetoric about that, or are there going to be additional steps taken?  I think only five countries are meeting that 2 percent goal at this point of GDP, and so I’m just wondering, is there anything else that’s going to be done, or is the U.S. just planning to kind of talk about or kind of name countries that aren’t doing what they should do, kind of name-and-shame type thing, I guess.

MR. KUPCHAN:  On your first question, Ayesha, the system that is coming online — there was a ceremony not too long ago in Romania on this front — is a ballistic missile defense capability that has a site in Romania, a site that is to be constructed in Poland, and then these sites interlink with installations in Turkey as well as seaborne installations.  And this is all about attempting to put in place a capability that would block missiles that might be launched from Iran, in particular, or other hostile countries in the Middle East.  And this is part of a program of putting in place a ballistic missile defense system that has been entrain for several years.

On the second issue, the pledge that was undertaken in Wales is about the readiness that member states will have to continue to move in the right direction toward 2 percent of GDP on defense and 20 percent of spending on investment in equipment and modernization.  We are making progress on that.  You’re right to say that we don’t have a large number of countries that are already meeting that standard, but we do think that we have made significant progress in reversing the decline in spending, on getting countries to begin to invest in their defense capabilities.  And the President is determined to keep pushing on this issue through the balance of his time in office.

Doug, do you want to say anything else on BMD or the defense spending pledge?

AMBASSADOR LUTE:  Quickly, on both points.  I think the difference after the Warsaw summit will be that the ballistic missile defense system, the architecture that Charlie just described, will pass from U.S. command and control.  So today, it’s under U.S. command and control.  It will pass to NATO command and control.  And that’s a substantial change, and it’s been years in coming, and it’s welcomed here in the Alliance.

On defense spending, let me just give you a little data.  First of all, what was agreed at Wales was this 10-year plan to move — for all allies to move towards a goal of 2 percent of GDP spent on defense.  So we’re slightly less than two years into a 10-year plan.  You’re right, today, only five of the 28 allies meet the goal.  And of course, the U.S. is one of those.  But among the remainder of the allies, 19 have turned the corner, stopped the cuts, and made increases in real terms since taking the pledge at Wales.  So, for the first time in really about two decades, non-U.S. defense spending among NATO allies is on the increase.  So that I think gives us confidence that while we have a long way to go, we’ve turned the corner and we’re moving in the right direction.

In terms of transparency, the leaders will actually see charts with 28 allies listed, and their measures of progress both in real terms and measured against growth and GDP.  So there’s a significant element of transparency in that first session where leaders will — we will show and tell how we, as the 28 allies, are doing against the pledge taken at Wales.  So there’s no hiding here.  We’ll be quite transparent with one another.

Q    Hi, thanks.  I think it was Charlie who mentioned the prospect of Brexit.  I was wondering if you still see it as a prospect at this stage, given that Article 50 hasn’t been invoked and so on.  And second question on the meetings on Spain — will the President meet with Pablo Iglesias or — who are the opposition leaders he plans to meet with?

MR. RHODES:  So, look, on your first question, again, we just echo what British leaders themselves has said, which is that I think they’ve given every indication that they expect to heed the will of the British voters as expressed in the referendum.  Now, the exact timing and modality under which Article 50 is invoked and those discussions begin is something that remains to be determined.  But again, we have certainly noted the express will of the British voters and the subsequent comments from British leaders that suggest that that’s really a question of timing that is tied in part to their own internal political process.

I will say that part of what we’ll want to discuss is how we can continue to work with our British allies and our European allies to help provide a commitment to ensuring financial stability at this particular time, and working together to support global economic growth, and to combat any headwinds that might be amplified by their recent vote.  And of course, the President, in being able to meet with the European leaders and the EU leaders — and certainly he’ll be seeing Prime Minister Cameron as well — can get a sense from them over how they are thinking about the discussions and negotiations that they will have surrounding the British decision to exit the European Union.

As a general matter, we also believe it’s essential that we’re lifting up the fact that NATO remains a cornerstone of transatlantic cooperation that, of course, encompasses both many of our European partners, as well as the UK and others.  And also we’ll want to be underscoring at this time that even as the referendum pointed to some of the tensions that are being confronted not just in Europe but also in the United States and around the world, that even as we’re managing those tensions, as the President said  most recently in Canada, we should be reaffirming our commitment not just to our alliances, but also to the success of the European Project, the success of the values of democracy and pluralism and tolerance and openness and open markets.  I think all of that is going to be front and center in what the President is saying privately and publicly throughout his time in Europe.

Of course, on the trade side, I would just note that I’m sure in some of the conversations, including in Spain, that TTIP will also be a subject of conversation.

MR. KUPCHAN:  I would just add that it’s worthwhile going back and reading the President’s speech in Hannover, because that will give you a very good sense of his views about the value of European integration.  And so even while we discuss with EU leaders and with Prime Minister Cameron and other member state leaders about Brexit, about the process, about what the outcome might look like, we will also be discussing with those leaders how to ensure the health and vitality of the European project moving forward, and what steps Europeans will be taking to try to ensure that the European Union remains in the best shape possible going forward.

On your question about Iglesias, we are still putting the final touches on participation in the meetings in Spain.  It will be a meeting with leaders of the main opposition parties, but at this point I can’t confirm the full list of individuals that will participate.

Q    Hi, thanks very much for doing the call.  I just had a quick sort of scheduling question.  Ben, you mentioned that he’s going to be meeting with Cameron, it looks like in the larger setting, but I’m wondering if you expect a one on — any one-on-one time with the Prime Minister.  And then also, should we expect that this is his last trip to Europe?  And do you expect him to talk at all about sort of his broader legacy or to try to sort of describe — look back at all at what his chief accomplishments in terms of European policy would be?

MR. RHODES:  So on your first question, we certainly expect to allow some time to spend one on one with Prime Minister Cameron.  I wouldn’t expect that to take the form of a formal bilateral meeting, but I can just say from experience that, at these summits, the Prime Minister is one of the leaders that he frequently has side conversations with, and they’ll have plenty of opportunities to catch up.  And he’ll certainly want to do that in the current context.

And I should note that he also — as he expressed after the referendum and the decision expressed by the Prime Minister to step down — I think we’ll want to reiterate how much he’s enjoyed working with David Cameron as both a partner and a friend the last several years.  This won’t necessarily be the last time they see each other, but I think he’ll want to express that as well.

Then with respect to your other question, we don’t have any other further travel to Europe plans.  I’m not going to rule that out, but it’s possible that this is the President’s final stop in Europe, although there may be additional changes.

I will say that — look, I think at the NATO Summit — it is certainly his last NATO Summit.  I think we have done a lot and are proud of what we’ve done to strengthen NATO, both to, number one, sustain the NATO commitment to Afghanistan, and we have in place a very robust Alliance commitment to support the ANSF post-2016.  And this was difficult for many of our NATO allies to sustain this level of support for Afghanistan, and I think our announcement today really solidifies the contributions that are going to be made by a number of our European allies to Afghanistan going forward.

In terms of capabilities, contrary to what I frequently hear, the missile defense coming online and going under NATO command I think fulfills an important commitment the President made to move towards being able to defend the European continent against the threat of ballistic missiles.

We’ve also worked to enhance a variety of other NATO capabilities.  We’ve also sought to diversify the types of partners that NATO works with around the world, and to diversify the missions that NATO undertakes given the fluid environment we’re in, and the ongoing effort we’re undertaking whether it relates to the Aegean or the eastern Mediterranean, I think indicates that NATO has become more nimble in some ways in responding to evolving threats.

So I do think — oh, and lastly, of course, the Eastern European reassurance that we’ve done in the face of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.  We’re seeking to really solidify the commitment of additional resources, additional presence along NATO’s east as we’re reassuring those allies and making clear to Russia that we will not tolerate any type of aggression or intervention within NATO’s borders.

So I think he’ll have a chance to reflect on what he’s done specifically with NATO, given that that’s the focus of the meeting in Warsaw.  The only other thing I’d say is that in Spain, his last event is a youth town hall, which I think is a good venue for him to step back and talk about some of the progress that’s been made over the last seven and a half years in terms of restoring global economic growth and dealing with challenges like climate chance through the Paris agreement, dealing with issues of nonproliferation, as we did through the Iran nuclear deal, working together on issues related to international development, and then trying to also bring forward U.S.-European cooperation to deal with a whole host of global issues while, at the same time, acknowledging that there are enormous challenges that confront the United States and Europe — not least among them, terrorism, the migration flows, and some of the difficulties associated with globalization that manifested themselves most recently in the British referendum.

So I think he’ll have that opportunity to speak to a young audience about the value of carrying forward not just the progress of the last seven and a half years but what the United States and Europe have stood for, for the last seven decades or more.

I’ll stop there.  I don’t know if anybody — Doug, do you want to add anything on just the NATO piece?

AMBASSADOR LUTE:  I think the President — this will be his fifth NATO Summit — really taps a long record of Obama administration leadership in the Alliance.  I mean, Ben mentioned the key parts of that, that certainly our leadership in Afghanistan, which has resulted here a 13-year mark for NATO participation in Afghanistan — we still have over 40 countries working with us there.  That’s a reflection of U.S. leadership.

The U.S. led in terms of the — two years ago, in the wake of the seizing of Crimea and the destabilizing of Donbass, which U.S. troops, U.S. airplanes, U.S. ships in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea to reassure our allies.  We’re leading one of the four battalions in the Northeast.  We are supporting in a very fundamental way the rapid reaction capability that the Alliance has now got online.  And then above and beyond all that, we’re doing bilaterally, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, a major contribution next year — $3.4 billion contribution in terms of our own deterrence effort, which sits alongside and complements NATO.

So that, coupled with the ballistic missile defense — we’re the leader on defense spending.  We’ve led the call to bring others on to line with these defense spending standards.  So virtually in every dimension, this administration has led this Alliance through a very meaningful transition, which continues, and I think in some ways, culminates with the combination of the Wales summit and the Warsaw summit.

MR. KUPCHAN:  I would just add that I think there’s an important piece that’s being completed in Warsaw, and that is the addition of a Southern strategy to an Eastern strategy, in the sense that NATO’s bread and butter has tended to be the East, but in the last few years, because of the counter-ISIL campaign and because of the migration crisis, the President has been very keen to see NATO get more involved in the South.  And that’s why I think at this summit you will see leaders focus equally on both of these critical dimensions.

Q    I would like to ask again about the format of the meeting of President Obama with political leaders of the main political parties in Spain.  Is he meeting with the King of Spain as well in the same meeting, or separated?  Thank you very much.

MR. RHODES:  No, we anticipate it will follow the luncheon hosted by the King of Spain.  And so after that luncheon is concluded, the President will have an opportunity to meet with the leaders.

Q    Talking about the Southern Front, do you expect NATO to offer assets for the rescue operation of the refugees coming from the Southern Mediterraean — away from the coast of Libya?

AMBASSADOR LUTE:  I think I can take that.  So this is Ambassador Lute from U.S. NATO.  So as you know, there’s a robust European Union operation now, monitoring that sea space — this is Operation SOPHIA, as they call it.  I think what you can expect coming out of the NATO Summit, and very much reflecting the kind of increased cooperation between NATO and the EU as the two institutional pillars of European security, you can expect that NATO will have some offers to work alongside the EU to reinforce the EU, to support them with NATO capabilities that maybe the EU itself doesn’t have.

So I think what you can see is that this will be one of the ways in which NATO and the EU move forward together in a much more collaborative way and certainly much more than we have in the past.  Part of that is simply because alongside migration, weak states, terrorism and so forth challenge both NATO and the EU in fundamental ways.  So it’s time to get past the rhetoric and move towards real partnership.  And I think you’ll see that as a reflection of the Warsaw summit.

MR. PRICE:  Thanks very much, everyone.  Operator, we can conclude the call now, and we’ll just note that the embargo is now lifted.  Thank you very much.

END                5:26 P.M. EDT