THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Okay. Welcome, everyone, to the Foreign Press Center. We’re ready to begin our briefing today. I’m Cheryl Neely, and I’m pleased to have you and our special guest here for our briefing entitled “America as the Security Partner of Choice: Highlights of 2019 and Look Ahead to 2020.”
Ground rules are pretty straightforward today, on the record and on camera, and I’d like to introduce our briefer. Mr. R. Clarke Cooper was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as assistant secretary for political-military affairs in April 2019. Immediately prior to taking on this role – to taking on his present role in the Trump administration, Mr. Cooper served as the director of intelligence planning for Joint Special Operations Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force for the National Capital Region. And he brings over two decades of experience in both diplomatic and military roles to his current position. His full bio was linked in your briefing invitation, and we had a few copies available at the front desk.
So without any more, I will turn it over to Assistant Secretary Cooper.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Well, thank you to Cheryl Neely and our colleagues here at the Foreign Press Center. I appreciate the time people have made today. And as she noted at the top, we’re going to talk a little bit about what the Political-Military Affairs portfolio is focused on. She cited the efforts that we are looking at as America as partner of choice, and I’m happy to talk further about that as we go along today, and how that is framed in the context of the U.S. National Security Strategy, and when we’re looking at global power competition.
So in that, if we look at 2019, the past year, a significant what I’d say implementation or piece of what Political-Military Affairs does in the framework of the National Security Strategy, the conventional arms transfer policy that was laid out by the Trump administration puts forth several mechanisms that allow for the government to work across the interagency and work with partners as far as addressing the position that we play in the world and what we are working with as far as interoperability with our partners and allies. What I mean by that is we’re identifying priority capabilities with partners and priority countries, and where that nests in their own particular defense and sovereignty and how that integrates with ours.
We’re also working on improving the ability to compete. I’ve talked about this in other fora. There is a very healthy competition or competitive marketspace when it comes to defense industries and arms transfers and tech transfers, and we are very cognizant of that. We certainly want to be in a space where we are if not already closely latched up with partners and allies, we are even tighter with them.
And noting on the increased competitiveness, there is a reality that was very much recognized early on in the Trump administration for the need to update, modernize, reform not just from a regulatory standpoint, but from a processing standpoint inside our government. As I said, the State Department has significant tools or levers when it comes to security assistance, defense trade, tech transfer, security cooperation, capacity building, but we’re not the only game in town. We certainly work very closely with our Department of Defense colleagues on this. And when we’re working with industry, we’re certainly wanting to make sure that where government is at is at a pace where industry is at and making sure that we’re not only on top of the competitive market space, we’re also running at a pace to be able to get to – deals to close at a more expedient space, and also being able to provide those capabilities that we would like our partners and allies to have in place.
So from a standpoint of that, the work that we’ve done in 2019 is not over. I would consider that a platform or a foundation for where we’re going to be going in 2020 on some of these implementations. I’ll give you some citations here so you can have some concrete idea about that. But looking backwards at 2019, what did that mean when we’re talking about tech transfers and defense trade? We’re talking in the figures of the realm of $170 billion that was contributed to that. That is anything from materiel to I would say avionics or inclusive of the aerospace industry, so this would not be limited to armaments; this is much more encompassing than that.
And then we’re looking at contributions to employment, jobs, certainly because of the – I would say the global supply chain and the integrated nature of much of what we work on, there certainly was job creation globally. But looking home, looking domestically, one could do a broad estimate of, again, armaments, materiel, defense trade, tech transfer, and then avionics would be inclusive of about a range of 2.5 million jobs certainly were a part of this calculus.
And why when one’s looking back again at the National Security Strategy, it is very easy to connect and understand that economic security is not mutually exclusive to national security. They are very much tied and very much integrated with each other, and that is the nexus, that special place that the Political-Military Affairs portfolio occupies.
In that sense, I’m especially proud that in 2019 a large part of that was my working with our team at State, my colleagues at the Department of Defense, and my colleagues in industry on expanding and enhancing U.S. trade and defense presence abroad. That’s manifested in many ways. We work very closely in the interagency not just on true presence in the form of, say, an exercise or an exchange or in capacity building, I’m talking about our presence in trade shows, air shows. So early on sought for us to have a robust presence. I worked very closely again with colleagues across government and industry. Paris, in particular, and Dubai were, I would say, concrete examples of where we, the United States, had a very robust presence and will continue to do so. Looking early in to 2020, I will be a part of a large delegation to Singapore* where we certainly have an active presence there with our industry partners.
And then if you look anecdotally as far as where we’re going traveling-wise, I would offer if one looks at my travel schedule in 2019, much of that was aligned with, again, partners that we are either already closely working with or ones that were seeking a more mature space or a maturation of a partnership, how that aligns with global power competition and the National Security Strategy.
Now that we have a full bench at PM, and while that may resonate more for domestic audience, I am very proud that I do have a full house with leadership at my bureau. That was not an insignificant administrative task on my part, but one of my deputy assistant secretaries Joel Starr, speaking of partners in travel, sent him to India this past year. We have a growing relationship there. And there’s significant areas where we’re working to work closer when it comes to procurement processes. We certainly are working close when it comes to information sharing. But safe to say if we look at the base or the catalyst, we’re talking about a $16 billion proposition when it comes to defense trade with India, so that is certainly significant.
Other partners, when we’re talking about trade opportunities, certainly those would be tied to steps – beginning other steps, and I kind of referred to that at India, but it’s not limited to them. Being in a place where technology is secure, being in a place where we have identified where the United States and a particular partner are interoperable, and also being at a pace of where a certain capability may need to be expanded or amended for a partner – those are all amongst the many factors and considerations when we are looking at who we are developing further relationships with, again, in the context of the global power competition.
I mentioned a little bit about security assistance. Over the past year, in addition to focusing on defense trade, and I mentioned the $170 billion in trade, tied to that – again, not exclusively separate from but certainly sometimes as a predicate to additional assistance, or assistance may be a sweetener or a supplement to trade – is when we’re looking at Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and we’re looking at other particular security assistance accounts that would either bolster capability or enable a partner’s particular capability that would be interoperable either with us, or say in a coalition environment, or in an alliance environment. NATO is a good example of that.
We managed over the past year – there’s $7 billion in security assistance, so again, this is – comes in the aspect of applying that when it comes to training, additional operational sustainment capabilities, and sometimes actually directly associated with the actual acquisition or purchase of a unique or a particular platform.
In addition to the $7 billion that we manage on security assistance, State Department, particularly Political-Military Affairs, we have the imprimatur on about $9-10 million* of Department of Defense security assistance. So when we’re looking at the two titles and U.S. statutes, the assistance we have at State is under what’s Title 22 authorities, and the assistance that Defense has is under Title 10 authorities.
At the end of the day, the Secretary of State, because of foreign policy prerogatives, has imprimatur on all of those accounts, not just the State account. And with that, I had mentioned particularly – in that I mentioned FMF. There’s $6 billion associated with Foreign Military Financing. Those could be in the form of a grant. There’s certainly legislation that has been around for two Congresses now on expanding that to a loan authority, but it’s currently a grant.
A very tangible example – and I apologize if you’ve heard it before, but it’s one of the most concrete ones that I have from my time back at the State Department – was last year, we were working very closely with the Bulgarian ministry of defense, and of course their Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on their accusation of a fleet of F-16 jet fighters. Very significant acquisition. But as I mentioned all the different factors that go into the calculus of who we’re working with and what capabilities they are seeking, the F-16 is certainly that’s – it’s interoperable not only with the United States, it’s interoperable with NATO partners, and it’s interoperable with other states and other partners that we work closely with.
We’re also looking at it from a global context. Sofia certainly is putting itself in a pace – in a space – that is more aligned not only with the United States, but with the West, and is certainly working to remove themselves off of sustainment lines that may have been historically aligned with Moscow.
I reference this one as an FMF case because there are others like that in development that we can’t talk about today. But from a historic context, getting Bulgaria to be able to purchase F-16s, we were able to essentially close the deal with a grant. This was very significant in our work not only with the – our ministerial counterparts, but they have a legislative body they’re responsive to. Just like I am accountable to the United States Congress and the Department of State is accountable to the United States Congress, Bulgaria had to be accountable to their Parliament. Providing a $60 million grant in FMF, Foreign Military Financing, helped us close that deal.
So I’d share that with you as an example of where we have some tools and mechanisms that can be applicable to the eventual closure of a sale or a foreign military sale.
As we’re looking at how we respond to the imperative of global competition, I would suggest that, again, looking into 2020, that is where our focus is going to be, that is where my focus resides, and that is where we are looking. There are several initiatives I would point you to that already are more maybe geographically focused or aligned with that. The Indo-Pacific Strategy is a good example of we’re looking at a free and open Indo-Pacific region for all states – all states. But in that, also provides opportunity for further development and relationship-building with states in that region.
We’re also looking at some of the initiatives in Europe. When we’re talking about the Black Sea, when we’re talking about incentivizing former Soviet Union states to become more interoperable with NATO states, that is also where we will be spending equity and time on in 2020.
And then also I’d like to highlight a little bit – if you’d indulge me on looking backwards – I’d mentioned earlier that efforts applied here aren’t just with our partners. So while I spend a significant amount of time in bilateral and multilateral fora, I do a tremendous amount of work and my colleagues in the PM Bureau do a tremendous amount of what I’d consider domestic housecleaning, or work, administrative work, with our interagency colleagues. Probably one of the most significant pieces that came at the end of the year, and some of you may be aware, we are working to take our items, articles under the U.S. Munitions List and transfer those over to the Commerce Control List. We have done that. So I think as of today, everyone should be able to get public access to the actual what’s called the public review, or the public available document before publication.
What does that mean? I referenced earlier the President’s Conventional Arms Transfer Policy and implementing aspects of that. We’ve been working for a while on what could be done to not only truncate some processes without sacrificing analysis, without sacrificing policy review, but making it clear and actually putting more of our resources towards where we need it to be, making sure that we are focused on the military edge of the United States, making sure that we’re focused on any kind of technology transfer that we’re conducting is done in a fashion that does not leave the tech transfer open to theft or exploitation; making sure that partners that we’re working with are best enabled upon receipt of that materiel or tech transfer.
So how does that apply from a domestic side? It means that there are some things that maybe State had done in an earlier era that may not be best applicable now. And so we’re moving what I would consider common elements – and this is something over years of work and analysis, not only at State but also our colleagues at the Department of Commerce – of what could be sold or provided on a commercial aspect. What could any one of American citizen acquire on the open market that is best to reside under Commerce’s controls for export, not the Department of State? Our efforts and our equities will continue to be focused on what is significant as far as posture for us, and posture for partners, and posture for adversaries.
So things that are of unique military edge and unique military capabilities will stay, of course, within the jurisdiction of the Department of State. What we have transferred to Commerce are things that are what I would say in a very general sense commonly available on the economy or the open market. To put it colloquially, if I can buy it at Wal-Mart, I don’t need my colleagues to do a deep analysis on that transfer or export. And it’s why it’s best for it to reside.
Does having it go to Commerce remove control? No, it does not. We still have a say as far as what would be going to a particular partner and how that would be applied. So that review process is still there. But as far as moving forward, what we’ve done is it allows the Political-Military Affairs colleagues in my part of the Department to focus on the big issues, on the big sales, and on the big relationships. So I’m very proud that we were able to close that out. I think that became more of a Happy New Year vice an end-of-the-year announcement, and we can certainly provide you more details with that at the end of this conference.
So again, 2020 – we’ve done some housekeeping to enable us to look a little bit more expedient and look a little further. We’ve set a foundation built upon the National Security Strategy on where we’re going to put our focus. And what that means is making sure that we have and continue strong defense sales with our partners through the next year and making sure that we do additional regulatory improvements. I’m not stopping at the transfer of particular munitions over to the Department of Commerce. There are several technical and emerging tech issues that we are looking at across the interagency that would allow some expediency and review in licensing, and we certainly want to do that. The more time I can reduce in licensing and the more time I can increase in analysis and policy review, the better not only for industry, but the better for our partnerships.
We will continue to build institutional defense capacity as we do this. And when I say including building defense capacity, I’m also talking about home as well as partners. I mentioned earlier the significant amount of security assistance that comes from State and Defense for partners. We want to do anything that we can when it comes to a partner’s sovereignty, and particular capabilities that they – that may be unique to a role that they have. If a partner has a counterterrorism role that they require certain capabilities and capacities, we will focus on that. If a partner has a particular regional or transregional role in countering near-peer adversaries or aggression, we certainly want to bolster that. If a partner is needing to build resiliency from any interference or attempted exploitation, we want to certainly bolster that.
And when I say internally, we are also putting forth resources to modernize the PM Bureau. I mentioned what we’re doing on regulatory relief and what we’re doing on focusing of our resources. We’re also modernizing the bureau, so what does that mean? Maybe more interesting to me than to you, but we are certainly – this would be of infrastructure, personnel, and IT. Because of the priority aligned with our portfolio, it certainly necessitates a greater focus on our personnel, our infrastructure, and our technology so that we can actually have a greater leading role when it comes to a competitive market space.
Speaking of that, I mentioned earlier, and Cheryl mentioned it at the top, about the United States being the partner of choice. And that is something that we know cannot be rested upon laurels, it cannot be based in history or in the past. As a student of history, I do value that what is past is prologue, but it cannot be the sole basis for why we’re the partner of choice. When we’re looking at today what we offer and what I offer is that – is the quality of what is provided to a partner, the accountability that’s associated with that. I mentioned earlier the deep analysis and the rigor that’s applied to accounting for foreign policy prerogatives, regional considerations, human rights, and capacities; all of that is applied to the rigor and the accountability that we not only have to ourselves within the Department of State, but also to our Congress and to our taxpayers and to the general public.
And then tied to accountability is the transparency. Oftentimes, we have partners who we engage with and work with who will comment or voice concern about their procurement processes and the challenges they may have, and the transparency of a bidding process or something that may be out for contract. And what we offer them is that regardless of how they are working inside their own capitals, they will be subject to our own transparency. Licensing is transparent. Who we’re selling to, what we’re selling is transparent. Our Congress is fully aware and engaged of what we’re doing and so is our general public. Obviously, when something’s of a unique nature, we do not want to disrupt or expose a particular capability, but as far as the transparency of the transaction, that is there, meaning what we sell is what we’re offering. There is no change of the sale when there is an agreement. And everything that has been worked through with a partner is just that. It is transparent.
On accountability, I would add one. I mentioned the contracting processes, but an accountability piece that is missing in some other states is what comes after the sale? Well, what comes after the sale is sustainment, training, and a continued relationship. A purchase of a significant system – we mentioned – I talked a little bit about jet fighters earlier – isn’t just selling and offloading that equipment; it’s working with that particular air force, that particular defense ministry, that particular partner. So a certain element of accountability that does tie the quality is our long tail, or long-term relationship that comes with the purchase, that comes with the acquisition of a U.S. system.
On this – we were looking at some of the other factors, and we will talk about this later – there are a number of I would say statutes that put us in a place that also are operating parameters. So when I talk about transparency, that too is very much shared with partners when we’re working through particular partnerships, defense agreements, and sales. That is always upfront. There is no Star Chamber statutes that we’re working with, and there are no secret laws that we’re not able to coordinate with our partners. That is always upfront. They may not be easy for some partners to navigate, but we have always found that with that transparency it’s done us well.
And then when we’re looking at some of the risks that are involved, again, talking about the global power competition, there are offers that are out there. We are not naive that it’s not a competitive market. But competitors are not always providing the best technology. Competitors are not always openly sharing and in some cases are putting at risk for exploitation and theft of technology.
The President had said today that what the United States seeks in trade is fair and reciprocal. That has absolutely been the case, and when we’re looking at the Indo-Pacific strategy and the discussion and the efforts put toward a free and open Indo-Pacific for all states, that is inclusive of all states. But we can’t have fair and reciprocal when there’s the risk of exploitation and the risk of theft. So I do offer that that is something that remains a risk to partners who are looking elsewhere.
The biggest point that I would close with as far as us being partner of choice is: As we have maturation of relationships with states who are seeking particular capabilities, if they want to be interoperable with somebody – that is, shares values of the United States – if they want to be interoperable with our forces and other forces that share particular what I would say technological language or share particular capabilities, that is where we’re the partner of choice. There are alternatives. Absolutely. But as I’ve said in other fora, buyer beware, ‘caveat emptor,’ as to what that entails. There is the risk of is it something that would be sustainable; will a partner like Moscow or Beijing be there for you to continue that sustainment; how transparent is the transaction; is it fair and reciprocal? Those are fair questions.
So speaking of questions, I’m happy to start taking some.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you so much. I just want to make an announcement for the journalists: We’ll be using the ceiling mics. Please speak loudly when you ask your questions so you can hear each other. We’re having a couple of technical issues with our sound from New York, so my colleague in the back might ask a question on their behalf. And please remember to identify yourself with your name, your country, and your outlet when asking a question.
And with that, we’ll open the floor. I see Joyce is in the back. Joyce Karam. Joyce.
QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Well, congrats on the renovation. I guess the mic is somewhere —
MODERATOR: We can hear you up here, yes.
QUESTION: Great. Joyce Karam with The National. We’re based in Abu Dhabi. My question to you – I mean, I hear totally what you’re saying about accountability, transparency of dealing with the U.S. as partner of choice. But when you look at the Middle East, you’re having some tough competition. I mean, we’ll just take Turkey. They’ve acquired the S-400. They’ve unboxed the S-400. They are ready to activate them in April. And there has been no – the sanctions have not been triggered under CAATSA.* So how do you balance this when other countries in the region say, oh, look, Turkey got away with it? So, yeah.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Yeah. Turkey did not get away with it, but it’s a fair question. So no, on a technical aspect, sanction – a sanctions application has not yet occurred. But what has occurred? Immediately, we removed Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. And I mentioned earlier about interoperability and the necessity for partner states who are willing to work with each other, either be it through a treaty obligation or a coalition or a more parochial defense cooperation agreement. But if there is a membership and Turkey is a NATO member-state, and they were – past tense, they were, past tense – a member of the Joint Strike Fighter program. They are no longer a member of that program. They were cast into the wilderness, so to speak, because of the acquisition of the S-400s.
So yes, the CAATSA statute still applies. There is no clock on imposition of sanctions. So what Turkey does have now is a very narrowing window to address this issue. What they’ve lost is they’ve lost their ability to be a member of this program, and without putting – speaking for other member-states, it certainly has challenged their membership in the alliance. We still work with them. We have significant military-to-military work and requirements with Turkey. In my previous life, I proudly worked with Turkish officers on counterterrorism efforts. They’re still a partner and they’re still a member-state of NATO, but they have compromised that position with the acquisition of the S-400.
So the object lesson for other states is not that Turkey got away with it. Look what Turkey has lost and look what they could lose even further.
MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll take Alex here in the front.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Alex Raufoglu, Turan News Agency of Azerbaijan. I want to – actually, I have two questions, if you don’t mind. It is – accountability – you mentioned human rights is a significant part of it. How can we ensure that countries, either directly or indirectly purchasing American weapons, are not using those weapons for human rights abuses?
And my second question is other details about Azerbaijan. Section 907 was – it’s a 1992 law that was imposed on Azerbaijan. As you know, it’s a main issue between the U.S.-Azerbaijan relationship, but has been waived ever since 2002 until the Trump administration took over and it’s waited for two years, I think, and first time just right before you got appointed, waived it for I don’t know how long, because usually it’s for one year. I checked this morning – there is no termination date. If that’s the case, what is the case for you to ensure that this will be waived again and how will it affect your relationship with Azerbaijan? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: So if we look at Azerbaijan in a regional context and looking at neighbors – so let’s look at Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan – if we look regionally, Azerbaijan has a growing role in the region. And when we’re looking at the posture in Afghanistan, that certainly plays significantly there. So I would – and in a general sense without getting into other colleagues’ portfolios, I would say, from where I sit in Political-Military Affairs and as I work with our embassies in the region, not just Azerbaijan, we are looking at it from a regional context as far as an increased role that Azerbaijan is seeking on that for sure.
And then your first question was on?
QUESTION: Human rights.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Yes. That is always a calculus in the receipt. It’s also a backward or, I would say, historic look as well as a forward look. Most state reviews – when I say “state,” I’m referring to the partner state – are encompassing of where we’ve assessed, collectively as a government, the human rights status of a particular partner. We have this cyclical report each embassy puts out. It’s called the Human Rights Report. It is a collaborative, coordinated publication. Speaking of transparency, that is something that we report to Congress. It’s just one. I mean, I offer that one because it’s probably the most – it’s the most, easiest one to access and one that’s most familiar with many people, but it’s not the only reference point.
There are states where there may be a particular case, either of a dissident or an AmCit* that may be imprisoned, or there may be cases where we’re concerned about the clampdown of civil society or the reduction of freedom of speech in a particular place. You name it. It is case by case. It is state by state. There is not a blanket assessment.
This does also factor into things like Third-Party Transfers. So many times, there’ll be states that are looking to upgrade a capability or are looking for a next generation of a particular armament and system and they’re going to want to sell it or maybe give it to a particular partner state. That too requires not only a posture analysis; it requires a human rights consideration. There have been times where we’ve had to deny a third-party transfer not because the state who wants to release it has an issue; it’s the recipient state that may be an issue. So it does – there are many applications of it. I would say the one that’s a cyclical reference point is always going to be our embassy Human Rights Report, but that is – that’s only one piece of it.
MODERATOR: Okay. Let’s try to go to a different region. Ben.
QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you, Assistant Secretary. My name is Ben Marks with NHK Japan Broadcasting. I have two Japan-related questions for you.
The first is: When will you begin SMA negotiations with Japan this year?
And the second is: With regards to host nation support from Japan, financially speaking, does the State Department and the U.S. feel Japan has been paying their fair share?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Okay. Well, I’ll start with the – where we are on the Host Nation Support Agreement. So that – the expiry of that is actually in early Spring of 2021. It’s March. However, as you noted, we will actually start making haste in 2020 to start negotiations so that we don’t find ourselves running up against a deadline there.
On a broad sense, not just Japan – and I referenced this earlier at the top – when we’re looking at partners and we’re looking at capacities and we’re talking about shared equity or shared interests or shared risks, this does come into the policy of burden-sharing with partners. And so you had asked about Japan. I would say that any state – and this is inclusive of Japan – should be contributing more to not only their self-defense, but where we are working jointly maybe in a regional context.
But very generally, yes, as we move toward March of 2021, burden sharing certainly will be a part of that. It won’t – it will not be compartmentalized strictly from the conversation.
MODERATOR: Okay. My colleague has a question from New York.
NY MODERATOR: Hi, yes, thank you. This is from Toby Burns from NHK: “What are the big sales you’re hoping to make in 2020? And what do you have to offer in MENA that the competition doesn’t?”
MODERATOR: And we just followed two questions from NHK, so if you could answer briefly, we’ll go to another.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Okay. So I do not want to preview sales that we have not already done what I would call informal notification. I mentioned accountability. So I’m not going to get ahead of our communications with Congress.
But when we’re looking about MENA, when we’re talking about the Middle East and North Africa, certainly, some states are requiring some capabilities that are of a – what I would call more of a regional nature. So there’s some states that have a role that’s not just protecting their sovereign space or borders; they have an interoperable regional role that they share when it comes to larger, open airspace. There are some states among – in the MENA region, Middle East and North Africa, who are carrying tremendous burden on counterterrorism. And so that’s a different set of cases or sales. So, yeah, safe to say there are a number of not just Foreign Military Sales, but direct commercial sales that we will be working on in 2020.
I do offer that in that space, this is – there – what I could say a little bit retrospectively that spills into 2020, cases that closed in ’19 that have either been signed that would now be moving into delivery – if we look in the Maghreb, Morocco is a good example of where we are moving forward on some significant cases when it comes to jetfighter aircraft or rotor wing support, armor, M1 tanks. So everything from F-16s to Apaches to tanks, that’s a good example of closure and delivery in a space where we have been working on those, and those are cases that have been well developed. But there – as far as things that have not been developed, I’m not going to get ahead of my colleagues here.
MODERATOR: Okay. We have one from Saudi here. You’ve had your hand up for a while.
QUESTION: My name’s Youssef. I’m from Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper (inaudible). According to the background here, which says that “why allies and partners around the world should consider America as their security partner of choice.” But today, the Russian foreign minister called on the Gulf states to do military cooperation and closer ties between them and not to rely on foreign powers. He also called for stopping the sanctions policy as a [punishtive (ph, sic)] tool in international relations, in reference to the United States.
So how can the United States give guarantees while clearly declaring that it wants to leave the region and calling on NATO for more of the world to replace it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Wait, so the last part about NATO, what was the last part?
QUESTION: The last part: How can the United States give the guarantees while clearly declaring that it wants to leave the area, the region and calling on NATO to take a role to replace it?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Yeah. NATO is not a replacement, it’s an augmentation, supplement, enhancement. There are NATO states that certainly have partnered, if not from a civil side a military side, in the Levant, in the Gulf, in North Africa that certainly do care about things like mixed migration coming out of Africa, that do care about the risk or the threat of external operations coming from violent extremist organizations or terrorist groups. So there are interests that NATO states or NATO aspirant states share with the United States. I would offer that having an expansion of working with partners to bolster their capacity is actually an advancement. It’s an enhancement to getting our partners in a place where they are wanting to go. Saudi Arabia – they are seeking to not only develop their civil service capacities, their military capacities; they’re seeking to further develop their interoperable capacities with other states. So what we’re looking to do with NATO in the Middle East are enhancements and not a departure.
As far as – I think you referenced on CAATSA. The issue – the biggest issue with CAATSA and large acquisitions by partners are putting at risk the technologies that partners want to acquire from the United States. This doesn’t – CAATSA does not include bullets or Kalashnikovs, right. And what I’m getting at about this is that we’re very realistic, our Congress is very realistic about the historic sustainment lines that exist globally – not just former Soviet Union states, but globally. The biggest concern for the United States when it comes to acquisitions of things like the S-400 or the Su-35 is the lack of interoperability for that partner. So if we just look at it from a very localized standpoint, how is that integrated in what they have in their systems and platforms. That’s their challenge for themselves, but then when we’re looking at what could be exposed, that is another issue.
So this is – addressing CAATSA is one of several things. It’s ensuring that interoperability isn’t disrupted, any augmentation or maturation of additional partnerships are not impeded, and also making sure that we’re not putting at risk unique technologies by the presence of significant systems that are not aligned with what we are providing or selling.
MODERATOR: Okay, we had a stop at 2:20. Let me see if we have time for one final question.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: I’m sorry.
MODERATOR: Okay, one final question. Let’s go to VOA for a different region, India/Pakistan.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Thank you, sir. I appreciate. I’m Iftikhar Hussain, I work for Voice of America Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pashto border regions. We have nine hours of live broadcast in that part of the world. And first of all, thank you very much for the comprehensive briefing, not in terms of the outlook but also what the bureau is doing. Honestly, I have not heard that much detail before this briefing.
And my question, number one: How the United States is using the security assistance to its partners to help counter the maligning activities of Iran? Number one.
And number two: If you can take us through the Pakistan profile of the security assistance. I do know that narrowly some parts of it were resumed, the training part. But overall, if you can take us through the —
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Sure. I’ll walk backwards with what’s been opened up. So I think this is a good example – there was a question earlier asked about measuring and monitoring of human rights status and measuring and monitoring of applications of systems and weapons, and the department got to a determination where we were able to move forward with Pakistan on International Military Education and Training. So we often call it IMET with our DOD partners, but that is something that is a long-term investment that we wanted to get back a pace at, and it’s something that is usually – I would say in any state, it is the last thing that is probably turned off, and it’s usually the first thing that’s turned back on. So if one’s looking at – if you’re trying to measure how things are addressed either in an augmentation or a degradation, I would tell you that having International Military and Education Training is a significant baseline in a partnership because it’s – it is that military-to-military, people-to-people relationship when it comes to having colleagues like Pakistanis in our schoolhouses, us being shoulder to shoulder in the field with them as well. So that is the first element. Obviously there’s more work to do, but yes, that’s – that was the first step on that.
And then you asked me something about —
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Yes.
QUESTION: How the United States is using —
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Yeah, so they’re – if we look at a broader maximum pressure campaign, if one looks at sanctions in its own particular category and then we look at what capabilities we need to provide those who are – from more of a geographic or, I would say, in distance of risk to Tehran, then this is where we get into what we are providing as far as capabilities.
May of ’19 was, I would say, probably the most tangible example. I gave you a good Foreign Military Financing example earlier. The emergency declaration issued by Secretary Pompeo in late May is probably the most concrete example of our moving to provide resources and augment capacities of Gulf states who are at most risk to threats not only from Tehran, but threats emanating from proxy entities like the Houthis, like al-Kitab, Hizballah, or like the Badr Corps, you name it. There are a number of Iranian proxies out there that are operating either under direct or indirect guidance from Tehran, and that is not lost on us.
But to your question as to what are we doing when it comes to capacities, the factor, the calculus is to who’s carrying the greater burden. I mentioned burden-sharing earlier. Sometimes burden-sharing is our recognizing where a partner is carrying significant weight or burden against a particular threat, and the emergency declaration was a good example of the United States, President Trump, and Secretary Pompeo sending a message to our partners in the region that we are standing with them, and sending a message to Tehran to not impede, not disrupt, and not threat our partners.
QUESTION: If it’s okay, one more question, please.
MODERATOR: With that – sorry, we don’t have time. The assistant secretary has —
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: I talk too much. I apologize. (Laughter.) I’ll do shorter answers the next time so we can do more questions.
MODERATOR: He has a meeting that he has to get to, but I do want say if you have other follow-up questions that you didn’t get an opportunity to ask, please send them to us at DCPFC*. Thank you so much, assistant secretary. And —
ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Thank you. Yeah. I will do shorter answers next time. I know that was – I ate too much of the time probably, so okay.
MODERATOR: That’s okay. So just one other thing: They will field requests for one-on-one interviews, so if you send those to DCPFC, I will get those to Andy Strike. Many of you may remember Andy from when he worked here. And with that, we’ll now conclude the event.
* The Singapore Airshow
* American citizen