December 5, 2016: Ambassador Lute’s Pre-Ministerial Press Briefing

Ambassador Douglas Lute

Ambassador Douglas Lute
U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO
Pre-Ministerial Press Briefing
December 5, 2016

Moderator: Good afternoon. We have the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Ambassador Doug Lute here to provide an on-the-record briefing previewing the Foreign Ministerial this week. Mr. Ambassador?

Ambassador Lute: Okay, thanks.

As you know, our convention is to gather all of you or invite you to a session like this just to outline the sorts of things we expect to come out of the next few days.

So John Kerry is en-route here. He’ll arrive tomorrow, sort of mid-day. He’ll be coming from Berlin where he’s been in bilateral sessions and then he’ll be here with his fellow 28 Ministers Tuesday, the second half of Tuesday into Wednesday morning, and he’ll leave from here to go to the OSCE Ministerial in Hamburg on Wednesday.

This will be his last Foreign Minister’s meeting, so his last NATO meeting as he’s part of the ongoing transition in the United States which culminates on January 20th when the Obama administration leaves and the Trump administration takes office. So it’s a bit of perhaps a nostalgic opportunity for Secretary Kerry to engage his NATO allies one last time.

I think you’ll see two big themes here in the ministerial and these are the same two themes, if you’ve been following NATO, these are the same two themes that really come out of the Warsaw Summit. You’ll appreciate that we’re only five months after Warsaw. And the sorts of decisions taken there aren’t executed in one or two months. They’re actually executed in about a year or a year plus. So five months after Warsaw you’ll see the same two key themes.

The first one has to do with what NATO owes itself. These are responsibilities internal to NATO, and here we’re talking about deterrence, defense, and dialogue. And you’ll see that play out in the course of the next two days.

The second major theme coming out of Warsaw, which you’ll see even more prominently in the next two days, is NATO’s responsibility to project stability beyond its borders. So this is outside of the borders of the 28 member states, and onto its periphery. Because fundamentally, NATO appreciates the very simple fact that the more stable our neighbors, the more secure we are internally. So we have a responsibility internal to the alliance and we have a responsibility or role on NATO’s periphery, and you’ll see both of these themes play out Tuesday and Wednesday.

The other thing I think you’ll see play out is that Warsaw was the big news event because it was a decision-making exercise and of course you had the sort of star power of the 28 leaders. So President Obama and his 27 NATO colleagues.

The ministerials that follow a summit are really more about delivering on those decisions. So we’re in the execution mode as we say inside the council here day to day in NATO headquarters. And this is really the hard business. I mean to some extent if you compare the relative difficulty of taking decisions and then actually doing them, we’re in the tough part of this one-year program after Warsaw. And I think you’ll see, you certainly saw this with the Defense Ministers meeting held in October, but in upcoming ministerials into 2017 you’ll also see that NATO is wrestling with the hard business of how do you actually deliver on the decisions taken at the Warsaw Summit? So that process will continue.

Tuesday-Wednesday feature five sessions in total, so let me just quickly outline those five and then in that context we’ll take your questions.

The first one has to do in a very fundamental decision coming out of Warsaw and that is that it is time for NATO and the EU to move beyond years and years of rhetoric having to do with NATO-EU cooperation. So let’s get beyond the rhetoric and let’s actually move into action.

At the Warsaw Summit, the Secretary General here at NATO but also President Tusk and Juncker from the European Union took a bit of a historic decision when they agreed, the three of them agreed to a declaration that essentially said what I just offered, which is let’s get beyond the rhetoric and let’s move to action. But that was only an outline at Warsaw. It didn’t provide any concrete details in terms of exactly how the two institutions could get together and cooperate. So at the first session tomorrow afternoon, we’ll have High Representative/Vice President Mogherini join NATO but also two key NATO partners — Finland and Sweden — who happen to also be EU members – all in a session to begin to deliver on that declaration from Warsaw. And here you’re going to see, I think, a very early and frequent recognition that NATO and the EU ought to be the world’s most natural partners. Why do I say that? First of all, they share 22 common member states, even before Brexit. So 22 common members. They obviously share the same geography. And because of all that they share many of the same challenges. So terrorism, the effects of mass migration, the lingering impacts of the 2008 economic recession. All of these things are common challenges to these two large organizations here in Europe.

What can be done? What you’ll see I think in the first session is that we begin to add the details to the leaders’ outline that was agreed at Warsaw. So let me give you some ideas here, some suggestions, some examples.

Actually, overall the two organizations have agreed on 40 discreet and I think rather concrete actions that can move us forward towards better cooperation.

First of all in the area of a shared responsibility for national resilience. So a national member state ability to resist hybrid attack. We will agree that we will both cooperate in what’s called the European Center for Countering Hybrid Threats. This will be hosted in Finland, and both NATO and the EU will participate.

We agreed that the Fusion Cell in the EU and its counterpart here in NATO that focuses on hybrid challenges will come closer together and begin to synchronize their activities.

We’ve agreed that the two crises response processes, one in the EU and one in NATO, can be synchronized and made parallel so that we respond to crises in a more concerted way.

And we’ve agreed that the two sets of experts — one set in the EU and one set here in NATO — who are on call to respond to requests for assistance from member states will coordinate their activities.

So essentially across this set of challenges having to do with hybrid warfare, hybrid threats, there’s a lot of room for NATO-EU cooperation and we’re going to move forward on that with some of these discreet and very concrete deliverables.

We’ve also agreed in another category to begin to work more closely together with regard to cyber defense, and here there are things we can do by way of training, by way of exercises and by way of standards for cyber defense, national standards for hybrid defense, that just make sense that the EU and NATO talk to one another and begin to cooperate.

Maritime security is the third potential area for cooperation. You’ll appreciate that we’re doing this in a rather modest way in the Eastern Aegean Sea today, but there’s more work to be done and we think in the future NATO will provide logistics support and share information with the ongoing EU Operation Sophia in the Central Mediterranean. So there’s work to be done on maritime.

Exercises. Both organizations today hold exercises in perfect isolation of one another. That can’t be the wave of the future. That can’t make the most sense. So what we’ll agree on Tuesday, the Ministers will take the decision to begin to synchronize their exercises. That doesn’t mean that they will completely meld their exercises together, but when one hosts an exercise the other will participate as an observer, and at the end of these exercise programs they’ll share lessons learned.

In 2017, NATO will take the lead in this cooperative exercise program, and in 2018, the EU will take the lead.

Partner states. We both have efforts to work on the periphery, if you will, to work with partner states. It’s time that we got much more closely synchronized on how we assist partner states. A good example here in the past is NATO-EU cooperation, for example in Bosnia-Herzegovina that goes back 20 years, all the way back to the initial intervention by NATO in 1995. We’ve also worked together on the ground in Afghanistan. But there are many other places on the periphery of Europe where NATO and the EU should be able to more closely cooperate with regard to providing assistance to partner states. Places like Ukraine, Moldova, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco. So these are all places that deserve a better, more cooperative approach.

And then finally on building defense capabilities. Here there’s been a lot in the press about the EU’s aspirations or intentions to build European defense capabilities. We’re very much here at NATO and frankly the U.S. nationally is very much in favor of Europe building its defense capacities. But the promise here is that these capabilities should complement NATO’s efforts, not compete. So complement, not compete.

So far, so good. We’ve received detailed briefings from the EU. I think we’ll get some more details tomorrow from High Rep Mogherini. But all of the details so far in terms of the EU’s intentions so far they support this approach of complement, not compete.

The reason we say this is important is that there simply is more than enough to do, and there are simply too many pressures on resources to be redundant, to be inefficient, and to compete with one another. So we ought to be able to align better in a cooperative array our development of defense capabilities.

So look, the bottom line is across, and I said there were some 40. I won’t give you 40, but I’ve given you 10 or 12 here that are pretty solid examples of how I think we’re going to move into a period of cooperation – largely driven by the common challenges we face. We’ve been forced into this period of cooperation and it only makes good sense.

So the big message coming out of the next two days will be the message coming out of this first session which has to do with NATO-EU cooperation, and this is a significant follow-up to the Warsaw Summit.

Session number two, we’re in the second half of the afternoon tomorrow. We’ll meet at 28-plus-Montenegro. So Montenegro as a soon-to-be member will join the NATO Ministers, and they’ll talk about what NATO itself can do to project stability beyond our borders.

So the first session is what NATO and the EU can do together. The second has to do with NATO’s responsibilities for projecting stability.

And here, of course, this is not brand new to NATO. We’ve been doing this literally for decades. I mean if you go back to the original NATO intervention into Bosnia-Herzegovina in ’95 that was essentially an effort to project stability into the Western Balkans. A couple of years later we did likewise in Kosovo. Thirteen years ago we began the NATO mission in Afghanistan. And when you sum these up, this is really a sort of industrial scale, projecting stability.

But we also do it on many other levels. And across the 40-some partners that NATO has assembled in the last 25 years, there are a wide variety of efforts to try to assist these partner states to be internally more stable themselves so that intervention is not required.

So projecting stability is mostly about preventive steps that can get in front of destabilizing activities and try to promote stability internal to these partner states.

We’ll talk about what we’re doing with regard to the Counter ISIL Coalition and how NATO is providing support there. We’ll talk about support to efforts to counter illegal mass migration. And in particular, we’ll talk about building resilience in states like Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia to the east, and across the Middle East and Northern Africa in the south.

One region which will receive special attention in this session on projecting stability is the Western Balkans where NATO believes we have, as we say, unfinished business. Well why do I say that? Because beginning in ’95 with the NATO intervention in Bosnia, NATO began a commitment, began an investment in stabilizing the Western Balkans which actually needs to continue to this day. So you’ll appreciate that three Western Balkan states are now allies — so Albania, Croatia and Slovenia. Two want to be allies, are in the process of becoming allies — Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. But the region as a whole is still a patchwork of allies, aspirants and partners which hasn’t come together in a very stable, reliable way yet. So NATO still has business there, as I say, unfinished business. And there’s work to be done.

So all of that effort to try to figure out and try to lend detail to what NATO can do on its periphery will be the meat of session number two.

At dinner, the allies will come together and look at the last two-and-a-half years of experience in NATO-Russia relations. So NATO-Russia is the dinner topic. And here what we expect Ministers to do is sort of rewind the tape two-and-a-half years back to the April 2014 Foreign Ministers’ decision. So Foreign Ministers took a decision in 2014. In December of ’16 what they’ll do is look at that two-and-a-half year experience and assess whether NATO has met its obligations with regard to trying to be a responsible neighbor to Russia, and ask themselves what more can we do? What more should we do? Have we struck the appropriate balance that leaders prescribed at Warsaw in terms of balancing NATO strength and NATO’s openness to dialogue, and I think that will be an especially interesting conversation.

As you know, the geography here has not changed in the last two-and-a-half years, and the reality is that NATO’s largest, most militarily capable neighbor will always be Russia. So how NATO fashions its relationship with Russia will always be sort of first order fundamental business for the alliance. And it, I think, makes sense as we, two-and-a-half years after we took this landmark decision in 2014, to recalibrate our relationship with Russia. It makes sense to look back and take stock and assess how that is going and what more we can do to strike this right balance between strength and dialogue.

Then finally, the last two sessions, now this is Wednesday morning, have to do with two partner states and we want to pay particular attention to these two states. The first meeting will have to do with Ukraine and NATO support to the challenges that Ukraine faces. Foreign Minister Klimkin will join the allies for a session of what’s called the NATO-Ukraine Commission, and will treat Ukraine in detail first on Wednesday.

And then after that we’ll bring together the 40-some nations that make up the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, what we call the Resolute Support Mission. They’ll meet with Afghan Foreign Minister Rabbani in the last session of the ministerial, so the fifth session. I think in particular on that front we’d like to hear from Foreign Minister Rabbani, but also from the RSM Commander, General Nicholson, and from our senior civilian representative in Kabul, their assessment of how the year 2016 has gone. Not only on the security front, which is obviously very important to NATO’s mission, but also on the counterpart efforts on the political and economic front.

There’s a lot of news in 2016. Some of it not so good, but also there’s a lot of good news and there’s a lot of promise, I think, with regard to progress in 2016.

So for example, I would just cite that both on the security assistance funding and on the economic development funding, 2016 was a very good year for Afghanistan. Because on both of those fronts, on both of those two funding accounts, allies, partners, international community assembled $15 billion for security assistance, and $15 billion, another $15 billion, for economic development assistance over the three-year period 2018, 2019, and 2020. So this is a substantial amount nearly, in fact totaling just slightly more than $30 billion total for another three-year tranche of international support to Afghanistan. That’s pretty significant when you think about the initial international intervention in Afghanistan being in 2001. And here we have $30 billion for the period 2018 to 2020. I think no other data so accurately reflects the sustained international support, with NATO at the center of that activity. The sustained international support for what’s going on in Afghanistan.

So that fifth session will draw the ministerial to a close.

I think the overarching theme here is we’re executing Warsaw, and you should not expect any harsh surprises here. If you’ve been paying attention since Warsaw and through the October Defense Ministers, I think this ministerial will fall in the pattern of NATO executes, NATO does what it says it will do. And after all, as an alliance of 28 democracies, that’s what our people expect.

So let me stop there and we’ll turn to your questions.

Wall Street Journal: Julian Barnes, Wall Street Journal.

A Russia question. Russia, Moscow confirmed today a second plane from the aircraft carrier off Syria crashed. I wonder what you think that tells us about Russian capabilities in the Syria campaign.

And related, sort of, should the NATO-Russia Council meeting wait until the new Trump administration? Do you think that the NATO stance towards Russia will change in the new administration?

Ambassador Lute: Julian, you’re actually in front of me. I’ve been preparing for this so I’ve been off-line here for a couple of hours. You’re in front of me in terms of this report, in terms of the second reported incident anyway of a Russian aircraft.

What I can tell you is that NATO has, as you would expect, has been watching the movement of this carrier task group, the Kuznetsov task group as it left Murmansk, came down the western flank of Europe, and then entered the Mediterranean, is now operating in the Eastern Mediterranean.

We’ve been watching this carefully but simply because that’s what we do. We watch movements of military forces in and around our space.

I can tell you that after the first such episode of a Russian aircraft taking emergency action in and around the carrier, that there was an offer of support from NATO allies to see if we could assist in the recovery of the pilot and so forth. It turns out they didn’t need that kind of support. But I think what this really demonstrates is the importance of transparency of military movements and military activities, military posture between NATO and Russia. So there’s a lot going on in this sort of common, this shared space. The Kuznetsov is probably just the most recent, most prominent example.

But we’re moving troops into eastern allied spaces where they have not been. The Russians have taken steps in the Baltic Sea. The Russians have moved Iskander ballistic missiles, short-range ballistic missiles into Kaliningrad. There are activities in the Black Sea. Now there are activities in the Mediterranean Sea. So there’s a lot of room here for a continuing NATO-Russia conversation, a dialogue, an exchange, a reciprocal exchange of information, so that these activities are placed in context. They’re not over-dramatized. They’re not misperceived and they’re not misjudged.

So this leads directly into your question about the NATO-Russia Council. The NRC, as we call it, is the venue where we share that kind of information. So let me just give you a couple of examples. The NRC, held within one week of the Warsaw Summit, had NATO briefing Russia on the major outcomes of the Warsaw Summit to include, for example, the deployment next year of the deterrence battalions along the eastern flank. The U.S. briefed during that NATO-Russia Council, the deployment on a rotational basis of an armor brigade from the United States that will come here in nine months. This is part of ERI, the European Reassurance Initiative. And we briefed on ballistic missile defense and so forth.

We, in turn, expect from Russia reciprocal briefings on their military posture. So things like the deployment of the Kuznetsov are all subject to this continuing dialogue between NATO and Russia on military deployments.

This is really important. So that we learn first-hand from one another what the intent, the military mission of these deployments are, and we’re not surprised, and we don’t get into the business of misperceptions and ambiguities and so forth.

So as to the timing of the next NRC, we are open to an NRC as soon as we agree on an agenda and agree a date. I’m optimistic. I think we’ll have one in the coming weeks. I hope we have one in the coming weeks. Why? Because of all of what I’ve just described, right? There’s a real importance assigned to this exchange of information. And I certainly know that inside the 28, inside NATO, we value this kind of exchange, and I hope that our Russian counterparts do as well.

So no prediction on a precise date, but there is a prediction that NRCs will continue. I don’t have any reason to expect that they won’t. I expect that they will. Let me put this affirmatively, I expect that they will continue into 2017 and beyond, and I don’t think that the new administration in Washington will introduce a significant change in that regard.

Media: Kommersant Daily, a follow-up question on Russia.

Two days ago U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah James says that Russia is threat number one to the United States. For example, because of nuclear [inaudible]. Do you agree with the statement? If yes, what exactly? And what do you think that rhetorics will change when [inaudible]?

Ambassador Lute: So no forecast in terms of what nominated members of the new team might say if and when they’re confirmed and moved into office. So we’re going to leave that.

Of course you’ll all appreciate in the midst of a national transition of government process, this will follow its natural course. We’re at the leading edge of that transition. We’re at the place where the new President-elect is nominating members of his cabinet, but of course they’ve got to go through the confirmation process. They have to take office. And then they have to form their teams.   So the new Secretary of Defense, the new Secretary of State and so forth, all have to form their teams. So it’s much too early to do any predictions about the policies of the new team.

What I can tell you is that I think it’s safe to forecast that NATO’s current policy of strength and openness to dialogue is a dual track approach, a balanced, responsible approach that will serve, that has served NATO well since 2014 when we installed it, and I think will continue to serve NATO well in the future. And I expect that it will enjoy support in Washington.

Media: Nicholas Fiorenza, an aerospace defense writer.

You mentioned Iskander. I guess it’s not a topic for this meeting, but I was just wondering will the reinforcing of sort of the deterrence [inaudible] have anti-tactical ballistic missile capabilities?

And then for the NATO-EU cooperation, the main areas you mentioned seem to be mentioned also as the NATO Secretary General – cyber attacks, maritime and hybrid threats. Is the reason these are mentioned is they’re the most fleshed-out areas of cooperation? Or are the other, whatever, 35 areas also [inaudible]?

Ambassador Lute: Let me take those in reverse order. Those are three of the categories. So in the Warsaw Declaration among EU and NATO leaders, there were seven categories, to include the ones you listed. Inside those categories there are two, three, four, five each discreet actions. So that’s how you get to 40. So there aren’t 40 categories. There are seven categories to include the ones you mentioned.

Why those? Because those are the ones that most naturally lead the two institutions here in Brussels to say to one another, can’t we do more together than we can do in isolation? So they’re sort of natural topics that arise, largely because we share geography, members and challenges.

The deterrence battalions that are deploying into the eastern-most allies, so the exact capabilities that will be in those battalions is not fixed yet. I would expect that they will deploy with air defense capabilities, but not likely anti-tactical ballistic missile capabilities which is sort of, it’s beyond what you would expect to deploy at the battalion level task force.

Media: You spoke in your remarks concerning NATO-EU cooperation. [Inaudible] initiative, we are [inaudible] topic or [inaudible]?

Ambassador Lute: Frankly, not so much because the forward presence deployments that were announced at Warsaw are part of that first theme coming out of Warsaw which is NATO’s organic internal responsibility for deterrence and defense. So we’d do that even if there were no EU. But there are areas where NATO and EU can contribute together to deterrence and here cyber defense comes to mind. The stronger our cyber defense together, the stronger the deterrent effect. And also our ability to organize ourselves and cooperate with regard to hybrid threats. Again, the more resilient NATO-EU member states are, the more resistant they are to these sort of hybrid challenges. So less in terms of the hardware and the battalions, but more in terms of cyber and hybrid.

Media: [Inaudible].

How can the new Trump administration change, can it change in any way this new cooperation between EU and U.S.?

Ambassador Lute: Again, I don’t have any forecasts for an administration that’s still forming its team. We’re in the very deliberate, very practiced, very smooth transition process that is the American political tradition, right? So we’re in the midst of that. So no predictions about how a new administration will craft its policies or how it will respond to things that haven’t even happened yet. Right? So let’s leave the predictions aside.

But I do think that when the new administration forms, I imagine that they will see the logic that I’ve tried to describe here and which will be reflected in the next two days in the ministerial. And that is the simple logic that there is more that needs to be done here in Europe than either the EU alone or NATO alone can do, and in fact, in the face of those challenges there’s a lot that we can get done more efficiently if we decide to cooperate.

So that logic, I think is sort of unassailable and I think that the members of the EU and the member states of NATO will come together and find that logic a good description of how we should move forward. How exactly the new administration in the United States or, by the way, a new administration anywhere across EU or NATO might actually develop its policy, we’ll have to leave that to the national process.

Reuters: I have two questions. One on Russia, one on cyber.

When we met last time at the end of October there was an increase in Russian military activity. Have you been able to detect that Russian military activity increases at certain times linked to world events or Western events in any way? Can I get more clarity on that?

And on cyber, we heard a lot in February where the EU and NATO signed a technical declaration on cyber. But I very rarely hear any details about what might actually be done. Is that because it’s still being designed or because it’s classified? Thank you.

Ambassador Lute: On the cyber, there are some very concrete things that can be done. So for example, both organizations have cyber response teams. So that if a NATO ally in the case of NATO or an EU member state assesses that it has a cyber vulnerability or perhaps is under cyber attack, they can call on the reinforcing capabilities and a team of experts are actually on call to fly out, go to that member state and try to buttress their ability against cyber attack.

We think there’s room for these two teams to cooperate. I mean why should two teams arrive on the same day, the same capital, get off the airplane, and meet one another at the airport? Can’t we do more in advance to make sense of these two capabilities?

Likewise, both organizations tell their member states that this is what good cyber defense looks like by way of standard or requirements and so forth. Does it make sense that the standards that NATO sends out for member state military cyber defense, so the military chain of command in a member state, that it be a whole lot different than what the EU is telling that same government to do on the civilian side of the government? So that’s another potential.

Finally, exercises. Both organizations hold cyber defense exercises. What if they were cooperative? What if they were linked? What if one watched the other if nothing more, right? And tried to learn and gain benefit from the others’ exercise experience.

So those are the sorts of things that just seem logical. They just seem natural. But in the past, some of the bureaucratic restrictions, even bureaucratic short-sightedness has prevented the two organizations from cooperating as much as we’re trying to do now. And I think, frankly, it’s the weight of the challenges, the combined challenges that the two organizations face that have forces us into doing the more rational, the more logical, the more reasonable thing which is talk to one another and look for overlap and reinforcing capabilities.

On Russian activities, I don’t know of a study that closely correlates Russian military activities with events outside. I mean we know that there’s a pattern of Russian military exercises, for example, but it’s sort of an annual pattern that goes on, it’s quite patterned, it’s quite established. We know they tend to alternate exercises across the military districts so their large national exercise last year was in the Western Military District; this year it was in the Southern Military District. You have deployments that are linked to those exercises. You have some deployments that aren’t, like the Kuznetsov carrier task group. You’ll have to draw your own conclusions about why it sailed from Murmansk to the Eastern Mediterranean. But clearly it’s there today supporting the Russian bombing campaign in and around Aleppo in Syria.

So there’s clearly, they’re not done in isolation, but I don’t know of a close analysis that presents sort of a cause and effect relationship between some of these Russian military activities which are working on a program, and others that are maybe more closely tied to world events like the carrier deployment in the Eastern Med.

Media: [Inaudible] Slovakia.

You said that you expect more information about Russia’s military presence on the border. Do you have such information from Turkey in light of its military presence in Syria?

Ambassador Lute: Not so much in NATO channels, but bilaterally the U.S. and Turkey, and certainly within the conversations having to do with the Counter ISIL Coalition, Turkey’s military activities are a frequent topic of discussion. So we have good coordination, good conversations between an open dialogue with regard to Turkey’s military activities in northern Syria and Iraq, and these are — but the forum is not NATO. The forum is the coalition.

Media: — about Syria?

Ambassador Lute: Both Syria and Iraq. Let me just clarify. Not with the Syrian government. I’m talking about on the geographic territory of Syria and the geographic territory of Iraq. So I’m not suggesting that Turkey is in an engagement with the Assad regime. Just to clarify.

Media: Andrej Matisak, Pravda Slovakia

Mr. Ambassador —

Ambassador Lute: How many Slovakian journalists do we have here? [Laughter].

Media: All of us.

Ambassador Lute: Both of you, okay. Great.

Media: Arthur Beesley, Financial Times. My question involves [inaudible]. You said [inaudible] NATO-EU is getting somehow together about [inaudible]. But what is the end game of this [inaudible]? [Inaudible] better, countering propaganda, informing public? So you can elaborate on this?

And my second one, [inaudible] by your colleagues in NATO about strong indication that Russia tried to influence the U.S. presidential elections? And if yes, what is your answer?

Ambassador Lute: The end game with regard to cooperation on hybrid is really quite simple. That is that the 22 member states of the EU, which are also NATO allies, that those 22 common members, if you will, are more resilient or more resistant to the kinds of things we’ve seen by way of attempts by outsiders to influence politics internally. So it has to do with cyber. It has to do with countering misinformation or disinformation campaigns. It has to do with energy intimidation. It has to do with the ability to respond to crisis which is a rather complicated government mixture of what the military does, and therefore NATO has sort of a role. But also what the rest of the governments do in these member states, and how can you synchronize that and bring that cross-government effort together so that in effect the left hand is talking to the right?

So all of these things suggest that if the NATO-EU cooperation project matures, and if we make progress there, that our member states will be more resilient.

The second part — actually, before we were asked, we briefed the [North Atlantic] Council. So we brought experts from Washington and briefed on our national experience with regard to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee which is the organizational structure of one of our big political parties, right? And we have declared publicly that we think there was external influence in that hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

So this actually illustrates a pattern in NATO. When an ally, in this case the United States, has a national experience that we think could relate to the experiences of the others, the North Atlantic Council, where I sit, becomes a forum where those national experiences can be shared. Right? Because we argue that hey, if this could happen to the United States, then arguably it could happen elsewhere across the alliance.

Other allies do the same. We have received briefings recently with regard to disinformation campaigns; to unhelpful, maligned attempts to influence political processes, political campaigns, and so forth. And so the Council becomes not only NATO sort of deciding policy and watching the execution, right? But it also becomes a forum for information sharing across the 28, and we’ve done this recently with regard to this cyber attack on the DNC.

Media: Just to be clear on the final point you made where you received briefings on this disinformation campaign, you say unhelpful, maligned attempts to influence the political process. From whom have those briefings been given at the level of the NATO Council? And are those briefings [inaudible] in the area of covert financing of [inaudible] and populist parties?

Ambassador Lute: I don’t want to go into too much detail because these were briefings given by national experts, right? And they come to the Council as guest presenters. And they present a national perspective. So I don’t want to go from that experience, which we think is a very healthy, mature way for the alliance to deal with these challenges. I don’t want to ascribe particular briefings to particular allies beyond my national experience which is the DNC hacking episode.

But it’s a pretty healthy, I think it’s a healthy responsible way to deal with what are perceived to be problems in one country that others could also be experiencing.

Media: How deep are these concerns and how widespread are they amongst other NATO governments?

Ambassador Lute: I’d only say that the U.S. is not alone in expressing, in describing our experience, our recent experience. There are other allies as well. I won’t give you some number out of 28, but it’s not the U.S. alone.

Media: [Inaudible], I have two questions.

First of all, about the [inaudible] security project. Two days ago Secretary General told us that [inaudible] to discuss this topic. So what do you think? How Georgia include in this project?

And the second question, because of the Russian aggression, Defense Committee [inaudible] aid to Georgia to disburse our country. How important [inaudible]? What do you think is the[inaudible] something similar, if you have some information. Thank you.

Ambassador Lute: Across the last two summits, so not only the Warsaw Summit in July but also the Wales Summit back in 2014, NATO has paid particular attention to our partnership with Georgia. In fact, the first visit of the North Atlantic Council, so the 28 ambassadors and the Secretary General after Warsaw was to Tbilisi. So NATO takes very seriously our ongoing partnership with Georgia. Georgia, as you know, is one of the five enhanced opportunity partners designated at the Wales Summit, and I don’t know of a partner among the 40 partners in the partnership group which has a deeper, broader, more sustained engagement with NATO.

So actually, this is one of sort of the model partnerships.

You mentioned the U.S. moves to assist Georgia bilaterally. So those assistance programs, whatever equipment might be provided and so forth is done on a national to national basis, not, it doesn’t come through NATO. But it also fits a pattern which is Georgia has expressed interest in this relationship with NATO, and NATO stands ready to do what it can to help Georgia be as resilient and as capable of self-defense as possible. And on a bilateral basis, the U.S. efforts very much reinforce that.

So actually, I think the partnership is in very good shape, and certainly the people of Georgia deserve NATO’s support because Georgia has also requested that kind of relationship with the alliance has proven by way of its participation in NATO operations. So not only in the Balkans, but most prominently in Afghanistan, that Georgia wants that kind of relationship with NATO. So I think things are actually in very good shape.

Moderator: Thank you. I’m sorry, that’s all we have time for.

Ambassador Lute: Thanks very much.