“Our government is firmly in the camp of looking for an opportunity to have an arms control agreement that would include all the countries that have these intermediate ballistic missiles,” U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison said during a telephone conference, a day before the alliance’s defense ministers meet in Brussels. “Now America is going forward with the treaty protocol to give notice that we need to begin to develop a defense to the violating missiles that Russia has been developing.”
“We are very concerned about any kind of Russian missile defense in one of our alliance countries,” Hutchison said. “The whole alliance is concerned about this and we hope that Turkey will make the right decision and look for another system.”
Below is a full rush transcript of the press conference by Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO.
Ambassador Hutchison: I’m happy to be able to welcome Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan to Brussels tomorrow. We are looking forward to a productive and very good Defense Ministerial. It will be his first, of course. We are really going to have a good schedule.
Certainly, first of all, we will welcome the accession protocol for North Macedonia. As many of you know, we have been looking forward to working with Macedonia and having them come into NATO. They have now started that process, working together with our ally Greece. They are now in the process of coming into NATO and each parliament of our member states will be asked to agree to this. I am very supportive, our country is very supportive of Macedonia becoming the 30th member of NATO when all of the ratifications have been completed.
We will be talking about the INF Treaty. As many of you also know, we have been working with Russia for over five years and have documented since 2007 that Russia has tried to withdraw from the treaty, wanted to, and America tried very hard to stay in the treaty, to make sure that both sides were complying. But unfortunately, we began to see the evidence that Russia was not complying, that they were in fact building a missile that violated the treaty starting in the mid-2000’s. Now America is going forward with the treaty protocols to give notice that we need to begin to develop a defense to the violating missiles that Russia has been developing.
We will be talking about defense investments. I think that the allies have made great strides in beginning to step up with more in burden sharing. We have what we call the three C’s — Cash, Capabilities and Contributions — to make for a strong alliance.
On the cash side we’re asking, and all of our allies have committed in the past to go toward two percent of their defense spending in their countries so that we do have capabilities that we must have to be a strong alliance.
The capability targets are 20 percent of the two percent, and that is the airplanes and the submarines and the ships that we all know that collectively we will need for a strong defense.
The contributions are the contributions to the mission of NATO. Our allies are stepping up in all three areas, and we’re very pleased to have a good report. We’re not where we want to be in the end, but we have made huge progress since 2016 and I think by the end of 2020 we expect to have an increase from all of our allies of $100 billion which has been verified by the data that we have received in the national plan. And by 2024 we expect the majority of allies to meet the full pledge and look for over $300 billion, more like $350 billion according to the national plans that have been submitted.
So this is a huge step in the right direction, and we are working towards the goal being reached as soon as possible for the strength of our alliance.
We will be talking about deterrence and defense and the capabilities that we are trying to achieve. We have a target of what we call the four 30s. That’s 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons, 30 ships in 30 days, wherever they are needed. That is a very bold goal, but one that we have established that we will have.
We will be meeting with our European allies, our EU allies along with the issues that we are working on together — certainly our military mobility — so that we can achieve the 30 days getting through the European countries if we are ever called to do so.
And we will be talking about telecommunication security. As we are going toward — all of us — a stronger network and the most current technology, we are looking at security efforts and assessing where we are and what we need to be doing there.
The last major part of our Defense Ministerial will be discussing Afghanistan. Ambassador Khalilzad, who is the U.S. Special Envoy into Afghanistan for the peace process, was here yesterday with our whole Resolute Support Mission group of 41 to talk about where we are in the peace process. I think that he is breaking new ground, but we certainly know that we are not where we need to be at this time, but we are going in the right direction.
That will be the basic schedule for our Defense Ministers. It will be a very information packed and conversation packed ministerial, and we are looking forward to welcoming all of the Defense Ministers to NATO.
Question: As you mentioned the protocol for Northern Macedonia joining NATO, could you give us some overview, when is the United States Senate going to ratify this document? And what are your expectations, how smoothly this process is going to go by your opinion in all 28 parliaments, having in mind that Greece has already ratified the protocol?
Ambassador Hutchison: I think that we will have a smooth transition. All of our governments have been consulted, and every one of us that is at NATO that signed the protocol did so with the support of all of our governments.
Of course the parliaments must act, and we believe that our parliaments will be in support. The time line has not yet been set. It has not been formally put on the schedule yet. But we would probably look towards the end of the year as the time line when all of the parliaments that have different schedules and different session times and different processes, we would hope that by the end of the year that this would be complete and we’re all very much looking forward to welcoming our 30th member.
Question: whether you think there is significant risk to NATO from anti-democratic governments within the alliance, particularly Hungary and increasingly Poland and Turkey. And if you do believe there is a risk, what should NATO do about it? Thank you.
Ambassador Hutchison: All of us are aware that there are certain parts of the democracies in our alliance that have been changed or amended or in a different position. NATO has never taken up an issue that is a direct intervention in any kind of way, but we are always encouraging a better democratic value. There are different issues in different countries. That probably will always be the case. But these are democracies, they do have elections, and the people speak. So we, the United States, certainly are counseling with allies when we see areas that are of concern. We do that on a bilateral basis, and I know other countries do that with each other as well.
There’s no formal process, but I will say that every one of our allies is a strong supporter of NATO. There has never been a question of that. And the significance of the alliance contributions both in missions as well as the cash and capabilities is the unity and the strength that we have. Everything is not perfect, but we are a strong and unified alliance that is very capable of providing this security umbrella that was the original mission for the alliance.
Question: I wanted to come back to the INF Treaty, and I just wanted to know if the U.S. are ready to negotiate a new treaty with Russia and to open up the treaty to other countries like China.
Ambassador Hutchison: The U.S. has said, in fact all along, that we would welcome a new treaty that includes all the countries that have the ballistic missiles that would be a violation of the treaty. Only Russia is the one that is a party to the treaty, but there are other countries that have missiles that would violate.
We are for nuclear disarmament, we’re for arms control, we are for nonproliferation, and our government is firmly in the camp of looking for an opportunity to have an arms control agreement that would include all of the countries that have these intermediate ballistic missiles.
With all of the new technology and defense capabilities that many countries have, arms control is very high on our agenda when all the parties are compliant.
Question: Russia accused Norway of pushing ahead with a military buildup, saying it requires some sort of Russian response. How do you see Russia’s reaction as Norway is a member of NATO?
Ambassador Hutchison: I’m not totally familiar with what exactly happened in that situation, but we do know there have been some hiccups in the past with overflying and those have been deconflicted in an appropriate way, and we would certainly work toward deconflicting any kind of transgression that would happen between those two countries.
Question: The policies regarding Venezuela, Iran or S-400s from Russia, Turkey is aligning itself with countries confronting the U.S. How does this affect the functioning of the alliance and defense cooperation? Are there any discussions about a possible NATO role in protecting Turkey ?
Ambassador Hutchison: To your last question, there is no role of NATO being discussed right now. However, I will say from the United States standpoint, we are very concerned about any kind of Russian missile defense in one of our alliance countries. We are urging Turkey not to go forward with that because it will affect the types of defenses that we can have in Turkey if they buy a Russian missile system that would in any way be capable of either disrupting our interoperability or in any way allowing for any of our alliance security or intelligence to be in any way violated.
So it is very troubling. The whole alliance is concerned about this and we hope that Turkey will make the right decision and look for another system, which we know Turkey wants to have its own sovereignty and security for internal needs, but we would ask that they go in with a neutral or allied country in that regard.
Question: Denmark has recently made additional defense commitments that would bring the Danish defense spending up from 1.3 to 1.5 percent of GDP in 2023. I’d like to know whether from an American point of view that is sufficient progress right now? Or is it too little?
Ambassador Hutchison: I think that we want Denmark to be a full contributing partner. I will say that Denmark does very much on the capability side and on the contributions to our missions, and we certainly acknowledge that. They are a strong partner in every respect, but we would hope that they would continue to go further toward the two percent commitment that was made previously. That is part of the strength of our alliance, that they would do so.
Question: What do you think about the European Intervention Initiative, and can it complement NATO?
Ambassador Hutchison: We certainly hope that it will be able to complement NATO. And we hope that it will not be duplicative of NATO.
The initiative for the European countries to be able to work together to strengthen their defenses is a good one, as long as it doesn’t in any way encroach on or duplicate what NATO is doing because we want all of our dollars to be used for efficiency as well as for assuring the strength of our collective defense.
Question: There is a crises let’s say in connection with Kosovo and the United States. General Timothy Orr has suspended his visit to Kosovo because of the tariffs on Serbian goods. Do you think this is exactly the right thing to do? And my second question is, there are many people saying that Kosovo in the future is going to be the very first member of NATO. Do you think this could be real, this could be happening?
Ambassador Hutchison: I don’t know about a tariff on the products. I can’t answer that question, I just don’t have the information.
On the area of Kosovo, however, we are working with Kosovo to try to assure that as they move forward that first of all they have a strong and normalized relationship with Serbia. That would be in both countries’ interest. And secondly, that there be in all respects with the new Kosovo Security Force that minority members and rights would be respected. Kosovo must continue to work toward reform, work toward inclusion with its minorities, and NATO is going to be helpful in every way possible as they are setting up this security force and as we hope that they are also instituting the reforms for a strong democracy and rule of law and human rights protection. Those are the things that are so important for any future NATO member and most certainly for the future of the strength of the governance and democracies and freedom of the people who live in those countries.
Question: U.S. military leaders in Germany confirmed that they are evaluating stationing more U.S. troops and materiel in Poland. Will this be at the expense of installations in Germany, especially Ramstein Air Base?
Ambassador Hutchison: We have a very large number of forces and bases in Germany that we don’t expect to change. And in fact NATO is setting up another secondary hub in Germany for our military mobility and logistics. That’s in our new command structure, that there would be a new division in Germany as well as another one in America for maritime.
So there’s nothing that will be less in Germany that we have heard of or have discussed.
On Poland, certainly Poland has made an offer that is being considered and it’s not clear exactly how that’s going to go forward. It’s under advisement now in the Department of Defense to see what could be helpful in Poland, but it would not be at the expense of Germany.
Ambassador Hutchison: I appreciate the questions and the interest. We are looking forward to a very good Defense Ministerial. And as I said earlier, we’re looking forward for our colleagues to meet the Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who is very much looking forward to meeting all of his colleagues and getting to know them so that they can have open lines and a lot of communication.
So thank you very much for your interest, and I’ll look forward to maybe seeing some of you in the next few days.