An official website of the United States Government Here's how you know

Official websites use .gov

A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


  • U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Ambassador Julianne Smith, discusses NATO and strengthening relationships with South Asia and the Indo-Pacific.  She then takes questions from participating journalists.

MODERATOR:  Greetings to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s London International Media Hub.  I would like to welcome our participants dialing in from South and Central Asia and around the world for this on-the-record briefing with U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Ambassador Julianne Smith.  Ambassador Smith will discuss NATO and strengthening relationships with South Asia and the Indo-Pacific. 

We will have some opening remarks from our speaker, and then she will take questions from participating journalists. 

I will now turn it over to Ambassador Smith for her opening remarks.  Ma’am, the floor is yours. 

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, thank you so much, and let me thank our London Media Hub for facilitating this exchange, which I’m looking forward to.  And I’m especially appreciative of those in the region who have had to stay up quite late for this call, so thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedules and for taking a little time out of your evening. 

Happy to speak with you today, and certainly talk a little bit more about how NATO engages with South Asia and across the Indo-Pacific more broadly.  But first, before I get into NATO issues, I just wanted to say the partnership between the U.S. and India as well as with other Indo-Pacific countries are certainly among some of the most consequential relationships that the United States has.  We work, as all of you know, very closely together on our shared top-drawer, top-order priorities.  Those include increasing mutual prosperity, supporting democracy, addressing the climate crisis, and upholding the rules-based order, including the UN Charter. 

Now, on NATO specifically, some of you may have heard the NATO secretary general.  He frequently notes that with global strength also comes global responsibilities, and India certainly plays a crucial role in ensuring a free and open region that’s connected, that’s prosperous, secure, and resilient as well.  And this of course aligns perfectly with the values that we are here to protect and preserve inside the NATO Alliance, particularly as we address 21st century threats, whether it’s climate or pandemics, hybrid tactics in warfare, resilience, or new domains such as cyber and space, or even whether we’re talking about more traditional security areas like proliferation and maritime security, as well as the potential application of emerging and disruptive technologies. 

We here inside the NATO Alliance, we look to our Indo-Pacific partners to share their own national perspectives, their own insights, lessons learned with NATO partners, and we cherish those exchanges.  And certainly in an era of strategic competition, where the core principles of international security are certainly contested, NATO must work even more closely with these likeminded countries. 

Now, let me just say a few words about what’s going to happen next week.  We have, as many of you know, a foreign ministerial here at NATO HQ, here in Brussels, which will take place on April 4th and 5th.  The NATO foreign ministers will also have the chance to meet with our Indo-Pacific partners.  Those are the four countries of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and the Republic of Korea.  We will also be at the ministerial devoting a session to the NATO-Ukraine Commission and discussions on Russia’s ongoing brutal, unprovoked war in Ukraine, which, as you all know, is dragging on into its second year.   

We’ve called and we continue to call on Russia to end this war.  Of course, President Putin could end this war today if he so desired.  And we want Russia to end this war on just terms that respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

Russia remains the sole obstacle to peace in Ukraine.  Russia’s invasion has unleashed unconscionable bombardments hitting schools, hospitals, churches, apartment buildings, and critical infrastructure to exact the heaviest toll on civilians.  Russia’s savage attacks on Ukraine are the latest demonstration that President Putin currently has no interest in meaningful diplomacy.  We have not seen any indication that Putin has an interest in heading to the negotiating table anytime soon, tragically. 

Finally, I’ll just say Ukraine’s fight right now is something that we all consider to be part of something much, much bigger.  We know that if we stand by in the face of such blatant attacks on liberty, on democracy, and the core principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the world would surely face worse consequences, and other countries may draw very unfortunate lessons in the global community’s ability to stand tall and defend those key principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.   

So the United States and our allies and partners will continue to ensure that Ukraine has what it needs to defend its people and its territory against Russian aggression for as long as it takes. 

And with that, I’ll leave it there and happy to take your questions about what’s happening inside NATO Headquarters as it relates to the Indo-Pacific and our partnership with various countries in the region, or broader questions about Ukraine, what Russia is doing in Ukraine, or certainly any questions that may surface as it relates to the ministerial next week.  So thanks again for taking the time.   

MODERATOR:  Thank you, Ambassador Smith.  We will now begin the question-and-answer portion of today’s call.  Our first question is a pre-submitted question, and it comes from Rishikesh Kumar of Press Trust of India.  Rishikesh asks, “How do you see NATO’s evolving role in South Asia and the Indo-Pacific given China’s assertive stance along the border with India and other neighbors?”  

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, thank you for that question.  So NATO has really shifted in a pretty noticeable way in terms of how it conducts outreach and engages with its partners in the Indo-Pacific.  If you go back, I would say five, six, seven years, you would find an alliance that didn’t necessarily have a particularly rich agenda with the countries in the Indo-Pacific.  But in recent years, what NATO has started to do is to include mention of the Asia Pacific and the Indo-Pacific, first and foremost in some of its strategic documents.  And so there I would cite NATO’s Strategic Concept, which was rolled out last summer at the Madrid Summit, and many of you know that this is the first time that the Alliance acknowledges the importance of focusing on the PRC as a systemic challenge for the Alliance, and why it’s important for NATO Allies to enhance and deepen its relationship across the board with partners in the region – and NATO has done just that. 

We increasingly are bringing our friends from the Indo-Pacific into NATO Headquarters, into ministerials, into what we call the North Atlantic Council, into summits so that we can learn from our partners in terms of what they’re experiencing – just general challenges to their own security and the key principles that we all hold dear.  We’re sharing best practices and building new capabilities, whether it’s in looking at cyber or climate security or emerging and disruptive technologies.  And we’re looking for ways to really benefit from each of our individual experiences, whether it’s across the Atlantic from the United States or across the Pacific from the United States.  The U.S. is very interested, and President Biden is increasingly interested, in ways to bring together American – America’s allies across the Atlantic, across the Pacific, to, again, bring about a collective opportunity for us to share ways to counter hybrid tactics.  

And I think the developments that we’ve seen inside the NATO Alliance reflect that priority, and I think you’re going to hear a lot more in the summit this summer, which will take place in Lithuania in July, about how we’re now implementing and executing some of the ideas that appeared in NATO’s Strategic Concept. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We’ll go to Sidhant – we’ll go to Sidhant Sibal next, from WION.  Sidhant, go ahead and ask —  

QUESTION:  Hi, Madame.   

MODERATOR:  Go ahead.  

QUESTION:  Hi, Madame.  Sidhant from WION.  My question is:  Is there or has there been any engagement between India and the NATO when it comes to official level, or any level, if you can confirm or talk about that?  And has there been a discussion during those meetings on the Chinese aggressiveness with India?   

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  So there has been just some informal exchanges among some NATO officials and some representatives from India at what is called the Raisina Dialogue.  I think we’re all familiar with this forum that really brings together a wide collection of experts from the global community to talk about a variety of shared security challenges.   

And there has been some exchanges on the margins of the Raisina Dialogue, which is a start and has opened up the conversation a little bit.  But certainly, the NATO Alliance is open to more engagement should India seek that.  NATO currently has 40 different partners around the world, and each individual partnership is different.  Various countries come through the door seeking different levels of political engagement or sometimes countries are much more interested in working on, say, interoperability or standardization questions.  So they vary. 

But I think the message that has already been sent back to India is that the NATO Alliance certainly is open to more engagement with India should that country take an interest in pursuing that.  

MODERATOR:  The next question is a pre-submitted question, and it comes from Geeta Mohan of India Today.  “Is there a future where India could play a military role in the Indo-Pacific?  And is NATO a united house or a divided house?” 

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, so two questions there.  On the first one, I would say I really leave the question of whether or not India could play a stronger military role in the hands of the Indian Government, and would certainly hesitate to answer that question on behalf of India.  So I’ll set that one aside. 

But the second one on whether or not the NATO Alliance is united or divided, I can say with certainty, from where I sit here in NATO Headquarters each and every day, that the Alliance is firmly united right now.  We’re united in common purpose and we’re united around our support for Ukraine and its defense of its own territory.  We’re united in applying maximum pressure on Moscow to try and get Moscow to stop this ongoing war inside Ukraine.  And we’re united around the fact that we have all taken serious steps over the last year to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank so that those countries on NATO’s eastern edge feel like the Alliance is adequately addressing their security and defense needs. 

I think sometimes folks may have the impression that this is a slogan, but I can tell you that it’s real and we live this each and every day here inside the Alliance.  As you might imagine, with 30 Allies, we do have our differences from time to time.  There’s no question about that.  But based on 75 years of working together – almost 75 years; the Alliance will turn 75 next summer – next spring, actually – based on that wealth of experience, decades of experience of building consensus and ironing out our differences and coping with Allies that have different perspectives or aren’t prepared to move forward on a particular proposal, we can bring that collective experience to bear in ironing out differences and working towards consensus.   

And honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Alliance more united than I have today, and I’m confident that we won’t see cracks in the Alliance in the months ahead.  Again, Ukraine has really brought this Alliance together and it has really enhanced our partnerships with other countries.  We have now Sweden and Finland that decided to join.  Other countries aren’t necessarily joining but are looking to enhance their relationship with the NATO Alliance or strengthen their relationship.   

So I think we will look back on 2022 and 2023 as two very pivotal moments for this Alliance in terms of a renewed sense of purpose and a common sense of mission as it relates not only to what’s going on in Ukraine, but just the broader security environment that we’re tackling. 

MODERATOR:  Next we’ll take a live question from Manish Jha of TV9.   

Okay, I think we’re having a technical difficulty with that question.  We will move on to one of the questions from the question-and-answer tab, from Shashank Mattoo of Livemint:  “Can the ambassador confirm if NATO is interested in setting up a regular political dialogue with India?  Some Indian media had reported that NATO held an informal dialogue with the Indian Government on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue.” 

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, again, I think that’s something that I touched on just a few minutes ago.  There was some engagement on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue.  And again, I think NATO is more than happy to engage in other ways or in other forums as the opportunities present themselves.  I think there’s certainly a willingness here to sit down at any time should India desire to do so. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  We will go back to Manish Jha.  Manish, please go ahead. 

QUESTION:  Hello, can you hear me? 


QUESTION:  Okay, thank you.  Good evening, ma’am.  So my question is that Russia and China both are continuously calling Indo-Pacific as Asia-Pacific.  So does it make any sense to you?  And what do you think that why they are calling it the Asia-Pacific?  Is it any strategic meaning of that? 

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, I don’t think I have any great insight on that front.  I will say that obviously we’ve been watching this relationship between Russia and China quite closely over the last year in particular, ever since in February of last year they announced a no-limits partnership.  That certainly captured the attention of NATO Allies.  We’ve watched as the relationship has evolved, it’s deepened.  We’ve been disheartened to see Chinese political support for what Russia is doing in Ukraine.  And as you well know, the United States has been very clear in warning the PRC about the risks and dangers of providing any sort of materiel support to the Russians for the ongoing war inside Ukraine. 

So this is – this is a partnership that is discussed and certainly monitored quite closely here, across the Alliance.  And we’re well aware of the kind of playbook of hybrid tactics that both of these countries rely on, and their desire to erode both our technological edge that exists here across the Alliance, and more broadly the rules-based order.  So this is something that’s increasingly becoming part of the conversation here at NATO Headquarters. 

MODERATOR:  Next we will go to a pre-submitted question from Srinjoy Chowdhury of Times Now of India.  Srinjoy writes:  “Russia has brought up nuclear weapons.  It has also accused the U.S. establishment of testing biological weapons in Ukraine.  What are your comments?” 

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  So we have heard a considerable amount of nuclear saber-rattling from the Russians over the last year.  And we’ve warned – we, the United States – we’ve warned Russia in very clear terms about the severe consequences they would face were they to use nuclear weapons, tactical nuclear weapons, inside Ukraine.   

As far as we can tell right now, we don’t have an indication that Russia is really preparing to use these types of weapons.  It’s something we’re monitoring quite closely.  Obviously, we saw the recent announcement about stationing nuclear weapons inside Belarus.  This is something that the Russians have talked about doing before.  Again, we’ll be monitoring closely to see how this unfolds in terms of actual action.  So far we’ve heard a lot of bluster and rhetoric on nuclear weapons, and we’ll be watching to see what this means in terms of what Russia actually either constructs or moves into Belarus.  And obviously, that’ll be something that the Alliance will want to watch quite carefully. 

But again, this is a subject that we take on quite regularly here, and something that we all feel we need to monitor very, very closely. 

MODERATOR:  Next we will take a live question from Nayanima Basu of ABP LIVE. 

QUESTION:  Hello, am I audible? 


QUESTION:  Okay, hi.  Thank you for doing this, Ambassador Smith.  Just quickly to ask two questions.  When you say that NATO is open to more engagement should India see that – just to be clear, the discussions that you are having – between U.S. and India – would you really want India to be a member of NATO?  If you can shed some light on that. 

And also, on this ministerial that you will be having on April 4th and 5th, have you invited India?  If not, then why?  If yes, then why?  Thank you so much for doing this.  

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Yeah, sure.  So no, membership is not something that we’ve really considered with anyone in the Indo-Pacific or the Asia Pacific.  The Alliance remains a Euro-Atlantic military alliance.  Its door is open to this region.  But there are no plans by the Alliance to expand this into a broader global military alliance.   

In terms of the ministerial next week, the four countries that I mentioned – Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and Japan – these are four countries that have already established formal partnerships with the Alliance over many years.  They’ve worked closely with the NATO Alliance on shared security challenges.  They’ve sent various briefers in to ensure that we’re sharing best practices and particular insights into, say, the hybrid tactics that some of our adversaries are using on a regular basis.   

So these relationships have been ongoing; we’ve been working to strengthen these relationships.  These are four countries that joined us at the summit last year in Madrid, and also for the first time joined a NATO foreign ministerial exactly a year ago in April of 2022.  So I would describe the – NATO’s relationship with these four Indo-Pacific countries as more advanced, where we’ve been able to have tailored partnerships between NATO and each of those individual countries.   

In terms of the future with India, again, I think NATO’s door is open in terms of engagement should India be interested, but we would not want to, at this stage, invite them to a NATO ministerial until we knew more about their interest in engaging the Alliance more broadly. 

MODERATOR:  Our next question goes to Abhishek Kapoor of Republic TV. 

QUESTION:  Am I audible, Ambassador?   

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Yes – yes.   

QUESTION:  All right, good evening from here.  My question to you is that a – of course I have asked it and some part of it has been answered about NATO’s role in the Indo-Pacific, but I want to add another question to what I have asked and which is about Russia, or President Putin actually, coming out with a national foreign policy statement today in which they say that Russia would continue to build a privileged strategic partnership with the Republic of India.  And the partnership has really panned out really well, despite the war in Europe.  So how does NATO see India’s role vis-à-vis Russia, despite the fact that there are issues we have with China, for example? 

AMBASSADOR SMITH:  Well, I think – let me just say we’ve – first of all, I would say we – both at NATO and certainly in the United States, we welcome what India has been able to do for the people of Ukraine.  We’re very grateful to the humanitarian assistance – for the humanitarian assistance that India has been able to provide, which is critical right now – and those needs are only growing – and certainly appreciate calls coming from India for some sort of an immediate end to the war in Ukraine.  That’s important.  And we have been in constant communication, continuous communication with India about what more we can do together to hold Russia accountable.  And we’ve done that and worked with India and spoken with India several times since Russia started this war inside Ukraine.   

Although we do not always – we the United States and India – do not always share exactly the same policy approaches, we do share a commitment to upholding the rules-based order and ensuring that the key principles of the UN Charter, particularly as they relate to sovereignty and territorial integrity, that those principles are respected and defended.  So I think that’s the most important part of our relationship, how U.S. and India can come together to defend the UN Charter and work together to call out Russia to end this war as soon as possible. 

MODERATOR:  And that concludes today’s call.  I’m sorry that we could not get to all questions today.  I would like to thank Ambassador Smith for joining us, and I would like to thank all of our journalists for participating.  If you have any questions about today’s call, you may contact the London International Media Hub at 

# # # 

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future