NATO open to new nuke deals with Russia, China

NATO is open to new arms control agreements with Russia and China, Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, US Permanent Representative to NATO, told a telephonic press briefing on 18 November.

Asked by New Europe, if she sees any partnership with Russia on nuclear proliferation issues, and how can conflicting issues be overcome, Hutchison said, “Well, certainly, we are open to new arms control agreements. The INF Treaty (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty) that has been our treaty with Russia for years had to – we had to see, and NATO did look at the evidence that Russia had been violating the treaty for so long that they really had a number of the ballistic missiles that could reach any European country, and this was a violation of the INF Treaty, so it has now been disbanded, which means that we need to look for new treaties where we can include China as a major now owner and operator of missile systems that could harm any of us, if used.”

The Ambassador was speaking ahead of the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels on 20 November to finalise preparations for the meeting of NATO leaders in London.

NATO is now looking at other arms control treaties, Hutchison continued, that could be with Russia and China, “the main ones that have capabilities that could be harmful to our security. And now that we don’t have the INF and we are looking at the – how we might address the New START Treaty, all of that is in the discussion phase now and I would just say that we all are in favour of nonproliferation and arms control.”

The ambassador said in her opening statement that China has been much more active in global security issues and that now that means that NATO is going to have to assess what the risk is of China if they don’t stay within the rules-based order.

Turning to NATO-EU relations, Hutchison said the US brings a lot to the NATO alliance. “So I think that if you look at the adaptability, how we are able with our – with our umbrella of security to adapt to Russia’s malign influence and hybrid and cyber-attacks, the – we’re the ones standing for Ukraine and Georgia as the Russians have taken over that country; we’re the ones who expelled Russian spies all over the alliance when the UK got the Russian chemical agent put in its country to kill one of its former Soviet citizens. We stood firm with the UK on that, and I think that it shocked Russia that we were so unified against that horrendous act,” Hutchison said.

“We need to face China together,” she added. According to the Ambassador, the EU alone should not think that they will be able to meet the challenges of a rising China without the Transatlantic bond.

Below is a full rush transcript of the press conference with With Ambassador Kay Hutchison, U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well, We are looking forward to the foreign ministerial, which is our last ministerial meeting until we have our summit in London, and we’re looking forward to closing out our 70th anniversary of NATO in London with our leaders’ meeting.  

I think that we have a good agenda for the discussion of our heads of state and our ministers in this week of what we’re going to try to accomplish by the leaders’ meeting.  Most certainly, we have made progress since the Brussels meeting last summer and we have a good list of what we would try to achieve during the year, and I think we have done much of that.  Certainly, burden-sharing is an area where we have improved greatly.  I think there will be a lot of increases that will be shown by the plans that have been submitted to the secretary general by each of our countries and the defense spending that we are asking countries to do – “we” meaning NATO.  The heads of state agreed to spend 2 percent by 2024 on defense, and we are working toward that and we – I think we will have a good record of improvement – the Readiness Initiative, the Four Thirties that we are trying to achieve: 30 battalions, 30 air squadrons, 30 combat vessels in 30 days, wherever they may be needed.

And I’ll just add that I think in this Readiness Initiative, the interoperability and training that we have been doing together in our NATO missions is going to really put us in a good position if we need to be deployed somewhere because one of our nations is attacked.  I think the missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, enhanced forward presence and others, really gives us trained forces that have worked together and know how we all do function and can be ready to go on a moment’s notice.

We have the D-ISIS Coalition that will be discussed.  We have 81 members in the D-ISIS Coalition, so NATO is a member but many other allies and partners are part of trying to wipe out the terrorist organization that has done so much harm to many of our citizens.

Then we will assess China for the first time as NATO.  It is important for us to see the opportunities as well as the challenges with China, and this is the first time that NATO has done this, but China has been much more active in global security issues and I think that now that means that we are going to have to assess what the risk is of China if they don’t stay within the rules-based order that we hope that they will, but it does appear that they are also building in a military way.  So that will be part of what the leaders discuss.

Then we will have counter – more counterterrorism action, and we think the leaders will declare that space is an operational domain that will be important for adapting to the new kinds of warfare that we’re facing.  Most certainly, we know that communications – cyber and hybrid – are part of everything we do, especially in the security area.  And so space as a domain is now certainly coming into the forefront if we are going to be ready to deter, or defend any of our nations.

Question:   Do you see any partnership with Russia on nuclear proliferation issues, and how can conflicting issues be overcome?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well, certainly, we are open to new arms control agreements.  The INF Treaty that has been our treaty with Russia for years had to – we had to see, and NATO did look at the evidence that Russia had been violating the treaty for so long that they really had a number of the ballistic missiles that could reach any European country, and this was a violation of the INF Treaty, so it has now been disbanded, which means that we need to look for new treaties where we can include China as a major now owner and operator of missile systems that could harm any of us, if used.  

And so we’re now looking at other arms control treaties that could be with Russia and China, the main ones that have capabilities that could be harmful to our security.  And now that we don’t have the INF and we are looking at the – how we might address the New START Treaty, all of that is in the discussion phase now and I would just say that we all are in favour of nonproliferation and arms control.

Question:  Ambassador, you’ve elaborated on Russia.  I have a question regarding Turkey/Russia.  Erdogan paid a visit to Washington last week, but his statements after his visit show that Turkey will not, apparently, give up on the S-400 issue.  How do you view Turkey’s flourishing relations with Russia and how does this affect NATO’s strategies and policy planning?  

And a second question regarding the developments in the region – a NATO ally, Turkey, and its three neighbours who are facing growing instability.  Are you concerned that this might affect Turkey and, of course, NATO’s security?  

Ambassador Hutchison:  Yes.  Of course we’re concerned with Turkey taking an S-400, the Russian missile defence system.  This is going to affect the interoperability of some of our NATO equipment, particularly the F-35 airplane, which we had hoped would be a major economic value for Turkey, but now, without the F-35 being able to fly and be manufactured in a country that has an S-400, we’re sad to say that Turkey will lose this economic manufacturing capability for the F-35.  We would still like to hold out hope that Turkey would give up on using and deploying the S-400.  It is a basic tenet of an ally that you wouldn’t put an adversary’s equipment into your country, and so we’re – we are concerned that Turkey is doing that.  

Turkey is an ally.  They are a good ally in our NATO missions and we hope that they will continue as a good ally, but this is a point of contention, for sure.

Question:  What is the evidence out there that NATO is not braindead, as the French president alleged in an interview last month?

Ambassador Hutchison:  Well, first of all, I think NATO has something that the EU and the proposals that the French president has made for an EU army doesn’t have, and that is a transatlantic capability.  America brings a lot to the NATO alliance, and having the capacity that America does and the leadership to assess risk and then identify and protect against threats is a strong American attribute.  And I think that 29 of us can speak with one voice for Western values is very much more secure than any one of us would be alone.

So I think that if you look at the adaptability, how we are able with our – with our umbrella of security to adapt to Russia’s malign influence and hybrid and cyber-attacks, the – we’re the ones standing for Ukraine and Georgia as the Russians have taken over that country; we’re the ones who expelled Russian spies all over the alliance when the UK got the Russian chemical agent put in its country to kill one of its former Soviet citizens.  We stood firm with the UK on that, and I think that it shocked Russia that we were so unified against that horrendous act.

We need to face China together.  The Europeans alone should not think that they will be able to meet the challenges of a rising China without the transatlantic bond and the depth and breadth of the experience that we have in security that will help our security umbrella.

The counterterrorism actions in Afghanistan, our NATO actions – France is not even in Afghanistan in the NATO mission.  So we are protecting the terrorists from coming into NATO ally countries because we are in NATO together in the mission in Afghanistan.  France is not there with us.

So I think that France gains a lot from the NATO alliance, and I think NATO is the reliable security umbrella for all of the people in our NATO partnerships.