ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Before we actually start talking about the operational aspects and some of the policy provisions of the trips that I just came off of, I just want to kind of do a little quick tour d’horizon because I don’t know everybody here – there’s some familiar faces – but as far as our role – political-military affairs role in the department, in the interagency, and how we have that imprimatur on driving policy and steering policy in the national security realm.

So some of you may or may not be aware of what our accounts are, and it is much, much broader than defense trade. So yes, that’s extremely important because economic security is not mutually exclusive to national security, and defense trade is a significant implement in our ability to drive policy and to work with and enable partners in security for not only their sovereignty, but force projection for U.S. interests.

I mention that because when we get into security assistance accounts, there is a very large pocket of money – it’s $7 billion – that we manage here at the Department of State on security assistance to further enable and build capacities of our partners, again, as I mentioned, for their purposes too, for their sovereignty, their integrity, but also on our behalf and our interest in those particular regions.

DOD has a similar set of accounts and it’s $9 billion. So if you look at the total of Title 22 and Title 10 monies, State has that imprimatur of steerage of those, and I want to highlight that this administration particularly has focused on the necessity to coordinate and synchronize those resources. That seems like an obvious and it’s something that is a perennial focus in the interagency, but this administration particularly is working tighter on better utilizing security sector assistance, and this is through mechanisms that we have designed with myself and counterparts at DOD to ensure that we are getting the most out of our dollar abroad.

So I would say looking at it from avoiding a duplication of effort with particular partners, and certainly making sure that we’re getting the most out of our money. This does tie to burden-sharing, and when we’re looking at what a partner is being able to do for themselves and what we’re able to do together, this helps us in the calculus for that. Significant acquisitions contributes to the calculus on burden-sharing. That is something that we’re looking at, and what would – they would say in the metaphorical weight or rocks in their ruck sacks that they’re doing as far as carrying out or prosecuting security for themselves and for us in a regional context, which we’ll talk about in a moment.

And also, what I’d like to offer is that we are the point of entree for the Department of State with DOD. There are many lines of communication that State has to the interagency and Department of Defense, but we are that point of entree. We embed Foreign Service officers in all the commands. I am a huge advocate for our policy advisor program, where we have extensions of the Secretary of State in all geographic combatant commands, theater special operation commands, and the service components.

That is State-forward, essentially, and then of course, our political-military officers that we have at all our embassies who are coordinating not only the security assistance that I mentioned earlier; they are working closely with our Department of Defense security cooperation officers and our defense attaches to identify and refine requirements – defense requirements for partners as far as what they need to actually meet their needs, but how they best align with our interoperability with a partner, making sure that they’re acquiring something that is not necessarily nice and shiny for a parade, but something that is applicable to what they need to address, be it border integrity, be it countering terrorism, be it countering illicit trafficking, you name it.

So that’s a quick little tour d’horizon, and then when we get into the trip, I just want to offer that if one looks at the chapeau of the national security strategy, the main aspect of great power competition, I would say you could look at that when looking at how security assistance is prioritized. And the scrutiny that’s applied to any kind of defense requirement or acquisition for a partner is how is that for them to be able to, again, maintain their security and their sovereignty, but how they’re able to project but also disrupt any kind of aggression or adversarial actions against them. And so for some states, that’s more critical based on their geographic location, and if they’re contiguous to either China or Russia but in a very asymmetric environment, that threat is trans-regional. It is not limited to one geographic location. So I have made plenty a case for particular requirements with particular states that are not limited to their being a neighbor to Moscow or Beijing.

So with that, on the trip, first stop, Brazil. Earlier this year, President Bolsonaro on his visit here to Washington in the early spring in March with President Trump – one of the outcomes, the tangible outcomes, was the securing of major non-NATO ally status for Brazil. What does that mean? It does mean that they have greater opportunity for information sharing, tech, and acquisition. It’s not a panacea. It’s not a carte blanche. But it does push them a little further in line when we are doing the interagency review on requirements and acquisition. It also – it makes them more incumbent as a participant on global security matters. It probably actually ratchets up some of their responsibility. And that is the tradeoff. While their access is a little bit greater and their considerations are a little bit greater, they have to come to the table with more.

So outcomes from that were some working groups, I would say, regarding better communication on joint research and potential joint development, another working group on peacekeeping operations. Brazil is a troop-contributing country. The United States is a large advocate for professionalization of peacekeeping operations. We are a tremendous advocate for transparency and accountability of peacekeepers. And we are also – are lead on Women, Peace, and Security Initiative inside – amongst the UN member-states.

That, I would like to share on a personal note, was a tremendous point of, I would say, comity and bonhomie in Brasilia, because Brazil is putting additional equities in their national strategy for women, peace, and security. So they were thrilled to have the U.S. be a lead voice on that and the first country to have legislation put in place, memorialized, and signed by the President. We are a lead country in the UN on women, peace, and security, and I would say that while the platform for the pol-mil dialogue was the major non-NATO ally status, having that relationship there in multilateral fora certainly, I guess, sweetened the dialogue in Brasilia. So that’s —

QUESTION: What’s bonhomie in Portuguese?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Oh, I don’t speak Portuguese. (Laughter.) Fortunately, French is still one of the international languages for our colleagues.

Yeah. So cross the ocean over to the Gulf, Saudi Arabia. I joined Under Secretary John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy for the Strategic Joint Planning Committee. The Strategic Joint Planning Committee had been long scheduled, had been on our calendars for a while. Why am I mentioning that tactical point? Well, it was scheduled well before the 14th September attacks on the Aramco facility at Abqaiq.

That certainly, I would say, contributed to the posture of the dialogue. And why? Well, the dialogue was already set as far as what we were going to address on security cooperation, responsibilities in the region, addressing the Iranian threat, addressing Iranian proxies, their threat that they are emanating on behalf of Tehran. But the attack of 14 September opened the aperture on other partners. So when we’re talking about maritime domain awareness in the Gulf, information sharing with partners who are not Gulf states like European states, addressing particular capabilities and will, I found that the conversation was much more honest and more candid about needs and about where we needed to work together and bolster our activities. The Saudis probably – one could assess – were more forthcoming on what they needed to do from ministerial reform, not just from an operational standpoint – that was a very positive outcome – and some requirements that both sides agreed to.

But I would say it’s safe to assess – from where we were, we were able to move a little bit further maybe then if Abqaiq had not taken place. And I would say one tangible one that came out of that is the finalization of a Status of Forces Agreement. While we can’t talk about those details today, I can say that having that SOFA completed was something we needed to do anyway. But —

QUESTION: Sorry. Which country is this?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Saudi Arabia. Yeah. So Riyadh. Sorry, I’m still on Saudi.

QUESTION: No, I just – maybe I missed you saying the country. I thought you just said the Gulf.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: Yeah. I was shifting us to the Gulf into Riyadh. So yeah.


ASSISTANT SECRETARY COOPER: But yeah, so that as an outcome was significant.

So moving out of the Gulf to the Levant, to Jordan, Jordan – tremendous partner. They have been carrying, again, a significant amount of metaphorical rocks in their rucksacks since the 1960s. We have a five-year MOU with them that is – ties to our contributions and our – the efforts that they are applying on particularly border integrity, counterterrorism, and also their contribution to coalition operations in not only the Defeat-ISIS but Defeat-al-Qaida and other VEOs.

The posture in the region has certainly put extra weight on the Jordanians, and their expectations are that we be with them. We are. There were a significant number of conversations about what they could do now and what they could do in the future. This is a very solid, deep relationship, and it’s one of the, I would say, exemplars of where we are as far as capabilities matching will. So you have a partner there that is not just volunteering but actually doing.

And then going back to the Gulf to Doha, I was there not just for bilateral but the – General McKenzie, the Central Command commander, hosted his RAC or Regional Ambassadors Conference. That was an opportunity to catch up with a number of colleagues in the field on a host of what I would say bilateral issues that we’re addressing and working with their hosts.

Broad themes that we could talk about: of course, Iran; the Iran threat posture; deterrence; partners wanting to deter but also partners recognizing that deterrence through strength and through maximum pressure are more desirous than being perceived as lying prostrate to Tehran. So deterrence to the Iranian threat, Iranian threat posture. And the other theme that was discussed was confidence or reassurance with our partners, be it in physical presence of our posts and dialogue or be it in the tangibles like commitments either through security assistance, be it training, exercises, and/or particular pending defense trade, sales, or agreements.

I go back to exercises and training or the IMET program, International Military Education and Training. While those may not be high-cost or high-dollar activities, because they are in a very public, overt fashion, they are valued across the board, not just to these states that we’re talking about. But considering the posture of Tehran and the necessity to affirm or amplify confidence, those activities are probably something that I would not be surprised if we see more request of from particular partners. So with that –

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future