Briefing on European and Eurasian Summits
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Hi everyone, thanks for joining the call.
Let me just start briefly with a couple of comments about the rather extraordinary period of summits we have just gone through with five summits over the past couple of weeks, which is maybe an unprecedented opportunity for engagement with our partners in Europe and Eurasia. Of course I’m referring to the NATO summit, the North Atlantic Council, where in Lisbon there was also an ISAF summit with troop and other contributors to Afghanistan, a NATO-Russia Council summit, US-EU summit, and then most recently in Astana last week an OSCE summit.
We think that this set of events significantly helped us advance our agenda in Europe. At the NATO summit allies agreed on the new Strategic Concept, the first time since 1999, that reaffirms Article 5 and collective defense at the core of the Alliance, and also recognizes growing non-traditional threats such as potential cyber attacks, terrorism, energy security and ballistic missile proliferation. And on that I think it’s worth noting the importance of Alliance agreement to develop a missile defense capability to protect all of NATO’s European populations, territory and forces.
The ISAF summit was also significant with 49 countries coming together to reaffirm their support for our strategy in Afghanistan. An increasing number of trainers was pledged in the run-up to the summit which helped NATO meet ISAF’s highest priority requirements for trainers and field critical shortfalls. We see fulfilling this training mission as the ticket to the transition to Afghan lead in security that we want to see. That transition will begin early in 2011 and we share President Karzai’s goal of seeing it be complete by 2014.
We also had a successful NATO-Russia Council (NRC) in Lisbon, the first meeting at the summit level of the NATO-Russia Council since 2008. The NRC agreed on a joint review of 21st Century security challenges which was a road map for practical cooperation in five different areas -- Afghanistan, terrorism, piracy, weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery, and natural and manmade disasters. It also moved forward NATO-Russia cooperation on Afghanistan in a number of ways. And it reaffirmed, just as NATO affirmed missile defense as an Alliance capability, the Allies and Russia agreed to work together in this area, not only in recognizing ballistic missile proliferation as one of the 21st Century common security challenges, but also by resuming theater missile defense cooperation and charting a way forward for missile defense cooperation between NATO and Russia.
We also in Lisbon finally had a US-EU summit, the first one since the Lisbon Treaty was implemented, and the US-EU summit, as President Obama said, reflected the fact that we see Europe as a cornerstone of our engagement in the world. The United States and the European Union together are meeting a wide range of global challenges, and leaders at that summit were able to focus on our work together in the economic area, in the common security area, and in dealing with a number of global foreign policy challenges.
Finally last week Secretary Clinton represented the United States at the OSCE summit in Astana where 56 participating states of the OSCE successfully reached consensus on the Astana Commemorative Declaration which was an important reaffirmation of the principles of the Helsinki Final Act which of course was signed 35 years ago. It underscored our commitment to those principles and our commitment to what is called the human dimension of security in Europe.
As you know, we were not able to agree on an action plan at the OSCE summit and that was because the United States, for one, was not prepared to sign onto a document that didn’t adequately reflect our longstanding position on unresolved conflicts. We took a principled stand on the issue of sovereignty and territorial integrity and host nation consent. We weren’t able to reach satisfactory agreement on how to address the unresolved conflicts, and therefore with regret, the United States wasn’t able to sign onto an action plan and will continue to stand by the principles that the Secretary articulated in her intervention mention at the OSCE summit.
The summit also underscored the vital role that civil society plays in the OSCE area. Again, the Secretary made that clear in her intervention and in the forum that she did with NGOs.
Finally, I want to note, it wasn’t part of the summit but it was important to the United States, the agreement that the United States reached with Belarus that will lead to Belarus eliminating all of its highly enriched uranium by the time of the next nuclear security summit in 2012. The United States will offer financial and technical assistance to complete that process but this was an important development. As you know, one of President Obama’s highest priorities was nuclear nonproliferation and securing unsecured nuclear materials, and this was a big advance in that direction, but it also helps promote energy diversity, energy security in Europe, and reflects the United States commitment to the independence and energy independence of all states in Europe.
So that’s a quick summary of what was a really ambitions agenda, an agenda that as I say we think we significantly advanced in the course of these five summits.
With that, I would be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: As a part of the missile defense deal with Poland, the United States agreed to rotate Patriot missiles on Poland’s territory. According to Polish officials and official sources, the United States wants to change Patriots with rotation of F-16s and C-130 Hercules aircraft. Why do you insist or why did you propose a different solution for Poland? And can we expect an announcement regarding this new proposal tomorrow when President Komorowski visits the White House?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you for that question. We obviously very much look forward to President Komorowski visiting the White House. Poland is a great and important strategic partner of the United States and this is a historic visit. President Obama is very much looking forward to seeing him to talk not only about strategic cooperation but the broad range of issues that the United States and Poland work together on.
You referred to Patriot rotations, and as you say, they have been going on with Poland since last year on a regular basis. And what happens is U.S.-owned Patriot batteries rotate in Poland for training and exercises, and that operation has not changed.
It is right that for some time we have also been discussing with Poland other ways we might cooperate in the area of security cooperation, and I don’t have anything to announce for you on that front but I can tell you that we’re in constant touch with Poland about the best way to pursue our common agreement to work together on security and defense issues.
QUESTION: But can we expect any announcement regarding this particular project tomorrow?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: As I said, I don’t have anything to announce to you at this time.
QUESTION: Mr. Assistant Secretary, my question is again missile system and Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu have both long dismissed the [inaudible] that the United States tried to persuade Turkey down lower radar system before the summit, but with the latest leaks we see that these discussions started at least a year ago.
My quick question is, tell us a little bit more before the summit how was the discussions and when did you first try to persuade Turkey? And again, quickly related to this question, I asked this question to several administration officials and I get different answers every time I ask. My question is why Turkey was not included in first missile system in Bush administration. As a geography, Turkey was same country. And why this changed in your administration, second version, Turkey seen as an ideal country.
And last one, President Abdullah Gö�l just said yesterday Israel would not be given access to proposed missile defense network. Do you know that Israel is not part of NATO. Why do you think that President Gö�ll and many commentaries in the Middle East talk about Israel’s role. As Gö�ll said, I am clearly saying that Israel [inaudible] facilities. Why is Israel such a big role in the discussion? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you. I’ll try to answer all of your questions. Obviously I’m not going to comment on any of the alleged cables, but I’m happy to talk about the issue.
As I think you know, the placement of a potential radar as part of missile defense was not part of the discussion in Lisbon. The Lisbon discussion was focused on acknowledging that there’s a growing threat from ballistic missile proliferation and that it would be important for the Alliance to adopt a capability to deal with that threat to protect all NATO European populations, territory and forces.
There is obviously a separate and technical discussion that’s going to have to go on about precisely where to put different assets, whether they be interceptors, radars, ships, or whatever, but the goal in Lisbon was to agree on a capability and that is what was agreed by Allies.
When President Obama announced our European phased adaptive approach to missile defense, the administration made clear that part of making that system work as well as possible would be the placement of a radar in Southeastern Europe. There are a number of options for the placement of that radar, and the Alliance hasn’t yet decided where to put it, and that’s going to take place in the next phase as we discuss with different Allies where best to position the radar that would help make the system be most effective.
You asked about the Bush administration’s approach and Turkey. Obviously I can’t speak for the Bush administration, but I can tell you that our approach, the reason we changed the approach was that it was important to President Obama, one to deal with a real threat that was emerging from short and medium range ballistic missiles that could already strike Europe and will increasingly be able to strike Europe, rather than focused on a longer term intercontinental threat to the United States.
Secondly, the technology was changing so that this SM3, Standard Missile 3 missile was ready and able immediately to start dealing with the real threat.
Finally, and I think importantly, to be able to cover all of NATO Europe. That’s what the Bush administration’s proposed plan couldn’t do, but our European phased adaptive approach will be able to do. And that we’ve always felt was important and that’s why we wanted to put this in a NATO channel and why we were pleased that all allies agreed that there’s a growing threat and NATO needs the capability to deal with it and Turkey is an important part of that. When we say it should cover all of NATO we mean it should cover all of Turkey as well. We’re pleased to be working with Turkey on that common threat.
I don’t have any comments on Israel. It’s not a part of NATO and it’s not a part of the missile defense system that we’re discussing.
QUESTION: Sir, my specific question is can you please tell us when did you start the talk with Turkish government and possible partnership on the radar. Was it a year ago or was it before? Can you tell us that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think in general terms ever since the President announced our approach we’ve been in touch with all the NATO Allies including Turkey, briefing them both at NATO and bilaterally on plans and how they might fit in and they’ve been a full part of the discussion.
QUESTION: The last one is what do you expect radar component decision is taken? Within the next few months, or is there a deadline?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I don’t think I can put a precise timetable on it. As I said, first things first. We wanted Lisbon to agree a capability, and in the coming months Allies will no doubt be discussing locations for radars as well.
QUESTION: Mr. Gordon, can you tell what we can expect in a relationship between Russia and Western countries, especially with the United States after all of these summits?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you. We hope that the relationship between Russia and the United States and between Russia and NATO and Russia and Europe will continue to improve. I think everyone would agree that these relationships are in a much better place than they were several years ago, certainly before this administration took office. I think we’ve sometimes said that the reset in U.S.-Russia relations that has been going well since the beginning of the Obama administration and in particular since the Moscow Summit that President Obama attended, was extended to the NATO-Russia relationship at Lisbon. NATO-Russia had not been moving forward as practically and positively as the U.S.-Russia relationship until recently, but as I noted, at Lisbon NATO and Russia agreed on a joint assessment of 21st Century security challenges, agreed to resume theater missile defense cooperation, and agreed to cooperate more broadly on missile defense in the future. So that’s a positive thing as well. And we’ve already said in many other contexts that we believe the U.S.-Russia relationship is on increasingly solid ground as we continue to find areas of cooperation, be they in nuclear nonproliferation or the economic area or Afghanistan.
So we’ll continue to work with this. We obviously still have some differences and we’re clear about our differences as well.
I noted at the OSCE summit we had a significant difference over the question of Georgia and other unresolved conflicts, and we’re not shy about expressing those, but we are expressing them frankly, and we believe that in the long run the United States and Russia and Russia and Europe have so many common interests that we are and should be partners, and we’ll continue to work on our areas of difference even as we find more and more areas to work together on.
QUESTION: Mr. Gordon, I’ve got a couple of questions on Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations at Astana summit.
First of all, how does Washington view the outcome of Astana summit in terms of Nagorno-Karabakh negotiations? Are you satisfied with the results that you have achieved in Kazakhstan? And from your point of view, what’s the roadmap after Astana? Where do we go from here?
The second question is, some observers note that Russia is taking an increasingly leading role as the mediator in the negotiations with President Medvedev, trying actively to bring sides together to reach the agreement, while the U.S. has been showing little interest in this issue. How would you respond to that?
My last question is about WikiLeaks story. I don’t want you to comment on any cable, but there were some opinions that WikiLeaks story would influence the atmosphere of the summit between the allies. Did you feel any change of the vibes sort of when you were in Astana? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thanks for all those questions.
Nagorno-Karabakh was addressed in Astana. Of course there was a statement issued, agreed by the parties and by the Minsk Group co-chairs, and that’s obviously a positive sign whenever the sides can agree on language and reiterate the way forward, which includes leadership of the Minsk Group co-chairs. Obviously we’re concerned about the gaps that remain and about the pace of progress on the issue, and about incidents that have taken place in recent times in the line of control. It’s a dangerous situation and underscores why we’re working so intensively to make progress based on the Helsinki Principles that were underscored by all members of the OSCE.
I would take issue with your suggestion that the United States has shown little interest in this. On the contrary, yes, Russia has been playing an active role and we believe that Russia, like the United States, wants to see a settlement based on basic principles agreed by the Minsk Group and on Helsinki Principles, so we welcome Russia’s engagement and are working closely with Russia as part of that engagement. But it is simply not true that the United States is not fully engaged. I can tell you that I and my colleagues are following it very closely and are in constant touch with the parties. Our Minsk Group co-chair, Ambassador Bob Bradtke, is tireless in his pursuit of progress and spends an awful lot of time in the region. Also with the co-chairs, France and Russia, but in Armenia, Azerbaijan, and in Nagorno-Karabakh, doing everything he can to look for a way forward.
Secretary Clinton, of course, traveled to Armenia and Azerbaijan in July and is regularly updated on and following very closely and is in regular touch with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
So we are very much engaged because of the priority we put on a settlement.
I’m not going to comment on Wiki, but I think I can tell you of course it was discussed in Astana. The Secretary’s been very clear and frank in addressing the issue. And again, without getting into any detail, I think it’s fair to say that a lot of leaders expressed their understanding of the situation and their desire like ours to get on with the business at hand and continue working with the United States as part of our close relationships, and not to let this unduly interfere with that.
QUESTION: The summits were pretty successful, but a little bit later Russian President Medvedev warned that a new arms race will result if the West and Russia were unable to reach an agreement on missile defense systems.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in an interview with Larry King threatened a renewed arms race if the Senate does not ratify the New START Treaty.
What do you think about the possibility of a new arms race?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you. There’s no basis for a new arms race with Russia. We see Russia as a partner. We have many common interests. We certainly believe NATO is not a threat to Russia and we don’t see Russia as a threat to NATO. So under any of these circumstances I don’t think it’s right to talk about a potential new arms race, and it’s certainly not in our interest.
On missile defense, I noted that we made significant progress and committed to cooperate, NATO and Russia on missile defense. We’ve said that, we the United States have said that all along, that our missile defense system is not in any way targeted at Russia. Not only because Russia is not a threat, but we are not deploying a capability that could deal with Russia’s nuclear capabilities.
On the contrary, we share an interest in being able to deal with what is a threat to us both which is the proliferation of ballistic missiles possibly combined with nuclear weapons, and that’s why we want to do this together with Russia.
There remain some differences, and President Medvedev came with his own ideas, and President Obama said that we need to continue to talk about the best way forward, technically, politically and otherwise. So I’m not suggesting that there’s not more work to be done, but we have made clear all along that we should be doing this together and our missile defense is not directed at Russia. Again, I really think that there’s no purpose in talking about a new arms race.
On the START Treaty, we’ve been equally clear. We want to see it ratified and we’ve done everything, I think this administration has done everything possible to make the case. I think we’re making some progress. Obviously it’s up to individual senators to decide what they want to do, but we have made the case that it’s in our interest to limit the numbers of nuclear weapons and it’s in our interest to have verification inspection means. At present, because the START Agreement expired, we have no verification and inspection means in Russia, and that’s why we believe it’s in America’s national security interest to ratify the START Agreement and we think it’s in Russia’s as well, and as I say, we continue to work with Congress so that it does get ratified and we can continue to improve U.S.-Russia relations.
QUESTION: I also have a question about the New START Treaty, and thank you for doing this.
How do you think, what will be the impact if the START Treaty is not ratified this year concerning the relationship between the United States and Russia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Again, I’d rather focus on the scenario where it is ratified, whereby not only would it advance our national security interests by limiting numbers of nuclear weapons and launchers and providing verification means, but it would be one more step towards the reset. The New START Treaty was one of the first things that we did as part of the reset, at least the Framework Agreement for START that was agreed at the July 2009 summit in Moscow, along with Afghanistan ethal transit and military to military cooperation, and Bilateral Presidential Commission. START was right up there in advancing the relationship.
I really believe that’s the right scenario to think about, where START gets ratified and we continue to work together in these areas. But by definition or by implication, if it were not to be ratified that would be a setback to the relationship that we’re trying to build with Russia. I think that’s all the more reason it should be ratified, not only for what it contributes to U.S.-Russia cooperation in the non-proliferation area, but because it’s in our interest to continue to improve the relationship with Russia, and to reject it and take the risk that that step back would spill over into other areas, just doesn’t make sense to us.
QUESTION: Dr. Gordon, I think you pretty much covered all the issues related to Russia, but still I want to ask you the question about Russia.
What do you think was the major breakthrough at the NATO summit meeting out of all the other subjects you mentioned in your [inaudible]?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: The major breakthrough at Lisbon? Is that your question?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think as I tried to suggest at the beginning, one of the most impressive things about Lisbon was how many different areas we advanced on. There’s not a single major breakthrough. I think all of the things I mentioned -- a new Strategic Concept for the first time in 11 years; a commitment for the first time for NATO to develop a missile defense capability to protect all of NATO’s European population, territories and forces; the ISAF contributor countries coming together to recommit and filling the gap in trainers and announcing dates for transition; the first NATO-Russia Council since 2008; and cooperation with Russia on a joint assessment of security challenges, and in Afghanistan and on theater missile defense and missile defense; the first US-EU summit since the Lisbon Treaty was ratified. I think all of those are very important, very significant, and that’s why we’re pleased at the degree to which Lisbon advanced our agenda.
QUESTION: My question is regarding Turkey. We know relations between Turkey and United States have been a little strained, especially after the vote in UN on Iran. I was wondering what was your impression with the Turkish role and participation in NATO summit in Lisbon, and the Astana summit? Did you find the role constructive? And how would this affect the future of the U.S.-Turkish relations? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thanks for that question. The short answer is yes. Turkey played a very constructive role at the NATO summit and at the OSCE summit.
You mentioned certain differences the United States has had with Turkey in recent months, and it’s true that we disagreed about the vote on Iran, but we’ve always said that even strong friends and partners can have disagreements. And I think at Lisbon we showed ourselves to be good friends and partners in NATO.
Turkey had strong views in a number of issues and represented itself on those views, but came together with all the other Allies to support the ambitious agenda that I’ve already described, including on missile defense, including on cooperation with Russia, and including on the new Strategic Concept. We all agreed, and Turkey took a very constructive position and I think showed anyone who was doubting that it wants to play a constructive role and is a critical NATO partner of the United States.
Similarly in Astana we worked together and reached some common agreement
I think the series of summits only confirmed what we’ve been saying all along, is that even when we may have differences about which we are frank, we also have a lot in common and are going to continue to pursue our mutual interests.
QUESTION: My quick question is [inaudible], again, on the radar part of the missile system. If the radar system decision was accepted or not, do you think it’s also meaning to opt out of the missile defense system? Another way is say if Turkey does not accept the radar component that also means practically opting out from the system as one of the cables leaked shows these kind of discussions went on beginning of this year. Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: I think I’ve said all I have to say about the radar. I can only reiterate that one of the goals of this missile defense system was to be able to protect all of NATO and that remains our goal. I think that’s what allies signed up for at the summit.
QUESTION: Mr. Gordon, just one last quick one, was Caspian energy project discussed in Astana, and what was the outcome there?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Were Caspian energy projects discussed in Astana? Obviously I wasn’t part of every discussion that took place. No doubt there were different discussions of energy issues bilaterally and in other contexts. It wasn’t a core part of the agenda for the entire summit. So no doubt there was an opportunity because a number of Caspian countries were present, not least the host, but it wasn’t an OSCE agenda item per se.
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