October 25, 2016: Ambassador Lute’s Pre-Ministerial Telephonic Press Briefing

Ambassador Douglas Lute

U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO

Moderator – Peter Kaufman

Telephone Press Briefing

October 25, 2016

 

 

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

Today we are pleased to be joined once again from Brussels by Ambassador Lute, who is the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO. As you know, this week is the NATO Defense Ministerial, so this is a very timely discussion. And we thank you, Ambassador Lute, for taking the time to speak with us today.

Before we get started I just wanted to go over a little bit of the logistics. We’ll begin today’s call with opening remarks from Ambassador Lute and then we will turn to your questions and we will try to get to as many as we can during the time that we have which is about 45 minutes. As a reminder, today’s call is on the record.

With that, I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Lute.

Ambassador Lute: Thanks Peter, and thanks to the Brussels Media Hub for sponsoring this call.

This call, of course, follows in the tradition of the U.S. Mission to NATO giving a preview to ministerial meetings. And so tomorrow, Wednesday, and then again on Thursday, Defense Ministers in this case will meet. We’ll have Secretary Carter joining his 27 NATO allied Ministers to discuss a number of things.

Let me just first set the context for the meeting and then I’ll outline the sessions themselves.

First of all, as we are about three and a half months since the Warsaw Summit, it’s time to take stock of how we’re doing executing the decisions taken at Warsaw. So you’ll appreciate that summits are key decision-making sessions. And after Warsaw, since Warsaw, we’ve been very busy here at NATO headquarters actually implementing the decisions taken.

You’ll recall from Warsaw two key themes, and these are the same themes which will inform the sessions this week.

First of all, within the borders of NATO, Ministers will talk about our primary task which is collective defense. This is our Article 5 responsibilities to secure and protect our citizens. This will lead us to the theme of NATO’s strength. So what is NATO doing to sustain its strength, its ability to execute Article 5 obligations? This is collective defense, but also balancing strength. What are we doing by way of dialogue? And by dialogue of course here mainly we’re talking about our most powerful, largest neighbor, Russia. So strength and dialogue is the first theme coming out of Warsaw.

The second theme actually addresses NATO’s responsibilities beyond NATO boundaries, so towards our neighbors. And here the theme is projecting stability. So the question coming out of Warsaw is what can NATO do to help stabilize vulnerable neighboring states, so states on our periphery. Because we appreciate that when those neighbors are more stable, NATO itself is more secure.

So the two key themes are strength dialogue on the one hand; and projecting stability on the other; and those actually provide the outline for these meetings the next two days.

We know that coming out of summits in the past that decision-making, the sorts of things that come out of the summit communique, decisions taken by heads of state and government, as at Warsaw in July, are actually the easy part of this equation. The more difficult task is to actually implement or execute the decisions taken.

So now at NATO headquarters we are very much in the execution phase. This is difficult. I think we’ll be in this phase — that is implementing what was decided at Warsaw — for at least a year and maybe more, so all the way through the first half of next year we’ll be very much focused on implementing Warsaw.

Over that same year there will be a lot of political activity across the alliance. So we’ve already seen the Brexit referendum in the UK. We have an important Italian referendum coming up later this year. We have, of course, the U.S. national elections. Obviously the U.S. Mission here is very interested in following those closely. Then next year, a continuing set of very important elections: in the Netherlands, in France, in Germany, and so forth.

So you can see that while we’re executing the Warsaw Summit, we’re also in the midst of this political activity within member states of the alliance.

At the same time, if that were not enough, we have continued instability in and around NATO territory. So we obviously have the challenges from the east with Russia’s activities; we have the ongoing fight against ISIL in Syria and Iraq; we still have significant migration flowing into European allied states, refugee flows; and of course the continuing threats of terrorism in our homelands.

So there’s a lot going on and this ministerial is an opportunity for the 28 Defense Ministers to come together, share observations and assessments and make sure that we’re on track in delivering the Warsaw Summit decisions.

Now in particular, Secretary Carter will be making this his fifth stop in a swing through this region. So he began his trip from Washington by visiting Turkey, a key ally. Actually, I think the cornerstone ally because Turkey represents the southeastern corner geographically of the alliance. So Turkey has to look southeast, south and southeast towards its borders with Syria and Iraq, but also north across the Black Sea and its Black Sea boundary with Russia.

From Turkey, he went inside Iraq and assessed progress alongside Iraqi leaders in the now ongoing campaign in Mosul.

He then went to the UAE and met one of our key coalition partners.

Today, he’s in Paris joining a small group of other Defense Ministers who are the central contributors to the military campaign against ISIL.

So he’s already had a busy four-country trip, and this will be his fifth stop.

So over the next two days, let me just quickly outline a set of meetings.

The first meeting will be tomorrow afternoon. It will focus on deterrence and defense, so that first theme coming out of Warsaw. Among the things that will be discussed are how are we doing with generating the forces required for 2017? Which forces will be addressed? Primarily NATO’s Rapid Response forces, and here we’ll get reports on how is the force generation progressing, how is the validation of those forces progressing, so that when 1 January 2017 comes we have standing, ready-to-go, validated the Rapid Response forces required for our posture.

We’ll also get additional details on the new force posture measures agreed at Warsaw. So here we’re really talking about two sets of forces. One set for NATO’s northeast, and these are the four, as we call them, deterrence battalions which will be stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. We expect to get details on how the preparations are going for those battalions, when will they deploy, what will their makeup be. And from the host nations, the four allies I just mentioned, we should hear about host nation logistics and administrative support to the allied battalions.

All total there are about 20 allies contributing to those four multinational battalions, so it’s a quite broad multinational alliance effort.

The battalion should be in place by spring. They’re going on a rotational basis of indefinite longevity. I mean we don’t have, there’s no end date for the deterrence battalions. They’ll rotate at about six to nine month intervals and they should be in place, as I said, by spring next year.

Now the other key new force posture from NATO decided at Warsaw, is forward presence in the southeast. And here there are forces headed to Romania and Bulgaria, both ground force which will be organized in a multinational brigade, but also measures for coordinating alliance air and sea forces as well.

So for both the northeast and the southeast of the alliance, those two corners of the alliance, we will be checking in on progress in terms of generating and deploying this forward presence.

I think I’ll turn to the second meeting. This will be a working dinner tomorrow night, Wednesday night. Here the theme will shift to projecting stability. So as I’ve already described now, this will take us beyond NATO’s border and we’ll check in on progress with regard to delivering the kinds of decisions taken at Warsaw to assist the Counter-ISIL Coalition which is today operating in Syria and Iraq, but also assist our partner, the European Union, with regard to maritime operations in the Mediterranean.

I can go into more details here in terms of what NATO is doing, but we’re forming, we’re providing some niche capabilities in support of the coalition, in support of our Iraqi partners, and also in support of the EU. And as I say, I can go into more details if you’re interested here.

What’s important to realize is that beyond NATO’s borders, NATO is not in the lead for projecting stability, but rather we are playing important supporting roles, either for the coalition or for the EU.

And then finally, on Thursday morning, in session number three, the Council will meet, the Ministers will meet with High Representative Mogherini as well as two key partners — Sweden and Finland. And together that group will discuss NATO cooperation with the EU. So this is the NATO-EU session.

Our view is that NATO and the European Union should be natural partners. There should be a lot of ground for cooperation. We are founded, both organizations are founded on the same values. We have 22 member states in common. We have the same, we share the same geography. And we share many of the same challenges. So for all those reasons, it seems as though it’s natural that NATO and the EU should cooperate.

Now at the Warsaw Summit the EU leaders and Secretary General Stoltenberg agreed to focus on some key areas where cooperation seems most important. These are areas like how to counter hybrid warfare, how to defend our cyber networks, how to respond to mass migration and terrorism. So there’s a lot here that can be shared between the two institutions and there’s a lot of cooperation that should be accomplished.

So we’ll check in on that. There are some very concrete measures that Ministers will discuss with High Representative Mogherini on Thursday morning.

One of the most interesting is that the leaders agreed at Warsaw to launch a set of parallel exercises. So these are exercises run by either NATO or the EU, but by parallel exercises what we’ve agreed to do is observe one another’s exercises and then share lessons. So this is one very concrete way in which beginning next year NATO and the EU can cooperate.

I’ve also mentioned before that there’s room for cooperation with regard to NATO providing support to the EU’s ongoing maritime operation in the central Mediterranean. We’ve now received a formal request for that kind of support from High Representative Mogherini, and I believe NATO will favorably respond to that request for support.

So these are some concrete measures where these two large international organizations headquartered in Brussels can actually work better together and actually seek to complement one another and not compete.

So look, in summary, those are the three sessions. I’ve covered the two key themes. I think you’ll see the press coverage, the reporting, the press conferences coming out of the next two days, very much focused on those themes of deterrence and dialogue as well as projecting stability.

We know it’s going to be difficult to execute the decisions taken at Warsaw, but this is very much what the NATO headquarters is focused on. And I think what you can expect in the course of this next year, this year of implementing Warsaw, is that NATO will do what it says it will do. NATO will be the predictable responsible player in the North Atlantic space. NATO will continue to abide by its international commitments. And I look forward to your questions today and then hearing from you again in the near future because in early December we have a Foreign Ministers meeting. Then in February the Defense Ministers are back here in Brussels.

So let me stop with that, Peter, and we can turn to questions.

Moderator: Great. Thank you very much for those opening remarks. We’ll now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call.

Our first question today will come from Camille Gessant from Agence Europe.

(Pause)

Okay. We may have lost Camille.

Perhaps for our next question then instead we can turn to Carlo Angerer from NBC News.

(Pause)

While our colleagues at AT&T work out a little bit of a quirk there, I can take, we can go to a question that we took from a journalist in writing. From Lusine Petrosyan from Hraparak Daily in Armenia.

Hraparak Daily: “Ambassador, Lute, what would you say about the voyage of Russia’s aircraft carrier Kuznetsov along the European coast of the East Mediterranean region? Is this a Kremlin show for Russia’s domestic audience to show off Russia’s military might? Or is it a military move which is serious or requires a close monitoring and maybe even reaction from NATO?”

Ambassador Lute: First of all, the Russian decision to deploy the Kuznetsov and a set of support ships is not unusual. I mean this happens periodically. The Russians have done this before. It is very much within Russia’s prerogative, within its rights to use the international sea spase to exercise its forces, and so it’s not overly alarming.

I would say that we are watching. We’re watching the movement of the task group, the maritime task group, because that’s what NATO does. We monitor military activities along our boundaries.

We’re not overly concerned about it. We are expecting that when the Kuznetsov reaches the Eastern Mediterranean it will react, it will act responsibly in accordance with international law.

So we have no undue concern, although we continue to watch the progress of the group.

Moderator: Great. Thank you very much.

For our next question we’ll try again to Mr. Carlo Angerer from NBC News. Over to you, sir.

NBC News: Hello, this is Carlo Angerer with NBC News.

My question is, so we have for a theme some NATO activity after the Warsaw Summit. Of course not all of these decisions have been implemented. But from your view in Brussels, have you seen neighbors such as Russia respond to some of those measures? Have you seen deterrence already working? Or are we still a way from any kind of reaction like that?

Ambassador Lute: I wouldn’t label any Russian reaction since Warsaw as a reaction to what NATO’s done. I mean I think that Russia was quite well aware. We’re in dialogue with Russia. We’ve been quite transparent. I mean obviously the NATO Summit was a public event. The public communique states quite clearly what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. So I don’t think that Russia was surprised, and I think NATO’s been, as I said in my opening remarks, the predictable, responsible player here.

Now if Russia takes reactive measures, then NATO will deal with those as they come, but I haven’t seen anything aside from perhaps rhetorical responses or reactions that are out of the ordinary.

Moderator: Thank you very much.

For our next question we’ll go to Daily Sabah, the journalist is Merve Aydoğan.

Daily Sabah: Mr. Ambassador, in your remarks you said that NATO is not the lead but rather providing support for the coalition. So with that respect, is NATO actually planning to provide active involvement in the Mosul operation against terrorism?

And the second question I have is Secretary Carter stated that Turkey and Iraq have agreed in principle to operate in Mosul for Turkish forces, but the Iraqi officials denied these. So what is Turkey’s current position in Mosul, in your opinion? And if so, can you provide some clarification to Turkey’s position in Mosul?

Ambassador Lute: Unfortunately on the second part of your question, I think you’re better to ask that of Turkish authorities.

Our view with regard to Turkey’s presence in Iraq outside Mosul is that this is a, this is sovereign Iraqi territory and that this conversation needs to take place between Turkey and Iraq, and I don’t have any update as to how that conversation is going. But we think that’s the proper venue for the conversation.

Now more broadly, what is NATO doing to support the coalition? Several very concrete things.

First of all, some months ago, just before Warsaw, we learned from the coalition that they needed additional support for a specific type of aircraft. So these are AWACS aircraft. So Airborne Warning and [Control System] aircraft. These are command and control aircraft, surveillance aircraft, which NATO has and the coalition needed additional support from these aircraft.

So beginning very soon, NATO will begin to fly its AWACS aircraft over international or alliance airspace in support of the coalition and in response to the coalition request. So that’s a very sort of concrete measure of a specific type of aircraft.

Prime Minister al-Abadi in Iraq made also a request to NATO and he asked that we scale up our ongoing training of Iraqi military forces, which has been taking place in Jordan. He asked that we scale it up and move it into Iraq, making that training more efficient and increasing the throughput, the number of Iraqis trained. So we’ll hear, Ministers will hear tomorrow about how the progress goes in terms of moving NATO training into Iraq and meeting al-Abadi’s request. So those are a couple of very concrete steps.

I think part of the message that gets lost, though, is that many people assume that the coalition and NATO are two completely different entities. And while that’s true organizationally, their membership is very much in common. So just two quick data points.

One is all 28 NATO allies, so every member of the alliance today, is also a member of the Counter-ISIL Coalition. And beyond the 28 member states, 20 NATO partner states, so these are partners who have worked with us in Afghanistan or elsewhere and have a close military relationship with the alliance, also contribute to the coalition.

So something like two-thirds or three-quarters of the international coalition is really founded on NATO allies or NATO partners.

So to a large extent, NATO is already providing the forces which operate under the coalition flag. So not only do we form that sort of foundation of the coalition, but now we’re providing some niche capabilities on request.

So I think you will see in coming months that we are delivering on what we said we would do at Warsaw, and we’re providing this kind of support to the coalition.

Moderator: Thank you very much.

Our next question will go to Gabriela Naplatanova from bTV in Bulgaria.

bTV: Hello, Ambassador, this is question from bTV Media Group, Bulgaria.

I was wondering if there is any new development about the reinforcement in southeastern plan regarding the Romanian initiative for a common flotilla.

Ambassador Lute: Right. The greatest progress made since Warsaw in the last couple of months has been on defining the ground element, so the land-based element of NATO’s presence in NATO’s southeast.

So we have determined additional details with regard to the multinational brigade which will be centered in Romania, but which will feature a contribution from Bulgaria, and will also be the base on which other allies, to include the U.S., as they come to Romania and Bulgaria, they will link into this multinational brigade. So that’s been the area of focus since Warsaw.

Left to do are two additional elements for Romania and Bulgaria, sort of NATO’s southeast corner, and that has to do with both air support for that part of the alliance and sea support. So there’s no sort of defined announcement in the next two days with regard to Black Sea maritime forces, but that work continues to be done.

Moderator: Thank you very much.

Our next question will go to Mr. Konstantinos Mavraganis of Huffington Post in Greece.

Huffington Post: Hello from Greece.

As it is known, our relationship with Greek airspace, Turkish fighters’ flights over Greek Islands is a frequent phenomenon. Today is no exception. And lately that has been increased due to some activity in the Aegean. Has this activity been noticed by the NATO forces in the Aegean operating there for the tackling with the migrant crisis? If yes, what does NATO have to say on this?

Ambassador Lute: Well these are principally bilateral questions, because as you know, the sea space and the air space in the Eastern Aegean is very constrained space. So here you have the space of national waters and national airspace between two NATO allies which overlap in that very constrained space.

This has been a longstanding question and a longstanding conversation between Greece and Turkey. I don’t think, I have not seen any evidence of an increase of tensions or an increase of problems in this area. And I know that these two allies are in frequent contact with regard to that very challenging, constrained sea space and air space.

It does not link directly to the ongoing NATO activity in that area. So as I think you understand, NATO has over the last sort of six or eight months had a set of ships operating in the Eastern Aegean, helping the EU’s Frontex deal with mass migrations out of Turkey and into Greece as an opening, as an entry into the EU.

That activity continues. Migration has gone way down since this activity has been in place. And I anticipate that NATO’s presence, its maritime presence in that space will continue.

But we have not, I know of no increased problems with regard to bilateral Turkish-Greek air space and sea space. It’s just a continuing issue that we watch.

Moderator: Thank you.

For our next question we’ll go to Bojan Pancevski of the Sunday Times in the UK.

Sunday Times: Hi, thank you.

Just a very quick question. The meeting, the Summit will be also focused on migration and I just wanted to ask again, is there any evidence, any actual evidence that — this has been said before by various NATO officials — that Russia could be in any way involved in the mass migration movement that we’ve been seeing since last year, and that are sort of continuing even now albeit at a smaller scale. Thank you.

Ambassador Lute: I think the primary driver of the kind of migration we’ve seen into EU spaces is essentially the instability, especially in Syria but also in Iraq. Then this year, a rise of migration from Africa through Libya and then into the Central Mediterranean.

So to the extent that Russia contributes to the instability in Syria, for example, with the indiscriminate bombing in Aleppo and so forth, then I think Russia bears some responsibility for that continuing migration out of Syria.

More broadly, I don’t see a broader pattern, and I think this is the nature of your question. I don’t see a broader pattern that points to somehow Russia on a grand scale manipulating the migration patterns. I think those are much more fundamentally a product of state instability, as I said, in the Middle East and across North Africa.

Moderator: Thank you.

For our next question we’ll take a question from Jonathan Saul of Reuters who submitted his question in writing. I’ll read it for you now, Ambassador.

Reuters: Ambassador, with the number of attempted attacks on the U.S. and other military craft off Yemen’s coast, and indications pointing to Houthi rebels’ involvement, can we expect a bigger destabilization for commercial shipping, sailing to the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea? What steps can NATO take and what role is Iran playing?

Ambassador Lute: Of course Iran’s support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen is pretty well established. I don’t have, NATO doesn’t have an ongoing operation in the Red Sea or in the western Indian Ocean. It was a U.S. ship under U.S. flag, not NATO, which was involved in this incident that you’re citing, so there’s not really a NATO role.

Now NATO watches carefully these kinds of activities and the U.S. experience is obviously reported into this headquarters, as any one of the 28 allies would do when they have national experiences. But there’s not really, in this instance, a NATO role.

Moderator: Thank you very much.

For our next question we’ll turn to Ece Göksedef of Al Jazeera in Turkey.

Al Jazeera: Thank you.

My question was about Secretary Carter’s visit to Ankara and Baghdad. After his visit he told that Turkey is a great participant in Mosul operation, but only if Baghdad government will make the call. So it seems that the U.S. is the mediator between this converastion between these two countries. So what is the condition for this call? I mean how get Baghdad agree on it?

And one more question. Turkish officials including the PM say that Turkey took hard shells on ISIL in [inaudible] and also Turkish F-16s are flying over northern Mosul, but Baghdad denies it. Do you have any information if that’s true? Because it means Turkey is already in the operation. Thank you.

Ambassador Lute: Because this is a coalition-supported operation in Mosul, I don’t have any NATO reporting on sort of the tactical sorts of things that you’re suggesting.

I think just to amplify what Secretary Carter said in the course of his visits to Ankara and Baghdad, the principle that we’re operating on is that this is sovereign Iraqi territory and the coalition, for example, is operating in support of Iraqi forces on the invitation of the Iraqi government, and that this is a principle that we think applies to all coalition members. Now how that principle is applied in the specific case of Turkey and Iraq, are really up to those two nation states, and I don’t think the U.S. is sort of arbitrating between those two, and certainly the NATO alliance is not arbitrating between the two. The responsibility falls to those two states and we encourage both of them to have open, frank, and candid discussions. And if there are bilateral issues they should —

Voice: [Inaudible] speaking.

Moderator: Excuse me?

Ambassador Lute: Let’s go ahead with the press conference please.

Moderator: Okay, we’ll take the next question please.

For the next question we’ll turn back to Mr. Konstantinos Mavraganis from Huffington Post in Greece. Go ahead, sir.

Huffington Post: Thank you again.

In light of recent developments with the Russian flotilla approaching the English Channel, many have said that this is a case of [inaudible], misdirection. [High profile movements in the spotlight while the true action takes places elsewhere. Is there intelligence that such a thing has truly occurred? And if yes, where? When the Russian troop movements [inaudible] Kaliningrad or Western Europe and realistically speaking, right now what’s the probability of [inaudible] military confrontation between NATO and Europe. And Russia, sorry.

Ambassador Lute: I didn’t get all of your question but I think I got the gist of it.

I don’t assess that there is an increased risk of open confrontation between NATO and Russia. Your question cited, I believe, the Kuznetsov maritime group and its movement down along the Atlantic Coast of the alliance and likely into the Mediterranean.

As I said earlier, this is not the first time Russia has had such a maritime movement. We don’t view it as particularly unusual. NATO is going to observe the movement and so forth, but we don’t view this as especially provocative.

We’re hopeful that if the Kuznetsov group participates in combat operations in Syria, that it does so responsibly and in accordance with international law, and that its operations are focused on ISIL, our common enemy in Syria.

As to the movement of, the recent movement of a Russian Iskander, SS, as NATO calls it, the SS26 short range ballistic missile. Russia recently moved this capability from sort of mainland Russia by sea into the Kaliningrad Oblast. NATO observed this movement. This is again not the first time Russia has moved Iskander missiles into Kaliningrad. We don’t see it as especially threatening. This very much falls into the same pattern as the maritime movement which is, NATO is alert, NATO is watching, and NATO will continue to observe this activity but we don’t consider it a provocation and we don’t consider it some sort of crisis.

Moderator: Thank you.

I think we have time for perhaps just one more question. We’ll go back to Carlo Angerer of NBC News, please.

NBC News: Thank you very much.

With, at Warsaw there was also a big discussion about if European members are spending enough on their defense budgets. Have you seen any changes in their stance? And related to that, have you seen any impact on the matters that they are taking based on some of the statements that are coming out of the U.S. election and quoting possibly a retrenchment from NATO by the U.S. partners. Thank you.

Ambassador Lute: Let me take the second part of that question first. I mean I think that you hear multiple messages coming out of the U.S. political campaigns that are underway, and I really don’t want to go into those. But I think that the dominating message, the predominant message coming out of the United States, both from the current administration and frankly from both of the two primary candidates now, is a rededication to our commitments to NATO, rededication to the founding element of the Washington Treaty which is Article 5, the collective defense clause. And frankly, I think NATO, if anything, has been encouraged by at least the political campaigns.

Certainly the Obama administration has been clear throughout its eight years that it is firmly committed to NATO and that the U.S. will not only talk about commitment, but the U.S. will demonstrate commitment and we’d doing that by way of leading one of these four battalions. In our case, the battalion in Poland. But also by way next year of committing $3.4 billion in U.S. funding to promote additional U.S. presence here in Europe.

So for example, we’re bringing a rotational heavy armor brigade from Fort Carson, Colorado. We’re bringing it by ship. It will be here for six to nine months. It will be replaced by another similar heavy brigade and that rotation will continue. All of this is funded by this $3.4 billion U.S.

So from my chair, I think that the U.S. commitment is clear, and that we’re following it up with actions.

Now you also asked about defense spending. You’re right that Warsaw put a lot of emphasis on making sure that the allies share equitably the burden of collective defense and they do so by way of moving all of us, all 28 of us, towards this two percent of GDP goal.

Today, while today only five of the 28 allies are there, that is at or above two percent, 22 of the 28 over the last two years have reversed, have stopped the cuts that have been roughly two decades’ worth of defense cuts, have stopped the cuts and begun to make real increases.

So while only five are at the goal line, 22 are moving in that direction and we think that’s pretty significant progress.

Now we’ll check in on this on an annual basis. So the last check-in was in July at Warsaw. We’ll check in again in a year. Because, of course, the progress we’re measuring is annual defense budgets. They don’t change in just a few months. So you’ve got to really allow some time.

Most significant, though, I would cite several instances. First of all, while Estonia in the Baltics is already at or above two percent, both Latvia and Lithuania have declared that they will be there by 2018. And these are substantial increases across the Baltic allies.

And then also I think you’ve seen recent announcements coming out of Germany that they’re making substantial increases in their defense budget and that of course is significant because Germany is Europe’s largest economy.

So we think there’s actually pretty good news here in terms of everybody leaning in and fulfilling their commitments.

Moderator: Excellent, thank you, sir.

Unfortunately, that was the last question we have time for. Ambassador Lute, before we close, do you have any closing words that you’d like to offer?

Ambassador Lute: No. Just watch the news here coming out of Brussels headquarters for the next two days. Then I said we’ll see and hear from you all again before Christmas or before the end of year holidays with the Foreign Ministers meeting in early December. So thanks very much for participating.

Moderator: Great. I want to thank you, Ambassador Lute, for joining us, and thank you to all of our participants for joining us as well. Thank you for the questions.