Before we begin, I would like to give a quick few housekeeping notes. At this time you can go ahead and start submitting your questions in the lower left-hand portion of your screen titled Questions for Ambassador Daalder. We’ll try to get to as many of your questions as we can in the 30 minutes we have. And I just want to remind you, today we’ll be talking about U.S.-NATO relations.
If you would like to continue this conversation after the conclusion of today’s program, you can do so by using the #Chicago2012. And if you would like to follow the ambassador, you can do so at – by using the Twitter handle @USAMBNATO and @USNATO.
And with that, I’ll turn it over to you, Ambassador. Welcome, and thank you for joining us today.
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well, wonderful to be here, Holly, a great opportunity to have a discussion about NATO with our international audience. I’m really looking forward to the questions. Two weeks from now, we’ll be in Chicago for a summit. It’s all very important for us to get to know what the international community really thinks, and this is an opportunity for you to ask me the questions, and for you – for me to get you the answers as best as I can. So I look forward to this for the next 30 minutes.
MS. JENSEN: Great. Our first question comes from Jakob Nielsen: Ambassador, thanks for making this conference happen. In terms of foreign troops in Afghanistan post-2014, does the U.S. prefer a NATO set-up, or rather a coalition of the willing? And should the NATO summit this month agree on how many troops should be staying Afghanistan?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well Jacob, that’s a great question. We, as you know, just signed a bilateral agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that will commit the United States to continue to support Afghanistan for another decade past 2014. We believe that when we get to Chicago that the NATO countries themselves, all 28, will commit NATO to continue to operate and have a mission in Afghanistan after 2014.
The exact troop numbers are issues that we really need to discuss in the months and indeed years ahead. We still have two and a half years in the current mission to make sure that Afghanistan will be secure and that the Afghan security forces will be able to provide for that security by the end of 2014 by themselves. After that, NATO will continue to train Afghans and we look forward to having a decision to that effect at Chicago later this month.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Kjell Dragnes from Norway: NATO is a process – is in a process of withdrawing forces from Afghanistan. Some of the allies have already done that ahead of the 2014 deadline. Will a hastened withdrawal jeopardize the political situation in Afghanistan because the Afghan forces are not yet sufficiently prepared to take over responsibility for security for themselves?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well Kjell, thanks very much for that question. When we last had a summit in Lisbon in 2010, November of 2010, all 28 NATO countries, and indeed all 50 ISAF countries, agreed that we would stay in Afghanistan until the end of 2014. It was the notion that we would go in together and we would go out together. That principle is still extremely important. And even though countries have withdrawn, in some cases, certain troops, including combat troops, all of them – and I mean all of them, every NATO country and all ISAF countries – remain committed to having forces in Afghanistan until the end of 2014 in order to ensure that the Afghan forces will be capable and sufficiently strong to be able to provide for security throughout Afghanistan by the end of 2014. And I think in Chicago we will reaffirm the wisdom of that decision and the commitment of all allies to continue to have forces in Afghanistan until the job is done by the end of 2014.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Vladimir Mirceski from AlphaTV 3: What conclusions from Macedonia do you expect to come from the Chicago summit?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well Vladimir, I think what we will do – one, we will have the opportunity for Macedonia, which is a strong participant in ISAF in the Afghanistan operation to come to Chicago, and we will recognize and welcome the contribution that Macedonia has made. As you may recall, in Bucharest in 2008, the NATO countries made the decision to issue an invitation to Macedonia to join the NATO alliance as soon as a mutually satisfactory resolution to the name issue had been found. The United States and all allies are working actively to foster such a mutually acceptable agreement, and we hope that that can be done as soon as possible so that Macedonia can join NATO. It’s not likely that that will happen at this summit, given that we’ve only got two more weeks to go, but it is something that all NATO countries are committed to.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Awais Saleem: Has Pakistan been officially extended an invitation to attend the NATO summit? And any update in this regard on how important is Pakistan’s participation to the NATO summit as well as the endgame in Afghanistan?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Pakistan, of course, is a very important country for the stability of the region and including Afghanistan. The issue of which countries are going to be coming to Chicago is still under discussion at NATO, and we hope and expect that those issues will be resolved soon.
As you know, we are in active bilateral consultations as well with a NATO participation in those consultations on finding ways to open the ground lines of communication through Pakistan into Afghanistan, which have now been closed for about six months. Opening up these ground lines is extremely important for the stability of Afghanistan and the ability for our troops in Afghanistan to have the kinds of resupply of resources that is necessary. Those negotiations are ongoing and we hope they can be completed successfully very soon.
MS. JENSEN: The next question comes from Andrii Lavreniuk: Mr. Ambassador, the president of Ukraine as the head of state which contributes to the ISAF was invited to participate in NATO summit meetings in Chicago. Taking into consideration the current contradictory political situation in Ukraine which provoked serious concerns in the U.S., NATO, and EU, would it be diplomatically correct for Mr. --
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Yanukovych.
MS. JENSEN: Yanukovych – thank you – to visit Chicago?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well, Mr. Yanukovych is the head of state of Ukraine, and Ukraine is a valuable member of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. And all members who contribute troops, and therefore are members of the ISAF operation, are invited to Chicago. That’s why Mr. Yanukovych is coming. It is not in any way a reflection on the current political issues that are ongoing inside Ukraine. The issue is if you are a valuable member to the ISAF operation, then, because we are meeting in Chicago, we will extend an invitation, and we look forward to Mr. Yanukovych attending the summit in Chicago in two weeks’ time.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Laurent Thomet from AFP. Will NATO leaders endorse Francois Hollande’s decision to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan this year, or could his plan upset the transition?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well, every nation that comes to Chicago or need – whether to – at any time will make national decisions about how they will contribute to NATO operations. That is for nations to determine themselves. So whatever Mr. Hollande will decide when it comes to providing – continuing to provide French troops to the Afghan operation is for Mr. Hollande and his new government to decide.
That said, we have an operation within NATO, within the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan, that has – is based on the principle of in together, out together. And I would expect that all countries that are signing up to this operation will continue to have some form of military presence inside Afghanistan until the end of 2014.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Turkey. Is it possible to implement Article Number 5 of NATO for Syria’s border violation against Turkey? The prime minister, Edergon, mentioned this frequently.
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Article 5, of course, is the core of the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed here in Washington in 1949, and it says that an armed attack against one is an armed attack against all. If there were to be an armed attack against Turkey, then the North Atlantic Council and the countries of NATO would come together to decide whether or not this met the test of invoking – what is called invoking this Article 5, and would lead to an appropriate response.
So far, we have had very limited discussion on the issues, led by Turkey, within the alliance in which Turkey has informed the Allies of what has occurred at and near and across the border. There has been no request for a military assistance or in any way a military response by Turkey for the situation in Syria. But of course, the territorial integrity, the political independence, and the sovereignty of all NATO members is absolutely vital. It’s the core task of this alliance to stand shoulder to shoulder to defend the territory of all member states. And if there were to be an armed attack against Turkey, or indeed against any other member, all members of the alliance, including the United States, would be ready to respond.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Hans De Bruijn from The Netherlands Press Association. The Afghan security forces are now building up towards 350,000 soldiers and policemen. But from 2017 on, a force of only 230,000 is considered enough by the Afghans. This means more than 100,000 troops will have to be dismissed, people that are trained and armed but out of a job. This looks like fertile recruitment for the Taliban. Do you recognize this danger?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well, Hans, it’s a very important question. And as you rightly say, until 2017, the current force strength of the Afghan army is likely to remain. Three hundred fifty-two thousand is what the Afghan police and army is being built up to. The question of when and how that might be reduced – this is a surge force, and therefore, as the security situation increases and becomes better, it ought to be possible to provide security with lesser forces. But how, when, and where are really a discussion that is, at this moment, a little premature. We’re – it’s 2012. We still have a big job to do till the end of 2014, to train Afghan army and police forces to provide for security throughout Afghanistan.
Then after that, we, the United States and all NATO countries are committed to making sure that the ANSF, the Afghan National Security Forces, are sufficient to the task of maintaining security and sustainable in terms of financial commitments for the longer period. How that will evolve over time is one of the issues we will discuss in Chicago. And after Chicago, how would – whether there will be reductions and how those reductions will take place are the kinds of issues that the Afghans will have to decide themselves in close coordination and cooperation with us. No real decisions have been made about the size of the Afghan force down the road, in part because it will take a reflection on the security situation at the time to determine what kind of forces will be necessary.
MS. JENSEN: Nikolay Petrov from Bulgarian News Agency would like to know: Would you explain the current state of the European antimissile system? And when do you expect it to be fully deployed?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Nikolay, thanks very much for that very important question. Today, the United States has an initial operating capability for a radar that has been deployed in Turkey and a ship with antimissile interceptors that operates in the Mediterranean Sea. So there is today a limited capability to defend Southeastern Europe against limited ballistic missile attacks. At the same time, within NATO, we have been working to ensure that NATO will have the tools to take command and control of these missile defense assets, the ships and the radar, should the situation so demand.
And we will get together in Chicago and declare an interim NATO ballistic missile defense capability, recognizing that NATO, after Chicago, will indeed have the tools to take command and control of the radar and the ships. That will happen immediately after Chicago. When the forces would be made available to a NATO command and control is, of course, dependent on the situation in the region and the degree to which there is a need, seriously, to defend this part of NATO, given the nature of the threat. But NATO will be capable of exercising command and control over U.S. and other ballistic missile defense assets after the summit in a few weeks’ time.
MS. JENSEN: Dorian Jones from Voice of America in Turkey asks: What is your reaction to Turkey blocking the attendance of Israel to the summit and its reservations over the attendance of EU officials?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Dorian, thanks for that. Israel is a valued partner of NATO, and of course a very close and strategic ally of the United States. It is a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, which is a group of seven Mediterranean countries that have a active dialogue with NATO. There was never any thought given to having a heads of state in government meeting in Chicago of the Mediterranean Dialogue, and therefore, there was never an invitation extended or even thought to be extended to any of those members, and that includes Israel.
At the same time, the Mediterranean Dialogue remains an active body. We just had a senior level discussion in Rabat in Morocco of the Mediterranean Dialogue countries, in which all NATO members and all Mediterranean Dialogue countries participated, including Israel. And we encourage that kind of interaction with Israel, between NATO and Israel and the Mediterranean Dialogue countries. We will do that before the summit and we will do it after the summit.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Gro Holm from Norway: What could be the realistic terms of an agreement between NATO and Russia about cooperation on the missile defense system in Europe?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well, thanks for that question. As you know, when – in Lisbon, NATO decided to deploy a NATO defense missile system. And I mentioned earlier that in Chicago, we expect the leaders to declare an interim capability. When we decided to do that, we also offered to cooperate with Russia, and we have been working actively in the past 18 months to find a better way for Russia and NATO to cooperate. We have put on the table various proposals, including a proposal to create two centers where NATO and Russia officers could work together, both to look at the center data that are from Russian centers and sensors, radars, and satellites up in the sky, as well as NATO sensors, to have that data come together, be fused, and so to share that data, not only between Russia – between Russia and NATO.
And a second center in which NATO and Russia would do operational planning, to see how their separate systems, which would be commanded and controlled separately, could cooperate to deal with the threat, in the firm belief that if NATO and Russia cooperated on missile defense, NATO would be more secure and Russia would be more secure. We’re not yet there in having an agreement with Russia, but we note that President Medvedev, and now President Putin, have reaffirmed their commitment to a strong dialogue with the United States and with NATO to see how we can cooperate on these issues in the future. And we are fully committed to continue with that dialogue in order to get that cooperation.
MS. JENSEN: Violeta Angelovska from MIA News Agency asks: Can Macedonia expect an invitation for NATO membership at the Chicago summit, especially as Greece is preoccupied with the debt crisis and a political one and is clearly unable to take part in the name talks?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: The decision made in Bucharest in 2008 will stand, and that won’t be changed until there is a new consensus. The consensus within the alliance, and it requires 28 countries to agree, is that Macedonia will be invited to become a member of NATO as soon as there is a mutual, acceptable resolution to the name issue. The United States and indeed all NATO allies are fully committed to working with both sides to find a mutually acceptable solution, and we hope that such a solution can be reached as soon as possible.
MS. JENSEN: Kjell Dragnes asks: After Afghanistan, do you foresee a more inward looking NATO, and how will it be possible to agree to a better burden sharing with the present economic troubles leading to pressures on defense budgets in most member countries? Apparently, there is no perceived Soviet threat justifying increased military spending in Europe.
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: This is a very important question, and really it has two parts. One is the question of whether NATO, having been involved and still being involved in Afghanistan, will, after that mission is over, sort of retreat. My sense is no. The reason we’re in Afghanistan is a fundamental understanding that the age in which we can retreat behind our geographical borders and be secure – that that age is over. Threats are now coming from almost anywhere on the globe, and they may affect our security at home. We’re in Afghanistan not because we think it’s important for the Afghans to be secure in and of themselves – although that is a good reason – but we are in Afghanistan because the turmoil there was a threat to our security, as we saw on September 11, 2001.
And there are other parts in the world which will require us to be engaged, either militarily or diplomatically or in other ways, to enhance our security. So the day that we can retreat, become inward looking, and focus only on ourselves, that day – because of globalization, that day is gone.
At the same time, it’s clear that the burdens being shared between Europe and the United States are increasingly unfair, that the Europeans have not done enough on their defense spending, while the United States has continued to spend more and more. Indeed, a decade ago, NATO defense spending – about 50 percent was European and 50 percent American. Today, even after the very large cuts in U.S. defense spending, 70 percent of NATO defense spending is being paid by the United States. We are looking at finding ways to enhance not only the overall amount that Europe spends, but also the effectiveness of the dollars that are being spent through more cooperation. Ultimately, what we need is more output, even if the input is not as great as many of us wish it should be.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Murat Hizal, Turkish radio and television: Will Syria be an issue in Chicago, and what is the standing point of the U.S. on the usage of Article 5 if necessary?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: At the moment, Syria is not on – part of the agenda of Afghanistan, though I am sure that at the margins, leaders and foreign ministers will be having various discussions as they do today and they have done in the past months. But it is not a formal issue on the agenda.
As I mentioned with respect to Article 5 earlier, if there were an armed attack on Turkey from Syria or indeed from anywhere else, then Article 5 could be considered to be invoked, because as the treaty says, an armed attack against one is an attack against all. And the United States firmly believes that this core principle of standing with our allies in the face of armed attack is absolutely vital to the success of this alliance.
It’s well to remember that in the 63 years of the alliance’s existence, Article 5 has been invoked exactly once. It was invoked on September 12th, 2001 when the European and North American and Canadian allies decided they would stand with the United States in the face of the armed attack that we suffered in Washington, D.C., and in Pennsylvania, and of course in New York as a result of the terrorist attacks. Americans remember that. And if there were ever a threat to any nation, whether it’s Turkey or any other member-state of an armed attack, then Americans will stand with Turkey, with every member of the alliance, as will all other members of the alliance.
MS. JENSEN: Our next question comes from Slavica Arsova, and it’s a little long: Macedonia has been facing growing interethnic tensions that last week resulted in an arrest of a group of 20 people that Macedonian police claims to be terrorists that murdered five innocent people. Macedonian authorities claim that these people are members of a radical Muslim group that has been trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Do you think that further delay of Macedonia’s entrance in NATO can be a threat to the regional peace and stability?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well, I don’t know what the – the specifics of the events that you cite. And if there are threats to the security of Macedonia, then I am pleased to see that the Macedonian authorities are able to deal with it.
The question of membership in NATO is a simple one that I mentioned before. In Bucharest we decided that Macedonia should become a member of NATO and will get an invitation to NATO as soon as the issue of the name has been settled. It’s important for Macedonia, as it is for Greece and other countries, to do what it can to get to a resolution of the name issue in a way that enables Macedonia to join NATO as soon as possible. That ought to be the focus of diplomacy. It is certainly our focus when we deal with Macedonia and Greece, and we hope that all other countries are equally committed to finding that resolution.
MS. JENSEN: Lee Berthiaume from Postmedia News wants to know: You indicated Europe is not doing enough on defense spending. The United States and other NATO members have been concerned about Canadian defense spending in the past. How would you characterize Canada and defense spending now?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well, as NATO decided some years ago that a reasonable target for all countries when it comes to defense spending is 2 percent of GDP. And if you look at where we were, say, two decades ago at the end of the Cold War, about one third of all NATO members were spending 2 percent of GDP. That, at that time, wasn’t enough, but at least it was one third.
Today, unfortunately, only – up to 28 countries, only five countries spend 2 percent on GDP. And Canada, unfortunately, is not one of those five. So our view, strongly believed in the United States, a country that after all spends over 4 percent of GDP on defense, is that NATO members, when they haven’t reached a 2 percent mark, should do what they can to try and reach that mark as soon as possible. At times of fiscal crisis and austerity, it is difficult to get a political consensus to increase defense spending. At the same time, our commitments to global security, to common security, and to alliance security, mean that those who are not spending enough are relying on those few countries who do. And that is an unfair burden on those who have spent the resources, and we would like to see more burden sharing across the board, and that includes those countries who are not meeting the 2 percent threshold to find a way to do so in the years ahead.
MS. JENSEN: The next question comes from Gro Holm: Did Russia ask for a guarantee that the missiles in the European missile defense should not be used against Russia? And what eventually is NATO’s answer?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Russia has indeed asked for a guarantee, indeed a legally binding guarantee that the interceptors being deployed as part of the missile defense system in Europe are not directed against Russia. And we are happy to provide that guarantee and we have been providing it and will do so in writing. The missile defense system we’re deploying is not directed against Russia. It is not capable technologically or in any other way to undermine the strategic nuclear deterrent of Russia, nor will it under – does its deployment undermine strategic stability. We have said so in the past. We are willing to put that in writing.
What we are not willing to do is to sign an internationally legally binding agreement that would in any way limit the capabilities of our missile defense system, which isn’t designed to deal with Russia but deals with the threat from outside of Europe. We will deploy the missile defense systems necessary to defend NATO Europe against a threat from southeast – from outside of Europe, and we will do what is necessary to provide that protection. Doing so, however, is not a threat to Russia, should not be seen as a threat to Russia, is not directed at Russia, and isn’t going to undermine the strategic nuclear deterrent of Russia.
And it’s on that basis that we are willing and in fact eager to have a serious dialogue and serious discussions with Russia on how we can cooperate to make both Russia and NATO countries more secure in the face of a growing threat of ballistic missile attack.
MS. JENSEN: James Fitz-Morris from CBC Canada would like to know: On the F-35 Joint Strike fighters, General Abrial said last week that NATO does not advocate members using a single type of aircraft or any other type of equipment for that matter. But what is the U.S. position on this? Is it important for as many members of NATO as possible to participate in the F-35 program, and how concerned are you that the global economic situation may derail this program?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: General Abrial is, of course, correct that NATO as an institution has no specific views about what kinds of capabilities its member states need to acquire. From a U.S. perspective, we have seen the value of countries working together using the same kind of equipment. Take the very important case of Libya, in which a number of countries were flying F-16s, and the fact that they had cooperated together, were working together, were able to share experiences, had trained together made them that much more effective in the effort to protect Libyan civilians against their attack by the Libyan regime.
So in that sense, having similar kinds of equipment is very useful to enhance the capacity of the alliance to provide the maximum military capability at the lowest possible cost. And from our perspective, of course, the F-35 is a wonderful aircraft that we would like many NATO countries see adopt. But it is not a NATO – it’s of course not up to NATO to decide what countries purchase. It’s up to each of the 28 members themselves to decide how they're going to spend their own national defense dollars or euro on the equipment that they need for their armed forces.
MS. JENSEN: We have another question from Dorian Jones from VOA Turkey: Will senior members at the EU be attending the NATO summit? And is there any reason in preventing their attendance?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Dorian, you asked that before. So I didn’t answer that question. Thanks for the question. Senior members of the European Union will attend in the same – at the same fora and the same meetings that they did in Lisbon. There never was any question of the European Union not attending, and we will welcome the European Union, which is a unique partner of NATO, it is a strong and close partner of NATO, and all 28 NATO members fully recognize that reality and will want to work closely between NATO and the European Union to ensure that together we have a stronger, more capable defense of European and, indeed, of the North Atlantic Treaty area.
MS. JENSEN: We have time for one more question. It comes from Jakob Nielsen: Ambassador, could you say a few words about the work of the secretary general, Mr. Rasmussen? Has his leadership changed the way NATO works? And if so, how?
AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Well, Jakob Nielsen must come from Denmark, so you know your – the secretary general very well, of course, was the former prime minister of Denmark. Anders Fogh Rasmussen has been a strong leader of this alliance. He has charted a course for the alliance to make it clear that it can be and will be a major force in the 21st century for security. He has demonstrated that through his active leadership both within the organization and among the member states, and this will be his second summit after Lisbon, which was a great success in terms of setting the stage for an alliance ready for the 21st century.
This summit in Chicago will be implementing many of the ideas that we had first developed in Lisbon, and we will have at our helm the secretary general of NATO who has been an inspiring leader and capable of making sure that this alliance meets the test, that it’s fit for purpose, ready to deal with the challenges of the 21st century and be a leader as part of that effort.
MS. JENSEN: Great. Well, that's all the time we have for today. I would like to thank you for all of your amazing questions, and I would also like to thank you, Ambassador, for joining us today.
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We look forward to doing this again with you soon. Thank you and have a great day.