via teleconference hosted by The Brussels Hub, Belgium
July 10, 2018
MODERATOR: Greetings to everyone from the U.S.-European Media Hub in Brussels. I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from across Europe and thank all of you for joining this discussion.
Today we are pleased to be joined from NATO by Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO. As you know, this week is the NATO Summit, so this is a very timely discussion.
We thank you, Ambassador Hutchison, for taking the time to speak with us today.
We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Ambassador Hutchison, and then we will turn to your questions. We will try to get to as many as we can during the time that we have, which is approximately 30 minutes. As a reminder, today’s call is on the record.
With that, I will turn it over to Ambassador Hutchison. Ambassador?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Thank you very much. We are all very excited at NATO and at U.S. NATO for the great summit that we’re expecting to have in the next few days with our heads of state gathered, and we have a lot to celebrate.
The strength and unity of our alliance has never been so strong. We are strong in our deterrence efforts. We are building on those. Our new 30-30-30-30 goal for being fit for purpose and having the capabilities to do what we must be able to do if any of our countries are ever attacked. We’re on our way to getting to that goal.
We also are doing what President Trump asked that we do last year, last May. And that is more in counterterrorism. Terrorism is certainly a threat to every one of our nations. Many of our nations have had terrorist attacks. And I think the answer is in the documents that will be approved by our heads of state that we are increasing our efforts in counterterrorism.
The same goes for hybrid warfare and cyber security. These are new types of warfare. Many of them are under the level of Article 5, but they’re nevertheless an attempt to disrupt our strong alliance and we are firming up the activities to prevent that from happening.
We are, of course, going to have a wonderful deliverable on the open door that NATO has had. For the last few years we have added members from our original 12, and we are hoping to have accession talks for the number 30 member of our alliance and that would be the Republic of North Macedonia, if the people of Macedonia approve the new name.
So we’re very happy that we will have strong deliverables, a very productive summit, and I am looking forward to meeting many of the heads of state who will be coming to meet with us and support the strength and unity.
I would just end by saying that a weak alliance that is unified or a strong alliance that is not unified are not our goals. We must be both strong and unified, and I think at the summit the deliverables will show that that is absolutely the case. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. For our first question we will turn to Alexey Gorbachev from The Independent.
QUESTION: Hello, Ambassador Hutchison. I have a question related to the idea of creating so-called “military Schengen,” which will have NATO troops to receive the same freedom of movement across European states as civil transport has in the Schengen area.
According to the Minister of Defense of the Netherlands, who introduced this idea, it will allow European states more quickly to counteract in case of possible Russian aggression.
Ambassador Hutchison, what do you think of this idea?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Are you talking about military mobility? Is that your question?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Yes, one of the very important areas that we are trying to address with the EU as our partner is that military mobility, so that if one of our countries is attacked, that we would be able to get troops on the way very quickly through any other country that has borders, of course, and to be able to do it on a speed of relevance, as our Secretary of Defense likes to say, so that we can be helpful in the shortest time period. Yes.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
Our next question comes to us from Marcus Becker from Der Spiegel in Germany.
QUESTION: Hello, Ambassador. I would like to ask you two questions, if I may. The first one about the burden sharing within NATO.
Will the wording in any way be stronger or sharpened as compared to the Wales summit?
And a second question, the German government is very reluctant to take part in the training mission in Iraq. Maybe you can comment on this too. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Yes. I think on your first point, I think the Brussels summit declaration will be very strong in recommitting to the Wales pledge and looking for credible national plans that will show us the way forward to getting the deliverable of a two percent defense spending by all of our allies.
There has been a great improvement in that area. The President has been plain spoken on that point, of course, and it is the point that many Presidents have also made. That is that we’re not pulling a number out of the air and saying you must do this.
There was a survey of what would be needed if we were actually facing a strong adversary, and the two percent number provides the capability to withstand any kind of incursion on our own territory, of any of our allies, to be able to defend and deter. That’s what the two percent is. It’s not just something that we hammer home, it’s something that provides the actual capability. We need the airplanes and the submarines and the ships and the technology. So that is why it’s so important that everyone does move forward to reach that level because that will buy what we need and the equipment and capabilities that we must have.
The Iraq mission. I am not sure if the Germans will. They have been very effectively helping in the early stages of advising and training troops. I don’t know that Germany has made a decision about participating in the new NATO mission that we hope will be finalized that will, if asked by the government of Iraq, help to train their military and their police to be effective in stabilizing the country. This is a training and advising mission, particularly also helping with medical training for their military and police. So I don’t know that they have made a firm decision one way or the other. I think if they do make the decision to be a part of it, which we hope they are, it might be as a separate entity, but I don’t know that that has been decided as partners.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
For our next question we will turn to Steve Erlanger from the New York Times.
QUESTION: I don’t want to put you in an uncomfortable position, but the President has said recently that NATO is as bad as NAFTA. And then he said that the United States are schmucks because our NATO allies are cheating us. And then he said that unless people will pay the two percent, which he seems to regard as a commitment rather than as Wales did, as a target to be reached six years from now, that there will be consequences.
So how do you preserve the sense of unity when clearly you have a president who is not only skeptical but aggressive toward his allies and regards them with a degree of contempt?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Well, Steve, I appreciate your being interested and covering the summit because I don’t think at all there is contempt for allies. I think it is a matter of trying to make a point which the President does talk plainly, as we know, and I think he’s trying to make the point that everyone needs to step up because that is the strength of the whole alliance. And our allies agree with that. They know that having the capabilities is absolutely essential if we’re going to deter Russia or any other country or non-country that would attempt to harm anyone in any of our countries.
I think the President’s point is this needs to be a solid and strong alliance. I believe that what we have been doing this year, the new command structure of NATO which is going to make us much more fit for purpose, which has a goal of true strength and might, is going to be adopted as a goal. I think it is essential that all of us step up. That’s what the President is asking. And I think when you look at the increases in the allies’ acceptance of that responsibility and producing on that responsibility, that what the President is saying is resonating and I think that we will see that more spending has been done in the last year and a half since the Cold War, and in addition to that, I think that we will be looking for more going into the future.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
For our next question we’ll turn to a question submitted in advance by Vlatko Chalovski from 1TV in Macedonia.
QUESTION: If Macedonia makes all the required reforms and somewhere along the way the agreement for the name issue with Greece is no longer implemented, will the country be supported on its NATO path from the U.S. and the EU? And will the U.S. and the EU allow another country to block its entrance?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Let me say that I cannot speak for the EU, but I can speak for NATO. That is if the referendum of the people on the name, the Republic of North Macedonia, is successful, that we will be in accession talks for Macedonia and I do not see, I cannot foresee that there will be any block of that. I think that has already been agreed. It was agreed in another summit by the heads of state, and I believe the commitment is solid as long as the name is accepted by the people of what we hope will be the Republic of North Macedonia.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
For our next question we will turn to Mr. Peter Morvay with Hetek Magazine in Hungary.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Ambassador Hutchison.
My question is about the European Intervention Initiative which has been started by President Macron and it has been officially formed a few weeks ago. How do you see this initiative? Is it sort of a criticism of NATO, or a parallel military force? Or there will be a new type of cooperation with them?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: I believe it is your last point. We are looking for a stronger Europe and one that can deliver more in the capabilities that we have asked them to deliver, and we hope that the way it evolves is to be interoperable with and complementary of NATO. NATO is the security umbrella for our North Atlantic European alliance and that will not change.
We do need areas where the EU can be helpful and we hope this new initiative will be, and that is in the area of military mobility that we have discussed. Breaking the bureaucratic barriers to crossing sovereign lines in an emergency. That is something that’s very important. Building up the infrastructure in the European countries that would allow for stronger highways and airports so that all of us are more secure because we have that complementary effort by the EU.
So we’re looking for this to be a positive, and as the processes evolve, we want to make sure that everything is transparent, that we have a level playing field on the procurement processes, and that that healthy competition will make for better equipment and more security for both our European allies and North America.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
For our next question we will turn to Mr. Thomas Gutschker from F.A.Z. in Germany.
QUESTION: Yes, good afternoon Madame Ambassador.
My question relates to the four-30’s initiative, and it’s actually two-fold.
So one, when do you expect member states, allies, to actually pledge troops to that initiative? It will only be endorsed in principal this summit.
The second question is, given that it’s already mid-2018, do you still think it’s realistic to meet the 2020 time line, given the known constraints of especially European allies to raise troops for NRF or the VJTF?
So these are the two questions. Thank you.
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Of course 2020 is a very ambitious goal, but we are looking for the beginning, now that we have the new command structure. As you know, one of the new headquarters, the new headquarters is in Germany. And we believe that this is achievable, and it is our goal to do so.
The 30-30-30-30 is the essential necessity for us to have the real capability to withstand any kind of attack of any sort that would be worthy of having to have quick action and enlarged numbers as well as large facilities and equipment.
So yes, I think we can. We’ve set a very short time line for something so strong. But I think as we begin to do the streaming that our troops are now doing on a rotating basis in the Enhanced Forward Presence, I think that is, it’s very helpful in our troops learning how to work with each other. To work in this alliance together. And because of that experience that they are now having, we are going to have numbers of troops, now thousands, that will know how to operate with allies in the training exercises. So the allocation of the troops by each of the countries that will form the 30 battalions I think has been made easier because we’ve had the Enhanced Forward Presence experience of the interoperability, dual training, and the ability to begin to have command structures where the alliance members are used to the multinational forces that would be necessary.
So getting the 30 battalions sounds pretty awesome, and it is awesome, but I think the preparations are already in place.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
We will now turn to Ivana Dragicevic from N1 Television in Croatia.
QUESTION: Thank you. Good afternoon, Ambassador Hutchison. Thank you for this opportunity.
I would like to add to the question of my colleague from the New York Times. So is there some doubt, I can say, within the alliance with a possible move toward President Trump? What does NATO as such expect from the Helsinki summit? And are you planning some kind of common position of this strong alliance, as you called it, within the declaration or within the conclusions of the summit considering the fact that there will be also the President and the Prime Minister of Finland, and both Presidents of Ukraine and Georgia? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: First of all, I think that the President meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki is meant to be an effort to take our NATO issues as well as our United States issues with Russia to, directly to Putin and to say we want to have a relationship with you, but you must change your behavior. There is too much malign influence, activities that are disruptive of our alliance, attempting to do so, and ask that there be a way that we can have conversations with Russia that will be productive in bringing us together, not separating us when there are so many important things that we could do if we were working together.
Most certainly Syria comes to mind. The IMF Treaty, which we know Russia is violating. It must come back into compliance for us to have a better relationship. Most certainly Ukraine and the situation there is uppermost in both the U.S. and the NATO alliance efforts. We think the sovereignty of Ukraine is absolutely inviolate and has to be made whole from the encrosion of any foreign power.
So there are many things that we hope and I think each of the allies has bilateral relationships with Russia. They’re not in a good situation right now with any of us because of the malign influence. But NATO talks to Russia through ambassadors, and heads of state do, and we all hope that because we have the same efforts and we do have the same priorities, that this will be productive.
And let me just finish by saying our chiefs of staff of our militaries, both NATO, the United States, and Russia, all have had meetings together. The Russian Chief of Defense, Military Defense, as well as the NATO Chairman of our Military Committee and the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. All have had bilateral meetings with Russia.
So we want this dialogue to be productive, and we hope that it will provide a change in the tone of the relationship, which must be done through actual acts.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
Our next question comes to us from Lucia Abellan from El Pais in Spain.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Ambassador.
Do you expect President Trump to address the question of the EU project that Europe is developing to reinforce their own defense? And do you think he will show his reluctance to some of them? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: I think what he will say is that we look forward to a stronger European effort and that there is a new effort to do more together in building their capabilities is a good thing.
What we ask is that there be a transparency, a level playing field, and an interoperability that will be an asset to NATO.
The issues that NATO deals with are the overall umbrella of security that would be ready in any attack on any of us. The European initiative should be to strengthen European capability for equipment, research and development, as long as it is always interoperable with NATO. That could be an asset to NATO, and we welcome that.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
Our final question comes to us from Christian Trippe from Deutsche Welle in Germany.
QUESTION: Thank you very much and hello from Berlin.
It’s a brief question. NATO for a long time wants to foster military cooperation with the European Union. Madame Ambassador, could you please tell us what we have to expect there in the final declaration?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Yes. I think the final declaration — first of all, let me say that the Secretary General and the two European leaders will sign a separate declaration of their own that discusses the very productive efforts that have been made in the last two years, since our last summit. And they will be, I think it will be a very positive message.
I think the message of the NATO declaration will also be positive about the European efforts and also saying that, as they develop, that we would hope that it would be for an enhancement of NATO, reestablishing that NATO is the security umbrella for Europe and the North Atlantic and our alliance. And welcome the strength that could be gotten from the European Union efforts to their own defense alliances.
This can all be a good news story, and that is in the declaration that has been negotiated. And I think it’s important that all of us look at it as a way to enhance our efforts, our mutual efforts, and to increase the load of the burden sharing more fairly, which is something that President Trump has certainly been pushing for and which I think we will begin to see the results of that effort.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Unfortunately that was the last question that we have time for.
Ambassador Hutchison, do you have any closing words that you would like to offer?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: First of all, let me say thank you for all of you being so interested in the summit. I think it’s going to be a very productive summit and I think the strength and unity will be clear and I think that will be a good place from which the President goes to Helsinki to meet with Russia and say we are a strong alliance and we would like to do business with you, but you must change your behavior. I think that’s a major strength that he will take with him to that meeting.
And I just want to say one thing finally, that all of us here at NATO are so very proud that all four teams in the World Cup semifinals are NATO members.
With that, I will close. Thank you.
MODERATOR: And I want to thank you, Ambassador Hutchison, for joining us and thank all of you for participating and for your questions.