May 18, 2016: Ambassador Lute’s Pre-Ministerial Telephonic Press Briefing

Ambassador Douglas Lute

U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

Telephone Press Briefing

May 18, 2016


 Moderator:  Thank you very much, and greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State.  I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from across Europe.  Thanks to all of you for joining this discussion today.

Today we are pleased to be joined once again from Brussels by Ambassador Douglas Lute, the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO.  As you know, this week is the NATO Foreign Ministerial, so this is a very timely conversation and I’m sure you’ll have many questions for the Ambassador.  We thank Ambassador Lute for taking the time to preview the Ministerial with us today.

We’ll begin today’s call with opening remarks from Ambassador Lute and then we will turn to your questions and we’ll try to get to as many as we can during the time that we have which is about 45 minutes.  Today’s call will be on the record.  With that, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Lute.  Thank you, sir.

Ambassador Lute:  Thanks Peter, and thanks for hosting the call today.

So as is our convention, I’ll spend just a few minutes outlining the five sessions over the next two days when Secretary John Kerry will join his 27 NATO colleagues in the last Foreign Minister session before the Warsaw Summit in July.  So today we’re exactly 50 days out from the Warsaw Summit.  So the Ministerial tomorrow and Friday represents one of the last stepping stones on the way to Warsaw.

I would mention that there’s one more Defense Minister’s meeting in mid-June, but this is the last time the Foreign Ministers will come together before they join again at Warsaw.

There are a total of five sessions over the next two days.  Let me just quickly outline those.

Tomorrow the Ministers will begin with actually an historic session which will feature the signing of what is called the Accession Protocol for our soon-to-be 29th ally, Montenegro.  This is only the 7th time in NATO’s 67-year history that we’ve taken this step, that is to welcome one or more new members.

In December you’ll remember Foreign Ministers formally issued an invitation to Montenegro to kick off this process.  Over the last six months there has been extensive dialogue between Montenegro and the NATO headquarters.  This dialogue essentially focused on Montenegro’s responsibility as it moves closer to membership and its requirement to continue its reforms that qualify it fully as a candidate for membership.

Now tomorrow’s step actually entails signing the document, so all 28 allies will sign the document, and then that document will go out to allied capitals.  So in the case of the United States, to Washington where in 28 capitals it will undergo constitutionally-based ratification processes.  In the case of the United States that means this protocol, this document recommending the accession of Montenegro goes to the United States Senate.

When that process is complete, some months from now, Montenegro will formally become an ally.  So this is just the next logical procedural step in welcoming our 29th ally.

Beginning tomorrow, as a result of the protocol being signed, Montenegro will from there after attend sessions of the Council as an observer, including at head of state and government level at Warsaw.  This is actually much more important than just a procedural step.  It is an important step but it’s actually much more than that because it’s a very clear demonstration that NATO remains open to new members, and this of course is in keeping with Article 10 of the Washington Treaty that goes all the way back to 1949 that outline how NATO enlargement will be dealt with.

It’s also a very important signal to the remaining three aspirants — Georgia, Macedonia and Bosnia Herzegovina — that the door remains open and that the work that they’re doing to prepare themselves for membership is important.

So that’s all the first session tomorrow.

The second meeting will be at 28 and of course as I just mentioned with Montenegro in the room as an observer, and it will focus on NATO’s role in projecting stability beyond NATO borders itself.  So this is along NATO’s periphery, especially projecting stability to the south.

This is becoming one of the central themes of the Warsaw Summit, and so tomorrow is a very important step in sort of making sure we’re all aligned as we head towards the Summit on this question of how do we help weak, failing or failed states on NATO’s boundaries from which stability, instability tends to affect NATO’s nations themselves.  So illegal migration and terrorism, for example, come from these weak states and have a direct impact on NATO’s security.

So what is NATO’s role in promoting or projecting stability along its periphery?

Among other things, Ministers will discuss how we could enhance our ongoing effort to build security capacity in partner states like Iraq and Jordan and Tunisia.  They will undoubtedly discuss the situation in Libya, another weak state on NATO’s periphery.  This especially since the international community met on Monday in Vienna and took up an assessment of Libya.

So as you know, as I think you’ll recall, NATO has for a long time stood ready when the conditions, the political conditions are right, to assist in Libya.  And so it’s important to take stock of where we are and see how those conditions are maturing.

I think we’ll also talk in this second session about NATO’s ongoing maritime activity in the Aegean.  And this, of course, is where NATO is providing surveillance information and coordinating among the EU and two NATO allies — Greece and Turkey.  We are having an impact there in the Eastern Aegean, but we need to consider how to sustain that effort and whether it’s possible to potentially extend it elsewhere in the Mediterranean.

So I think the theme here is that NATO stands ready to support efforts beyond its borders and as I say, on the periphery.  Major efforts today are led by others, so the Counter-ISIL Coalition, for example, in Syria and Iraq.  The EU in maritime security in the Mediterranean.  So NATO is not in the lead.  But certainly NATO has kept capabilities that can and should reinforce these efforts and I think Ministers will take this issue up in the second session tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s working dinner topic has to do with NATO’s relationship with Russia, so this is the third session.  This obviously will be another key theme headed to the Warsaw Summit.  NATO will need to continue to adapt its relationship with Russia, our largest, most militarily capable neighbor.  The basic theme here for NATO-Russia relations will be, from NATO’s perspective, a balance between strength and dialogue.

So first, the foundation of the alliance is Article 5, the collective defense clause.  So NATO will take all necessary steps to ensure effective deterrence and defense.  That means we’ll implement fully the Readiness Action Plan that was commissioned at Wales.  That means we’ll figure out how to posture ourselves with forward presence, especially in the east.  And that means we need to also fill the Wales Pledge on defense investment.  These comprise NATO’s strength.

At the same time, however, NATO remains open to dialogue with Russia.  So for example a month ago we met in a format called the NATO-Russia Council, so this is the 28 allies plus Russia at the table.  In that session we discussed the situation in Ukraine, military activities including transparency and risk reduction, and the situation in Afghanistan.

This dialogue with Russia is not new but it’s also not a continuation of the past.  It’s not a return to business as usual or the strategic partnership that NATO tried hard to establish prior to Russia’s aggression in Crimea and the Donbas.  But it remains in NATO’s interest to keep political and military channels open for dialogue, even on issues where we disagree.

This is especially important to reduce risks of accident and miscalculation, in areas where our forces are operating in close proximity.  You all know of recent incidents in and over the Baltic Sea that demonstrate that there’s some risky behavior that has taken place and it’s in, I think, mutual interest — both NATO and Russia’s interest — to reduce those risks.

The key here is that NATO will remain the responsible, predictable player in the Euro-Atlantic space, and we will continue to abide by international commitments.

That takes us to Friday.  Two sessions on Friday.  The first one has to do with NATO’s cooperation with the EU.  Here two important partners of NATO — Sweden and Finland — will join the session, and of course High Representative Mogherini will be present representing the EU.

There’s a lot of common interest, items of common interest between NATO and the EU.  We ought to be the most natural partners, but we haven’t always had success in finding concrete ways to actually cooperate.  So we hope to change that, change that pattern and move towards concrete deliverables for Warsaw having to do with things like how do we contend with hybrid warfare, how do we contend with cyber threats, how do we deal together with maritime security.  So these are things in which both NATO and EU have capabilities and both have common interests, and so now the ticket is to work out mechanisms, protocols for closer cooperation.

A good example of this is what’s going on, as I mentioned earlier, in the Aegean today, and I think the starting point is a recognition by both institutions that neither can solve all these problems alone and that we require support from one another.

The last session, so session number five, this will be mid-day on Friday, is on Afghanistan.  And here NATO has unfinished business.  So NATO’s commitment will need to extend beyond 2016.

Here the ministerial format will feature more than 40 countries to include the Foreign Minister from Afghanistan.  These countries of course make up the coalition in Afghanistan, and we’ll be pointing towards two key objectives for the Warsaw Summit.  First of all, we need to secure national funding commitments to sustain the international funding for the Afghan Security Forces — all the way out to 2020.  This, for those who watch Afghanistan carefully, this will represent, and you’ll appreciate this, represents sort of a three-year extension of international funding for the Afghan Security Forces — all the way out to 2020, as I mentioned.

The second key objective is to extend the current Resolute Support Mission.  So this is the NATO-led coalition in in Afghanistan.  Extend it out beyond this year and into 2017.  So both by way of funding and by way of the Train, Advise and Assist mission, NATO is taking decisions that will set us up by Warsaw to give two big votes of confidence to the Afghan government and the Afghan people.  We’ll be there with funding and we’ll be there with troops.

So that’s the end of the fifth session and that’s the end of my outline and Peter’s ready to take your questions.

Moderator:  Thank you very much, Ambassador, for those opening remarks.  We’ll now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call.  Our first question today will come from Jonathan Marcus of BBC.  Please go ahead, sir.

BBC:  Yes, good morning, Ambassador.  Thank you very much.

Just a quick question.  I mean it’s a broad one, but in some ways isn’t this the best and the worst of times for NATO?  On the one hand we have the resurgent Russian threats, something that underscores NATO’s founding principles and going back to basics and so on.  But equally thinking of the American presidential race and the continuing debates about funding.  You have growing criticism of NATO within its most powerful member.  It’s clearly going to be a theme in the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.  So do you think to some extent you know, the backing in the United States, I mean you’re the U.S. Permanent Representative.  The backing in the United States for NATO could be reduced or questioned in some way as we move further into this presidential campaign?

Moderator:  We’ll be taking a couple of questions at a time.  Our next question will come from Mr. Haris Mrkonja of N1 Television, Bosnia.

N1TV:  Yes, since you mentioned Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnia and Herzegovina is still a deeply divided country, especially in regards to the willingness to enter NATO while Bosniak members of the government want to enter NATO as soon as possible.  Bosnian Serbs are delaying their decision and say that only when Serbia enters it will be okay for Bosnia and Herzegovina to go into NATO too.

So is there a possibility that Bosnia will at some point become isolated in that respect?  And when can we expect the first step from Bosnia to apply for a membership in your opinion?  Thank you.

Ambassador Lute:  Let me respond to those in order.

First with regard to the ongoing political campaign in the United States and questions about backing of, U.S. backing or U.S. support for NATO.

First of all, I don’t want to get entailed with the political process, but what I will tell you is that there’s longstanding and deep support for the alliance outside of the political rhetoric that’s ongoing today.  I mean this is reflected in opinion polling, this is reflected in support in our both Democratic and Republican administrations, it’s certainly best demonstrated by our investment in defense capabilities.  The United States today represents 70 percent of the total defense spending among the 28 allies, and it’s represented very candidly in recent commitments by the United States in the face of Russian aggression.

So the last two years have featured increased U.S. presence along especially the eastern flank of NATO in the air, at sea, on the ground.  That support continues today.  And then most of you will be aware that just a couple of months ago we committed to a four-fold increase in funding to sustain U.S. presence, increase and sustain U.S. presence here in Europe.

So I think there’s deep and broad political support for NATO in the United States and we’ll just let the political campaign play out as it will.

On Bosnia, look, the early steps towards membership of the alliance in every single case, in all 28 cases and beginning tomorrow 29 cases, starts with a national decision to seek membership.  So the first and foremost important first step is for Bosnian citizens to figure out whether membership in NATO is right for them.  So it starts with a sovereign choice.

In the case of Bosnia Herzegovina you’ve taken an early indication that you aspire to membership and now you’re working through a series of reforms and so forth that might bring you, some day, I hope some day, will bring you to a point where you receive an invitation to membership.  But how long that takes is entirely up to Bosnia.  So really I don’t have a good answer for your question in terms of how long or what the prospects are.  It very much rests with your people and very importantly, your government.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.

Our next two questions, we’ll go in order, will be to Mr. Kostas Mavraganis of Huffington Post in Greece; and next after that will be Ms. Anakhanum Khidayatova from Trend News Agency in Azerbaijan.  But first, we’ll go to Huffington Post in Greece.  Over to you.

Huffington Post:  Hello from Greece.

During the recent weeks there has been a surge of Turkish activity in the Aegean with repeated violations of the Greek space and territorial waters.  In lack of [inaudible] operation in the Aegean [inaudible] the refugee crisis plus all the recent developments in Turkey, could you describe the position of NATO and the United States regarding the method of Turkish aggression against another alliance member?

Trend News Agency:  Hello everybody, and Mr. Ambassador.  My question, how do you assess bilateral cooperation between U.S. and Azerbaijan with the NATO operations in Afghanistan?

Ambassador Lute:  Okay, let me take those in reverse sequence.

First of all, the Azeri contribution as a NATO partner has been quite consistent and so we appreciate Azerbaijan’s participation in the coalition.  In fact, I anticipate that your Minister will be here as part of the Afghanistan meeting on Friday, and you’ve been consistent and a valued partner in that effort and we appreciate it.

As to the question from Greece: Look, the reality is that Greece and Turkey are both vital members of the alliance.  I think this is well demonstrated today that in the very close waters between the Eastern Aegean islands of Greece and the coast of Turkey you have today operating under a German command ship both Greek and Turk naval vessels, and you have on board that same command ship, in close cooperation, the Turkish Coast Guard represented and the Greek Coast Guard represented.  So I think that mission in those tight waters between the Greek islands and the Turkish shore demonstrate the role of NATO, which is to bring together two allies in a cooperative effort and in an effort to achieve something for mutual benefit.

Now there’s no disputing longstanding struggles and tensions between the two countries, but from NATO’s perspective they’re two allies.  They sit at the same table with me at the North Atlantic Council, and their Ministers will be seated in the same room in the course of the next two days.  So allies are allies.

Moderator:  Great.  Thank you very much.

For our next two questions we’ll first go to Romania, Stefania Vasiliu of Digi24; and we’ll then go to Sabine Seibold of Reuters.  But first, over to Digi24 in Romania.

Digi24:  Russia said it will adjust its military’s defense budget in response to the activation of the American anti-missile shield in Romania.  How can you comment [on] this?

Reuters:  Can you tell us about your plans concerning U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan?  I mean within Resolute Support, but also if we talk about Special Forces and Close Air Support which seem to be really crucial to the Afghan Security Forces.

Ambassador Lute:  Let me take those in reverse order.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. contribution is clear, and that’s set out through the end of this year.  So we have about 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan today.  By the end of this year, calendar year, we’ll be down to 5,500.

Now more specifically to your question, about 3,400 of those 5,500 will be committed to the NATO Coalition, and they will focus on two key train, advise and assist tasks.  One is to the Afghan SOF, Afghan Special Operations Forces; and the other is train, advise and assist to the Afghan aviation or the emerging Afghan Air Force.

So we’re very committed, alongside other NATO allies, to continue the train, advise and assist mission.  We have those two specialties, Afghan SOF and Afghan aviation, but we’re joined by several thousand other NATO allies and partners who are contributing at the ministries, in the Afghan school houses, and at senior levels of Afghan command, so both police and Army.

So that’s essentially the plan through the rest of this year.

As I mentioned, at Warsaw I believe leaders to include President Obama, will take decisions about what lays beyond this year, and Ministers will discuss that on Friday.  But the decisions themselves as to the posture, the NATO posture for 2017 and beyond, will be taken at Warsaw.

The question from Romania: I was in Bucharest and Deveselu last week for the commissioning, the operational commissioning of the Ballistic Missile Defense site in Deveselu.  I’ve seen the Russian reports.  Frankly, there’s no need for Russia to take a reaction against NATO BMD because NATO BMD has nothing to do with Russia.  It’s not oriented on Russia, it doesn’t have a capability against Russian nuclear deterrence forces, and there’s no need to worry about it.

The good news is that NATO officials, or I’m sorry, Russian officials know this very well.  We’ve been in conversation with years with them about the technical capabilities of what we’re doing, what we did last week in Deveselu.  There’s no doubt among the technical experts in Russia that the NATO BMD system does not have a capability against Russia.  It is entirely focused on ballistic missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area, and in particular towards, from threats coming out of the Middle East.  Russia knows this.

So I would just offer that as you see Russian reports of reactions and so forth, that we all keep in mind that Russia knows the reality here and that things they may be announcing as reactions to NATO Ballistic Missile Defense may be things that were long planned in any event.

Moderator:  Great, thank you very much.

For our next two questions, both from Bosnia, we’ll turn to Ana Nicenko of ONASA News Agency; and then we’ll turn to Mladen Dzino of Bosnian Radio and Television.

But first to Ana Nicenko from ONASA.

ONASA News Agency:  The Balkans have historically been one of the most unstable regions in Europe.  How will entry into NATO of the countries that are not yet in the alliance contribute to peace and NATO missions in Europe and the world?

Bosnian Radio and Television:  Russian President Vladimir Putin at Victory Day Parade calls for a new non-bloc security system.  What do you think about that?

Ambassador Lute:  I think I’ve got it.  I think the question has to do with President Putin’s charge or request for a new security arrangement and a new security architecture.  Is that correct?

Bosnian Radio and Television:  Yes.

Ambassador Lute:  Okay.  So I think that the first thing that we all ought to appreciate is that there is a security architecture in Europe.  It’s a security architecture that goes back at least to the end of the Cold War, so the last 25 years; and it’s a security architecture that’s founded on the UN Charter, on the Helsinki Accords, on the NATO-Russia Founding Act and so forth.  And what’s curious about these reports of a wish to change that architecture is that it’s actually Russia who has violated that architecture, and essentially thrown out the rule book that has served the Euro-Atlantic area and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, well for generations.

So I am suspect of Russian calls for a new system because in fact they’re the ones who have violated the current system.  So I think we should go back to the basics, and the basics are that we have an architecture in place.  It has served us well, and it’s Russia who has most recently violated that architecture, that rule book, basically with its aggression in first Crimea and then later the Donbas.

With regard to the Balkans and stability.  The Balkans area, especially the western Balkans.  It’s our belief that those western Balkan states that have joined the alliance, and then to be joined by Montenegro with the outlined steps that I gave earlier and the steps taken tomorrow with Montenegro, that together the states in the western Balkans who have joined the alliance serve as stabilizing influences in the region.

So we believe that the promise of NATO membership, the promise of joining the EU, the sorts of values that NATO upholds are all stabilizing influences in the region that has been unstable for some time.

You know, it was just over 20 years ago that NATO intervened in Bosnia to stop the civil war in 1995.  So I agree that the region has its challenges, but I think one of the promises for future stability in the Balkans has to do with the promise of reaching the criteria for membership in NATO and then joining the community of democracies with a seat at the table, and that’s what NATO membership offers.

So as your country, Bosnia, move toward membership, it’s a move towards stability.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.

For our next two questions I will actually take questions that were submitted in writing.

The first was submitted by Annu Marjanen from the Finnish News Agency STT.  The question is, is there momentum for a new era of partnership between NATO and the EU?  What would it mean in practice and what is the role of Finland and Sweden in this partnership?

And for the next question, it will be from Monica Perosino from La Stampa.  The question is, what kind of cooperation with Italy or in the Mediterranean is being planned by NATO with respect to the migrant crisis?

Ambassador Lute:  Okay.  So the first question first from Finland.

It is our hope that we are entering or we can enter a new period of partnership between NATO and the EU, and as I outlined in my opening, I think that’s because we have common capabilities, we have 22 common member states, between the two memberships of the institutions, and we face common challenges.  So to the United States view or from NATO’s perspective, it only makes sense that we move closer and closer to the EU in terms of partnership.  In my view, the NATO-EU partnership is a very natural partnership.

Now you mentioned the roles of Sweden and Finland.  Of course Sweden and Finland are EU members, but they’re very close national partners to NATO.  So I think for Sweden and Finland there’s a bit of a special role to play because you’re so closely aligned with both organizations.  So on the one hand, you’re insiders with regard to the EU and decision-making in the EU.  But you’re also among the very closest national partners that NATO has although you’re not yet members.  You’re not members.

So I think Sweden and Finland can help both organizations move more closely together, and I think that’s in everyone’s interest.

With regard to operations in the Mediterranean.  So we are not now planning NATO operations in the Mediterranean, but one of the discussions topics with High Representative Mogherini, on Friday will be how can we imagine, how should we imagine better EU-NATO cooperation for maritime security in the Mediterranean Sea?

You will appreciate that the EU has several ongoing maritime operations today where NATO has capabilities.  It has surveillance capabilities, it has maritime patrol aircraft, it has obviously ships, it has command and control structures which could reinforce what the EU is already doing in the Mediterranean and that’s how we expect that conversation to continue.

And I think just to close out on this NATO-EU item, this should be the most natural thing in the world for NATO and the EU to operate together and cooperate more closely, and that’s certainly what we aim to do by the Warsaw Summit.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.  For our next two questions we’ll take a question first from Dejan Sajinovic from Independent newspaper in Bosnia.  And the question after that will come from Kenan Kešmer from the Dnevni Avaz newspaper in Bosnia.

Nezavisne Novine:  I see most of the journalists are from Bosnia, so we are very active.

My question, and the question has been asked already, I wanted to ask you additional question which is very important.  It was mentioned that Bosnian Serbs are looking to Serbia, to its relations to NATO.  I’d like to know how would you assess the relations between Serbia and NATO at this point?  Thank you.

Dnevni Avaz:  Good morning, Your Excellency.  Can you tell me will the United States push [inaudible] of the Membership Action Plan for Bosnia Herzegovina at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, and will Bosnia be the next member of NATO after Montenegro?  Thank you.

Ambassador Lute:  On the second question, who will be the next member, that’s entirely up to the three countries themselves.  So the three countries independently, on separate paths, are working towards progress towards membership, and it’s not possible to predict who will achieve membership first.  And it’s largely up to those three countries.  So they’re not on a program, it’s not based on the calendar.  It’s based completely on national progress against the criteria for membership.  So I think in the cases of the three remaining aspirant countries, it’s up to them.

With regard to NATO’s relationship with Serbia, so NATO has a cooperative relationship with Serbia.  We haven’t always had the brightest history together, but we’ve actually been able in the last 15 or 20 years to move beyond some of that history and largely see our way towards cooperation.

So we have political contacts with Serbia, it’s a cooperative relationship, and we hope that will continue in the future.

Moderator:  Great, thank you very much.

For our next two questions we’ll go back to Mr. Kostas Mavraganis of Huffington Post; and then to Ana Nicenko from ONASA please.

Huffington Post:  There have been tensions between NATO and Russian forces in the Baltics that many have attributed to the Russian worries regarding an increase of NATO forces and NATO military exercises in Eastern Europe.  They have developed some [inaudible] containment against Russia.  How much of a threat, of strategic threat, is Russia considered to be according to NATO and the U.S.?

ONASA:  Croatia and Slovenia are members of NATO and Montenegro’s entry to NATO is expected in the near future.  Is it possible that Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia remain the only Balkan countries outside of NATO?  And what consequences would this have on regional but also the security situation in Europe?

Ambassador Lute:  Again, let me take those in reverse sequence.  I think you’re correct by way of the accounting and that is that there are two current western Balkans members of NATO, Slovenia and Croatia.  We’ve already discussed Montenegro, which is in the queue.  It’s moving towards membership and will take a big step in that direction tomorrow with the signing of the accession protocol.

Two other Balkan states, so Bosnia Herzegovina and Macedonia, have made national decisions that they wish to join.  We refer to them as aspirants.  So I think your accounting is roughly correct.

How long it will take, we’re not sure.  And just to refer back to one of my earlier answers, it will very much depend on those two remaining western Balkans countries to decide the pace at which they make the reforms required, both political and military reforms, necessary to meet the criteria for membership.

So we’ll work alongside of them as long as they’re earnest in their desire to join.  But fundamentally, this has to do with those two countries.

To the Huffington question.  Look, you’re right to point and to note the recent tensions in the Baltic Sea and in the air space over the Baltic Sea.  From NATO’s perspective and from the U.S. perspective, our aircraft and our ships were operating in international space, so in international seas, over international air space.  What we object to is the unprofessional, irresponsible, unsafe behavior by Russian pilots who closed to very close proximity of our ship in international air space and on several instances a U.S. aircraft in international air space and essentially performed tricks, air space or air tricks.  This is, however, not a circus.  And this kind of behavior is dangerous, it’s irresponsible, and it risks not only accidents, just human error, it also raises the risk of miscalculation when our forces are operating in such close proximity.

So as I mentioned earlier, NATO and the U.S. will continue to be the responsible player here.  I mean we’ll be the one, the player in the air space and sea space in the Baltics that abides by international commitments, that follows the rules, and we call on Russia to do likewise.

We don’t refer to Russia as an enemy.  We are a defensive alliance.  We believe, however, that the partnership that we wanted, that we aspired to with Russia over the lasts 25 years, say since the end of the Cold War, that Russia has taken steps that demonstrate that they don’t value that partnership.  This is increasingly clear with the seizing of Crimea and the destabilizing of southeastern Ukraine.

So it may be that while we don’t consider Russia an enemy, it’s also true that we no longer consider Russia a partner.  And we make that judgment based on Russia’s demonstrated activities.

Moderator:  Thank you very much.  Unfortunately, we only have time for just one more question.  It will come to us from Carmen Gavrila of Radio Romania.

Radio Romania:  Hello, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has recently said that Romania wants a permanent naval presence of NATO in the Black Sea, and also more exercises in the area.  What are the chances at the Warsaw Summit for this to be established there?  For this to be decided on?  Thank you.

Ambassador Lute:  NATO’s presence along our eastern flank in particular will be a big issue for the Warsaw Summit.  It has not yet been decided.  Romania’s government, your President as recently as last week, when, during the Ballistic Missile Defense ceremonies, made clear to both the NATO Secretary General but also to the U.S. bilaterally what his preferences are for the posture of NATO in Romania from Warsaw forward.

So as I said, I’ve got 50 days to work on that question.  I don’t have an answer for you yet, but what I can tell you is that your national authorities have been very clear in terms of their desires and the rationale for NATO presence, and I think that request will be taken seriously in the run-up to the Warsaw Summit.

So Peter, I want to thank you for hosting today.  I’ve got to run off to the next great event.  I look forward well-informed journalists writing with regard to the ministerial in the next two days.

Moderator:  I want to thank you, Ambassador Lute.  Thank you for joining us and thanks to all of you for participating and for all of your questions.