November 19, 2019: Press Briefing with Kay Bailey Hutchison

Kay Bailey Hutchison

U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

Press Briefing

November 19, 2019

 

Ambassador Hutchison:  Thank you very much.  I know you’ve already had a busy morning.

I’d like to start by addressing the issues with President Macron and say that we firmly disagree with President Macron’s assessment of NATO.  I believe that NATO is absolutely essential if we are going to assess the risks that we face altogether, and the thought of only one of our countries or one of our groups of countries facing the enormous risks to our populations alone is not even rational.  We are stronger together.  America brings the leadership of NATO.  We have the capacity to lead.  We do our part and more.  And we share what we do.  I don’t think that Europe would be as safe without the transatlantic bond that we have, and that’s why the transatlantic bond was formed in the first place.

So, I think that NATO is strong.  I think we are stronger together.  And as we are looking at a very unsafe world, the idea of denigrating the security alliance that has been the strongest and most successful military alliance in the history of the world is (not) a very good idea.

So, I’ll take that first.

Then to look forward to our Ministerial and then on to our Leaders Meeting.

We are now in the final preparation stages.  I think that we will see a very enhanced burden sharing message.  We do believe that the burden sharing has improved in the past two years and will be reported when the Secretary General has the final plans from all of our allies.  And I think it’s a good story that we have seen such an improvement.  And as I have said before, all the Presidents with whom I have served in public service have said Europe should do more, Europe is doing more.  There is more to do, and we will do it together.

The Readiness Initiative I think will be finished by the end of the year and that is I think a good deterrence and a good message to tell any adversary, that we will have the four 30s — 30 battalions, 30 ships, 30 air squadrons in 30 days.  That is an interoperable force that has experience now working together because we have enhanced forward presence.  We have a mission in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, our NATO allies now are a cohesive and well-trained force and I think our Readiness Initiative is very positive.

The D-ISIS Coalition is now 81 members.  We have said that our goal is to wipe out ISIS and the terrorism that they have shown in many parts of our alliance.  We will continue the D-ISIS Coalition that will be discussed I’m sure at the meeting this week as well as in London.

We will be assessing China probably for the first time at a Leaders Meeting.  I think the opportunities and challenges of China have not been with us for very long, but I think we are seeing a buildup, a capability of China, and in some ways a military buildup.  So, we need to look at that, assess it with clear eyes, and protect against any potential that China would turn hostile.  We don’t want to have a hostile relationship with China at all.  It would be in our best interest to have a good relationship, a trade relationship.  If China will abide by the international norms, then I think we will be able to enhance each other and that would be our goal.

We will, I think as the Secretary General has mentioned, we hope the leaders will establish in NATO, space as an operational domain.  This already is affecting so much of the kind of wars that we have seen as well as the communications networks and capabilities that we now rely on.  So, space as a domain is certainly something that is an adapting of NATO.  Just as the United States has a new Space Command; France is very active in this area; and we know that China and Russia also are, so I think this will be a major deliverable at the Leaders Meeting.

I think it’s going to be a full agenda.  I think NATO has done much since our Summit last summer, the summer before last.  So, I think we’ll have a lot for our leaders to discuss and a lot to see how much we have come forward and up together.  Thank you.

Moderator:  Wall Street Journal.

Question:  James [unintelligible], Wall Street Journal.

Ambassador, I want to come back, if I may, to President Macron.  Something else that he has been doing recently is the outreach to Russia.  Now a lot of what he’s been saying jives with what President Trump has said on occasion, but there are also some NATO allies who think that this may be premature.  What’s your assessment of Macron’s outreach to Russia?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Of course, every country has a right to do their bilateral relationships as they will.  I think NATO, though, after the invasion of Crimea took the position that there would be no more business as usual.  We have put sanctions on Russia.  So has the EU.  And I think that we in the United States tread very carefully.  We have mil-to-mil discussions.  We have many opportunities to try to do something with Russia as we saw in Syria just recently when we got the overflight space to attack al-Baghdadi, the leader of the terrorist organization.

So, we can do business with Russia when Russia has the same interests that we do.  Certainly, France as well has the capability to do that.  But Russia has been a malign influence.  What they’ve done in Ukraine, what they’ve done in Georgia, what they’ve done in the UK, what they’ve done in our elections, what they’ve done in other of our allies’ elections, the hybrid, the cyber.

Russia is an adversary, and how we work with Russia, we would like to bring them back into some sort of relationship, but it will take a change in Russian behavior to be able to do that from the NATO standpoint and from the U.S. standpoint.

Moderator:  AP.

Question:  [Inaudible] from the Associated Press.

You opened your remarks talking about President Macron.  The Secretary General did the same pretty much in addressing the issue.  The interview has clearly had an impact on this house.

How difficult is it to run and work an alliance when a leader does that sort of thing?  Or people start shooting from the hip?  Or is it just a healthy thing?

Ambassador Hutchison:  I think we always want to be open to constructive ways that we can work better together.  And maybe President Macron has some thoughts about that.

I know Secretary General has opened the door for NATO to do more where we have a common threat, a common enemy.  Certainly, we’re doing that in Afghanistan because of Article 5, but we’ve also done it with the D-ISIS Coalition where some of our allies were very reluctant to go in.  France was one of those.  But yet we did bring the coalition together and we are fighting ISIS together.

So, I think that constructive criticism is one thing.  I think when you state what your problem is and then we try to address it, that is the way to go forward and become stronger.

NATO has a unique capability.  Because of America’s leadership and the really strong alliance that we have with 29 and very soon 30 countries, we need to be together.  We provide an umbrella of sorts.  Americans are forward leaning on security.  Security is our number one major foreign policy issue.  We believe security brings economic prosperity.  Sometimes others put economic prosperity ahead of security.  So we have to be together to keep pushing together in the right direction for our overall security, and I think that is what America does in the transatlantic bond, and then our European and Canadian allies working with us together to have a consensus on where we go to protect our citizens.

Moderator:  Financial Times.

Question:  Michael [Inaudible], Financial Times.

Ambassador, to go back to China for a moment, you said look, this is not about being hostile to China, but are you concerned that since NATO is a military alliance this could be perceived as or portrayed as hostile by Beijing?

Then a second question is, is the United States satisfied with what NATO is doing with China now?  It goes far enough, given that there’s a long history in the past few years with the U.S. putting pressure on European allies to take more seriously security threats from China?

Ambassador Hutchison:  I think what we’re doing is clear-eyed and trying to have a deterrence to any potential hostility that could come from China.  We want China to come into the rules-based order.  We’ve talked mostly about trade, World Trade Organization, stealing of intellectual property, subsidizing goods that under the World Trade Organization should not be able to be subsidized to have a fair and competitive playing field in economics.

The military buildup has been watched for several years, but you have to see when there is a military buildup what the capabilities are that you would need to defend against.  We hope never to have to defend against, but nevertheless, when you see a militarization in the South China Sea; when you see the Belt and Road Initiative and all of the infrastructure that is being put in place by China with container ports throughout, really throughout now Europe as well, you have to start looking at what they’re doing and then try to determine what is the best way to make sure that we protect our communications, our capabilities in space or on the sea or on land.  And that’s what we’re doing.  We’re not provocative in any way.  That is of course what NATO does as well.  We’re a defense organization and we assess risk and then deter so we will not have to defend if possible.

Question:  Is Europe taking this seriously enough in your view?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well I think the Europeans for instance in the 5G area, I think the Europeans have opened their eyes and are now looking at that as a potential disruptor.  The EU seems to be looking at their framework of regulations to make sure that we do guard to protect our interoperable, NATO interoperable, communication systems.

So, I think we’re working together.  I would say that America really more recently declared that strategic potential competitors were Russia and China, and we are building up on that front.

Nobody wants to be provocative nor does anyone want to go into a conflict that isn’t necessary.  But we think the old Ronald Reagan saying, peace through strength, if we build a deterrence that is likely to prevent an incursion.

Moderator:  Reuters.

Question:  Ambassador, [Robin Emmott] from Reuters.

A question on space.  If space is declared a domain of warfare, does this now mean that NATO could if necessary, if one of its satellites were attacked, trigger Article 5?  And if so, would you not be raising the risks of a conflict?  Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  Article 5 is if one of us is attacked, we’re all attacked.  The concept has been our territory.  I think taking out something in space, certainly we don’t know what the future holds, but we don’t see, I don’t see that, I guess I’m speaking personally now, as a country that is invaded, but it could be if there is an incursion on our communication system such that a conflict was caused in one of our territories by something that was done in space.  Certainly, that could warrant a provocation that would have to be addressed.  But Article 5, I certainly think that we want to be adaptable.  I don’t see that right now, but certainly it will be an issue to be looked at in the future to discuss.  But I’m not thinking that that’s what we’re talking about.  We’re talking about deterrence and defense.

Moderator:  [ASF].

Question:  Thank you. Tomas [inaudible].

Ambassador, last week President Macron and President Trump had a telephone conversation.  Afterwards the French President tweeted that they had many convergences in Syria and NATO and also Iran.

Now given what you’ve said today, where exactly are these convergences and where do they strategically agree on NATO?

Ambassador Hutchison:  I think there are convergences that we don’t want Iran to have nuclear weapons.  There are convergences that we all want Syria to go to Geneva and have a way to go forward with a government for the Syrian people that could operate for them, including all of their minorities.  We certainly converge in many ways on assessing Russia.  But there are ways that we address these convergences that may differ.  Maybe not.  But NATO is certainly the place that we should be doing security for all of our people.  NATO has the capacity.  We have the unity.  We have the economies.  And we have, as we are building a readiness that makes our capabilities the right ones to give the biggest security umbrella to our many citizens in our NATO countries and our partners.

Question:  Thank you very much.  [Inaudible].

If I may ask about election in Afghanistan.  We have heard that election tension [inaudible] in Afghanistan, especially in Kunduz Province.  And some candidates accuse some foreigners with interfering in the election and indirectly the [inaudible].  What is your message to this and what your view on that accusation?  Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  Certainly, we hope that the Afghan government is looking at all of the charges about the elections.  We very much are looking forward to having the results of the elections, but I think if any of you have been to Afghanistan or if you’re from there you know how difficult it can be to be out in the country and make sure that the elections were held in the very best way.

I thought the turnout, considering the Taliban threats that were made throughout the country, I thought the turnout was significant, and I thought people took really their lives in their hands to go vote given what the Taliban was saying would happen to people who exercised this right.  So, I was proud that the Afghan people did come out.  I hope that there is a result very soon.  And most importantly, we look forward to the inter-Afghan dialogue that will be necessary for a true peace to prevail in Afghanistan.

Moderator:  Europa News.

Question:  Thank you, [Inaudible] from [Inaudible].

Ambassador, going back to the French President’s critics, how much harm do you think he’s actually doing on NATO questioning Article 5?  And particularly since we know that the new President Trump administration [inaudible] worries and doubts with the lack of commitment of the U.S. on Article 5, and giving security to the rest of the allies?

So [inaudible] that seemed to be healing from the U.S. side.  How much harm is Macron doing now, again questioning the whole Article 5 compromise?  And do you think that going forward on NATO can these kind of internal critics be more of a threat for the existence of NATO than maybe one coming from the outside?  Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  You might say that Alliances are like democracies.  Sometimes they’re messy.  Sometimes you have dialogue, sometimes you have debate.  Sometimes you have disagreements.  But definitely you can take one thing for certain and that is Article 5 is intact.  The United States is committed to Article 5.  The President has reiterated that many times as have all of our Ministers every time they have come for a Ministerial meeting.

So, I think Article 5 is one of our strengths.  I think the history of the formation of NATO was that we would have the transatlantic involvement in conflicts early because in the World War II, America was late coming in.  We made the commitment that we would be in from the beginning, and that that would be less costly in lives and treasure.

So, the history of NATO Is Article 5 and the unity that will continue from the American side, and I am absolutely sure that all of the 29 allies that we have now, and 30 coming, will be in agreement on Article 5.

Question:  Thank you very much.  [Inaudible] with TASS News Agency.

Ambassador, you have said about the maligned views about Russia and China.  I would like to ask whether United States consider its own malign activity, for example the events in Ukraine were clearly inspired and [inaudible] by United States.  The war in Georgia was also started with a hard push from the side of the United States.  The United States tried to support protests in Moscow and in China, but you never accepted this.  So, don’t you see [inaudible] here?  Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison:  I think the Russian invasion of Crimea and what they’re doing in the Donbas in Ukraine shows clearly to everyone in the world that Russia is an aggressor, they are violating the integrity of the sovereign country of Ukraine, and the Western World stands with Ukraine.  For their right, for their sovereignty.  The people of Ukraine stood in Maidan for months in the freezing cold weather, without food for a while, until the world came to their aid.  To stand in a peaceful revolution against Russian domination.

It was Russia that encroached on Ukraine and the Western World is standing for the sovereignty of that great country.

Georgia, we were in Georgia, the NAC went to Ukraine, the NAC went to Georgia as well, and those people want to be a part of the West.  We are helping them do what they have said they want.  They have a democracy in Georgia.  They have an occupied, two occupied provinces by Russians that are part of Georgia.  It’s an encroachment of Georgian sovereignty.  They deserve to have their full country back.

If Russia would listen to the voice of the people of these countries that have found democracy and are speaking through democratic means, no one in the West believes that anyone but Russia is at fault in the encroachment on these two great countries that are fighting in every way they can within the norms that they have to be free of Russian domination and encroachment.

Thank you.

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