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Foreign Affairs Media Call With Ivo H. Daalder and James. G. Stavridis

Speakers: Justin Vogt, Deputy Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs, Ivo H. Daalder, President, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and Adm. James Stavridis, Dean, Fletcher School, Tufts University
April 2, 2014
Council on Foreign Relations

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OPERATOR: Excuse me, everyone. We now have our speakers in conference. Please be aware that each of your lines is in a listen only mode.

At the conclusion of the presentation, we will open the floor for questions. At that time, instructions will be given if you would like to ask a question.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Mr. Justin Vogt. Sir, please begin.

VOGT: Hello, everyone. Welcome. Justin Vogt here, deputy managing editor of Foreign Affairs. Of course, we've all been following the ongoing crisis in Ukraine very closely. Last week Foreign Affairs collected the best of our extensive coverage of the story in an e-book, titled "Crisis in Ukraine." You can find that on our website.

But today we're delighted to be joined two of the most authoritative analysts on this topic, both of whom Foreign Affairs has had the privilege of publishing in the past. Ambassador Ivo Daalder is the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Prior to joining the council last year, Ambassador Daalder served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO for more than four years.

James Stavridis is the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Admiral Stavridis led the NATO alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013, as Supreme Allied Commander. Ambassador Daalder and Admiral Stavridis thank you both for joining us this afternoon.

STAVRIDIS: Thanks, Justin.

DAALDER: Great - great to be here.

VOGT: Let's start with the question for you, Admiral. In interviews published in the past two days, your successor as Supreme Allied Commander, General Philip Breedlove, has been sort of sounding the alarm about the Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border.

He's warned that these 40,000 or so Russian troops currently massed on the border are - are in high state of readiness, they could move at any time, and he's estimated that those forces could take large swaths of Ukrainian territory within three to five days, and could even be deployed to occupy Transnistria, the breakaway region of Moldova.

How likely do you think it is that Russia will launch that kind of cross border incursion, and what do you think would happen if it did?

STAVRIDIS: Well, first of all I share General Breedlove's concerns. There is - there is no reason that such a large body of troops should be simply parking itself on the border of a -- another sovereign state. And, in particular, since we've just witnessed a Russian invasion of Crimea, it doubles or triples or quadruples the risk of confrontation, obviously. They are well-trained. They are very capable. And how they will be used, I don't think anybody knows the answer to that.

I think there's a less than even chance that Vladimir Putin, as he rolls all the calculi around in his head, I think there's a less than even chance of, maybe a one in three chance that he'll decide to press forward.

I - here I defer to Ambassador Daalder, to talk about the diplomatic pressure and the potential for economic sanction, but from a military perspective, he would be able to easily roll up the Ukrainian forces, but it would not be cost-free.

And I think at - at this stage of the situation, we would in fact see the Ukrainian forces stand and fight, there'd be casualties. It begins to be the kind of scene that I don't think Vladimir Putin would relish playing out on televisions around the world.

VOGT: Right, there's some high cost built into it for him. Ambassador, let me ask the meeting of the foreign ministers of NATO allies yesterday and today. It was announced that NATO would be ending all of its practical and military cooperation with Russia, and -and also NATO announced some sort of modest steps it would take to reassure its Eastern European members.

More air patrols over the Baltic States, for example. But the Baltic States and Poland have made no secret of the fact that they really want more boots on the ground, bluntly put. And, General Breedlove has said that deployments of that kind still remain an option.

I'm curious, what factors should go into the process of U.S. and NATO decision making about those kind of deployments, and - and what decision do you think they ought to arrive at?

DAALDER: Thanks for the question. It's an important one. The - the NATO foreign ministers meeting yesterday decided to task the military authorities, General Breedlove and - and - and his folks to look at a series of options about how we could strengthen NATOs reassurance of all of our allies and particularly, of course, the allies who are - who are bordering Russia in - in Eastern Europe.

You saw the - the Polish prime minister saying that the response so far has been quote "Inadequate." What they want is a large presence of, particularly, American troops on - on their soil, and they've been wanting that for a very long time. It's - it's the best form of reinsurance is to have allied forces on your territory.

The consideration, I think, for -- for NATO is -- is a number of things. One is, you know, just to start off with is cost. In order to base large numbers of American or NATO troops on foreign territory, you - you need to have the basing structure to do that. We have an extensive basing structure in Europe, but it's not in Poland.

It's in Germany, and - and to some extent in Italy, and - and in other places. So, are we willing to spend the - the kind of resources necessary to redeploy our forces?

Secondly, there is a commitment that NATO made in 1997, actually commitment is the wrong word. There's a unilateral promise by NATO that under, made in 1997, to Russia that in this current circumstances, the circumstances of 1997, NATO thought that it could meet its collective defense obligations through the possibility of reinforcing troops into the east, as well as by enhancing interoperability and integration of the forces.

And that, at, you know, given the circumstances at the time, there was no reason for NATO to have a substantial combat presence forward deployed, on a permanent basis.

My personal view is that those circumstances have changed. That when Russia not only invades, but annexes a -- a part of another country, against the expressed, written commitment not to do so, in a whole variety of international agreements, the idea that one should forgo steps that enhance the defense of all of NATO is -- is one that I don't think is acceptable.

So that's why we're now debating to what extent do we want to rely on the permanent deployment of forward based U.S. and NATO forces, and are we willing to pay the costs that are associated with it? Versus, enhancing our capacity to reinforce the defense of -- of the Baltic States and Poland through more exercises and training, and not -- and temporary presences rather than permanent ones.

VOGT: Right. Let's stay on this, actually, for just a second and -- and go back to -- to Admiral Stavridis. As -- as the ambassador is talking about, of course, in recent years, the -- the U.S. cut the size of -- of its forces in Europe by about half.

I -- I know that you've also said recently that you -- you think it might be time to reconsider that. I wonder though, I mean, do you think that -- that Putin would have acted differently if those forces had been in place? And do you think that possibly restoring the -- the -- the level, even to the prior level, would actually affect his decision making in a positive direction?

STAVRIDIS: I think the answers are no and yes. In other words, I don't -- don't think that had we been at the previous level it would have had any -- in any significant way changed his calculus. But, yes, I think that a rethink is warranted. We should, in my view, restore some of those forces to Europe. And -- and the reason is -- is the reassurance piece. I think the reassurance to the allies is very, very important.

Secondly, by having more forces there, you can do what I hope we will do, which is a lot of training, exercising and mentoring, with not only the NATO nations, but also partners like Ukraine. So, you get much more flexibility by having more forces there in Europe.

So I think there's a psychological dimension and there's a practical dimension. The implication of your question is would those forces be particularly germane in a combat scenario, and -- and they're not going to be determinant. The -- the European militaries have good, strong, capable standing armies, navies and air forces, but the U.S. forces become sort of the rebar in the concrete.

They're the -- reinforces in a very important psychological way and they also contribute greatly through the ability to exercise, train.

And, also, thirdly it's because they bring very strong enablers. Intelligence, refueling, targeting, logistics, all the things that Ambassador Daalder and I relied on the U.S. for, when we were conducting the campaign in Libya.

VOGT: I'm going to ask one more question, sort of on this topic, and then I think I'll open it up to the members on the call. Ambassador Daalder, I want to talk about Article Five of -- of the NATO treaty, but this is sometimes considered or referred to sort of as the gold standard of collective defense, right?

It's a pledge that attack on one member of the alliance would be considered an attack on all. But the text itself actually a little bit ambiguous. It -- it requires that each ally take only such action as it deems necessary in the event of an attack on another ally.

There seems to be a little bit of wiggle room there, at least to -- to my eye. I guess my question is, do you think that the U.S. and the rest of NATO are -- are really willing to go to war with Russia, say, over -- over Estonia? Over the Baltic States? Over security in Eastern Europe? Is that-is that, you know, is that a rock solid commitment?

DAALDER: I think it's as rock solid as any nation can possibly make in terms of a commitment to the defense of another nation. I agree that Article Five, if you read it carefully, leaves wiggle room.

In fact, the reason for that is because the United States insisted, and the Congress insisted that we always leave the decision on what we would do when it comes to the use of armed forces up to our constitutional principles, which included the Declaration of War by Congress.

So, automatically in terms of coming to the defense of an ally, was something that -- that for constitutional reasons and -- and, frankly, in 1949 for political reasons we weren't yet to take. But it's 65 years since this treaty was signed. In fact, it's 65 years the day after tomorrow.

And in those 65 years, it has become an article of faith, not only of the 12 countries that signed the agreement on April 4th, 1949, but of every other country that has since signed it, up -up to 28 now, that when and if one of our -- the members of the alliance is attacked militarily by someone else, the alliance will stand up and respond to that attack and restore the security of -- of the country involved.

Now, this has only happened, by the way, one time in our history. It happened on December 12th, 2001, when NATO for the first and only time invoked Article Five in defense of the United States, and sent its AWACS aircraft to help patrol the airspace of the United States in the wake of the 9/11 attack.

So, I have no doubt, none whatsoever, having sat in the room where these decisions are -- are made for the last four years, that if Russia or indeed anybody else, were to attack a NATO country and its territory, the response will be swift, secure and unquestioning on the part of all other members.

STAVRIDIS: Pat (ph), can I jump in ...

VOGT: All right.

STAVRIDIS: I just ...

VOGT: Sure.

STAVRIDIS: I want to absolutely echo what Ambassador Daalder said, and just say that from the military perspective, the ethos in the militaries around NATO is precisely the same. I sat for four years while Ivo was in the political meetings, I was in all the military meetings.

There is no doubt in the minds of the military leaders of the alliance that we are, in fact, obligated and will respond. And we should have no doubt of that. I don't think we do. And neither should Vladimir Putin.

VOGT: All right. Why don't we open up the call? We have some -some folks on the line, waiting to ask questions. Operator, if you could please take the -- the first call and I'll just remind everyone to please just ask one question, so that we can give everybody a chance.

OPERATOR: Thank you, sir. At this time, we will open the floor for questions. If you would like to ask a question, please press the Star key followed by 1 key that is Star 1, on your touchtone phone now. Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received. If at any time you would like to remove yourself from the questioning queue, please press Star 2. Again, that is Star 1 for questions.

Our first question will come from Margaret Warner, from PBS Newshour.

QUESTION: Hi, gentlemen. Thank you for doing this. If-if you could both comment on also what Admiral Breedlove talked about -- about the Moldova Trans-Dniester scenario. That -- that-that Russian forces could pretty easily sweep up from Crimea, you know, along by Odessa and up and -- and establish the slambridgedu (ph).

Do you see that as one, feasible? Two, desirable from Russia's point of view in any kind of strategic sense? Or is it -- or do you think that -- that they're just trying to rattle everyone's cages and especially Moldova's as it looks ahead to maybe signing an EU association agreement?

STAVRIDIS: Let me hit the military aspect, and then maybe Ambassador wants to touch on the political and diplomatic side of it. If the question is could they do it? Absolutely. By the way, that's General Breedlove, although I'll tell him that was he upgraded to admiral next time I chat with him.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: I'm sure he'll be glad to hear that.

STAVRIDIS: He will be. He's always wanted to be an admiral, I can tell you that.

(LAUGHTER)

STAVRIDIS: They certainly can do it, from a military perspective as I mentioned earlier. They will begin to incur real costs and -- and there will be a real fight, in my view. And, I, personally from a military perspective, the more territory you try and hold onto, the more complex your challenges become. All of a sudden, 20,000 troops, 30,000 troops don't look like enough. Again, I think it's an unlikely move, but not an impossible one.

DAALDER: Just to -- to add to that, on -- on the political side, I think we should be in a posture where we need to read what, particularly Putin, says and what it is being put out in his name very carefully. And we should take what he says, not with a grain of salt, we should take it straight.

And in that regard there are two things that -- that there's one refrain that has been now there for four weeks, that has been worrying, which is his constant argument that Russian speaking people need to be protected by Russia.

And, of course, in Trans-Dniester, just as it is in -- in a more worrying from a NATO perspective, Latvia and Estonia, there are large Russian speaking populations. In Trans-Dniester, there are in fact Russian troops deployed there. Not a lot, but there are about a thousand or so peacekeepers, and they'll put that in quotation marks there. That's number one.

Number two, while the readout from the Putin to Obama call last week, from the White House, was a focus on trying to find a way to a political, diplomatic solution, the same phone call was read out by the Kremlin, emphasizing the dangers of quote "Extremists in Ukraine," and that President Putin's worry as expressed to Obama about events in Trans-Dniester.

Both of those statements, it seemed to me, indicate that there is a concern in the Kremlin and in Moscow about what is happening in this part of the world that is sufficient for them to move militarily. That doesn't mean it will happen. It doesn't mean that the chances are any greater than I think that Jim has indicated, one in three, or maybe, you know, I'm probably closer to the 40 percent, but that's quibbling.

But it does mean that this a serious possibility. And that we ought to have a policy that is based on the notion that we -- we may be confronted with a second crisis, a post-Crimea crisis that is at least as big, if not much bigger than we just had in Crimea.

VOGT: Let's take the next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question comes from James Kitfield, from National Journal.

QUESTION: Thank you both gentlemen, for doing this. One of the atmospherics that worry a lot people is the removal of our two heavy brigades from Germany as part of our, sort of post-Afghanistan, Iraq repositioning. You know, is this the time to be having not a single American tank in Europe at the same time that, you know, the Dutch and British are cutting their ground forces?

I mean, don't ground forces still mean something? And, if -- if we were going to reconsider that, would -- would maybe prepositioning heavy, you know, equipment over there, as we did during the Cold War, maybe be part of the answer? Thanks.

STAVRIDIS: I'll take a first swing on that one, it had kind of a military tone to it. I think that, yes, we should be reexamining all of those propositions, because the world is different than it was before Russia chose to invade another sovereign country and impose its will and -- and as Ambassador Daalder correctly points out, take the next step, which is to annex it.

So I think you have to reevaluate in light of that the U.S. force presence, and I suspect that will occur pretty rapidly.

The good news is, an awful lot of what the U.S. military can bring to any kind of confrontation in -- in Europe, can be moved flexibly from the United States. Long-range bombers, ships, special forces, aircraft that service Special Forces, cyber.

So there's an a awful lot that can be done at distance, but I -- I think semantically (ph), psychologically, for purposes of reassurance and exercise and training and so forth, I -- I think it would be prudent to relook at that and perhaps return to a four brigade posture.

Vogt: All right. Let's take the next question. I just also want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is an on the record, Foreign Affairs media call. Let's take the next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you, our next question comes from Martin Pritchard from Danish Daily Information.

QUESTION: Yes, hi, thank you. Some of my question have already been asked, but there was one last one I wanted to ask about, because I was left a bit confused about the sending of American troops to Romania, 600 extra to the U.S. base in Romania, on top of the 1,000 already there.

And I was wondering that was not within the framework of NATO, so if, and this is basically based on my lack of knowledge, but wouldn't it be then conceivable if there to be a base, an American base in Poland, or in the Baltic States, that the same could be done unilaterally by United States?

DAALDER: I -- I'll let Jim comment on the two, but the basing structure, which is actually, I think a Romanian base that the U.S. uses on a temporary basis, is not a permanent U.S. facility in Romania. There are no permanently stationed troops in -- in Romania, combat forces.

There is a -- there is a training facility that is being used by U.S. and indeed other forces, and I hadn't heard about the possible reinforcement of those in the last -- in the last weeks or so. But that would be as part of -- as part of a normal, rotational, temporary presence rather than a permanent one.

STAVRIDIS: Yes, I think -- I think the Ambassador has it exactly right. All around Europe there are -- there's a network of bases that are run by sovereign countries themselves, NATO allies.

There are some NATO bases, which have NATO headquarters, in other words multi-national standing forces, and then there are some American facilities, which are permitted to be used by U.S. forces within Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and -- and a handful of other nations.

That -- that structure can be mixed and matched. There are some -- some minor differences between the standing forces agreements between the nations involved in each of the bases, but they represent a very real capability to move forces around.

In terms of any specific troop deployment, I'm -- I'm not going to comment on that, since I'm not in the flow of operations at the moment.

OPERATOR: Thank you, our ...

VOGT: All right. Let's ..

(CROSSTALK)

VOGT: Go ahead.

OPERATOR: Our next question will come Emily Cadei from OZY Media.

QUESTION: Hi, this Emily Cadei from OZY Media. I just wanted to get your thoughts, either of you, on Jan Stoltenberg's appointment as the next Secretary General of NATO? And any particular skills, relationships he might bring when it comes to NATOs relationship with Russia, in particular.

DAALDER: Yes, I'll be happy to -- to comment on it. It's important to remember that Norway is the only original NATO member that has Russia as its neighbor, and in that regard the appointment and its announcement just -- just a few days ago, is -- is to be welcomed. Norway knows what it means to have Russia as a neighbor.

It has -- it's had it as long as it's been independent, since 1907, I believe. And, it has had an interesting relationship on the one hand, and a. because they are neighbors, a relationship that tries to be as cooperative as possible, to deal with common issues.

But, on the other hand, one of great wariness about the fact that you have Russia right across your border. Stoltenberg was prime minister for -- for about 10 years in total, of a coalition government, so he knows what it means to bring opposing sides to together, which is what the fundamental skill of a Secretary-General is -- is all about.

But he's also demonstrated he can deal with Russia. He -- he actually concluded three or so years ago, I believe it was, an agreement with Russia that divided -- that settled a territorial dispute in the -- in the Barren Sea, way up there, up there in the north, about which part of was Norway's, off the continental shelf was Norwegian, and which was Russian. This had been festering for -- for decades. And he was able to actually get a pretty good deal for -- for Norway.

So, I think you have in -- in Jan Stoltenberg the leader who is ready to take on the challenge of -- of dealing with an alliance of 28 diverse countries, who brings a perspective of a original member that is also a neighbor of Russia, so will understand what it feels like to live in Estonia and Latvia, while also at the same time understanding that for the last 65 years, this alliance has been the core of -- of his country's security, and indeed of Europe's security for -- for the last 65 years.

STAVRIDIS: Can I add something to that? Again, picking up the military perspective here, once thing that was extremely helpful with the -- -the current Secretary- General is extremely helpful is that he comes from a nation, in this case Denmark, that is an across the spectrum troop contributor.

Outstanding troops, and -- and so to have a Secretary-General, another one, coming from in this case Norway, I just want to make the observation that Norway has been an extraordinary contributor to the alliance, across the spectrum of operations.

Everything that the alliance has done, Norway has been there and I think, having a prime minister with such a distinguished military as part of his portfolio, if you will, also is a point that makes me quite pleased to see him become the -the new Secretary-General later this year.

VOGT: All right. Let's take the next question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you, our next question comes from Garrett Mitchell from the Mitchell Report.

QUESTION: Thanks very much to both of you for doing this. I wonder if I might put the question to you this way, and any number of politicians in this country have been suggesting in the last few weeks that we ought to be, at a minimum, rattling the saber, if not actually getting it out, and getting prepared to use it. The most recent statement I'm aware of on that front has come from the Council's own Les Gel, earlier this week.

And, instead of simply asking your perspective on whether we should or whether we shouldn't be rattling sabers or getting more kinetic, I'm interested to know whether you think we have been, and the we in this case I'm talking about now is the United States, the Obama administration, whether we have been -- whether we have been making sense strategically to the global community on the Crimea question, I'll put it that way? Or whether we are in fact sending out either ill-defined signals or -- and or signals that suggest that we're really not prepared to get kinetic?

That -- -that all we're prepared to do in this -- in this circumstance is some version of economic sanctions? I'm interested to know what your perspective is about how you think we are being perceived globally, and in particularly by Putin himself.

DAALDER: If -- I'll take that on. Gary always ask the -- the difficult question. Here's the way I would respond to that. I think that the -- the Obama administration has emphasized three essential points in its policy and in its efforts since the crisis erupted.

First, it has been very clear that this is a set of moves that is a clear and total violation, not only of international law, but also leading to a -- a -- a fundamental reassessment of Russia's relationship with -- with the United States and the West.

Now, already before things between the United States and Russia weren't particularly good, and the relationship between Obama and Putin was so bad that the President of the United States cancelled for the first time in history a summit with the President of Russia, or even the Soviet Union, which happened last September. But, that said, there was a very clear statement that this was something not only could not stand but would never be accepted.

Secondly, and I think importantly, when you're dealing in a world that we are living in today, the administration was able to rally the Europeans in particular, with the major powers including Japan, in terms of the G7, to a consistent and agreed posture with regard to Russia, so that whatever actions were going to be taken, were going to be taken in common.

And, that is not only the sanctions that have already been in place, but the agreement that the G7 reached and that the European Union has endorsed that any further move will lead to more sanctions down the road. So I think that is extremely important as well.

And, third, I think the president and his administration have rallied the entire NATO alliance behind the idea that Article Five is what -- says what it is and is what it says, which is that the defense of NATO territory is a responsibility of all, and has moved quite precipitously to put into place those military means necessary to reassure particularly the Baltic States and the Poles, in the first instance.

The -- the next question is, how much further do you want to go? I think there is widespread agreement in the United States, let alone internationally, that kinetic action is not the way we're going to resolve the Crimea issue. There may be differences over what to do with regard to eastern Ukraine, and I think we can talk about what -- what other steps in addition to threaten sanctions we would -- we would -- should contemplate.

As I said, I think the forward deployment of U.S. and NATO troops in Eastern Europe at this point in time is something we -- we ought to a very a serious look at and I would support. And -- and that sends a kinetic signal in and of itself. But that's basically how I -- I get at the -- the issue.

STAVRIDIS: Can I -- can I make a couple of comments on that? Just to add one -- one point. I think the Obama Administration has rallied not only NATO and the NATO alliance, but -- but really a global sense that this is not right. The General Assembly, I believe, voted the other day on this, and only eight nations, and it was one might term the usual suspects, voted to support Russia.

Everyone else either voted against Russia or abstained. A significant number did abstain, in fairness. But only eight nations agreed, and I -- I think that's a part of what the Obama Administration has done effectively, is -- is galvanize global views on this.

Secondly, back to the famous saber rattling, there is something, I think, between saber rattling and pulling out our sword, and that is preparing the Ukrainians. And I think that doing intelligence sharing, information sharing, providing them with weapons, ammunition, nigh vision goggles, communications gear, cyber support, logistics support, sending mentors and advisors, I think all of this ought to be under consideration.

I think it probably will be part of -- of what is considered both at NATO and by the United States and it would serve to paint a picture for Vladimir Putin of cost that he would incur, that would be higher than if he went alone against Ukrainian military that -- that simply stood by itself.

So there's something kind of in the middle there, and I think it's -- it's assisting the Ukrainian armed forces. NATO has excellent capability. We know how to do this. It doesn't commit us to troops on the ground, or combat operations in any way. But it -- it raises the bar of cost for Russia. So, just adding those two points to the excellent summary by the ambassador.

MITCHELL: Thank you.

DAALDER: All right.

VOGT: Let's -- let's take another question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you, our next question come from Julio Garcia from NTN24.

QUESTION: Hi, good afternoon. Thank you for taking this call. I wanted to know what the single biggest worry for the United States is and what you think the single biggest worry in this crisis for -- for NATO is?

DAALDER: I mean, the -- the two are the same. What concerns NATO ought to concern the United States, they're -- they're one in the same. So, my answer would be the biggest worry is that the Russian speaking population of a NATO country, be it Latvia or Estonia, or somewhere else, be manipulated as the Crimean population was, in a way to provoke a military confrontation between Russia and a NATO country.

That is the one thing we avoided in -- in the last 70 years. I don't judge it to be particularly high, I must, you know I want to emphasize that. I don't think things have changed that much. But it is something to worry about, and as I said earlier, when the president of Russia continually speaks about the Russia's obligation to defend Russian speaking people everywhere, we ought to take notice.

In particularly because Russian speaking people don't all live in Russia. Many live in other countries, and the idea that Russia should have the right to go in and protect those that it thinks or believes or has propagandized are being threatened is a very, very dangerous and very, very destabilizing kind of thought that can go all the way to affect the territory of the NATO alliance.

STAVRIDIS: I would add, I agree with that. I think that is the -- the -- the big strategic concern. I'll give you a quasi-tactical operational concern, and that is cyber. Russia has tremendous capabilities in the cyber world.

I think it's worth worrying and being concerned about those being deployed, and then responses and we see real disruptions with potentially effect on real world transportation grids, electrical systems, that's I think an operational tactical concern that I would have, again, taking the ambassador's broader point, that anything that would provoke a -- a higher order conflict, and I think he outlines exactly what could escalate towards that extremity.

GARCIA: Thank you, both.

VOGT: OK, next question.

DAALDER: Thank you.

VOGT: Let's take the next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you, our next one comes from Toby Harnden from Sunday Times.

QUESTION: Yes, hi. I was just wondering whether you thought there was any prospect in due course of deescalating the situation, perhaps with bilateral talks with Russia?

That might entail, perhaps, you know, the threat of additional sanctions, the threat of kinetic action, if there was any move into Eastern Ukraine, and whether it's either possible or would be -- be right that as part of those bilateral talks, and there could be some kind of undertaking from -- from NATO, and often the U.S. that Ukraine wouldn't join NATO and -- and wouldn't have a closer economic relationship with the European Union.

DAALDER: I'll guess I'll take that one, at least first in terms of -- in terms of de-escalation and a diplomatic solution, I'm all for de-escalation but it only involves and must involve Russian action. What we're looking at is, frankly, not de-escalation, which with Russia reversing what it is doing.

So, in the first instance that means taking its troops, the however many tens of thousands there are on -- on the Ukrainian border, and moving them back to their former bases and -- and -- and ending this posture of being able to -- to attack Ukraine at will. That's first.

And the second de-escalation that we need is for Crimea to be given back to its rightful owner, which is Ukraine. And those, it seems to me, are the -- the two things that we're looking at. The question is what price are we willing to pay for Russian, you know, returning to the status quo ante? I'm frankly not willing to pay much of a price. I don't believe that the -- the point here is for Russia to behave badly and then to be paid for something that it shouldn't have done in the first place.

And that includes the issue of whether or not Ukraine should be a member of NATO or have an economic relationship with the European Union. That, frankly, isn't up to the United States or even NATO to decide. It certainly isn't up to Russia to decide. It's up to Ukraine to decide.

And this is a decision that the Ukrainian Parliament and the people, who vote for the parliamentarians and the government will need to take up, when in 2010 the Ukrainians voted to power Mr. Yanukovich. He declared that Ukraine would not align itself with either Russia or NATO, and within NATO that was accepted. That was -- it was fine.

This is a decision that -- that Ukraine has to -- has to make. And I think that's where the decision making power needs to lie, and it is not something that the United States or the European Union can or should negotiate about over Ukraine's head with the Russians.

STAVRIDIS: Yes, I agree with that. I would only offer as we think solution sets going forward, we should simply consider that we -- we have had reasonably good cooperation in certain zones with the Russian Federation.

We've cooperated with them in Afghanistan, in counter narcotics, in counter-terrorism, in piracy at sea. We've had a -- we -- we do have a small base on which to build.

All that's been frozen as a result of Russian action and I'm, you know, over time, I'm hopeful if we can resolve this, we can get back and use those kind of things as confidence building measures. But as the ambassador points out, the -- the behavior has been so egregious at this point, it's very difficult to see how we get back to that as a mechanism.

HARDIN: Thank you.

VOGT: Let's take the next question please.

OPERATOR: Thank you, our next question will come from Sara Carter, from The Blaze.

QUESTION: Yes, hello, thank you so much for taking my question. Admiral, you had brought something up to my attention a -- a second ago. You spoke about the Ukrainian intelligence sharing with the -- with the NATO, with the United States as part of something that we can do to aid with the Ukrainians.

But, one of the -- one of the issues I think that's happening in Ukraine and speaking to my sources on the ground there, is that Ukrainian intelligence belongs with under Yanukovich, was very close to Russia. So, we're having a difficult time with intelligence sharing. Is there anything that we can do to help alleviate that?

I mean, obviously the government is trapped between a rock and hard place, so that the Ukrainian, pro-west government, as well as NATO and the United States, and I wonder if that has been drawn to your attention?

STAVRIDIS: I'm generally aware of that, but I think as you balance the -- the concerns, I think the weight of the argument falls on the side of sharing intelligence as follows. What we could provide is a picture of what the Russians are doing, using overhead imagery, using our intelligence, signals intelligence collection capability, using our cyber capability.

I think as long we don't reveal sources, but are talking to the Ukrainians about what's occurring, we enhance their ability to see what's happening, in a certain sense that's stabilizing. It knocks down misinformation. If some of that leaks back toward Russia, it's only information about Russia, so long as we're careful to ensure that the sources and methods are protected.

Again, a fairly close call, but I think the balance of the argument falls on sharing intelligence.

CARTER: OK, thank you. And if I could just follow that up, really quick? General Breedlove had said this would be a whole different rule set for NATO.

Is -- is this part of it? This kind outside of the box, what's happened with -- in this situation, with Russia, is NATO trying to look outside of the box than what -- what we have seen in the past, is now shifting, and shaping into something completely different?

STAVRIDIS: Yes, I think that's fair to say.

And -- and as a general proposition without spinning this conversation into a completely different dimension, warfare has changed fundamentally in this 21st century, and to some of the earlier questions about how many tank battalions are there, those have value, but, boy, give me cyber, unmanned vehicles, precision guided sensors, intelligence, special forces, there's a lot of additional modalities that -- that are rising in importance, and I think that's germane here, and I think that's probably what General Breedlove was referring to.

CARTER: Thank you.

VOGT: That's interesting, actually. Let's -- let's take another question, please.

OPERATOR: Thank you, our next question comes Misha Gutkin from Voice of America.

QUESTION: Hi, good afternoon. Thank you for taking questions. So, we touched upon Article Five, and we have talked about -- talked about trying to build Ukrainian army in case of a Russian attack, but what is the time frame that we are talking about? There are sources in Ukraine that say that Russia is planning to move quickly.

They're talking about before the presidential elections at the end of May. They're talking about increasing separatism in Eastern Ukraine that will be supported by some kind of a Russian move.

If that were to happen, within the next couple of weeks, before all those measures that being talked about are implemented, what is the response that NATO can offer, in -- in that case? If Russia were to move relatively quickly?

STAVRIDIS: It's -- it is obviously less and the sooner that we make decisions and start capability flowing the better, if we decide politically that we want to do this. NATO can actually move very quickly.

When Ambassador Daalder were in our previous jobs, we went from a U.N. resolution, here speaking of Libya, a U.N. resolution calling for protecting the people of Libya, we went from a U.N. resolution to NATO aircraft overhead in seven, eight days. NATO can move very quickly. It has a standing command structure, real capability.

We can -- we can flow -- we can flow equipment, get trainers there, send intelligence, there's a lot that can be done quickly. But, your fundamental point is correct: that long-term, trying to build up the Ukrainian army that's a -- a project of months and years.

So I think within NATO headquarters right now, military planners are looking at what can be done very quickly, what can be done in the mid-term, i.e. over the course of the next year, and then what are some of the long-term aspects.

DAALDER: I fully agree with -- with all of that. But it goes to the danger of the situation. Which is that you -- you basically are now in a situation in which Russia can decide to move and it will move within less than 12 hours into -- into Ukraine. And that's -- that's the, if we talk about de-escalation, that's the de-escalation we need to see.

VOGT: All right. We've got about five or six minutes left of our-our guests' time that we can take up, so we're going to probably just have time for one more question. Why don't we go to it now?

OPERATOR: Our last question will come from Jacqueline Albert-Simon from Politique International.

QUESTION: Yes, hello. Thank you to both of you, for enlightening us to the great degree you did. My question is one that hasn't been touched on, and I have been hearing and reading that Russia is reinforcing Crimea economically, by quickly and at unlimited -- with unlimited expenses trying to build it up as a showcase, so that other Baltic nations or Ukraine itself is even more, becomes interested in being part of such a federation.

Now, I can understand that. I think it's very crafty and intelligent, but what are we doing with our aid to Ukraine financially and economically? How fast are we getting it there? Because, again, as both of have pointed out, Russia can act so quickly, and has already. What is the state of our aid, financial, economic to Ukraine?

DAALDER: This is very important and I think a critical question, and -- and this is asymmetry of the situation. Russia now, quote unquote "Owns" Crimea. It can flood in whatever it wants, because it -- it thinks it's it's own, it can therefore showcase which is a relatively small part of -- of Ukraine, and indeed just a small -- a small part of the world, it can try to showcase with -- with relatively little investment.

Turning around an economy that has been undermined and neglected for 40, 20 years, since its independence, and many more years when it was under the Soviet Union, it's going to take a little bit more time.

I think the good news is that the European Union, which signed an association agreement a few weeks ago, the IMF which has promised major loans, as part of a new reform package, and the United States which just yesterday passed a loan guarantee package through Congress, all moving to help Ukraine turn around economically and to start the reform process that will be necessary for in the long-term to give Ukraine the kind of future that-that the people that protested in Maidan Square and in other parts of -- of Ukraine, really want.

But it is going to take more time than propping up what is happening in -- in Crimea. So, let's not be fooled by what's happening in that part of the world, where Russia is using its -- it's -- it's a bandage to, as you say, in a crafty way.

The reality is that in the long-term, being a showcase is not going to be the same as having undergone the fundamental reforms that Ukraine must and should do to make it more like a country like Poland, than like Russia is today.

STAVRIDIS: Yes and I just add to that. I'm agreeing with the ambassador. I -- I think it's important to look at the long-term here. And you use the word crafty. I -- I would say Russia is doing a -- a good job of playing a very bad hand of cards.

Over time, the Russian economy is greatly at risk, because of its declining demographics, its high rate of alcoholism, a high rate of drug use, it has population that's dropping about a million per year. Turkey's population will surpass it by the middle of this century.

Secondly, its economy is essentially a one trick pony. Hydrocarbons, of which we all know natural gas will be a diminished share as U.S. natural gas streams come online. On the other hand, the U.S., NATO, just NATO, the 28 nations are 52 percent of the world's gross domestic product.

So, the -- the balance, the correlation of capability in this economic sphere is -- is unbelievably weighted toward the alliance, and thus I think over time, if you were Ukrainian, you would much rather be in Ukraine proper as it is constituted today, than you would be in Crimea, under Russia. So, over time, I think those things will play very much in favor of -- of Ukraine and its work and alignment toward the west.

VOGT: All right. With that, we're going to conclude this call. Ambassador Daalder, Admiral Stavridis, thank you so much for your time and your insight.

Thanks to all our callers. Anyone interested in -- in learning more about this topic, should check out Foreign Affairs' new e-book, it's called "Ukraine in Crisis." You can find it on our website. Thank you all, thank you both again, it was a pleasure speaking with you. And have a great day.

STAVRIDIS: Thanks everybody. Bye-bye, Ivo.

DAALDER: Thank you. Bye-Bye.

OPERATOR: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. This concludes today's conference. You may now disconnect your lines.

END

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