June 19, 2015 Ambassador Lute Telephonic Press Briefing

June 19, 2015

Moderator: Thanks so much, and greetings everybody from the U.S. Department of State. I would like to welcome all of our participants who are dialing in from across Europe and those of you dialing in from the U.S., and I’d like to thank all of you for joining in this discussion.

Today we’re pleased to be joined from Brussels by Ambassador Douglas Lute, who is the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO.

As you all know, next week is the NATO Defense Ministerial so this is a very timely conversation, and I’m sure that you will have many questions.

We’re going to begin today’s call with opening remarks from Ambassador Lute, and then we will turn to your questions, and of course as always, we’re going to try to get to as many as we can during the time that we have.  Today’s call is on the record.

And with that I will turn it over to you, Ambassador Lute.

Ambassador Lute: Thanks so much, and thanks to all the journalists for joining.

I thought as a preview to next week’s Defense Ministerial meeting on the 24th and 25th, so Wednesday and Thursday of next week, I’d just give you a touch of context and then outline the substance that I expect the 28 Defense Ministers will address, and then we’ll get to your questions.

So by way of context, I think the way to look at next week’s meeting is that it is about the midway point as a stepping stone between the last Summit and the next Summit. So NATO very much navigates its annual schedule by way of ministerials leading to and from summits. In this instance it’s about midway between the Wales Summit last September, where some very important decisions were taken, and then our next Summit in Warsaw in July of 2016. So think about this as the midpoint between, as we say, Wales and Warsaw.

The Ministers will join mid-day on Wednesday and then face a two-day ministerial with four major sessions. First they’ll have a session as we say “at 28,” meaning that they’ll comprise the North Atlantic Council with just the 28 allies and Secretary General Stoltenberg in the chair, and they’ll conduct sort of internal NATO business. I’ll outline that in a minute.

After that extended session, that’s programmed to be a 3.5 hour session. After that one they’ll go into a working dinner, then the next morning two sessions with key partners. First, a session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission where we’ll have the Ukrainian Defense Minister join the 28 allies.

Then the last session of the four, late morning on Thursday will be with Afghanistan, and there we’ll have the newly appointed Afghan Defense Minister Stanekzai likewise join the 28 allies, but on top of the 28 allies for the Afghanistan session, you’ll have some 14 partners who also join. So there will be Afghanistan, and I believe the number is 41 allies and partners.

With that as an outline let me get into some of the substance here. Some of this, of course, is pre-decisional because we actually expect the Ministers will take decisions on the day, but I can give you a forecast.

The first session as I described it, at 28, on Wednesday the 24th, is really designed to address two key decisions taken at the Wales Summit and progress that we expect to track all the way to Warsaw. So the first topic on that list for the session at 28 is what we call the Readiness Action Plan. This was maybe the cornerstone decision taken, the landmark decision taken at Wales. This is fundamentally the package of adjustments that the Alliance is taking to adapt to the new security challenges on NATO’s boundary. Here the Ministers will address the Readiness Action Plan as it applies to the East and the challenges in Ukraine and the newly assertive Russian policies in the east. They’ll also address challenges in the southeast. So these of course are the challenges mainly along the Turkish border with Syria and Iraq and the rise of ISIS or Daesh. And they’re certain to also address challenges to the south, and this is south, across the Mediterranean and in the North African coast. But also south of that in the Sahel. Most prominently in the south are the challenges in Libya.

So the Readiness Action Plan commissioned at Wales was designed to address this range of challenges on NATO’s border. It really has two parts, and I think that these two parts will drive the discussion next week.

First of all are the ongoing assurance measures. These are the ongoing training measures that are taking place today all along the eastern flank of the Alliance. Some nine months after Wales, I think the Ministers next week will assess progress on air, sea, and land exercises, and I’m quite sure that they’ll recommit to continue these exercises as the leaders at Wales pledged, as long as necessary. So they’ll take a quick look at ongoing assurance measures.

They’ll also though spend more time I think on the second part of RAP and that’s adaptation. By adaptation the Alliance means a series of steps that we’ve taken to fundamentally change our force posture so that we’re ready to execute our collective defense mission. That is embodied in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the NATO Treaty, which essentially says an attack on one, an armed attack on one of the 28 allies will be viewed by the other 27 as an armed attack by all.

So NATO is taking a set of adaptation measures, and I think next week we can expect Ministers to check in on the progress of those adaptations. And then also we expect them to decide some further adaptations. Let me just break that down a bit.

So far, we have established a land brigade of 5,000 troops in what we call the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. Now Secretary General Stoltenberg refers to this as the spearhead force, but this is a ready land brigade, and by ready I mean prepared to move within days of being alerted. NATO hasn’t had this kind of rapid reaction force in the past, and this is probably the principle adaptation measure that was commissioned by leaders nine months ago in Wales.

What Ministers will find when they assess this next week is that we already this year have what we call an interim or test bed VJTF, so there is a brigade today that exists, a NATO brigade, and it is undergoing a series of exercises. We’re putting them through the paces. Most recently 2,000 troops from this brigade exercised in a move to Poland, and then once in Poland they did combined arms maneuvering. The whole idea during this first year, this test bed year of the VJTF is to test the concept, test the procedures, draw lessons, so that when we stand up the fully ready brigade next year, we’re informed by this testing year.

In the fall we expect to certify the first full-scale VJTF, which is the VJTF led by Spain which will assume duty in 2016.

So the way to think about this is that this year we have a prototype, we’re running the testing, and then next year we’ll stand up the actual VJTF.

I also think that Ministers next week will take note of the fact that based on the decision at Wales we’re moving forward to set up six command and control centers along the eastern flank of the Alliance running from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south, and that the six command and control centers are making progress and we should establish them by the end of the year.

The purpose of these centers fundamentally is to receive the VJTF if that ready brigade is sent to one of these six allies. So they’re essentially the reception centers for the Rapid Reaction Brigade.

And then the third thing I think leaders will note next week is the progress in setting up a much more senior headquarters in Poland which will be manned by NATO allies, and it will be commanded by a three star lieutenant general officer, so a very senior officer. And as we set up that headquarters we very much want to focus on the collective defense responsibilities in the Alliance northeast sector.

So all three of these things — the Rapid Reaction Brigade, the command and control facilities across the eastern flank, and then this major headquarters will be assessed next week. And I think quite frankly that there’s been quite a significant progress on all three of these since Wales.

Now I also said they’re not just going to assess progress next week, they’re going to take some decisions, and let me outline the sorts of measures that are going to be presented to the Ministers for decision.

First of all, beyond the Ready Brigade itself, there are decisions waiting for the Ministers with regard to the supporting elements for that brigade. So we expect that they will decide, take decisions having to do with the air, sea, and special operations forces which will join the land brigade and create a fully functional combined arms brigade. So they’re going to add the key supporting elements we believe next week.

We also think next week they’re going to set the rotation for allies leading the land brigade in years 2016, ’17 and ’18. So they’re going to set up the rotation, which begins with Spain leading next year but continues for years after that.

They’re also going to take some decisions, we believe, on decision-making because it doesn’t make sense to have a rapid reaction brigade if you don’t have a responsive decision-making process. Some of these decisions, some of the decision-making processes, procedures, are at the North Atlantic Council level, so at the political level. But there also are a series of decisions having to do with the military chain of command. And there are questions that Ministers will address as to which authorities fall to the political leaders in the Alliance and which to the military leaders. And all of this process with decision-making has to do with streamlining our decisions so that our decisions fit the capabilities of the units that we’ve created.

I think Ministers next week will also agree that we should begin a new type of planning, contingency planning for the Alliance. The particular title is “graduated response plans.” That doesn’t mean much, I suspect, to you. But what it really means to us is that given this new security environment we need a set of plans that are more responsive to the new challenges and which are more prepared on short notice to respond to challenges on NATO’s periphery. So we’re going to commission next week the initial plans in this new set.

Then I think finally the way to look at the entire package on the Readiness Action Plan, both assessing progress and where we’re going to go in the future, is that we’ve made quite significant progress since Wales, and progress continues by way of these new decisions as we adapt the Alliance to the new challenges on our borders, and we’re recommitted and ready once again to execute our Article 5, our collective defense responsibilities.

So that’s a long description of a meeting that will be the heart of the Ministerial next week, and I just wanted to unpack that a bit for you.

Now I said there was a second topic for this first meeting and I’ll be now more brief with the rest of the meetings. But the second topic for meeting number one has to do with the pledge made at Wales by our 28 national leaders to over time increase defense spending across the Alliance.

Next week will be the first of a series of annual reviews in terms of how we’re doing against that pledge, and as leaders agreed at Wales, it is time for all allies, all 28 allies, to join together to reverse the decline in defense spending, which has been a pattern now for some years, and a pattern exacerbated by the economic downturn that began in 2008, and a pledge that has all 28 allies committed to increase defense spending towards the two percent goal as our economies recover.

So next week will be an opportunity to check the data, both in terms of economic growth and defense investment, and to sort of take an honest look in the mirror in terms of how we’re doing with the pledge that was made at Wales.

Then you’re into the working dinner, so now this is Wednesday evening. The broad topic there is for Ministers to consider the long-term adaptation that may be required that is beyond RAP and even beyond the Warsaw Summit. What are the long-term indicators that point to NATO continuing to adapt to this changing environment? This I think will be a very wide-ranging, far-reaching discussion and one that Minsters will enjoy.

The next morning, so now we’re on Thursday the 25th, there are two sessions as I mentioned. The first one is with Ukraine. Here we’ll welcome for the first time new Ukrainian Defense Minister Poltorak and we’ll get from him a first-hand report of the situation on the ground in Ukraine, and in particular the security dimensions of implementing the Minsk agreements.

We’ll more broadly talk about progress towards completing those agreements made in Minsk, and for sure we will discuss how NATO should calibrate its continuing support to Ukraine, an important NATO partner.

Then the last session, we’ll wrap up with a session of the 40-plus nations that make up the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan. Here we’ll welcome new Afghan Defense Minister Stanekzai, and at the six month mark into this new mission, and this is the mission that features NATO with a train, advise, and assist role. That is, we’re supporting the Afghan Security Forces who are now in the lead. We’ll get the new Defense Minister’s take on progress of the Afghan Security Forces, but also progress with the effectiveness of NATO’s support package.

Beyond what’s going on today, I expect Ministers in that meeting with Afghanistan will also assess progress towards the end of this train, advise, and assist mission, probably near the end of 2016, and the partnership that we believe lays beyond Resolute Support, the current mission.

When you add all that up on Afghanistan, I expect this final session of the ministerial next week to echo the longstanding theme of NATO’s support to Afghanistan and that is very simply that, as Afghans increasingly stand up on their own and secure their own country, they won’t have to stand alone because NATO will continue to be with them as a partner.

So let me stop there and we’ll get to your questions.

Moderator: Thanks so much, Ambassador Lute, for walking us through next week.

Our first question is coming to us today from Bojan Pancevski of the Sunday Times. Go ahead, Bojan.

Sunday Times: Thank you very much for the opportunity to ask this question.

I was just wondering, Ambassador, you were talking about setting up the logistics on the eastern side, the Baltic states, [inaudible]. —

Ambassador Lute: Bojan, could you try again?  You’re breaking up. I caught the word logistics, but little else.

Sunday Times: Sorry about that.

Basically you spoke about kind of improving the logistics on the eastern flank of NATO in the face of the kind of new behavior from Russia. I was just wondering, could you tell us more about [inaudible] will be announced after the ministerial in countries such as the Baltic states, Poland, maybe some figures about what type of hardware, what type of equipment, how many tanks for example, and so on.

Ambassador Lute: Again you broke up but I caught enough of it to appreciate that you’re asking about recent reports of prepositioned United States equipment in NATO allies along the eastern flank. Is that right?

Sunday Times: Yes, [inaudible]. You know, equipment such as drones of [inaudible] defense forces to kind of create a response for hybrid warfare and things like that.

Ambassador Lute: I really apologize. I hope that this is an isolated problem, but I didn’t pick up that last part except for hybrid warfare.

Let me address what I think your question is and that has to do with these recent reports about an American decision to preposition heavy equipment in a number of allies.

First of all, let me be clear here, the decision to do that hasn’t actually been taken yet, and I can’t forecast whether it will be taken by the Defense Ministers’ meeting next week, although that’s a possibility. What I can tell you about the prospect of staging heavy equipment in the Alliance territory is the following. It will adhere to the following principles.

First of all we won’t do it without close coordination with our allies.  So we’re not going to offer equipment or stage equipment on someone else’s territory without the close coordination of that ally. You may draw a sharp contrast here with other heavy equipment that’s been provided by other parties in the European space recently. We’re not going to force any equipment on anyone. This will be done in close coordination.

Second of all, we will do this, the purpose of even considering this move is to facilitate this persistent rotational training that I described in my comments as part of the Readiness Action Plan. So you can imagine that it’s much more efficient to rotate U.S. troops coming to train in one of the allied states. It’s much more efficient to simply rotate the troops onto prepositioned equipment rather than each time with each rotation bring in a new set of equipment. So some of this is just an efficiency move to enable cost-efficient training that we think will continue as long as necessary. So there’s a certain — the theme here is to facilitate the training.

Then finally, as we do this, I can tell you that the United States certainly, and NATO at large, will continue to abide by all its international commitments. So we’re not going to do anything that breaks commitments we’ve made in the past with regard to troop strength and so forth.

So I appreciate I didn’t get quite all your question, but I hope that at least begins to answer what you were addressing.

Moderator:  Thank you for that, and apologies again for the technical difficulties there. Hopefully that was isolated.

We do have another question coming in.  This time it’s from Enzo Arceri with Italy’s Rai TV.

Rai TV:  Good afternoon, Mr. Ambassador.

Do you expect to see an escalation in the confrontation with Russia? If yes, do you think all allies will show unity and the same determination considering the negative effects of the sanctions on the European economy?Thank you.

Ambassador Lute: We certainly don’t expect escalation. In fact NATO is doing everything it can to be a responsible, predictable player that abides by our international commitments so that the situation does not escalate. It’s in no one’s interest that the situation escalate, and we’re certainly going to be the responsible player here and do our part to ensure that it does not.

But you also mentioned the coherence or the cohesion of the 28 allies in NATO. And more broadly, the 28 members of the European Union when you consider sanctions and so forth.

We were very encouraged to see the steps towards, in the European Union, just earlier this week, towards continuing the sanctions regime against Russia alongside the United States sanctions which together, U.S. and EU, really put quite an economic burden on Russia and exact a price, exact a cost for Russia’s aggressive behavior first in the Crimea just over a year ago, and now in the Donbass, continuing in the Donbass today.

So I do expect that that sanctions regime — EU, U.S. — will remain coherent, and we’ll be together on that despite the costs that are being incurred on us. And more than that, I can tell you that the NATO Alliance at 28 will absolutely stay coherent on the pledge that we will defend one another.

So I see a lot of coherence here from Brussels.

Moderator: Thank you.

Our next question is coming to us from Morten Bertelsen of Norwegian Business Daily DN.

DN: Thanks for taking my question, Ambassador.

I was just wondering if you could describe or characterize briefly the Russian sanctions over the last year and a half; and was it in fact Russia that precipitated the new graduated response plan? Or is it the combination with the threat of ISIS? Thanks.

Ambassador Lute: The planning that I mentioned, so the particular of your question first and then I want to get to a broader point.

The particular graduated response plan, the decision by NATO which we expect Ministers to take next week, is precipitated by concerns that along NATO’s periphery there are challenges today which were not there 18 or 24 months ago. So in response to these new challenges, most prominent in the east, the aggressive behavior by Russia, yes, NATO is taking the responsible measure to generate a new type of plan, first of all, and this plan will promote NATO’s ability to do what NATO says it will do, which is defend itself.

So yes, as to the eastern-most plans, they are very much in response to what we see taking place over the last 16 months or so by Russia.

Now how do we characterize what Russia’s done? Basically Russia’s thrown out the rule book. By my count, Russia has violated every international agreement it’s been a party to. So these are not agreements imposed on Russia. These are agreements to which Russia is a signatory. Starting with the UN Charter, but through the UN Charter to the Helsinki Accords, to the NATO-Russia Founding Act, to the Budapest Agreement having to do with the status of Ukraine and others, it has violated every one of these by seizing sovereign territory of a neighboring state, violating territorial integrity, and essentially defying the fundamental underpinning right of nations to pick their own course, and rather dictating the course of a nation by way of Russian aggression. This is completely unacceptable.

Those rules were written with an eye to produce stability underwritten by predictability and confidence in the rules. So when one party, as Russia has done since its move into Crimea at the end of February last year. When one party walks away from the regime of rules that has governed international activity for decades, it’s very destabilizing. It’s very irresponsible. And it will lead to nothing positive.

Look, from NATO’s perspective we’re going to be exactly the opposite. We’re going to be the responsible player, we’re going to be the mature player, we’re doing to be the predictable player, and we’re going to do exactly what NATO has said it would do all along, which is defend itself from anything that threatens the 28 members.

So we very much wish to deescalate. We very much wish to return to a stable Euro-Atlantic area so that we can progress together. But frankly, it takes two to have a partnership, and right now it’s quite clear we don’t have the kind of partnership we had envisioned with Russia.

Moderator:  Our next question is coming to us from Adrian Croft of Reuters.

Reuters:  Hi, Ambassador, this is Adrian Croft from Reuters here in Brussels.  Thanks for the call.

I’m just wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more on the graduated response plan.  I’m still a little bit unclear about what it consists of. Is this actually a set of specific plans that will be done under certain circumstances?  Or is it a sort of principles and speeding up decision-making and that sort of thing?

A second question, if I may, the Poland and the Baltics are still pushing for a permanent NATO presence and large numbers of NATO troops. Do you think there’s any chance that NATO would go further towards meeting their requests? Thank you.

Ambassador Lute: Well, so graduated response plan, it really gets into some pretty detailed description in terms of exactly what this is. But here’s the essence, Adrian. It is a new type of planning commissioned for the first time, so this is brand new. It provides additional detail to existing contingency plans. These graduated response plans will be more detailed and more focused on specific challenges to NATO security.

As a result, they will be largely sub-regional focused, so there won’t be, there’s not a graduated response plan for the whole 28 nation Alliance, but they’ll be regionally focused, much more detailed, and they will promote a much more rapid response in the face of a security challenge. I think I’ll just leave it at that.

As for calls by some allies to do more, look, we are on a path that began at Wales when we initiated these sorts of adaptation measures on a path to Warsaw. And all along the way, including next Wednesday and Thursday, we’re going to assess where we are. Some may call for more, some may call for less, and sort of the art of the Alliance is that we will come together as 28 to determine the appropriate response.

We’ve had, in the face of the challenges over the last 14 or 15 months based on Russia’s aggression, we’ve had good success holding together the cohesion at 28. And I imagine that in the future there will be initiatives, there may be requests, there may be conceptual ideas about how to move forward. We’ll take every one of those at their face value. We’ll discuss them in the Council at 28, and I’m quite comfortable we’ll come out strong at 28. But I don’t want to forecast any particular initiative. We’ll just have to see how it works through the Council work.

Moderator: Our next question is coming to us from Romania. We have Robert Veress who is with the daily newspaper Puterea. Robert?

Puterea:  Thank you.  Thank you very much, Ambassador, for taking my question.

My question is challenging your assumption about the cohesion of the 28 members of NATO. According to the recent polls from Pew Research Center, most of the people from some Western European countries, members of the NATO Alliance, are not backing a NATO military intervention in the case of a Russian attack over other members of NATO from Eastern Europe. Will the U.S. Army defend Romania in the case of a Russian attack over our country, even if other NATO members like Great Britain, Germany, or France will refrain from military support?

Ambassador Lute: I understand your question.  First of all, the clearest answer I can give you is yes, the United States will respond to an armed attack on any one of the 27 allies. A careful reading of the Washington Treaty, so this is the 1949 treaty that initiated NATO, indicates that every member has a responsibility individually and in concert with the other allies to respond to an armed attack.

So in direct answer to your question, Robert, yes, the United States has a legally binding treaty commitment to respond individually and in concert with now the other 27 allies. So it’s important to remember we have an individual and a collective responsibility, and the United States takes this very seriously. And I mean I think the best indication of this is that we take seriously now our obligation to assure allies to include Romania, that we’re there. And I think your paper, your organization has probably reported on the continuous U.S. presence there, training alongside your soldiers, training alongside other NATO allies over the last year plus. And I think the adaptation measures that I’ve mentioned also largely apply to your country as well, as they do the other allies.

So we’re not only saying it by way of the Washington Treaty and Article 5, we’re doing it by way of our continuous presence.  So you can have a great deal of confidence that the United States of America is there. That’s what being an ally means.

Now, you also mentioned more broadly this opinion polling which has been published this week. I read the same polling.  What struck me as I read it is that opinion polls are one measure, but maybe a more meaningful measure, a more telling measure, convincing measure are actions.  And if you look at the actions of the Alliance at 28 I think you see a very different picture than the opinion polling showed.  Let me just cite a few things.

First of all, the actions of the Alliance at the 12th year in Afghanistan. So the NATO Alliance took command and control of the Afghanistan Mission beginning 12 years ago. Today 28 allies and another 13 or 14 partners are still in Afghanistan. That’s commitment, that’s cohesion, that’s staying power, and that’s actions that speak louder than polls.

Another example would be the Readiness Action Plan measures that I’ve outlined. It’s not just the United States that’s exercising from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. We’re joined by all our other allies. In your country you’ve hosted exercises with the United States but also with other allies.  In the Baltic Sea operation, or the sea exercise that just took place over the last week, I think there were 13 allies participating.

So we’re also demonstrating today on our own soil that Article 5 means what it says by way of our continuous presence.

Finally, I think one of the most meaningful indicators of intent came from the 28 leaders at Wales when they committed, they pledged to turn the corner to reverse the trend on defense spending.

There is I think for a national leader no more clear indication of whether they are serious about addressing a concern than committing funding to it.

Now we’re going to see. As I said, next week we’re going to check progress on the Wales defense pledge, but that won’t be the last time that we check progress.  We’re committed to continuing to check progress on defense investment all the way up to Warsaw where the leaders will see the data, and they’ll compare the data displayed against what they pledged at Wales. So whether you measure cohesion and commitment by opinion polling or you do it by way of actions like in Afghanistan, like along our eastern flank today, or ultimately with commitments made in defense spending, I think you’ll see a picture of Alliance cohesion, and I have a good deal of confidence in that.

Moderator: Thank you. We are actually running low on time. We have time for just one more question and that one is coming to us from Bulgaria, from Bulgarian National Radio, Mladen Petkov.

Bulgarian National Radio:  Hello, Ambassador Lute, thank you so much for doing this call.

I have a question, I want to go back to the proposed stationing of heavy weaponry in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. I want to hear your opinion, I want you to address something that the Russian Defense Minister official said, that he called the most aggressive step by the Pentagon and NATO since the Cold War. I want you to address that.

And another question, if I may, about the NATO exercises. There were moments when there were reports of Russian planes or ships coming close to NATO forces. I wanted your opinion if you see a possibility of high risk of head-to-head fight with Russia and NATO. Thank you.

Ambassador Lute: On the second point first, we have, as we’ve been exercising, as I said earlier from the Baltic Sea south to the Black Sea on land but also at sea and in the air, we have had a series of encounters with Russian aircraft and Russian ships. This is to be expected. We watch their exercises, we expect them to watch our exercises. But in the course of watching there are long established responsible rules of the road so that we don’t have accidents and we don’t have miscalculations.

Most concerning are a number of actions, a number of incidents by Russian pilots mostly — these are combat aircraft pilots — who have navigated into very close proximity to especially NATO aircraft. Here we’re talking tens of meters at very high speed, at very — just in a very provocative, destabilizing, dangerous, unnecessary way.

Look, these sorts of things are just not needed. I mean we know how to operate together in the same airspace, in the same, on the same sea lanes and so forth. We need to follow the rules so that there is not an unfortunate incident. I think so far we’ve been quite fortunate that we haven’t had an accident, but we can’t continue to count on luck. We need to abide by the rules.

Ambassador Lute: I’m sorry, the first part of your question had to do with?

Bulgarian National Radio: The first part of my question was, I asked you to address the Russian Defense Ministry official when they commented on NATO deployment in Eastern Europe as the most aggressive step by the Pentagon and NATO since the Cold War. I wanted to hear your commentary.

Ambassador Lute: We don’t consider it aggressive at all. In fact, we consider the NATO deployments — air, sea, and ground — over the last year as very responsible, predictable. I mean all our exercises are announced. They’re all on the web site. We don’t hide. We fly behind our national flags. We’re welcomed by national leaders. We’re invited to these countries, unlike Russia being uninvited into Ukraine for example.

When we operate there we operate alongside national forces. The scenarios are defensive scenarios. We are simply doing what is widely understood to be the foundation of the Atlantic Alliance which is collective defense.

So these are defensive measures. They’re responsible, they’re calibrated, they’re predictable, they’re completely in line with our international commitments, and Russia knows that. So I wouldn’t pay too much attention to a Russian journalist or a Russian official who claims aggression when the model of aggression over the last 15 months has not been NATO but it’s actually been Russia. First in Crimea and most recently, for more than a year now, in the Donbass.

So let’s define aggression by what Russia has done, not by what NATO is doing, simply keeping its commitment to be able to execute collective defense. I think there’s a big contrast between what’s going on on both sides.

I want to thank everybody for taking time this afternoon to do this. It’s probably a good thing to preview such an important meeting with you, a set of responsible journalists. We’ll see how the meeting actually comes out and how close the preview was to the outcome.

Thanks very much.

Moderator: Thank you, Ambassador Lute. Thanks for joining us today and for spending some time and taking all those questions. And again, thanks to all of you for participating. My apologies that we couldn’t get to everybody who was waiting in the question queue. We will prepare a transcript of today’s call and share that with you. And with that, I will turn it back over to AT&T who will tell you how to access the digital recording. Thanks so much.