Jennifer Lee, Washington Post: Thank you for joining us tonight for another event in our Securing Tomorrow series with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. In a moment, he’ll be in conversation with Kay Bailey Hutchison, the United States ambassador to NATO. I’d also like to thank our presenting sponsor, Samsung Electronics America, and welcome to the stage Johnny Overcast, the senior director of the Samsung federal government team.
Johnny Overcast, Samsung: Hello. Welcome to this evening’s event. This year marks a 10-year milestone in the era of smartphones as they permanently surpassed PCs as the primary platform for exchanging communication and data. It is also the year in which they have become the primary focal point for cyber-attacks. Just last week, the mobile devices of NATO troops stationed in Eastern Europe were the target of organized cyber-attacks. We expect cyber intrusions will continue.
Samsung strongly believes that as multinational organizations, such as NATO, embrace digital transformation on a grand scale, they will also need to evolve their cyber policies and practices to embrace more rapid deployment implementation and procurement process to mitigate new mobile cyber threats. Gone are the days when simple security solutions like antivirus software and encryption were enough. Today’s more advanced mobile cyber security threats require new solutions, such as secure browsers, biometrics, multifactor authentication, app controls, and context-aware security.
Samsung and our partners remain committed to delivering our open customizable and defense-grade secure platform, Samsung Knox, as the solution of choice to transform the digital capabilities of the future war fighter. In the inevitable evolution towards a more digital NATO, enabling trusted vendors will ensure the safety of all its member citizens. Thank you very much and have a great evening.
Lee: Thank you, Johnny. I’d now like to welcome David Ignatius and Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison.
Ignatius: Thank you very much. I’ll wait for Ambassador Hutchison. It’s wonderful to know that even on a baseball night—
Hutchison: I was going to say. [LAUGHTER]
Ignatius: —we have so many foreign policy fans.
Hutchison: People think people in Washington don’t get it. The best baseball game in the history of the city. [LAUGHTER]
Ignatius: We’re going to get everybody home in time to watch the Nationals. Senator Hutchison, ambassador, has assured me that she’s not against the Nats tonight, although she has a fondness for the Houston Astros. It’s really a pleasure to welcome all of you to another installment of our Securing Tomorrow series. If you want to be involved in this conversation and ask a question of the ambassador, you can send questions to the hashtag #SecuringTomorrow.
This is a special pleasure for me. I’ve known Ambassador Hutchison, formerly senator, for many years. She is one of those people who I think of as a Washington problem-solver, not problem maker. It’s great to have her as a State Department official, now in Brussels as our NATO ambassador. It’s great to have her here with us tonight.
Ambassador, you told me that on your way here you stopped off to see Secretary Tillerson. And as everyone knows, it’s been a bumpy couple of weeks for Secretary Tillerson. I think there’s a lot of concern, question, about the State Department, where you’re now a senior political appointee, and how the State Department is doing. So maybe we could start there. Just give us a sense of how Secretary Tillerson is doing; what you feel about the department; whether you feel some of these vacancies that have been such a problem are beginning to be filled.
Hutchison: Yes. I spent pretty much the whole day at the State Department. It was the very first day of the new assistant secretary for European affairs, which, of course, will cover NATO as well, Wess Mitchell. He’s terrific. And I met with both the deputy secretary and the secretary. And you know, there is a lot going on that is good, that is positive. And I think that the secretary—I mean, we talked about many of the NATO issues, and he was right up on it. He was in great spirits.
And yes, we read these things. You know, I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a Texan and was a great CEO of Exxon. I think, as he has said, he’s not a Washington person, and so I think everybody is getting used to the styles and the things. But I think in the main [ph], I will say that he and the president are working very well on the foreign policy issues with which I am a part. And I am so pleased to be at NATO and to be able to tell my colleagues that there is no space between anyone in our administration, the leaders, the national security team, and myself, and Congress about our support for NATO.
It is a great alliance. And it is so effective now. You know, there was a lull after the Cold War when we thought that things were going to be peaceful in the world and easy. Well, it isn’t, but NATO has been a glue that has endured through the hard times, and we had a lull time, but now we’re gearing up again. And I am so impressed with, number one, both Republicans and Democrats on the Hill, and every top person in our administration, and especially the president, understands the importance of NATO. And now I think we’re going forward in a very constructive way dealing with a very different set of risks that are common risks to all of our NATO allies.
Ignatius: So let me ask you the obvious question. You’ve said that everybody in the administration supports NATO, and the president supports NATO, but we remember during the campaign, the president’s pretty sharp criticism of NATO for freeriding among some countries that weren’t paying their full share. We remember that when he went to speak to NATO in May, there was some concern that he didn’t mention Article 5, which is the commitment to collective defense.
I just want to ask you how you explain this president to your NATO [LAUGHTER] counterparts. Tweets come out later in the day for you because of the time difference, but you’ve got a fellow NATO ambassador who says, “Ambassador, could you tell us what to make of this?” How do you explain that part of the administration? It’s a president to likes to be the disruptor. How do you explain that to folks who are not so keen on disruption?
Hutchison: Well, first of all, I think it’s to the president’s great credit that he knew what he said in the campaign, and then he listened to General Mattis, to Secretary Tillerson, to Secretary General Stoltenberg about what NATO does, and if you didn’t have a NATO, and we were out there by ourselves, alone, how much harder it would be. How much harder it would be in losses, in monetary cost, and in the world coming behind us.
I think he pivoted and he appointed me as an ambassador knowing that I know NATO and what it does. And he appointed a Secretary of Defense, and a Secretary of State, as well as a national security advisor, who all have been very strong NATO supporters. I think he thought it through, and I think that speaks for itself.
You know, I think early on, before it was clear that we were going to remain a strong NATO leader—we are the leader of NATO. When I go and visit, as I mentioned to you, I am making now a mission of going to each ambassador’s office and meeting with them one-on-one, nobody in the room, in their offices. And they all say, “We know that we need to do more. We know that we need to do what we’ve committed to do. The 2% plus 20% in capability.” They are making an effort, and we have increased. I think the president’s pushing has helped that. We have had increases across the board in the full funding of NATO itself, which, by the way, no one is delinquent on the NATO dues. I hope that is clear. But on the added 2% defense expenditures, and that’s what we’re pushing for so that we have a bigger collective pool for our common defense.
The other area where I think the president has been very effective is on making counterterrorism one of NATO’s missions; one of its most important missions. The Russian aggression has been on the radar screen for a long time, and it still is. But in addition to that, counterterrorism is now a major mission. I credit the secretary general for listening to President Trump saying, “We want counterterrorism because it is a common threat to all of us, to be addressed by NATO,” and it is going to be.
Ignatius: But come back to the counterterrorism mission and how that might work, but just to ask a little bit more about how you explain this president to our NATO partners. It’s interesting that you say that he’s pivoted in his own view about the importance of NATO. An example of what causes concern at home and abroad both is when there’s a comment, pointing to his military leadership at a dinner party, “This is the calm before the storm.” And everybody thinks, “What’s the storm?” Our troops being moved, our ships at sea being relocated. I’m sure you get questions about this. That was a statement that was provocative. How do you answer that when people say, “What does ‘calm before the storm’ mean, Madam Ambassador?”
Hutchison: I will tell you no one has asked me that question. [LAUGHTER]
Ignatius: Well, I’m asking you now.
Hutchison: I know you are. I think people understand the political arena. Twenty-nine ambassadors have all been in the political arena, or they’ve been appointed by a president. And I think they understand that there are different political constituencies that everybody has to address. So I think people are understanding of different ways of communicating. They’re understanding of different constituencies in countries. You might think that people say, “What’s that about.” They don’t. They really don’t.
I mean, we talk about our issues, and we talk about what America’s position is. For instance, we did a very strong statement condemning North Korea and we negotiated that. The same for the nuclear ban treaty, which everyone in the alliance—it was unanimous—said it was a mistake to sign that treaty because we now have the only deterrent for a rogue nation that is clearly testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The time for being a deterrent with a nuclear weapon is absolutely right now. Our alliance understands that. That’s what we’re focused on.
Ignatius: Since you mentioned North Korea, I wanted to ask you, the North Koreans have made provocative incendiary threats. They’ve been testing missiles and nuclear weapons both. There has been a question if the North Koreans should make an attack on U.S. territory, even as far away as Guam, whether the United States would turn to its NATO allies and say, “Our territory has been attacked,” and invoke Article 5, the common defense commitment that’s at the core of NATO. Would you as an ambassador, if in the unlikely, I hope, event that we were attacked by North Korea, would we seek to invoke that collective defense commitment from NATO?
Hutchison: I think, David, there are so many steps that would have to be taken before we would get to that point. It would depend on what kind of attack it is, where it is. It would depend on whether that was something that the United States would want. There have been some different circumstances, like for instance, after the French terrorist attack, that it was discussed, “Is this an Article 5?” But France never asked because they really didn’t think that was the best approach.
So I think you just can’t have a hypothetical on Article 5. You have to know what it is. Nick Burns, one of the former ambassadors, I’m told by him—you know Nick as well—that the night of 9/11, there was a ground swell; that it wasn’t initiated by America. He was getting the calls, “This is an Article 5. Do you want a council Article 5?” And he called Condi Rice in the middle of the night. You know, the hours difference. It’s seven hours difference. And he said, “I’m being inundated with offers to do Article 5. What do you think?” And she said, “Yes, do it.” But it was a question, and she said yes, and it’s the only time Article 5 has ever been used.
And you know, when you talk about are we committed to NATO, the only time Article 5 has ever been used was when NATO said, “This is a war against all of us.”
Ignatius: Before we leave this question of North Korea, I’m curious whether the subject comes up in your NATO ambassadorial discussions; whether you get questions from your colleagues; whether we share, even though it’s out of area, discussion of military issues that arise because of the North Korean threat?
Hutchison: You know, it’s just beginning. When North Korea tested the ICBM, the long-range ballistic missile, which, when you look at a map, it covers Europe too. I mean, it could if it were effective and if it were a good missile. That type of missile could cover all of Europe, as well as the western part of the United States. That began then a discussion about North Korea as a threat. It’s not anything that has developed yet because I think Kim Jong-un has been so clear that it’s making trouble for America. I mean, that’s his target right now.
But I think the ambassadors now at NATO, and I think everyone is beginning to say, “This is something we need to look at, we need to start talking about,” because the complication is that if you start looking at North Korea as a common threat—which we believe it is a common threat. We believe that if this becomes a successful possibility, it’s not going to be just America. It will be a much more problematic situation. I think that is beginning to come to the forefront.
But I think that it becomes a complicated issue because if you start doing a missile defense—which we have. We have one in Alaska. We don’t, but Japan has a missile defense system now in South Korea. But all of our missile defenses in Europe are toward the Middle East. If you start putting it toward North Korea, then it starts beginning to be an issue for some of our treaties that would not allow that. All of that is in the very early stages of being discussed, what are the issues, but decision, no. But issues, yes, it’s beginning.
Ignatius: It’s interesting that the discussions have begun. Let me turn to an issue that’s going to preoccupy us over the next weeks anyway, and maybe well-beyond that. And that is the question about the Iran nuclear agreement and the president’s reported plan to decertify that under the congressional requirement that every 90 days he certifies. It’s said that he’s not going to do that this time, which will, in effect, kick this issue to Congress, and will raise questions, certainly in Europe, about the status of the agreement; the status of America’s commitment.
I’m sure you’re already getting questions from your European counterparts, asking for explanations of what the administration’s policy is. How are you answering those questions now? Help us to think about what this administration wants, the message it wants to send, and the messages it doesn’t want to send.
Hutchison: Yes. There is a lot of questioning about that because the Europeans are part of that agreement. Many of them are. So they are wondering, just in the news that has been out there. I don’t know yet. I think there is announcement. There is a deadline, I think October 15th, so we’re right on that deadline. And I think there will be something, a decision. I am looking at what is being said and the preparations. I think the certification that Congress has put forward is an area that probably needs to be looked at. Maybe there were some things that could be more clear about what is necessary for certification. I think that’s something.
And then I think what Secretary Tillerson said about the purpose of the agreement, in addition to not pursing the nuclear weapon, and having the ability to discern if that part—which was the core of the agreement—is being met. But the purpose was to provide peace and stability in the region. That is stated in the agreement as one of the purposes for it. I think the concern is that Iran is not contributing to peace and security in the region. They are funding terrorist groups. They are being a part of the problem in Syria, certainly not helpful. Same for Hezbollah, Hamas.
And so I think the things that Iran is doing, and then they’re testing a ballistic missile, those are all things that I think are of great concern to the president and to his whole national security team. So all of that is going to have to be factored in.
Ignatius: I hear European ambassadors, other foreign officials, express that same concern about Iranian behavior in the Middle East. It’s widely seen as destabilizing. But I often hear people follow that up by saying, “So for goodness sakes, don’t take the one element that we’ve managed to stabilize, namely the nuclear threat, and throw that back on the table. That will make it harder to deal with this regional problem.”
Again, I’m sure you’ve heard that same argument from European officials. It’s widely felt. I think what they want is some reassurance that that is not going to be overturned in this process; that the president is not, in fact, going to walk away from the deal. I’m curious how you answer that question I’m sure you get every day.
Hutchison: Well, it’s hard because I don’t know the real answer. I mean, I don’t know what the president’s going to do. I know that his team has been looking at it and they’ve had a lot of discussions. They’re not doing anything precipitously. I know that because there is a lot of talk about it. And Secretary Tillerson has talked about it publicly on the points that no one is happy with. Our allies aren’t happy with Iran’s behavior either, but I think you have correctly raised the questions that people are asking. I don’t know the answer, but I know what issues are being looked at and being a part of a decision.
Ignatius: Well, we will come back to you maybe in 24 hours, or next week, or whenever this is finally announced. It has been a long time. It’s a long wind-up.
Hutchison: It’s a long wind-up.
Ignatius: We’ll see what the pitch is, for tonight’s metaphor. [LAUGHTER] To ask you about another thing I spent the day thinking about and writing a column about for tomorrow. And that’s Turkey. Turkey is a NATO member. We often say Turkey, our NATO ally, but it’s been a pretty complicated and difficult NATO ally recently. A very dramatic sign of that, last week, was the arrest of a long-time official of the U.S. consulate in Istanbul, who is being jailed now. You deal with your Turkish counterpart all the time in Brussels. I’d be interested in what that optic tells you about Turkey; whether there’s any change in your NATO relationship. So give us a snapshot of your dealing with Turkey as a NATO ally.
Hutchison: Well, there’s so much at stake here. There are so many issues with Turkey. Many more than we’ve had in the past. We’ve never had this kind of trouble. I think buying the Russian ballistic missile defense was also another issue on the table.
Ignatius: If people don’t—Ambassador Hutchison is referring to the Turkish decision—I don’t know if it’s gone through—
Hutchison: It has [ph].
Ignatius: —to acquire a Russian air defense system, which led some people to ask, “Is that compatible with NATO membership?” What about that?
Hutchison: It’s been very troublesome in NATO because it will not be interoperable with the NATO ballistic missile systems, the defense. So it’s a problem. On the other hand, Turkey is one of our key partners in Afghanistan. They are the head of one of the TAC [ph] units. And they have been an effective ally in many ways. If I had a tablet, I would put 10 things that’s bad in our relationship with Turkey and 10 things that are great. It’s very hard to maneuver in this.
But Turkey is so important for a Muslim democracy that we want to help succeed. We want to have a secular government in a Muslim country that can be shown to be an ally, which they’ve been a strong ally of NATO in the past. It’s becoming harder. And I think after the coup attempt on President Erdogan things have gone awry in many directions. That was a huge shock and it was a terrible thing. There has been a clamp down on the people are suspected. That has also been another issue that the president thinks that there is a person in America that has been a part of it; that there’s been no evidence to show that.
So all of these things are in a mix, but on the bottom line, Turkey has been a good ally and they have been a valuable ally. It is something that I would like to see us try to work through and keep as an ally. Turkey also has big problems with Europe, with the E.U. They never got into the E.U. I think with the situation there now, with the clamp down that we’ve seen on the press, on the freedom of speech, that that would be very hard now.
And so all of these things are compiling to make it worse when really I hope we can make it better. I want to have Turkey as an ally. I want them to be in NATO. They have a unique voice as a Muslim democracy that if it succeeds could be important for the long term. But it is complicated.
Ignatius: And I’m just curious: in this period, as you say, of an unusual number of issues and difficulties; has there been any change in the NATO relationship in terms of the details? Movements in and out, procedures at Incirlik and other bases in Turkey that are used? Anything that’s different in this period of tension?
Hutchison: There’s been no effort to change Incirlik. In addition to all of the things we’ve already talked about, there is a difference on the Kurd issue. The Turks are very worried about the Kurds, both Syria and Iraq, and the Kurds have been very honest and straight with America about their position in Iraq. They have been so productive in Iraq. The Kurdistan part of Iraq is doing really well and so I think that the Turks don’t like that and so that’s been another issue and so that affects that border. And I think they haven’t done anything direct except now we know they have arrested—the government has arrested a Turkish citizen who works in our embassy that has been a good employee in our embassy and that’s just another issue. Count them, there are just so many, but they haven’t suggested anything about Incirlik and we’ve been great military partners.
The military has been really good in Turkey. Buying this Russian defense system is going to cause problems; that’s for sure. But we’re trying very hard to keep them close because they have been valuable. We want them to be valuable. We don’t want them to start getting close to Russia. That’s not in our interests and it’s not in their interests so we’re working through it.
Ignatius: That’s a helpful answer and we’ll—
Hutchison: Muddled [ph].
Ignatius: I know there’s a mission that’s heading out to Turkey next week from the State Department to try to talk through some of these problems. I have on our hashtag #SecuringTomorrow a question and just so people will know that we actually do look at these, I’m going to put it to you, although I’m not sure it’s at the top of your agenda. The question is whether you as our ambassador will advocate for Macedonia. I’m trying to remember the precise name that we used for Macedonia—to become the 30th member of NATO and more generally, I think that question carries the really fascinating issue of NATO expansion. An issue that the Russians keep reminding us that they regard as threatening. So Macedonia, A, but then on the broader question is NATO now a completed alliance or should we imagine that there’s a future in which other countries might be added?
Hutchison: Well, we have an open-door policy at NATO and you have to meet standards. You have to meet standards of democracy and you have to have a certain military capability and the debate—David, and you’re going to remember this, but the debate probably 10 or 15 years ago was, do we keep NATO small and compact and strong? Or after the breakup of the Soviet Union, do we reach out to the other countries and bring them in, even though that has a risk of then getting into a war with Russia? So which would be the best way? And the decision was made to have the open-door policy and to bring in the Balkans and the Baltics and to have standards that would make them stronger and what won the debate is that if we could have a standard of democracy and a standard of a military self-help and an understanding of a constitutional government, that those countries would be more able to defend themselves and last as democracies for the long-term.
And so the open-door policy won the argument. Rather than keeping it at 13 or 14, that it would go to now 29. And the open door is still there and the requirements are still there. Macedonia is the next one that could meet the task and I do support Macedonia. The problem is the name Macedonia has got to be acceptable to Greece. And because of that disagreement, there’s not a unanimous vote. But I think everyone is watching Macedonia and it’s in its requirements and it is meeting those tests. It has a little bit to go but I do think Macedonia, if they can—they say they’re close to an agreement on having a name and we would want them to be able to have the name they want in some form. But they have to have a unanimous consent and that is the sticking point right now.
But I think they’re very close. The United States does support them and I think if they can get that last domestic piece together and keep working toward that free election and strong government, that they will be the next member.
Ignatius: So the Russians a few weeks ago gave their answer to this question of what do you think about expanding NATO that moves closer and closer to Russia’s borders? And their answer was an unusually aggressive military exercise, which they called “Zapad.” And you’ve had a chance, I’m sure, to study that in detail with your NATO colleagues and give us your readout from a military, political-military perspective on that exercise. Did you and your colleagues see new weapon systems, new technologies, new operating procedures that concern you? Did it raise questions? The sort of gut-level questions for NATO about the nature of the Russian potential threat?
Hutchison: Yes. I will say first of all that Russia did not meet the standards of the Vienna Agreement that they would be transparent. All of us agreed that if there were any exercises that would be more than 13,000 participants, that there would be a transparency and that there would be observers allowed to be there. Well, it was a whole lot more than 13,000 in Zapad.
Ignatius: What’s the estimate of how many were involved?
Hutchison: I don’t have numbers, but it was in the tens of thousands. So Russia did not meet the requirements of the Vienna Agreement. Having said that, it was an impressive show of a very expansive command structure and it was a big show. There was no doubt about it. Now, our people were watching from where we could. There was intelligence the whole time to make sure because remember, when the Russians took over Crimea, it was like that and it was right after one of these exercises. They just massed on the border. They were just doing an exercise and they took Crimea. So that’s why we were watching and the NATO intelligence was very strong and we also brought it up. There’s a NATO Russia Council where you can bring up issues. We can bring up issues, Russia can bring up issues. We, NATO, and Russia.
And we brought up the lack of transparency in Zapad, and the, “Oh, no, no, there’s nothing that’s going on of any import. We’re just testing our systems, you know?” And they did and it was an impressive show. But we were watching very carefully to see if there was any kind of a buildup that could be leaving equipment there, those kinds of things. And it passed and there was nothing, but it was a big show [ph].
Ignatius: So they have packed up and gone home as it were? There was concern that this forward deployment for the exercise might persist. But have you established now that, as I say, they’ve taken forces back from where they were?
Hutchison: I can’t say specifically that I know what has been taken back, but our people have been watching and they’re not concerned about something happening from this. Now, just in the last day or so, Russia has accused NATO of having a buildup in their territory that looks to them to be like maybe we’re doing something. Because we have troops in Poland, which we’ve been very clear about and transparent about. And it’s as rotation and the rotation just happened. And so they’re saying that all of these new troops are coming in and that’s a violation of the agreement that we have on troop buildups. Well, it’s not an add-on, it’s a rotation. So we’re hoping to clear that up. But they’re now saying, “Well, if you’re going to do that, then we need to put more systems into Kaliningrad, which is that little place that they have that’s—it’s not in the main Russian territory but it’s this little piece that they kept when the Soviet Union broke up that is on the other side of Poland.
So that’s a little dust-up. I don’t think it’s going to be anything, but those are the things that can help them [ph].
Ignatius: You hear from East Europeans, especially from the Baltic States that to be really credible as an alliance, NATO needs a firmer tripwire, more of an enhanced forward deployment. Isn’t that the term of art that you’re using now so that if the Russians ever got any ideas about doing something in the Baltic States, they would encounter American troops. They’d have to be in a showdown with us. Do you have a view about that question, about whether to make NATO more credible, we need to have a little more oomph forward? Not on a rotating basis, but on a permanent basis.
Hutchison: I think the rotation is working very well. And we have beefed up in all three Baltic States our rotational forces and what they are doing is more planned, coherently combined exercises. And all within the Vienna Treaty, I will say because they are under the 13,000, but the troops that are there are doing exercises that are much more serious than have been done before. But the rotations are working well and the competency level and the cohesion level is very much enhanced so and as a matter of fact, President Trump increased the European assurance of initiative, which is now called the European Deterrence Initiative, which puts more capability. He increased the budget. President Trump in his budget increased the budget for enhanced forces in Poland and the Baltics and then other places where they might be needed on that border.
Like Romania or places that are right across the Black Sea from where we’re just watchful. And so I think there is an enhanced presence, a much more focused presence, and better training of the troops, but I think that the rotational, as opposed to a permanent, is—
Ignatius: So there’s no change contemplated in that?
Hutchison: No [ph].
Ignatius: So I’ve been asking about the conventional Russian military threat, but as we saw in Crimea and then have been seeing in Eastern Ukraine, the approach the Russians seem to be using now is different. It’s not main force units, tanks rolling across borders, the kind of thing that NATO as an alliance was really created to deal with. It’s something different, which we’re calling “hybrid warfare” or “little green men.” But the idea is that war, as the Russian strategists see it, is no longer binary. It’s not on or off. The tanks roll across the border or they don’t. It’s a sliding scale and it includes all the instruments of national power. It includes cyber-attacks. It includes influence operations, which our Senate Intelligence Committee, House Intelligence Committee are looking at carefully now.
I want to ask you if that’s the part of the threat that Russia really does pose now, I often think that NATO isn’t really very well configured to deal with it. NATO is a military alliance. It’s about hardware and troops. It’s not an intelligence organization really. So what about that? If hybrid warfare is the threat, has NATO positioned itself properly and what more should it do it deal with that real-world problem?
Hutchison: It is a real-world problem. The hybrid warfare malign [ph] influence, the things that Russia is doing are very long-term. They’re trying to break down the bonds of the NATO alliance by putting out false news. There was a false story that a NATO soldier had raped a girl. It was made up and things that would cause people in the area to not like NATO; places that Russia might be able to influence. You saw it in the efforts to—in the elections. The elections in Germany. The elections in France. The elections in America. Those are maligned influences of false stories in news. The French, they have a moratorium on news for—is it 24? Forty-eight hours, I think.
Ignatius: I think it lasts—
Hutchison: It’s two days, 48 hours—
Ignatius: Yes, before the election.
Hutchison: And there was a huge Russian effort to create a big scandal on President Macron—well, he wasn’t president at the time. Mr. Macron, a huge scandal that wasn’t true, but they had that moratorium and the big question, the ethical question was, “Oh, my gosh. We’ve got this terrible—it’s a story about Macron maybe with some illicit use of campaign money or something like that.” And so the news media talked about, “Should we keep the moratorium or not?” And they decided to keep the moratorium and that saved Macron from having a false story blown up at the last minute that then could be refuted and so I think you look at something like that, and it happens that they got by with it. They tried that in the German elections and we now know that they have tried it in our elections. So I think that they’re playing the long game.
And the long game is to break the bonds of NATO and our alliances and to cause friction and to go in and do something like getting Turkey to buy a ballistic missile defense that there’s no ability to have an interoperable system with NATO now. So there’s going to be walls built and that’s Russia’s goal. It’s amazing how sophisticated they’ve become and NATO does know it and we are. We are beginning now to work on information systems, sharing. When some of these things are coming up, we’re bringing it up as an issue in the next NATO-Russia Council so that they know that we know what they’re doing. We know the false news and we’re also setting up some intelligence and cyber defense. So we are in the stages of adapting to a very new type of warfare.
In addition to different types of enemies, this new kind of warfare and the hacking into phones in Poland and other countries, it’s something that we are beginning to understand and looking and defenses to deal with them.
Ignatius: Glad to hear you answer that question so forthrightly. It’s one of the most direct, emphatic statements about Russian meddling in Europe, and in our elections, that I’ve heard from an administration official. So thank you for speaking to that. I want to ask you as we get toward the end of our conversation about Afghanistan. You just have been in Afghanistan with Secretary Mattis. Afghanistan is, among other things, a NATO commitment and you’ve been quoted as saying that you’d like to see NATO add 1,000 troops as we add 3,000 or so to bulk up that force. And to ask the question that Senator McCain has been asking pretty aggressively over the last few weeks on Capitol Hill; what’s the plan that the administration has to use the additional resources in Afghanistan to get a different outcome? We’ve been at this for 16 years. Are 4,000 more troops really going to get us to a goal that we didn’t achieve when we had 100,000?
How do you answer that? I’m sure you’ve got some skeptical NATO colleagues, just as there are skeptics on Capitol Hill.
Hutchison: I think this new Afghanistan plan has a chance to succeed. It is very innovative and when our ambassadors talked about it after it came out, it was universally acclaimed because the conditions-based exit, and everybody knew that it was a mistake to put a hard deadline. They knew the Taliban would wait. They did and the Taliban came back with stronger force when we left at the end of 2014 and I think conditions that are the exit strategy are important because it means we’re staying until the job is done. That has emboldened the Afghan leaders. And here’s what’s different: both Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah were in our meeting and they made commitments for reform that would give a stronger basis of government that would attack the corruption. They’re bringing new younger educated people into the cabinet.
The new secretary of defense, the new secretary of the interior, whose sole purpose is to attack corruption in the country. Because the drug cartels are paying and that is financing the Taliban and so you see that new younger generation coming up. There is now a mandatory retirement age for the military. It used to be 70, now it’s 62 for generals and it’s down to 58 for the lower level officers. So those older generals are moving out and those younger educated military people are seeing that they have a way to move up. President Ghani said, “Our people are willing to fight for our country.” There are 300,000 in the Afghan Army now and when we went out to the outposts to meet with the NATO units, American units as well as Italy, Turkey, Germany, very mixed Polish units. They said the Afghan fighters are good.
They fight differently from us, but they know what they’re doing and they’re good and they are committed. And they’ve had heavy losses, but they’re still out there. They see that with the new strategy of regionalizing to make sure that Pakistan and India are going to be helpful. Pakistan has not been as helpful as they could. They’ve been helpful in some areas, but not others. Now, they see a different Taliban effort since our new strategy went into force and when we brought back more airpower to—it’s the Afghans who are fighting. It’s not Americans. The Americans are advising and they’re training. And so we’re the NATO forces. But it’s the Afghans who are on the ground and we are giving them advice and counsel and training and they’re gone now [ph].
And the air cover has scattered the Taliban and so they’re seeing a different Pakistan. Pakistan is doing some things now that they hadn’t done before that are good. India is really stepping up. We cannot say enough about how much India’s doing. And the Afghan people like the Indian people. They’ve been there. They have invested in education and infrastructure and the Afghan people trust them and they’ve said they’ll step up and do more and so I think the regionalization, the conditions-based exits, and the younger generation coming in and President Ghani and Abdullah, the two rivals, both saying two things: we are committed to reforming our government.
We’re committed to fighting corruption and the Afghan people are going to fight for our own country. Those are the differences and it’s making a difference already.
Ignatius: That’s again, as clear an explanation of what we’re trying to do as I’ve heard. So I promised everybody we’d get you home for the ballgame. [LAUGHTER] And I just want to say in closing, a lot of concern in Washington that President Trump was against the globalists and the globalists were the danger and you don’t sound to me like you’re going to fight those terrible globalists. You sound a little bit like somebody who believes in our traditional alliances and the structure of American power and you and I have known each other a long time. I really enjoy having you here. I think we all have learned a lot and we wish you good luck in Brussels.
Hutchison: Well, I want to tell you, it’s a team. It’s really a team. It is.