Kay Bailey Hutchison discusses the role of the United States in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the future of transatlantic cooperation.
TREVELYAN: Good morning, everybody, and welcome to today’s Council on Foreign Relations meeting with Kay Bailey Hutchison, permanent representative of the United States to NATO.
I’m Laura Trevelyan from the BBC’s World News America broadcast, and I’ll be presiding over today’s discussion. Thank you all for being here. It’s terrific to see so many CFR members.
And I would like to introduce our distinguished guest, who of course needs little introduction. But Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison has been the U.S. permanent representative to NATO since August of last year. Before that she had a distinguished career in the United States Senate. She was the first female senator from Texas. She was in the Senate for twenty years. She served on Senate Armed Services. Before that she was a lawyer. And this is my personal favorite: She was one of the first TV newswomen in Texas.
So the format for today is that I will ask the ambassador questions for the first half of our allotted time and then I’ll open it up to CFR members at a little after 8:30 for you to ask the ambassador your questions. But we’re going to begin—of course, as you all know, NATO is almost seventy years old, so Ambassador Hutchison is going to make just a few opening remarks about the U.S. vision for NATO and her role at the moment. Ambassador, over to you.
HUTCHISON: Well, thank you very much, Laura. I’m so happy to be here and to be with the Council on Foreign Relations. And I appreciate so much that this Council has been in the forefront of covering foreign affairs for so long in our country, and it’s so important.
Well, let me say first of all we had a very successful summit in July. Our declaration was probably the most substantive that we’ve had since the Cold War, and that is because NATO is adapting. We are making sure that we are the deterrent that NATO was formed to be because we do have adversaries. Particularly now we are looking at deterrence that is necessary for protecting Europe. After the Soviet—well, Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 and before that Georgia in 2008, it became apparent that what we had hoped at one time, that Russia would actually become a part of NATO, a partner with NATO, would not be the case. And so we are adapting.
And at the summit we had several very important accomplishments that were adopted by our heads of state. First of all, we have a new command structure that is very important for the adaptations that we are doing. It includes two new division headquarters, one of which will be in the United States, in Norfolk, and that will be for the Atlantic—the North Atlantic, all the way from Norway across through Canada and into the United States. And then the other one is in Germany, and it’s for logistics and the importance of being able to get our troops where they need to be on an expedited basis.
And one of the things that we have now adopted as a goal for readiness does include military mobility. It is that we would be able to do—to have interoperable four battalions, four air squadrons, four ships in—I said four; it’s forty—forty, forty, forty, and in forty days. So it’s forty squadrons, forty battalions, forty ships, in forty days, anywhere that they need to be to adapt to a crisis. So that was our big readiness goal.
In addition to that, we have now agreed to go forward with Afghanistan through the year 2024 in payment. But we have a new strategy in Afghanistan, and that is to stay the course.
In addition to that, we are also going to do a new training mission and advising mission in Iraq to make sure that the police and the armed services in Iraq following the defeat of ISIS will be stable and will be inclusive of all of the interest groups so that we, having learned the hard lesson of leaving Iraq too early, that we are now going to make sure that they have the capability to secure themselves.
So those are the—some of the major things we did. But those are very much showing our commitment and our adaptability.
TREVELYAN: Thank you very much, Ambassador Hutchison. It was interesting there that you, of course, emphasize America’s commitment to NATO. But Foreign Policy magazine said maybe you have the toughest job in Brussels because the president has been rather critical of NATO and made overtures, of course, to NATO’s adversary, Russia. What’s it like for you in that position?
HUTCHISON: Oh, it’s—we have a united position here. We have absolutely in every respect, from the president down through me, reaffirmed the Article 5 commitment, the commitment of America to NATO. And it’s not just a commitment to be part of NATO; we’re the leaders of NATO, and we should be the leaders of NATO. We are an important force in NATO for the overall common defense, and that is what this administration is committed to do. We are committed to do it. And so I think everything is going in the same and the right direction.
In addition, we need to make sure that NATO stays united and strong. And I think what I have just talked about, the adaptability and the commitments, make us strong, and I think we are united. Obviously, family have disagreements, which we all do. But even with the disagreements, everyone is united in NATO that we are going to have a common defense and that NATO is the common defense organization that will be our deterrence.
TREVELYAN: But at that summit, which you rightly said was substantive in terms of outcome—but there was a moment that was replayed often on cable news with your good self and the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, looking rather uncomfortable when the president denounced NATO allies and, indeed, suggested that Germany was in the pocket of Russia because of a dependency on energy. Was that an awkward moment for you?
HUTCHISON: You know, I think you have to look at, first of all, we are for a true alliance, which means that everyone is committed and recommitted at the Brussels summit to the two percent spending on defense. That’s not a number pulled out of the air; that is something that every president with whom I have served in twenty years in the Senate, starting with President Clinton and through every Republican and Democrat, we’ve all said Europe needs to go more, every one of our presidents and our secretaries of state and defense. And that is true today.
And when I am with my colleagues, the other ambassadors, they all say they know that this is right, that all of us need to pull together. Because if we’re going to have the capability, if we’re going to have the tanks and the airplanes and the newest technology, we have to have two percent of all of our allies contributing what they can.
And just to add one more point here, we don’t just say go out and spend money on defense. We have capability targets, so that for the overall we have what we need—so that we have the right amount of tanks, the right amount of armor, the right amount of airplanes and technology. So it is a capability target for the common defense that can’t be really produced without that overall expenditure.
TREVELYAN: And yet, when the president says, as he did at that press conference at the NATO summit, that he probably can pull the U.S. from NATO without congressional approval, do you then have to run around saying to the ambassadors he’s just musing aloud?
HUTCHISON: He is committed to NATO, and I think that he has said that on many occasions. And we are not going into the legalities of whether he could pull from NATO. Actually, a bill has been introduced in Congress to assure that no president could, but no president’s going to. This is the administration position. We are committed. We want allies to do more. We’ve said it, most certainly. And I think we are going to get there.
One of the great things about continuing to ask our allies to do more is they are. Last year, for the first time, we have now turned the corner on defense spending. Many of our allies, including America, were actually lowering defense spending when we thought that there was not a real adversary with means. But what’s happening in the world right now with nuclear capabilities, rogue nations, most certainly a Russia that is menacing in many respects. We had to gear up. We are gearing up. Just since President Trump was elected, just in the years 2017 and ’18, we have increased the spending overall in defense among our allies by $41 billion, and that’s going to be the case for the years to come. And I think that we are all on the same page here.
TREVELYAN: Is it the case that despite the rhetoric NATO, in fact, is able to do more under President Trump because it has more American military spending?
HUTCHISON: Well, most certainly. We are increasing our spending too. We spend about 3.5 percent of our gross domestic product in defense spending, and we’re increasing our activities in Europe. That’s one of the things people say, well, is the president committed? My goodness, he’s increased his budget for our enhanced forward presence in Europe—the three Baltic countries, Poland. We have another forward presence movement in Romania and Bulgaria. We are—we, the United States, are increasing our commitments in Europe, which is why we feel comfortable asking our allies to do more as well.
TREVELYAN: Well, you’re talking about Russia as an adversary. Just a week ago you touched off a bit of a firestorm at a NATO press conference when—
HUTCHISON: (Laughs.) Oh, really?
TREVELYAN: Yeah. (Laughs.) When people thought you were suggesting that the United States might take out Russian missiles that U.S. officials say violate a landmark arms control treaty. Were you saying that?
HUTCHISON: Well, I was not saying it preemptively, and that’s what caused a bit of a kerfuffle. But I didn’t ever say that, nor did I mean it. I meant that we are in compliance with the INF Treaty; Russia is not. And we are showing the instances in which we have found that Russia is not in compliance. They are building an intermediate-term ballistic missile, and that’s in violation of the treaty, and we know they are. And we’ve shown them the evidence that we have.
So we are taking every step diplomatically to bring Russia back to the table. And the point I made in my press conference, which was taken a bit out of context, but we are seeking a diplomatic solution, and we’re asking our allies to be helpful to us to speak with one voice to say: Russia, come to the table. Because we know they are violating the treaty and building a missile. We are in compliance. We are not taking the steps that we would take to be able to defend against an intermediate missile of the type they are making.
But there comes a point where we have done all of the diplomacy, the calling Russia to come to the table, at which we will have to withdraw from the treaty—which is the honorable thing to do, rather than violate it—and at some point we will have to make that decision. We’re not there, but we are most certainly not going to leave America nor our allies vulnerable if Russia refuses to come to the table and come back into compliance, which is what we’re trying to do.
TREVELYAN: So when you used the phrase “take out” you meant by diplomatic means?
HUTCHISON: Well, no. I meant diplomatic is first and when—I mean, eventually, if they lob a missile we’re going to have to have the capability to respond, and maybe take out was taken a little bit too strong in that context, but never preemptively, which is what was reported.
TREVELYAN: So just tell us, Ambassador, there is a huge NATO exercise coming up. It’s predicated on the notion that there would be a Russian invasion of Norway. That’s the scenario. I read that it’s the biggest NATO exercise since 2002. We’ve just seen a huge Russian military exercise—the biggest since Soviet times. Just tell us more about this NATO exercise.
HUTCHISON: Well, it’s very important. It’s called Trident Juncture, and this is something that has been in the NATO plans for years. About every three years we have done a major military exercise, which is part of training for interoperability and it’s something that’s also transparent.
We do all of the required transparency notification. We have Russian observers. This year it’s in the north. Three years ago it was in the south. And this is a routine. Russia also does it. Theirs was very big, earlier this year, and ours is a—it’s not because Russia did theirs but because this is part of our interoperable training and also transparency for deterrent effect.
TREVELYAN: How great do you see the threat from Russia as being right now, especially in Ukraine, where the aggression has not diminished?
HUTCHISON: Yes. Well, we are seeing Russia probing in so many different areas. Most certainly, Ukraine is very problematic—Crimea, as well as the Donbass, which is eastern Ukraine. But also we are seeing them probing for alliance weaknesses. We see it in cyber and hybrid. There is so much evidence of that. We saw them actually take an amazing step to try to poison one of their former spies in the U.K.—that’s a NATO country—and they are—they’re doing things that are provocative in many different levels.
They’re staying under Article 5, it appears, carefully. But then the question is why all of this—and after 2014 with Crimea. I mean, Georgia in 2008 was provocative. They basically invaded two sections of Georgia. But 2014 now, taking Crimea and building a road—bridge to it from Russia and what they’re doing in eastern Ukraine is very provocative, and it is essential that we have the capability to deter, which we are doing in the three Baltic countries and Poland but also in other countries where there could be any kind of malign activity. So we’re standing up.
TREVELYAN: I know recently from meeting with some Baltic ambassadors that there is anxiety about the U.S., or the president’s close relationship, anyway, with President Putin and about the real commitment to Article 5, especially when the president has openly speculated that if Montenegro is attacked, for example, it wouldn’t be worth going to protect them because who are they, essentially. You said earlier that the U.S. is absolutely committed to Article 5. But is the president also committed to Article 5?
TREVELYAN: (Laughter.) And that’s unequivocal. Is it also the case that the U.S. would never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea?
HUTCHISON: Yes. That is uppermost. We have what we call deterrence and dialogue. In NATO, because of our reinforcements in Europe, we have an agreement that we will have deterrence and dialogue. So we have twice a year—sometimes it has been three, but it was two times this year—actually, it’s coming up—the second one—is a NATO-Russia Council, where we meet with the Russian ambassador and we talk about the things that we are seeing that we are asking Russia to change and to come back into a rules-based participant in the world, and in these meetings we continue to talk about, uppermost, Ukraine and Crimea.
I mean, it is essential that the—the invasion of a sovereign nation and keeping troops there is very problematic. That’s the—the most troublesome thing that a country can do because that’s—when you’re invading a sovereign territory and then starting to have education in the Russian language instead of the native language and those things that are being done, most certainly in Georgia, it’s very—we are standing up against that.
TREVELYAN: And as NATO ambassador, when you look at your horizon responsibility, what troubles you most in terms of trends that you’re seeing and behaviors that you’re seeing?
HUTCHISON: Well, we’ve got two fronts. We have the Russian issue and deterrence of Russia, which is most certainly a major priority of NATO, but we also have counterterrorism. We have a very robust counterterrorism effort on many fronts, again. We are in the advise-and-train mission in Afghanistan trying to rid terrorists—I hesitate to say, but take out terrorists where they are so they don’t come into our NATO countries, and it is very—it’s very difficult but we are doing that now.
The Afghan soldiers are three hundred thousand strong and they’re doing a great job. We are training and advising them. We’re working now to add training of police. The Afghan people have not had the police role that we all take for granted and that is the police role of protecting citizens, and so we’re trying to help the Afghan people with training of police forces that would be for the protection of the people and accepted by the people. And what we’re doing in Iraq and, of course, in Syria we’re trying to fight terrorism, and all of—all of the terrorism fights are very important for our European allies and then, of course, for America. So these two fronts are the biggest issues that we’re seeing out there that, of course, are troublesome.
TREVELYAN: There was an interesting election in the last week in Latvia where a pro-Russian party did extremely well. Does that concern you?
HUTCHISON: Well, most certainly, it is—it’s a concern but it’s not the first time, and the coalition government has—is very much pro-NATO, pro-West, pro-EU, and that has been maintained. But you do have these instances where there are issues like this where a Russian-backed party does have influence. There are minorities in several other of our NATO countries. But Latvia is very, very pro-NATO and most certainly a member of our coalition.
TREVELYAN: Well, just before we turn to the Q&A, I just wanted to ask the ambassador a question on a more newsy subject, which is another very prominent female face of the Trump administration on foreign policy has resigned—the U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley—and I wanted to ask for your reaction to that.
HUTCHISON: Well, I was very disappointed, because I think she’s been doing a terrific job representing America and being, really, very forthright and talking about the importance of human rights and dignity of all. And I think that she will be a loss. I know there are several people that I know well that are being considered that are also wonderful people. And I like Nikki very much. I think she’s done a wonderful job and she was a wonderful governor of South Carolina as well. And I think she has a bright future. But I do understand if she needed a rest after eight years that are very intensive, from being governor and then ambassador to U.N. So I wish her well, but she will be missed.
TREVELYAN: Of course, it’s been a Washington parlor game why exactly she’s leaving now. Why do you think she left?
HUTCHISON: I don’t know. I take her at her word, but I don’t know. I don’t know. What she said was eight years, it’s time to move on.
And she did say something that I thought was good, and that is you do need to have fresh blood. I was always for term limits in Congress and in the Senate. I think you need to let other people have a chance to bring an enthusiasm and a vigor and maybe new ideas. And so I think that’s a good point and one that all of us benefit from.
TREVELYAN: Ambassador Hutchison, thank you so much for taking my questions.
Now I’d like to throw it open to CFR members. Just a reminder that this meeting is on the record. If you can just wait for the microphone, stand, state your name and your affiliation, limit yourself to one question. And please don’t make a statement; ask a question.
So if you’d like to ask a question, raise your hand.
Ma’am, at the front.
Q: Hi, Robyn Meredith, author of The Elephant and the Dragon.
Ambassador, it’s nice to have you here. You’ve talked a lot about Russia. President Trump famously had a long one-on-one discussion with President Putin. Have you been briefed—and indeed, does anyone senior in the administration actually know what was said in those discussions?
HUTCHISON: We had a great briefing. Jon Huntsman, our ambassador to Russia, came to NATO straight from Helsinki, and he did give us a brief. They had all been at the table together, and he gave us a brief on what was brought up. And I think it was very effective with our allies to know, because of course we are there to deter Russia, and the president carried many of those messages to President Putin to say come back into the rules-based order. That’s my words, not his. But Ambassador Huntsman did give us a very good briefing.
TREVELYAN: Yeah, go on. Can I just follow up? Do you absolutely know that in that discussion between the two of them, that President Trump didn’t offer to recognize Crimea in return for Russia taking peacekeepers, for example, in Ukraine?
HUTCHISON: I have never heard that said. I was not in the meeting. I can’t say I know for sure anything. But I have not heard that reported. It was not a part of Ambassador Huntsman’s briefing in any way, and that has not been spoken in the State Department in our policies at all.
TREVELYAN: Thank you. Great question.
Sir, at the back.
Q: Naweez Sukha (ph), Columbia Law School. Thank you for that overview.
Commentators have noted Russia or observed Russia as being a country in decline—demographically, economically, perhaps even strategically—and that a turning point came when NATO expanded to its borders, and that a lot of what’s happened is a reaction to these factors. Can you describe what your thoughts are on the end game? What is Russia really looking for?
HUTCHISON: Yes. Well, I think you have to get the chronology right to see through the Russian argument. It was in 2014 the invasion of Crimea, on top of the 2008 invasion of Georgia, that caused the enhanced forward presence, which is the rotational forces that are in the three Baltics plus Poland. And so I think if you look at the chronology, you know that we are hardening our defense in Europe because of those activities.
Now, there was a time when we had hoped that NATO—like Germany, you know, we didn’t have Germany after—in 1949 for sure becoming a part of the world of nations, but they did. They’ve done everything that would make them most certainly the strongest economy in Europe, and they are also now, beginning for the first time, I think—to focus more on security—Germany, I mean. So on the argument about our expanding, it was because of their provocative actions that that happened.
So what is the end game? The end game would be that Russia would see that their people are not having a quality of life as they are doing all of this malign influence and spending their resources doing all of this military buildup and malign activity. And hopefully, in the end—and the end result will be that they will start turning their assets into a better behavior. We would welcome them back into an economic association. That was our intent until 2008 and 2014. And I think President Putin has been one who has hardened the Russian efforts to be a player in the world for malign activity. So my hope is that they will have a leader going forward or that President Putin will see that he could do better for his people by welcoming investment. Now, investment is going to require having a rule of law and a country that can be trusted to abide by world norms for trade and economic activity. I would say there would be heavy foreign investment in Russia if they a were reliable, rule-of-law human rights country. They are not right now. So the end game would be something better for the Russian people, not a military defeat.
Ma’am, at the front.
Q: Paula DiPerna, the Carbon Disclosure Project.
Thank you for your service. You’ve been a role model to many people.
Just to pick that point up, I travel a lot in Asia, and there’s a significant rapprochement between China and Russia right now, and lots of Chinese dollars headed to Russia. So there’s really much less incentive for the Russians to subscribe to the quote “Western rule of law” in order to get FDI. Au contraire. So I wonder if you could comment on that, because it does seem that the gap in the president’s rhetoric and what he apparently believes, according to you, is sort of breaking down the formidable and long-lasting animosity between the Chinese and the Russians, who now seem to be much more likely to ally against us than ever before.
HUTCHISON: Yes, I think your point and your experience, I would agree. They do seem to have more of a rapprochement.
But I don’t think their cultures are compatible, and I think China’s much more strategic in building up their economic base—now also military and defense. But I think that we hope that our issues with China and their unfair trade practices—which have been there, again, for years—if we get over that and into a better place with China, I think we would be much more comfortable having China as a strategic, capable—I’m not going to say partner, but not an adversary—a viable competitor, but on a fair and level playing field, and one that we would be able to work with in a professional way.
And I think that right now Russia and China most certainly are allying in some ways, but I don’t see that as a long-time, long-term partnership capability, either. I hope that we would be open to working with both of them in the future, and I hope that we can bring China into a more level playing field in economic issues and work with them on a clear-eyed basis on the defense issues where we would differ.
TREVELYAN: Thank you.
Q: Thank you, Madam Ambassador.
A very specific question on the Suwalki Corridor. How do you feel that the enhanced forward presence is really protecting it?
HUTCHISON: Now what are you asking? Protecting—
Q: The Suwalki Corridor.
TREVELYAN: Would you like to tell us all where that is?
Q: Oh, the connection between Poland and Lithuania. That’s the weakest point of the alliance. You have only one thousand non-Polish NATO forces that are there: one thousand versus tens of thousands of potential Russian forces that could come in at a day’s or two days’ notice. And I was wondering—
HUTCHISON: If there’s enough of a deterrence, yeah.
Q: Beyond the rhetoric of, you know, increasing NATO presence in the Baltic countries, what is done to protect it?
HUTCHISON: Yes, I think that the Baltic countries see the strength of Russia on the border and they of course see the difference in our deterrence efforts. That is one of the reasons that we are talking about more rotational forces that would be able to get—and I will say the enhanced forward presence and the tailored forward presence that are in some of the other countries, is providing the interoperable training. I mean, that has been one of the really great side effects, besides the deterrence, is the interoperability that is increasing our capabilities. And I think we are doing what is necessary right now for that corridor and for all of the forward presence that we have, which includes tailored, as well as enhanced. And I think getting the interoperable troops there on a quick basis is part of what we call the Four 30s. I said forty thousand. I meant thirty (thousand). It’s the Four 30s. It’s what I said about the battalions and the ships and the squadrons: It’s thirty thousand, and then thirty days. So I’m glad I said the wrong thing so I could correct it. But that’s part of it, is to be able to get these interoperably-trained forces quickly to any of the countries where they might be needed. And I think that we believe that we are at the right level.
TREVELYAN: Thank you for that answer.
Any more questions from the audience? Ma’am.
Q: Thank you. Arlene Getz from Reuters.
I wonder if you could just talk to us a little bit about Turkey’s membership of NATO, given rising tensions between Turkey and the U.S., Erdogan—President Erdogan’s rapprochement with President Putin. Do you see this as useful for NATO to have a member who is not quite as firmly in the centrist camp? How does this play out in meetings, negotiations, future plans?
HUTCHISON: Yes. Well, first of all, Turkey is a solid NATO ally and they will remain so. We are troubled by several of the issues that we have with Turkey. Most certainly our bilateral issues are well known as are their bilateral issues with some of our other allies. But in NATO they have been firm and have done everything well. They are major contributors in NATO. In Afghanistan, we have four framework nations that head division headquarters. Turkey is one of those. They’re very active in every mission that we have and they are absolutely reliable allies.
Our military—mil-to-mil, we call it—military communication—is very strong with the Turkish military as well. So we do have bilateral disputes and there’s no question about it. But their being in the alliance is very important. They’re in a strategic place. They’re an important country as a Muslim country in NATO. They have certain assets that are very important for us to have full coverage. So they’re there and we’re going to keep working through these issues that we have bilaterally for sure. But there’s never a question about their importance in NATO.
TREVELYAN: Any more questions from the audience? Anybody else with questions? No? Oh, yes. Sir.
Q: Madam Ambassador, Karl Wellner, Papamarkou Wellner Asset Management.
Article 5—when it comes to European countries that are not NATO members, that are very close to NATO and very friendly to NATO, such as Sweden, constantly being penetrated—their territory—by the Russians, is there a policy? What would NATO do in a case of an aggression by Russia into countries like that?
HUTCHISON: Well, we do have a very strong relationship with Sweden and Finland, and they are enhanced opportunity partners. We have a category—there are only five of those and—of which Sweden and Finland are two—and they attend some of our meetings when we’re talking about deterrence. They’re working with us on the Trident Juncture—the exercise that we just mentioned. They’re participating. They participate in our missions.
So we have a very strong relationship with them. They are not—we’re not legally in Article 5 with them, which they know and understand. But if there were some—let me say that we keep up very much with the over flights or incursions that Russians do, really, throughout the alliance but certainly those as well, and we keep up with that. We work with them, and I can’t predict an Article 5 type relationship with them but we certainly work with them. We train with them. They’re interoperable in our missions as enhanced partners.
They are in a special category and they can make the choice to remain there or become a member, and they would be—if they ever decided they wanted to be a member they would be in—I can say without question they would be accepted immediately. So that would be their choice, though.
TREVELYAN: Very interesting. Sir, at the front.
Q: Ambassador, Steve Puccinelli with Oak Hill Capital.
Thank you for being here today. One question—you mentioned for forty—twenty years every president has been asking our allies to do more—to contribute more to NATO. How successful do you think President Trump’s four years in office is going to be in actually making that happen and have you seen any signs of that already?
HUTCHISON: Yes. I think it’s going to be very successful. I think his forthrightness has been a wakeup call and many of the other ambassadors have said to me, it’s the right thing to do—we know that it is, and they are working toward that. Two-thirds of the allies now have plans to reach the two percent by 2024 and the other ten that don’t are working hard, some of them having a harder time getting there. But we are pushing and hope that everyone will have such a plan.
But I think that President Trump is making a difference and I think the fact that spending has now gone—now gone up forty-one billion (dollars) just since he was elected and has made this a major point and not one of our allies has ever said this isn’t the right thing to do. They’ve made the commitments. Angela Merkel made the commitment at the summit. She said, we are committed to getting to two percent—we are working to get there as soon as we can.
But Germany has committed to increasing sixty billion (dollars) more between now and 2024 and they’re still working on other ways that they can increase their capabilities and be in that two percent. So I think people are now taking it much more seriously, both because the president is emphasizing it but because it’s in their own interests and they see that, and they also see the Russian malign influence growing and they know that it is necessary to have the full capabilities of the common defense for that kind of an adversary.
TREVELYAN: Any other questions from the audience? Ma’am.
Q: Thanks again for the follow-up. I have to ask you something about that because, you know, NATO is primarily a military—is a military agreement. It’s very nice to have done the housekeeping. Money is very important. But NATO rests in a soft power arena where the United States reflects values and the post-war—the fact that we carry the defense for Germany and Japan has had a tremendous effect in building a lasting peace.
So just building up the military strength of NATO while the president, for example, talks about the free press being the enemy of the people, this emboldens Russia which, I gather, is also highly nefarious in its interference with media and fake news. If the president is saying all the news here is fake, why would the Russians not worry about attacking the media in the NATO arena?
So to just emphasize the military buildup in NATO seems to me to be counterproductive. Do you—or, rather, in isolation—do you sort of—can you explain how you think soft power relates to the strength of NATO?
HUTCHISON: Well, soft power is important in NATO and I think that that's where the counsel, the diplomacy, the calling out of Russia, giving them every opportunity, every warning, so that we won't have to use the military is part of a deterrence effect and it’s part of NATO, and we are doing so much in counterterrorism and trying to stabilize countries that are on the borders like Jordan, Tunisia.
We are working with them to stabilize and build their defenses as well from terrorism and that’s more in their area of what they consider to be risks in the southern part of Europe and the Middle East. So I think while we are building up our military, which we are, and cyber and hybrid are also in that sort of quasi—it’s not military but it is another risk, another threat—the malign influence—and I think addressing those things, but if we can stabilize Afghanistan, for instance, and give their people the hope that there can be a quality of life there in places like Iraq that have been torn by terrorism, those are things that will make them stronger in the future and also, for instance, bringing women into the economies of these countries.
Part of the problem that we’ve seen in some of the countries that we’re dealing with is the absence of women as equal citizens and we are doing a lot to build that as well in soft power, because if women can be in the economy, if they can be doctors and teachers and lawyers, which they are now small, but they’re coming—let me just give you one example.
There was a chart that has been put out actually by the U.N., but if you look at Afghanistan in 2001, the percentage of girls in schools in Afghanistan was zero. Today, it’s almost fifty percent of the girls that are now in school, and they’re going to schools and they’re now going into—there are women in the colleges. They are lawyers now, and President Ghani has made a point of having the two top prosecutors in Afghanistan—one is a woman lawyer and one is a man lawyer. But now they are seeing a hope for the future and that in itself is, I think, soft power.
So I think we are doing a lot as we are stabilizing countries, as we are projecting stability in some of these countries that are on the fringes of terrorist activities. I think that we are doing our part to make a difference.
TREVELYAN: Great. Just before we close, I have a final question, actually, on our overarching theme. For you, as U.S. ambassador to NATO, and the German prime minister says, as he did after that summit in July, that Europe can no longer completely rely on the U.S., what’s your response to that?
HUTCHISON: Well, I think that, first of all, the leaders in Europe are saying not only no longer can we but no longer should we, and there is now an effort being made in Europe—in the EU—to have more defense capabilities by pooling their money to do research, and we are for that.
We are not for it to displace America. We’re not for it to say that you can’t rely on America anymore. I think America has a role to play not only in the might that we have, which is enormous, but also we are the overarching arbiter of European squabbles. They are constant. I mean, you look at the last century and the two world wars. I mean, it was inter-European squabbles that caused these things. I mean, it wasn’t the only cause, of course. Russia was there, too.
But, I mean, now, I think when President Truman and Winston Churchill and the leaders in 1949 that created NATO, it wasn’t just because America was stronger economically. It was because Europe needed an overarching presence that would be somewhat fair minded about all of the different squabbles within Europe and I think that’s still very important and I think the Europeans see that as very important.
TREVELYAN: Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison, thank you for joining us. That brings our proceedings to a close. Please, would you join me in thanking the ambassador? (Applause.) Thank you very much.