October 2, 2018: Press Briefing by Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison

Kay Bailey Hutchison

U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

Press Briefing

October 2, 2018


Ambassador Hutchison: Welcome. And thank you all for getting here. I understand there’s a transportation problem out there, so we’re pleased to welcome you to NATO.

We are really looking forward to our Defense Ministerial that starts tomorrow. It will be our first Ministerial since the Summit, and I think that we are now into implementation state for a very strong declaration and a substantive move forward by NATO. I think in the Summit we showed the adaptation capabilities of NATO, that we are meeting the challenges that we faced and all of us are looking forward to that.

First on the agenda, of course, is implementing Brussels and the four-30s are doing that. The four-30s are 30 battalions, 30 ships, 30 air squadrons in 30 days to meet any crisis that any of our members would have. That is a very bold goal, and one that we embrace and we know we can do.

We have a NATO Security Council meeting that will continue to work with NATO and Georgia together. This is a country that is an enhanced opportunity partner that we will continue to support.

We’re going to have a Nuclear Planning Group. One of our most important deterrent activities is our nuclear deterrent activity, and with some of the happenings in the world, with countries that are rogue nations with nuclear capabilities, the nuclear deterrent is very important and we will have, certainly, a meeting of all of our allies on this subject. Knowing that our nuclear deterrent is safe and secure is important, as we also hope for nonproliferation in the future.

We will go over, of course, the defense investment that we are asking our allies to make. We are pleased that the spending is going in the right direction. We have a long way to go but it is, I think, achievable that we will move toward that two percent, that we will have credible plans from our allies to meet the two percent goal.

Eight allies are expected to reach it this year. Two-thirds of our allies will be on track to meet the two percent [and] twenty percent budget by 2024. Then those that so not yet have plans, we are certainly hoping that there will be credible plans that show that we will have the capabilities that the two percent provides by 2024 or we’re working in that direction with a strong chance to be ready by 2024.

Fighting terrorism, I think the other implementation phase of our great Summit declaration will be the Afghanistan mission and the new mission in Iraq. That we’ll be training and advising the police and the armed services in those countries to keep Iraq from growing in Iraq and try to wipe out terrorism in Afghanistan so that it will not enter any of our countries in the future.

Our door remains open to Macedonia. We are very pleased that they got over a 90 percent vote in the referendum that they had, and we now look to the people of Macedonia and the Parliament to take the next step and we hope to welcome Macedonia, Northern Macedonia, as a new member of our alliance in the near future.

So with that, I’ll stop and take your questions.

Question: Ambassador, Michael Birnbaum from the Washington Post.

I have a question for you about Macedonia. Of course the result was over 90 percent in favor, but quite a low turnout. And I wanted to ask whether there were any concerns about NATO enlargement to a country where there seems not to be tremendous enthusiasm about joining NATO in terms of this deal, when at the same time President Trump has warned about [arresting] Montenegrins and the possibility that Montenegro could start World War III. It seems that there are some concerns on both sides of the table about NATO expansion right now.

So what are the implications for expanding into Macedonia? Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison: I think the vote was very positive and a 38 percent turnout as well. And I think the people of Macedonia will make the decision. If they want to be a member of NATO, we will welcome them. That commitment has been made.

I think the open door remains open as well. There are countries that are working toward stable governments. They would like to become members of NATO in the future, and we are working with them. We are counseling with them on how you get the commitments that NATO would require. A strong democracy, a rule of law, human rights. Those are the things that are very important for NATO members to embrace.

So we have an open door. The United States is committed to that as well. And we will continue to work with our partners to strengthen and project stability throughout our alliance and beyond.

Question: [Inaudible]. Madame Ambassador, I think we don’t have [a NATO Ukraine Commission meeting on] the agenda [inaudible]. Could you [inaudible]. If so many [opportunities] [inaudible] don’t have meeting of Ministers of Defense. What do you think about the situation? I’d like to see your opinion. And do you see an opportunity that such a commission can be at the next Ministerial meeting in December, [inaudible]? Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison: The United States certainly supports a NATO Ukraine Commission. We have urged and will continue to urge Hungary not to oppose that. It is important. Ukraine is one of the key partners, allies that we have that we are working to bring into a stable government. The Russians are defying that. We want to be strong and I think all of NATO does, to help the Ukrainians get the independence that they have already started for themselves. In Maidan, they did a wonderful outreach to their own people for wanting to be in EU and in NATO and we want to do everything to help them in that quest.

Question: Robin Emmott from Reuters. Secretary General [Inaudible]. What kind of discussions are you having? What kind of military advice are you getting about the kind of posture that they make in the [inaudible], given that Russia is [inaudible]. Should there be more major bases? Should there be more rotation troops? Should there be more open NATO forces in your opinion? Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison: I think that it’s very clear that our alliance is doing more in the North Atlantic. The new division headquarters that will be headquartered in the United States is for that purpose, because we do see Russian activity increasing in the North Atlantic. So it’s a very pertinent question and one that we are focused on. And it is part of the new command structure that was adopted at the Summit that is in implementation stage now.

There are two new division headquarters. One is specifically for that maritime North Atlantic posture to be increased because of Russian activity. And the second one is in Germany, of course, for logistics and mobility.

So it’s part of our adaptation of NATO and it’s very much on our radar.

Question: [Inaudible]. After [inaudible] President Trump said [inaudible] are very aggressive people and that they can cause World War III. Did you have a chance to talk to President Trump about those comments and Montenegrin membership, and [inaudible] regarding defense? Thank you so much.

Ambassador Hutchison: Montenegro is an important member, newest member of our alliance and we are very pleased that they are. The Ambassador from Montenegro is a contributor and an important one. I think that the people of Montenegro spoke loudly and clearly that they want to be a part of the West and we welcome that as well.

Question: Thank you, Ambassador. A quick question if I may. What is the U.S. [inaudible] permanent bases in Poland? There is [a notion] that President Trump is willing to [study]. Will there be any [inaudible] information from [inaudible]?

And a second question, national [inaudible]. The leader of the [Spanish Opposition] [inaudible], and had proposed to the U.S. moving the 6th Fleet from Naples to Rota where the [instructors] are right now. And [he’s] saying that it could be interesting for the U.S. government forces [inaudible]. But also it would give Spain more [inaudible] from not having to increase their spending so quick. That is one of the [inaudible]. Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison: On the issue of any offer that’s made by a country, the Department of Defense will assess the deeds, assess the capabilities, assess the offer, and make a decision. I don’t know the offer from Spain. Rota is an important base for sure, but I don’t have any information on any addition to Rota in the future.

On Poland, that is definitely under consideration. Most certainly the Polish people made a strong proposal. It is being considered. I think that it is going to take time, and I think Secretary Mattis will probably say that at some point in the next two days. They want to be very careful on a lot of fronts about what would be needed, what would continue to have the military flexibility that is essential, and there are many factors besides money that go into a basing or a training facility, and that is being done at this time.

Question: Thank you so much. I’m [Inaudible], reporter for [Drum] [Inaudible]. Just last week President Trump said something about the Kurdish fighters. He said they are great fighters, and they give [inaudible] to evasive [inaudible]. My question, I don’t [inaudible] what you are doing to train Kurdish fighters, Peshmerga, in Irbil, the Iraqi [Inaudible] government. Why? Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison: I’m not sure I understood the question about —

Moderator: I think the question was whether or not the United States is currently training Kurdish soldiers in Iraq. Perhaps the NATO Mission in Iraq [inaudible].

Ambassador Hutchison: For the NATO Mission in Iraq?

Question: Yes.

Ambassador Hutchison: Well, that —

Question: They told Peshmerga Kurdish fighters and during four years ago they defeated ISIS in northern Iraq in Kurdistan region. So just last week Donald Trump, he said something about the Kurdish fighters. He said they are brave fighters and they [inaudible] to [evasive action]. So he said we going to support them, the Kurdish fighters, Peshmerga.

My question for you, why you are not going to training Kurdish fighters in Irbil? And try to [inaudible] government?

Ambassador Hutchison: I don’t think I can answer your question exactly. I will say that the Kurdish fighters that have worked in Syria have been effective in trying to eliminate the ISIS there. That is the purpose we have in Syria, is to eliminate ISIS so that it doesn’t come back into Iraq or Afghanistan or anyplace else.

And the issue of training, I don’t know the answer. I just think I’d rather say I don’t know than to make a statement that isn’t correct.

Question: Madame Ambassador, [Inaudible]. President Trump during his July comments in Brussels he has made [inaudible] budget sharing, especially Germany. Germany now has a plan to get to the 1.5 percent. Will Secretary Mattis say perhaps Germany to do more on that issue?

And the second question, Secretary General Stoltenberg, he began with that Russia’s actions are in breach with the INF Treaty. Will you tell us tomorrow what will be discussed about this issue? Thank you very much.

Ambassador Hutchison: First of all, on the issue of Germany, we are definitely urging Germany to move toward the two percent goal that everyone has committed. Chancellor Merkel has said that they will keep the commitment to move toward two percent. And we are asking Germany to do more because they have a capability that is clear. They have a great economy, and we need more support from Germany to have the overall capabilities that NATO must have to deter Russia and to bring down terrorism where it is and keep it out of our countries.

So we’re asking Germany to do more, and I believe they are looking at their capabilities, and I believe they will do more. I believe they will increase their spending. I think they will meet their capability targets. And we’re expecting that and we’re expecting more.

On the issue of your second question on the INF Treaty. We have been trying to send a message to Russia for several years that we know they are violating the treaty. We have shown Russia the evidence that we have, that they are violating the treaty. They are building a medium-range ballistic missile in violation of the INF. That is a fact which we have proven.

We have been asked by our allies to consult with them on this issue which we are going to do, which we have done, and we will be even more specific, I believe, in the next two days with the evaluations that are documented that we have uncovered from Russia’s actions on the INF Treaty in violation.

The United States does not want to withdraw from the treaty. We certainly don’t intend to violate the treaty. So we are asking our allies for their suggestions on a way forward that would bring Russia into compliance, because that is our goal. Russia in compliance.

But if Russia continues to say they are not violating when the evidence is clear that they are, then diplomacy needs to be strengthened, and we need to look for other ways to bring Russia to the table on this issue. It’s very important.

We will consult with allies. They have asked that we consult. The Europeans are very concerned about this and we understand why.

We ask Russia to come into compliance because America is being very careful to stay in compliance. But there will come a point in the future in which America will determine that it has to move forward with a development phase that is not allowed by the treaty right now. That’s not imminent, but we are laying down the markers so that our allies will help us bring Russia to the table.

Question: [Inaudible]. In your opinion, how will the [inaudible] results in Macedonia will affect the [inaudible]? Especially in the context of Russia [inaudible] Montenegro as [inaudible]?

Ambassador Hutchison: We certainly are supportive of Macedonia. We are clear on that. We’ve made the commitment and we will keep the commitment if the Macedonian people and the Parliament do what is necessary to show that they want to be a member of NATO.

We are constantly aware of Russian maligned influence in the Western Balkans. We are not only in the enhanced forward presence that is a NATO operation, but we are also in the European Deterrence Initiative that is an American add-on to have that Western flank be the Eastern flank of Europe but the Western flank of Russia, be girded for a deterrence effort, and that would include not only the Baltics but of course Bulgaria, Romania, the places that need that extra deterrence. America is providing that and working with those countries as well.

Question: [Inaudible] in Norway. Ma’am, can you be more specific what kind of new information that you are bringing to the table regarding the breach of the INF Treaty? And more explicitly also, what kind of countermeasures that you are considering.

Ambassador Hutchison: The countermeasures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty. So that would be the countermeasure eventually. We are trying not to do anything that would violate the treaty on our side, which allows research, but not going forward into development, and we are carefully keeping the INF Treaty requirements on our side, while Russia is violating.

We have documented on numerous occasions that Russia is violating. We have shown Russia that evidence. Some of our allies have seen that evidence. All of our allies have seen some of that evidence.

I think it is very important that we have the capability to deter, not only for European defense but for American defense. We have an intermediate range risk from Russia as well. So I think it is important that we continue to do everything as an alliance to put pressure on Russia to come forward, and first of all admit that they are in violation, and then secondly, to stop the violations. Because they are clearly doing it, our allies know that, our allies have spoken at the Summit with a clear indication that Russia must stop these violations.

Question: Thanks, Ambassador. Lorne [Inaudible], Associated Press. Just to clarify a little bit when you said to take out the missiles that are in development, we are a little excited here. Do you mean to get those withdrawn? You don’t mean to actually take them out in a more [inaudible]?

Ambassador Hutchison: Well, withdrawing, yes. Getting them to withdraw would be our choice, of course. But I think the question was what would you do if this continues to a point where we know that they are capable of delivering. And at that point we would then be looking at a capability to take out a missile that could his any of our countries in Europe and hit America in Alaska. So it is in all of our interests, and Canada as well, I suppose. So we have our North Atlantic risk as well as the European risk.

We are not moving in that direction right now, but we are trying to tell Russia, and you know, the United States Congress told Russia last year when they passed the Armed Services Bill about this time last year, that we know they have violated the treaty and we are beginning the research capabilities that are allowed by the treaty to deter a medium-range ballistic missile.

So I think they are on notice. I think Congress has spoken. And I think it is time now for Russia to come to the table and stop the violations that we know they are making.

Question: Thank you, Ambassador. [Inaudible]. I would like to know something about Afghanistan. Last week, President of Blackwater [inaudible] with [inaudible], that they want to take the lead of fight in Afghanistan, which the Afghan President refused. What is the U.S. [inaudible] Afghanistan[inaudible] with the Blackwater company? Thank you.

Ambassador Hutchison: On the Blackwater company? I hadn’t heard that there was any mention of a private company taking the fight in Afghanistan. The Afghan soldiers have done an incredible job of trying to wipe out the terrorists in their country. They are fighting for their country. They are good fighters. I’ve been to Afghanistan twice just since I’ve been an Ambassador, but I was there twice before when I was a United States Senator, and the efforts that are being made by the Afghan people are truly heartwarming and very, very respected by all of us who have troops in the field.

Now the Afghan government has asked NATO and the United States to be in Afghanistan to help train and advise their soldiers, which we are doing. It is their soldiers who are taking the fight. We are training and advising them.

Moderator: Thank you very much. That completes our press conference.

Ambassador Hutchison: Thank you.

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