Channel 1 Los Angeles
Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Press Correspondents’ Room
MS ORTAGUS: All right, Ambassador, please.
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Okay, thank you, Morgan. But let me just say, I guess, in the bigger picture about NATO, I’ve been there now almost three years and I really believe that the allies are adapting. They have heard the President. They are stepping up in the way that the President has asked them to in doing more of their own defense spending, and the numbers there, I think you’ve heard before, very strong. And the other area in which they have stepped up is in common funding. We have been paying 22 percent of the common funding by the U.S. for all the years that I was in the Senate, and – until now. But allies agreed to step up and take more of the burden of common funding, so we are now going to, starting next year, be lowered to 16.5 percent, and that will save American taxpayers $140 million a year. And I think the allies are sincere in saying, “We know that Europe needs to do more,” and in fact, they are in every way trying to do that.
I think the latest area where we have been looking at what we have asked and what we’re trying to do is in the Middle East and Iraq. The President asked our allies to do more in Iraq and also in the Middle East and beyond, so NATO took that right away. The secretary-general began a process of instigating the phase one of that operation, increasing the NATO presence in Iraq under the mission that they’re now doing, but with more numbers. And that will be on the agenda for the foreign ministerial, which will be in April. And then we have phase two, which would be going beyond that original footprint in Iraq, and then phase three, which would be getting military advice on what more we could do in the Middle East in general and North Africa. So all of these things are in the implementation phase. Now, I have to say NATO is very methodical. There are committees upon committees upon committees, so you have military taskings and then it comes into the political committees. And so these are not instantaneous but they are methodical, and they are going forward. And the first step will be at the foreign ministerial in April and then we will be looking at the other phases in the defense ministerial in June.
So it’s very, I think, another way that NATO’s adapting. I think also NATO is looking at the new threats, the new risks. I think going into the space domain, which was approved in December at the heads of state meeting in London. That is going to be another big area in which we are beginning to look at how space can be used as a defense as we are seeing some of the offensive use of satellites and space itself. I think that we are also looking at hybrid and cyber and how we can be more efficient there. Every one of our allies has been hit by hybrid or cyberattacks in different areas and in different ways. We believe that Russia is trying to divide our alliance, divide our democracies, weaken our alliance by false information through hybrid and cyberattacks. So we’re building up better and more defenses in that arena, and our first cyber hybrid defense team has gone to Montenegro. Montenegro is facing a lot of misinformation coming from Russia, and we are trying to help them deal with that.
So those are just some examples that I give you of ways that NATO is adapting, and most certainly the impact that the President has had on making our allies aware that there is a need for them to step up, and I think they are making great efforts in that regard.
MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Kim.
QUESTION: Sorry, Kim Dozier with TIME magazine. I wanted to ask: It sounds like since the last time you and I have talked about this, that President Trump has really been sold on the idea now of NATO not being a drag on U.S. spending but an opportunity to get other partners to step up. How did you change his mindset on that?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: I didn’t. I think the President has seen – and maybe he was surprised that the allies really did step up. Because I can tell you from my experience – I was in the Senate for 20 years. I served with four presidents. Every one of them has said our allies need to do more, our European allies need to step up more, and America shouldn’t be carrying this burden so heavily. But President Trump came in very forcefully, no question about it, and said this is the time. Now we are looking at much bigger threats. As you know, the U.S. Defense Department has now put in force our military strategy is going to be for the big adversaries, the global forces, which are Russia and China. And so we are asking our allies to step up more. President Trump has really been successful in the allies understanding this and beginning to step up across the board in not only the contributions to our missions but also the financial – defense spending on their own plus the common funding. And it’s working.
MR HARUTUNIAN: Nike.
QUESTION: Thank you. You had just – thank you, Ambassador. So you mentioned every allies have been hit by hacker or cyber. How satisfied are you regarding NATO’s approach to Huawei, and is there a country or certain countries deemed by the United States as the weakest link?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Well, I think that we know that hybrid attacks have come from both Russia and China into many of our countries, and I think that the 5G Huawei issue has been difficult because, first of all, many allies already had Huawei in their systems. And so backtracking on that was hard. We really didn’t get into – at NATO into understanding the capabilities and the gaps in availability of systems that could compete in contract procurement options. So we didn’t have a real alternative, so we went to Nokia and Ericsson, which are good allies and trusted allies that we could be interoperable with. But by the time we started really focusing on this and naming names, it was too late. Other countries already had Huawei in their systems, and so now we’re doing a lot of catch-up of trying to see if there is a way to go around or block if we need to have an interoperable communication, which we do in NATO. And with UK just coming in and saying they’re going to allow Huawei in, we are – we America, but we NATO – are looking for ways and technology that would allow us to have separate systems and work through this.
In the meantime or at the same time, we’re asking for a real increase in capabilities for the allies that we would trust to have technology that can not only box out any kind of information that should be kept under a contractual obligation that isn’t right now, but also having American entrepreneurs come in with a 5G system that can be competitive, or 6G. I mean, we’re now all kind of scrambling to make up. Every country is, our best allies are, we are, and NATO is certainly trying to help with this messaging and trying to ask EU to be helpful as well.
QUESTION: 5G is already obsolete? Is that the —
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Yeah. It’s time for 6G. It’s time for the American ingenuity to come in with 6G.
MR HARUTUNIAN: Humeyra, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. I have two questions. One is about the Arctic. Recently there was a visit by U.S. Air Force in this Norwegian air base and Russia expressed alarm over it. What’s your countermeasure in the Arctic and are you actually – do you actually have some concrete steps, maybe militarily, to balance that?
And the second thing is: Has Turkey asked for any support from NATO? I mean, this is something we’re asking NATO as well, but anything you know about what’s been happening in Idlib and the fact that they’re also being attacked by Russian air force?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Let me take the first question first, because the Arctic is something we’re very much tuned into, and most certainly in the Norwegian area there have been issues with overflights and tensions there. And we are being much more aggressive in the Arctic and in all of the North Atlantic, frankly. In fact, one of the deliverables in the summit last year, the head of – well, not last year, now it’s the year before last. Last year, of course, was the mission – the meeting in London. But the year before that, we had a summit in which we established two new command headquarters, one of which is in Norfolk, and it is for the Atlantic and the Arctic to have more activity. It is based in America. The other one is Germany and it’s a – mostly military mobility, but the Norfolk one is for more activity on our side in the Arctic all the way up into – I mean in the Atlantic all the way up to the Arctic. And that’s because we’ve seen Russian submarines, Russian activity, both air and sea. And so that happened in the summer of 2018, so we are doing more, we’re gearing up to have more surveillance, more activity, more awareness of what the Russians are doing, because they are much more active in this area as well.
On Turkey, of course, in Idlib we want Turkey to protect the people there from Assad with Russian support. There is no question about that. This is complicated because, of course, Turkey is our ally. We are on the same side in many areas, but in Syria especially, we are concerned about the whole – what Assad is doing, attacking Idlib, the people in Idlib again. This is going to be a refugee crisis, a human crisis, because these people have nowhere to go, and they will try to go into Turkey, but these people are – we’ve called on Russia, we’ve called on Syria, but the Turks are the ones that are trying to keep the – Assad from really attacking these people again. I mean —
QUESTION: So I mean, on top of the refugee crisis, did – I mean, it’s not – it’s no longer a risk now. They are directly confronting each other. One is a NATO ally and the other one is Russia. So are you in – or NATO is in a position or is this being discussed that you can take some concrete steps militarily or like surveillance, intelligence —
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: It’s definitely being discussed. It’s a – it’s very hard – a very – it’s a complicated situation. It is being discussed just like it’s being discussed here in the bilateral as well. And I would say that it’s important that we stand against Russia and Syria – the Syrian regime, Assad – and there’s been no decision that I’m aware of about what exactly has been asked or what might be given. But it’s a tense situation and one that we are definitely discussing.
MR HARUTUNIAN: Lara.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, has there been any talk among NATO allies beyond Turkey to invoke Article 5?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: No talk at this time, no. And Article 5 —
QUESTION: At – before time?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Hmm?
QUESTION: At any time?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: No. I mean, this is all happening right now, and there’s not talk of Article 5 right now, no. Now, this is a tough situation and what we’re talking about now is trying to help the people who are in Idlib, the Syrian refugees that really have no place to go, and also to see how we can help try to take care of the humanitarian crisis.
QUESTION: I want to make sure I’m not interpreting or misinterpreting anything from your body language. It kind of feels like you’re saying this could be a discussion, that you wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a discussion in the future, and if that’s the case, how would the United States react to Turkey invoking —
MR HARUTUNIAN: It’s a hypothetical.
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: My body language is that this is very complicated and it’s happening fast and there’s a lot of tension, and everything will be discussed. Everything will be looked at. What can we do? What should we do? What is possible? What – from so many angles. It’s not just one angle; it is many different angles. So that’s why it’s hard.
MR HARUTUNIAN: Said.
QUESTION: Thank you, Ambassador. I want to ask you about the possible expansion of NATO to include some Arab countries and Israel, because that’s been talked about. But I wanted to follow up on what’s just been asked, because the Turkish president gave a deadline, the end of this month, which is in two days, for Syrian forces that have retaken many areas in Syria to actually go back. What happens – I mean, this is like within 48 hours and so on – what happens if this confrontation gets bigger and bigger? Will you – will NATO step in?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: I can’t say anything because – about NATO because nothing has been really brought up for a decision in NATO. We’re all aware of this. Everyone is very concerned about it. And that’s really all I can say, not for any reason except that we have not even come into a discussion about what we would do if. But people are – they read what President Erdogan says. They see what’s happening on the ground, and they see the situation as being just very much moving into crisis mode. And so I cannot tell you that we’ve talked about any action whatsoever.
QUESTION: On the possible expansion of NATO to include some Arab countries and Israel, or maybe have something NATO-like, it’s been talked about for about a year since, let’s say, the Warsaw conference last year. What – is there any talks with the Arab countries to include them and Israel? Is there any talks to have something like NATO?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: No, no. Well, there’s no talk about NATO membership for the – those countries, Middle East or Arab or Israeli. But there is – there are partnerships. There are partnerships now that NATO has, and we have several different groups of Arab neighbors that are partners, that we have associations with, we have conversations with. We have in some cases – in Kuwait, for instance, we have a NATO office that does cyber and some intelligence, same in Jordan. We have UAE, we have Qatar, we have a lot of – Saudi. We have a number of Arab partners that are considered NATO partners, and they’ve been very helpful in all of the crises with Iran, for instance, as well as Iraq.
And so we have a lot of dialogue and we have a lot of meetings with the ambassadors and ministers come in from all of these countries. So we do have partnerships. We don’t have memberships outside of Europe and North America, but we do have partnerships.
MR HARUTUNIAN: Maybe one or two more questions, Ambassador?
QUESTION: Hi, Ambassador. Shortly after former National Security Advisor John Bolton left office, he told a small group of people that if Trump were to win a second term, that he would likely or possibly pull out of NATO. Do you think that’s a possibility in the second term, and do you think that those types of statements are helpful for leverage to get the burden-sharing commitments from European allies, or do you think that they make your job a little bit more difficult?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: I can’t comment on what Ambassador Bolton said or the impact of that. I can tell you I do not think there is anything even discussed or talked about or thought about not staying in NATO. I think the President has really looked to NATO now for more help, and I think he’s seeing that the Europeans are willing to step up and do more.
And I’m not saying everything is perfect, that some allies are not still critical, which we know. But I think by and large we have complete support from our NATO allies, and we have complete confidence that this alliance is very important as a transatlantic bond. I think that message came through loud and clear in London from the other heads of state. There were many messages to President Macron sitting in that room to say don’t talk about breaking the transatlantic bond; if you do, Europe itself will be divided. And that’s true. I think the transatlantic bond is accepted by the heads of state of all of our allies, and I think it is absolutely accepted here in America because the importance of allies is going to be essential.
As we look at our long-term strategy of the real global powers, we need every democracy, every freedom – every country that has freedom and abides by a rule of law and human rights is going to have to be in alliance to be a deterrence against the two main adversaries that we see in the future. We hope they will not be, but we have to plan that they will be based on their behavior. And those two adversaries are not democracies. They don’t have allies. And we need to stand as the protectors of the Western civilization, really, which means our partners that are democracies are going to have to stay together even if we have little arguments among each other about trade or what other things where we would disagree. We are going to have a common transatlantic effort that builds to deter the potential adversaries that we have in the future. That’s why we’re adapting so much and so well, and I think that is totally accepted by the President and by everyone with whom I work in the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the National Security team. We are a transatlantic bond that is not breakable.
MR HARUTUNIAN: Nick, last question.
QUESTION: Is that – the two – just to clarify, the two – are you talking Russia and China when you mention two?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: The – yes, the two global adversaries that we have are not democracies. In fact, all of our threats right now are not democracies, because terrorism is the other current threat that we hope we will be able to defeat. But we don’t have any democratic enemies.
MR HARUTUNIAN: Nick, last question.
QUESTION: Could I just follow up on the questions from Lara and Humeyra on the possibility of invoking Article 5 and the tensions with Russia? I don’t know if you saw before coming in that President Erdogan announced this emergency meeting because there was a Russian airstrike on Turkish troops that may have killed like 30 Turkish troops. Were you responding to that or were you aware of that attack?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Are you talking about today?
QUESTION: Yeah, just – but it’s just unfolding right now.
QUESTION: Yeah, within the last (inaudible).
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Oh, I – no, I’m totally unaware of that. I was talking from before.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay. So, yeah, I mean it’s just this —
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Oh my gosh.
QUESTION: Does that change —
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: That – I mean, that’s —
QUESTION: The death toll is not confirmed, but there is rumor that it’s extremely large because they targeted a full – like a base, a Turkish base, and it was an airstrike.
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: If that’s the case, then I just hope very much that President Erdogan sees who is their reliable partner and who isn’t.
QUESTION: Can you expand on that a little bit? I mean, this is news.
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Well, I mean we – the one thing that has made this so hard with Turkey is the S-400, and we have tried in every way to explain to our ally that we want to stay in the alliance that they can’t have a Russian missile defense system in the middle of their country and be interoperable with the allies. And I hope that President Erdogan will see that we are the ally of their past and their future and they need to drop the S-400. They see what Russia is; they see what they’re doing now. And if they are attacking Turkish troops, then that should outweigh everything else that is happening between Turkey and Russia.
QUESTION: Can we just get you to —
MR HARUTUNIAN: Okay, I think that’s it, guys.
QUESTION: And if that’s the case, does Article – do we – does Article 5 get invoked now?
MR HARUTUNIAN: I think you’ve already answered that question.
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: That hasn’t been discussed. Honestly, I’ve just —
QUESTION: No, but I mean if this is true.
QUESTION: What about – is there more – a larger role for the United States to come to Turkey’s defense in northwest Syria?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: What if, you’re saying?
QUESTION: Is there? Is there a larger role that the United States should or could be playing now?
AMBASSADOR HUTCHISON: Let me just – let me say this, because I just learned this: Of course everything is on the table. This is a new development. This is a big development, and our alliance is with Turkey. It is not with Russia; it is with Turkey. We want Turkey to understand that we are the one that they’ve been allied with. They’re in all of the missions that we have. And if the Russians have attacked the Turkish troops, that – I don’t know the circumstances. I’m not looking to the future at all, because I’ve just learned this, so I can’t say anything more than this certainly is a huge change.