Preview of the NATO Summit
December 2, 2019
H. Andrew Schwartz: Good morning, everybody. This is Andrew Schwartz, chief comms officer at CSIS;
pleased that you all could join us on Cyber Monday. And that means that this briefing is 50 percent off. So, Heather’s a little bummed out about that, but, you know, it is 50 percent off.
Thanks for being with us. We’re going to get right to it. Heather Conley, our senior vice president and head of our Europe and Eurasia Program, is going to kick off the conference this morning.
Heather A. Conley: Andrew, thank you so much.
Good morning, everyone. What we thought we would do is give you a quick roadmap of a very short but very action-packed trip by President Trump. I’m going to give you just a very brief overview, and then I’m going to take a quick look at the UK election 10 days before December 12th and talk a bit about the Trump-Macron bilateral meeting.
And then I’m going to turn to my colleague, Deputy Director and Senior Fellow Rachel Ellehuus. She’s – Rachel’s going to go over the NATO agenda, walk you through some of that, and then also take a look at the Danish prime minister’s meeting with President Trump. As you recall, it was a state visit that was postponed in August of this year. And then I’ll take it back and go over the president’s bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
So just to give you a little roadmap of where we’re going to go for the next few minutes, and then we look forward to your questions.
So, again, the entire purpose behind the NATO leaders’ meeting is to celebrate NATO’s 70th anniversary. And I think with all big birthdays, you both look forward to the celebration and you dread your age a little bit. I think in some ways that is how the leaders are approaching this anniversary.
We actually – NATO actually formally already acknowledged this anniversary on April 4th of this year with NATO foreign ministers convening in Washington, because the NATO treaty is a Washington treaty. It was signed in Washington. And, of course, Jan Stoltenberg spoke to a joint session of Congress. Stoltenberg is NATO secretary general; the first time that a NATO secretary general has spoken to a joint session of Congress.
So we’ve already celebrated this anniversary, but this is an opportunity for the leaders to do that. This is not a formal summit. This is just a leaders’ meeting. It’s an opportunity for leaders to discuss and move forward issues, but nothing formal as in a summit.
You’ll recall the first NATO leaders’ meeting with President Trump occurred in May of 2017. This was his first opportunity to meet at NATO. But, of course, you see this meeting through the lens of last July’s NATO summit and, of course, the disruption that President Trump brought to that conversation, particularly focused on a NATO – NATO’s contributions to defense spending. In fact, it was so disruptive that NATO leaders went into an emergency session. And it was something that I think, quite frankly, traumatized the NATO leaders and NATO officials that organize these types of meetings.
So, this leaders’ meeting was designed to honor the anniversary, to have the leaders meet but to try to diminish formal disruption.
I think it’s interesting, just to go back in history a little bit, as we’re on the anniversary kick, it was actually – the last time NATO leaders met in London was in 1990, and that was a declaration on a transformed North Atlantic alliance. So NATO is in a constant state of transformation, as it should, as it adapts to new challenges.
And, in fact, in that declaration I just pulled out one sentence that I thought was absolutely appropriate 29 years later. NATO leaders said we reaffirm that security and stability do not lie solely in the military dimension, and we intend to enhance the political component of our alliance, as provided for by Article 2 of our treaty.
So, this is, in fact, a political discussion during the London meeting. And I think that’s absolutely appropriate as the alliance is going about its tasks. And as much as the last summit was extremely disruptive, it was also productive, with a summit declaration that really has quite a bit of tasks for NATO to do and accomplish. And so that proceeds on.
But the politics of this alliance are so difficult; in some ways very reflective transatlantically of leaders that are in political turmoil, from President Trump to Chancellor Angela Merkel to Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and even to Boris Johnson. So we look, in many ways, at the politics of NATO today.
So that’s just a quick sort of scene setter. So let’s turn to London ten days before a UK general election, election that has not been held in the UK in December since 1923. It is very typical that the host country will have a bilat with the U.S. president, but this is in fact not happening right now – at least all things being equal, and maybe the press corps has more information on the ground. But there will be no bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Johnson and President Trump.
The government right now is in what they call purdah, which is where the government can’t make any announcements, but in fact, President Trump can be incredibly disruptive to the UK general election. In fact, the U.S. has been very much part of this conversation in the election, particularly around a potential future U.S.-UK free trade agreement.
President Trump is deeply unpopular in the UK, and so as Prime Minister Johnson said last week, that he would – he expects that loving allies and friends would not want to interfere in the U. general election. It will be – we’ll see if President Trump is self-restrained in his comments, particularly in the aftermath of the tragedy of the London Bridge, the tragic murders. President Trump has very frequently sparred with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, particularly when London has experienced terrorist events, so we will see if he will refrain from speaking out about the attack as well as UK politics in general.
For Prime Minister Johnson, this was supposed to be Security Week. The NATO Leaders Meeting was meant to show that after the UK exits the European Union, that this global Britain will be a very robust security actor within NATO and globally, and again, he, too, wants a very smooth summit – sorry – Leaders Meeting as well.
All of us are very much focused on President Trump’s meeting with President Macron, which comes right before the official beginning of the meeting with the Queen’s reception. President Macron has been on quite a tear since hosting the G7 Summit in Biarritz in August. His energy and enthusiasm, whether it’s trying to bridge differences over the Iran nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran, very surprisingly announcing at the end of August that Europe needed to seek a greater accommodation with Russia, his recent visit to Beijing, and then of course capstoning that with his interview in The Economist and declaring NATO is experiencing “brain death.”
Of course, this energy and this own disruption in some ways has been very unhelpful to the alliance, and it will be interesting to see if President Trump and President Macron agree on whether the path forward on NATO – even the path forward on Russia – those are some of the issues that I will be looking forward to very, very closely. In fact, President Macron, I think, seeing this opportunity with the UK very much absorbed in removing itself from the European Union, the German government continues to stagnate because of political troubles which I will talk about later, this is really a moment for French leadership of Europe, and President Macron is seizing that moment, seeking to be disruptive in his own way, and so we will see how that works.
Perhaps – before I turn this over to Rachel – the most interesting meeting will be between French President Macron and Turkish President Erdogan. If you saw their exchanges over the end of the week, I’m actually personally looking forward to seeing what the readout is to that meeting.
So with that let me turn this over to Rachel, and she can give you the real story on the NATO Leaders Meeting.
Rachel Ellehuus: Thank you very much, Heather.
So as Heather already previewed, NATO is celebrating its 70th anniversary, and under that measure it is sort of taking its agenda in three acts. The first act is reflecting on its accomplishments. Since its inception it has increased its membership from 12 to 29 members, soon to be 30 when the Republic of North Macedonia joins shortly. That’s just in ratification and in capitals.
On burden sharing they can celebrate a fifth consecutive year of growth in defense spending with nine allies now at 2 percent. And then on the qualitative side, which is a much-forgotten part of the Wales defense commitment, 16 at 20 percent on procurement of new equipment. So we are having – we are seeing a NATO that has more ready forces, more and better spending on the right things. So the military machinery is in excellent shape. So I think you’ll see the secretary-general and leaders celebrating the core of NATO, which is its force-generation capabilities, its coordinated operational planning, and its high levels of interoperability.
The difficulties, as Heather said, are more on the political side where there are a lot of disagreements among allies on issues, but in my view that just reflects sort of the complex nature of the challenges NATO is dealing with. It’s just hard to prioritize when you’ve got Russia deterrence in the north as well as the south, you have instability along the southern flank, and then you have a lot of threats in new domains. And it also reflects a broader fragmentation at a national and European level, which we see in those governments and in EU leadership. But again, there’s a lot to be proud of in terms of accomplishments.
In terms of act two, NATO will seek to complete and finalize all of the deterrence and defense measures it agreed in – kind of in the period between – after Crimea between 2014 following through to the Warsaw Summit in 2016. Among those, NATO has now a both new political guidance as well as a new military strategy. Those set the framework to the general direction of travel where NATO wants to go.
It also has an adapted command structure that strengthens the transatlantic link. Many of you may recall the standup of the Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, which has new responsibly in particular for linking the two theaters, the European and the North Atlantic theater, and really watching in particular Russian movements through the Greenland-Iceland-UK gaps and up in the Barents Sea. So that adapted command structure is in place, with subordinate commands that are focused on military mobility and logistical movements.
In terms of forward presence, NATO is going to continue its enhanced forward presence in the Baltic states and Poland, as well as the tailored forward-presence measures in and around the Black Sea. Its high-readiness forces are now at about 40,000. Part of that is a spearhead force which is able to act within a matter of hours, 24 to 48 hours.
And then one of the new elements which is due to reach – what would I say – international operating capability here in 2020 is the NATO Readiness Initiative. Many of you might know that as the Four 30s. This is the commitment for NATO to stand up and have ready 30 mechanized battalions, 30 warships, and 30 air squadrons in 30 days, and that will really enhance what NATO uses as a reinforcement model. So when NATO does deterrence and defense in Europe, not all – not all forces are present forward. We have some on the ground, like those in the Baltic states and Poland. We have some in Germany and Italy who can reinforce. And then the real reinforcements come under that Readiness Initiative, many of them coming from the continental United States. So again, act two is closing out those deterrence and defense measures agreed in and around 2016.
And the final bit of the NATO agenda is to set a course for the future and to look at some of these new areas that are affecting NATO more and more. And I’ll highlight five of those.
The first is cyber. This is something that NATO has been playing in for the last 10 years or so. But they have established very specific resilience targets for individual countries, so you can almost stress-test a country on how good their resilience is in the face of a cyberattack. They stood up a new cyber operations center to sort of take the lead here, and about nine countries have also offered their national capabilities for offensive cyber. That’s a distinction for the alliance because previously their cyber capabilities were primarily defensive. Now, with this offer of offensive cyber capabilities provided by nations, there is that deterrent threat of a response if there is an attack.
Secondly, on hybrid, the – NATO is not necessarily always best-placed on its own focus on hybrid threats, which are often economic/diplomatic in nature, not always purely military. But they have worked very closely with the EU – this is one priority area of NATO-EU cooperation – to establish support teams which, much like the cyber resilience teams, look at some of the vulnerabilities in these societies and try to address those.
NATO also declares space an operational domain. Increasingly, NATO forces are reliant on space for a number of capabilities, whether that’s imagery or force tracking or force tracking or communications or navigation or even weather. And so making space their fifth operational domain is important here.
Fourthly, NATO will endorse an emerging technology roadmap. You know, to be – to be honest, NATO’s not quite sure how to grapple with artificial intelligence and some of the challenges it’s presenting. So what they aim to do with this roadmap is think through the impact of emerging technologies on NATO decision-making and NATO interoperability and NATO’s military superiority and try to establish some rules of the road on how they might respond to any impact it has on NATO’s effectiveness.
That spills over into the fifth sort of future item – future agenda item, which is a discussion on China, focused on telecommunications and infrastructure in particular. I think NATO’s going about this smartly. They are – they are not, you know, making China or handling China as a military threat. Rather, again, they are looking at the impact of Chinese economic investments, involvement in the European and transatlantic theater on the alliance politically in particular, and setting right investments. What is the bar for technology security in terms of 5G and technology investments? What is important in terms of access to infrastructure such as ports and airfields? And could investment by China and others inhibit that access and that security? So that’s how they’re approaching China.
So that’s basically the NATO agenda in and of itself. Maybe just a word briefly on the bilat with the Danish prime minister.
You know, if we go back to August, when there was – you know, when President Trump suggested the United States might purchase Greenland, that, as you know, was met with a little bit of surprise and shock by the Kingdom of Denmark, which just to remind is not just Denmark by also the Faroe Islands and Greenland. And there’s a bit of a delicate balance between Denmark and Greenland. And I think it shocked primarily because it seems like the United States was trying to approach Greenland in a bilateral way but didn’t necessarily respect the divided competencies within the Kingdom of Denmark.
I think we are now back on track. And Denmark and the United States, with Greenland in the room at all times, recognize that we need to have a discussion on how to cooperate further. There is increased Russian and Chinese military and economic activity in the Arctic and around Greenland. Greenland is host to the Thule Radar, which provides early warning for missile threats to the homeland of the United States. So we agree on the strategic importance of Greenland. We just need to think through where there is space for further cooperation, whether that’s an increased military presence such as airfields, ports, early warning sensors along the coast; or whether that’s more economic and development related. The United States has established a consulate now in Greenland so they can be working more actively with local populations, again with the Kingdom of Denmark in the lead. So I think we’ll see further progress and discussions on how the U.S. and Denmark can cooperate – Kingdom of Denmark can cooperate over Greenland.
You know, back to burden sharing. Denmark does not meet 2 percent yet. They are probably just below the European average of around 1.5 percent, but they are moving towards 2 percent consistently and they have a plan to get there in a reasonable timeframe. Denmark and Prime Minister Frederiksen, I expect she will approach that issue by pointing out that on capabilities and contributions Denmark is first in class. They were with us in Iraq. They’re consistently with us in Afghanistan. They’re active in Iraq now. They do a lot on the maritime front in terms of demining and maritime surveillance. So I think she’s really going to put out there how much Denmark invests in sending its – making sure that its forces are ready and deployable, and that it’s investing in high-end capabilities such as F-35. So hopefully that will go smoothly and will sort of clean up some of the tension that was created in the August timeframe.
Heather A. Conley: Thanks, Rachel. Sorry, almost there. Two more bilats.
So President Trump will be meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Both Italian Prime Minister Conte and Chancellor Merkel both right now are leading increasingly fragile coalition governments. Over the weekend Angela Merkel’s coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party, just selected two new leaders that – both are certainly uncomfortable in remaining in coalition with the Christian Democrats. We’ll know by the end of this week what new demands for the German coalition will be, but it increasingly looks more fragile, a potential for Angela Merkel to lead a minority government. And then the least likely outcome, but still potentially you could see Germany going to early elections – although, again, very, very unlikely.
So Chancellor Merkel will be attending this leaders meeting with questions being raised about the longevity and the stability of her government. She does have quite a long list of issues to discuss with President Trump, and I’m sure he with she as well.
Germany also is not reaching its commitment yet of 2 percent of GDP for defense spending till 2024. They now have a plan to be at 1.5 percent of GDP by 2024. And again, this is not meeting the commitment that they made in 2014.
Chancellor Merkel will be very interested in hearing the president’s thoughts, I’m sure, on phase one of the U.S.-China trade discussions. Germany has really been caught wholly economically in this trade war and would like to see how that will be managed.
I’m sure the chancellor will mention the increasing investment of German companies – auto companies particularly – in the United States, and this is in hopes of making sure that in six months’ time President Trump would not place tariffs on auto parts and on autos.
Nord Stream 2, the pipeline that will bring Russian gas to Germany, may come up in that discussion. Certainly, President Trump and his ambassador in Germany, Ambassador Grenell, have been very vocal about Nord Stream 2. And of course, the Danes just recently approved the finalization of that pipeline.
So those will be, certainly, questions raised. We’re certainly, I have to say, watching very carefully as the United States is looking at increasing South Korea’s cost of basing U.S. forces in Korea. I have to say I’m watching it very closely to see whether the president will have a similar issue and ask for the German government to increase its percentage of providing for U.S. forces in Germany.
So, again, I think it will be a workmanlike bilateral meeting. But there are certainly growing and serious issues on the agenda.
For the meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Conte, if you think Angela Merkel’s coalition is fragile, boy, the Italian coalition is increasingly fragile. Prime Minister Conte is under pressure from his own coalition partner on decisions that he took regarding the European Union bailout fund, the European Stabilization Mechanism. We really are going to have historically important regional elections in Italy in January that could end this coalition. The Five Star Movement is unlikely to do very well in their traditional stronghold. And so this is going to be a very dynamic period.
So, again, the president likes Prime Minister Conte very much. This to me feels more like a meeting that he would look forward to having. But again, this coalition is extremely fragile.
So just to recap, sort of random and final thoughts on the NATO meetings – some things that I’m looking for.
NATO may approve or continue to push through a new military strategy. This is something that is not – NATO has not had a new military strategy since 1967. And I think part of President Marcon’s message, the interview on the “brain death,” is in some ways the product of that may be that NATO leaders announce some sort of a senior strategic group, a senior statesman level area that will basically start trying to think through strategically how to proceed. This is, again, more for the political unity that right now seems to be missing within NATO.
But I’ll just say one thing to Rachel’s comment on the bilateralization. U.S. has really bilateralized its defense relationship with Europe, whether that’s U.S.-Poland, looking at a variety of issues. This comes at some cost to the cohesiveness of NATO.
And so while NATO is doing and moving these things, I think we have to be very cognizant that this bilateralization does have some costs. Of course, Turkey’s S-400 and NATO, that will play out. I’m also looking for any statements about Ukraine. The government of Hungary has blocked a formal dialogue between NATO and Ukraine.
And, of course, this summit is – sorry – this leaders’ meeting is a week before a very important summit in Paris between President Putin, President Zelensky of Ukraine, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. And so any hints or suggestions in any of the bilateral conversations about Ukraine, President Zelensky, what that means, obviously that has important domestic connotations here in the U.S., but this is very important strategically; so just a couple of things that we’re watching, and I hope you’re watching for too.
Sorry, that was really long, but we had a lot to go through. So thank you for your patience. And we look forward to your questions.
Operator: Thank you.
(Gives queueing instructions.)
Our first question will come from the line of George Condon from National Journal. Please go ahead.
George Condon: Thanks for doing this. And I’m particularly glad it’s discounted by 50 percent.
H. Andrew Schwartz: That was for you, George.
George Condon: To what degree is there concern about the president’s comments on reducing the U.S. contribution to NATO? And to what degree is impeachment something that’s affecting the summit in any way in the way they’re watching? Do you get the sense that some of them are just eager to get through the year and possibly move past President Trump?
Rachel Ellehuus: So, thanks, George.
On the common-funding issue, this has been in the works for some time. I think NATO leaders have been trying to think creatively about the burden-sharing issue. So, on the one hand, as I said, they talk about not just cash, but also capabilities and contributions. So, they can talk about 2 percent, but they can also talk about contributions to operations and capabilities, countries that are purchasing.
Common funding is similar. It’s actually a very small budget within the NATO context. So it’s largely symbolic that the U.S. is cutting its contribution. But the U.S. administration was very clear that we wanted to have our share of common funding more in line with what Germany was paying.
So just to give you a little bit of background, NATO common funding and how much each member state pays is allocated according to GDP. And so by the GDP measure, the United States should be paying about 40 percent of NATO common funding. They had already negotiated a rebate, so to speak, some years ago whereby we only pay 22 percent. The other allies pick up that difference. It will now go down to about 16 percent or 16.5 percent.
So in terms of the overall NATO budget, it’s not a big deal. And I think Stoltenberg and others will be inclined to sort of take the whip in order to tell this overall positive story on burden sharing because they know, at the end of the day, there is not a great impact on NATO’s ability to function or get done what it needs to get done, because this budget is so small.
Heather A. Conley: George, this is Heather. I’ll take the second question.
You know, I think, in many ways, this trip is really for President Trump to, in some ways, escape the impeachment inquiry here and focus on what I believe now increasingly he views as his own personal foreign-policy success, and that is NATO’s increased defense spending. So I think some of this is highlighting his foreign-policy success, as he perceives it.
But for me, as I sort of mentioned at the very end, I am most interested in sort of policy vis-à-vis Ukraine, the transatlantic policy vis-à-vis Ukraine. And this is – again, I have to say that those of us who are foreign-policy watchers – in the focus of the impeachment inquiry, we’re forgetting about the strategic imperative that is Ukraine, and it’s a strategic imperative for NATO.
NATO’s defense really begins in Ukraine, and so does the United States. And so making sure that we have a common view on Russia – and this is why all these statements coming out of the NATO leaders’ meeting and the bilaterals regarding transatlantic policy towards Russia, as well as making sure that there is – you know, keeping faith with Ukraine. That I think is really for me the most important part, and this is where President Macron’s both decisions and comments – his decision a few weeks ago to, in effect, block any further EU enlargement to the Western Balkans sends chilling messages to Ukraine. His overtures to President Putin regarding sort of reaching an accommodation for European security, this is what concerns me the most, quite frankly. So I hope there is more attention paid on sort of the strategic importance of Ukraine for the U.S., for Europe, for NATO, and maybe perhaps a little less of the domestic politics here would be a welcome respite.
Operator: Thank you. Then our next question is going to come from the line of Julian Borger from The Guardian. Please go ahead.
Julian Borger: Hello there. Thanks for doing this.
I’m just interested in to what extent there is fear among the NATO allies about what Trump would do if he is – once he is reelected and sort of unleashed in terms of what he wants to do – you know, whether that poses an existential threat to NATO given what we know about his opinions about NATO.
Heather A. Conley: Julian, I think – this is Heather. I’ll start, and then, Rachel, if you would like to chime in, absolutely.
So, you know, I think allies – European allies, Asian allies – have navigated the last three years. There has been, in some ways, a strengthening of relations at the military level for a variety of NATO countries, and that has attempted to be ballast as the politics continue to be very tumultuous.
So I think allies view this as – to maintain as much stability as possible through the end of this year, and then depending on the outcome of the U.S. election, then allies have some decisions to make, I think, as they look towards 2021 if President Trump is reelected or if there is a new American leader.
So I think this is a moment of trying to stabilize as best as possible, as I said, and this is not so much – I think we do place on a factor related to President Trump, but the politics within most of the NATO countries are extremely tumultuous and fragile in and of themselves that has nothing to do with President Trump. But of course instability about America’s role in the world and its unilateral and unexpected decisions make that fragility just that much worse.
So I think there is a holding pattern. The next NATO summit would not be until 2021, but NATO will continue regardless of the presidential election. It will continue. But other countries, I think, if President Trump is reelected, will begin to make decisions which in some ways will feel a little bit like somewhat a decoupling from, I think, the growing focus on sort of the U.S. leadership model. As we said, there will be additional hedging from that.
And Rachel, please feel free to jump in on that.
Rachel Ellehuus: I agree with you, Heather. I reassure that – at how well NATO and our other relationships with European allies continue to hum below the surface. I mean, you need to remember that it’s under this administration that the decision was taken, you know, to enlarge NATO, and now it’s going to happen again to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine, to increase the budget for the European Deterrence Initiative – you know, more than double. So things continue to work below the surface, and we continue to make forward progress.
Where I worry most is the unpredictability – you know, nations sign up to operate alongside us in tough places like Syria and Afghanistan because they sense there is some sort of U.S. leadership there and staying power. It’s going to be much harder to bring countries on board. I think we saw this when Iran was playing games in the Straits of Hormuz. It was the first time that I saw allies question whether they should be part of an eventual operation if the United States was involved. Usually the United States’ involvement in a military operation is a precondition for them wanting to participate. We actually became a negative factor in their – in their calculations about whether to come onboard for that eventual operation.
And then the lack of U.S. leadership. I mean, where Macron is right is, you know, NATO is not “brain dead” – it has been great at adapting – but without U.S. leadership on certain issues, we are not going to get ourselves out of some of these stalemates. I mean, we need U.S. leadership in order to push any number of things on the NATO agenda, particularly in tougher areas like nuclear modernization or arms control where there’s not a lot of agreement among European allies as such. So that’s where my worries lie if we get four more years.
Operator: Thank you.
(Gives queuing instructions.)
And we have a question from the line of Tejinder Singh from IAT. Please go ahead.
Tejinder Singh : Yes. I have covered NATO in Brussels for years before coming to the U.S., and there was a lot of talk about enlargement, about cohesion. Where are we on enlargement and cohesion among, you know, our – the NATO allies? Not always looking at the U.S. but, you know, role reversal part on the European soil. So the people over there are still, you know, quite apprehensive. So what are we doing to get this done?
Heather A. Conley: So on the NATO enlargement front, all NATO members have ratified North Macedonia’s membership with the exception of Spain, and that’s because Spain has been unable to form a government. So we anticipate that by early next year NATO will formally welcome North Macedonia as its 30th members of NATO. So certainly, NATO has continued to expand.
I think if I understand your question correctly, this is enlargement regarding the European Union. In many ways the NATO and EU enlargements have really gone hand in hand. NATO has always been first in extending that enlargement path and then the EU enlargement has caught up. That process has basically stopped. The EU is right now unable to even open accession talks with either North Macedonia or Albania, and this is due in part – not solely, but by the French demand that the EU must change and revitalize the process by which it brings in new members before it is willing to continue to bring in new members. And of course, Turkey is really the example where the EU enlargement process has really stagnated to a point of failure.
So you’re absolutely right, Europe is at a – at a moment of profound questioning of its enlargement strategy. And this has always been – again, if you go back to 30 years, when President George H.W. Bush talked about a Europe whole and free, this extending this enlargement – and again, I just keep going back to that 1990 London declaration of the NATO meeting, which was the first time that the former Warsaw Pact countries were invited to come to NATO Headquarters. So this is – this enlargement has always been about securing Europe, and now it is very much in question. And certainly, Russia has profoundly challenged European stability and security and enlargement by its pattern of behavior in Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia.
I hope that answers your question.
Tejinder Singh: Yeah. Thank you.
Operator: Thank you.
We have a question from the line of Paul McLeary from Breaking Defense. Please go ahead.
Paul McLeary: Good morning, everyone. Thanks for doing this. (Clears throat.) Excuse me.
I mean, what you’ve described here is kind of a NATO alliance where militarily it seems cohesive, but politically there’s a lot of fractures and rifts there. So I mean, how do we square the two? And you know, what risk is there that some of these political fractures will bleed over into military cooperation?
Heather A. Conley: Hi, Paul. Thanks.
I think you’re absolutely right. Again, it’s always important to remember that NATO is a political-military alliance. I think the last 15, 20 years it’s accentuated its military and its tactical operations, whether that was in Afghanistan or elsewhere, and now the political part of the alliance has come under great strain. And the politics now have actually begun to disrupt the military part, and I’m going to turn to Rachel to explain a little bit. Right now Turkey is withholding its permission or its approval for the Baltics and Poland’s Graduated Response Plan, which is how basically they appropriate ways for defense, because of lack of acknowledgement on Turkey’s vulnerabilities on its southern border. So there is where the politics are now starting to bleed into the military operations. Rachel will have a much better sense and details of it than I do.
Rachel Ellehuus: So you’re absolutely right, Heather, that Turkey is probably the most – the most visible case of where the political disagreements are spilling over.
And you know, on the Graduated Response Plan, I ultimately think Turkey will give in. This is a tactic not – you know, to withhold support and take hostage things on the agenda to get your own agenda forward is a tactic certainly used by France. I mean, they were withholding their support for space as an operational domain as late as last week, I believe. We already talked about Hungary withholding support for, you know, meetings – NATO meetings with Ukraine. And so in some ways this is just what nations do.
And Turkey is holding up the Graduated Response Plan for the Baltics and Poland because it would like to see NATO acknowledge that the YPG is a terrorist threat to Turkey and a legitimate security concern. I think they will end up getting some language, probably not specific to the YPG, but ultimately, they will give in because their Graduated Response Plan is also on the table for approval. So they can only hold up the Baltics and Poland for so long without sort of shooting themselves in the foot.
The more serious example is Turkey’s pursuit of the S-400, which could really affect NATO interoperability. I mean, already over the weekend Turkey was testing F-16s against the S-400, which only further reinforces the decision not to deliver their F-35s because that certainly – S-400 could certainly map its radar signature and compromise its capability.
But more importantly, you know, if Turkey goes down a path where it’s buying more Russian equipment, its ability to be integrated into NATO command-and-control systems or to operate alongside other allies will be compromised. And we’ve made that point to them repeatedly. But again, it’s the political need to hedge, and to teach NATO a lesson, and to have a relationship with Russia with regard to Syria and defense that – to meet a need that NATO hasn’t filled that’s driving this. But I think – I hope that, you know, as Turkey starts to realize that in terms of long-term strategic interests its interests lie with the West other than Russia, we might see a turnaround here. But that’s going to require a lot of work to get things back on a path.
Operator: Thank you. And at this time, I have no further questions in queue.
H. Andrew Schwartz: Great, Sean. If we have no further questions, we’ll wrap it up. And to our callers, we’ll get out a transcript shortly this morning, as soon as we can. We’ll also be posting it on our website and tweeting it out later today.
Thanks, everybody, for joining the call. And as always, you can reach us for interviews through my office. Thanks very much.