Press Availability in Brussels, Belgium

Press Availability
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Brussels, Belgium
December 8, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Very much like the logo, a great image of the skyline, which I know very well. I want to thank the Secretary General as he leaves, for his outstanding leadership and the opportunity that we’ve had to work together. And we’ll continue to be working closely together in the run-up to our summit in Chicago next May.

This year has been one of great change, and we see democratic transitions under way. We see – for the United States, troops and diplomats deploying. But some things never change, including our commitment to this alliance, which has been the bedrock of our security for more than half a century. And the wide range of issues that we discussed jointly yesterday and today proves just how essential this relationship is.

Let me give you a brief readout. We obviously discussed our plans for the Chicago summit. At the previous NATO summit in Lisbon, leaders adopted a new strategic concept to define NATO’s approach to countering 21st century threats from ballistic missiles to cyber attacks. And in Chicago, appropriately enough, we will put meat on the bones of this strategic concept, including ways to pool our resources and spend smartly in an era of tight budgets. We will also continue to strengthen our ties with NATO’s partners. Our partnership in Libya proved once again what we can accomplish together, and we want to build on that progress.

We also discussed Afghanistan. Coming off of the Bonn conference Monday and then the ISAF meeting today, we set a clear message that transitioning security to Afghan lead marks the beginning of a new phase of support - not the end of our commitment, nor the end of our efforts. And today, I encouraged our allies to better define NATO’s enduring partnership with Afghanistan, including its post-2014 mission to support the Afghan national security forces and to provide a strong base on which Afghanistan can build a stable, peaceful future. We are hoping that allies will come to Chicago prepared to pledge long-term funding to sustain the Afghan national security forces.

We also discussed the situation in the north of Kosovo. NATO’s troops there, known as KFOR, have made notable progress in restoring peace. But in recent months, violence has returned and Serb hardliners have barricaded roads, pushing the region into a very dangerous position. We deplore violence against our KFOR troops and reiterated our insistence that freedom of movement must be restored for KFOR, for the European Union mission known as EULEX, E-U-L-E-X, and all other parties in the north.

We met with Foreign Minister Lavrov at the NATO-Russia Council and reviewed the work we are doing together in Afghanistan on counter-piracy, on counter-narcotics, just to name a few of the areas. I announced that the United States will increase our support for the joint NATO-Russia Counter Narcotics Program, which will allow us to double the training resources we provide for law enforcement officers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. The fight against the drug trade is of crucial importance, first and foremost to the people of the region, but then to NATO allies and Russia as well.

Now, of course, it’s obvious to State that areas of disagreement remain between NATO and Russia and we maintain a candid dialogue on these tough issues in our Council. Today we discussed two in particular: First, missile defense. I made clear that we will proceed with deploying missile defenses to defend NATO territory, as the alliance agreed to in Lisbon. I also made clear our hope to find a common approach on missile defense and to build on practical steps that we have already agreed to, like the missile defense joint exercise planned for next spring.

And second, we discussed the need to renew cooperation on conventional arms control. We have had a profound gap in knowledge and mutual confidence since the Russian Government unilaterally suspended implementation of its CFE Treaty obligations in 2007, and we need to close that gap.

So it’s been another productive ministerial, and I look forward to taking your questions.

MS. NULAND: We’ll take four today. First one, Reuters, Arshad Mohammed. And we need a microphone. Right here. Thanks.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, earlier today, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin essentially accused you of fomenting the protests in Russia with your comments earlier this week. How do you respond to that, and what does it say about US-Russian relations when the Prime Minister would effectively accuse you of interfering in their domestic politics?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it’s important to recognize that we value our relationship with Russia. We have invested a great deal of effort into working together, not only bilaterally, but through NATO. And we think we've made real progress in a number of areas of cooperation.

At the same time, the United States and many others around the world have a strong commitment to democracy and human rights. It's part of who we are. It's our values. And we expressed concerns that we thought were well-founded about the conduct of the elections. And we are supportive of the rights and aspirations of the Russian people to be able to make progress and to realize a better future for themselves, and we hope to see that unfold in the years ahead.

MS. NULAND: Next question, Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl from DPA.

QUESTION: Hello. The Russian ambassador today again made the link between the negotiations on missile defense and the Afghanistan supply routes. The Secretary General yesterday dismissed this kind of rhetoric as an empty threat. What are your thoughts and how would the U.S. react if the supply routes were shutdown in the worst-case scenario?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, we’ve had very good cooperation on the supply routes. The northern distribution network that has been established and broadened over the last three years is a very good example of Russian – U.S. and Russian-NATO cooperation and we think it is mutually beneficial to all of us.

And with missile defense, we recognize that we are not in agreement and therefore we have to keep working to try to forge agreement, and we had a healthy airing of views today in the NATO-Russia council, and I think that’s in keeping with our decision two years ago to reinstate the council. It was one of the first debates that I was part of here at NATO. We’ve always said that we wanted it to be an all-weather forum, so when times are good, we have a chance to share our views, and when there are issues to be resolved, we will not shy away from doing so. And I think it was evident today that that’s exactly how it is functioning.

So, we will continue to press forward on missile defense. We’ve been open and transparent about our system with the Russians. We’ve explained through multiple channels that our planned system will not and cannot threaten Russia’s strategic deterrent. It does not affect our strategic balance with Russia, and it is certainly not a cause for military countermeasures.

And that said, no ally within NATO is going to give any other country outside the alliance, a veto over whether NATO protects itself by building a missile defense system, against the threats that we perceive are the most salient. Ballistic missiles against the territory we are all pledged to protect are not coming in the future from Russia, in our assessment, but from other locations. And therefore this is not directed at Russia, it is not about Russia, it is frankly about Iran, and other state or non-state actors who are seeking to develop threatening missile technology. So we will continue to be open, transparent, but also very strongly in support of both our views and our values.

MS. NULAND: Next question, Lachlan Carmichael, AFP.

QUESTION: Hello, Madam Secretary. On Afghanistan, President Karzai has blamed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, yet another group, for being responsible for an attack, this time against Shiites – an unprecedented one. What does this say about U.S. efforts to have Pakistan curb such militant groups? And lastly if I may add, President Zardari is apparently in the hospital in Dubai – there is some concerns that it’s not just health, that he may be pushed out for political reasons. But at any rate, what does this say about your efforts to shore up civilian rule, if indeed Zardari does not return to his leadership role?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, on the second question first, Lachlan, we have no reason to speculate about that. The information that we have is that he has sought medical treatment for a number of medical challenges and we wish him a speedy recovery and certainly we expect that he will receive the treatment he is seeking and then be able to return in full health to his duties.

We are deeply concerned, as we have been, about the continuing terrorist threat from Pakistan. And we have expressed to the leaders of Pakistan, time and again, the importance of our working together to tackle these terrorist groups, because they threaten, first and foremost, Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan. And then beyond, if left unchecked. And we firmly believe that the best way to combat them is for Pakistan, Afghanistan, NATO, ISAF to all be working together, which is what we have been doing. And I think by the most objective measures, we’ve made tremendous progress in bringing security to many parts of Afghanistan. The Afghan National Security Force has made steady improvement in being able to take responsibility for security. Now it’s up to nearly 50 percent of the people in the country who will be protected by primarily by their own forces. We’ve reversed the momentum and advance of the Taliban and more Afghans live in security.

But having said that, we know that these terrorist groups pose a threat to every country. We spent an enormous amount of time, effort, and resources, as do our friends in Europe, protecting ourselves against these plots. So it’s unfortunate that they can get through anywhere and cause such mayhem, as they have recently in several cities in Afghanistan, but that is just a continuing challenge that we have to help the Afghans address. They do not have anything like the resources, anything like the technology, anything like the networks that we have to protect ourselves and our other friends and allies in advanced economies. So of course it’s going to be a greater challenge. But it needs to be seen in context of the overall security situation in the country.

MS. NULAND: And last question today: Anna Hernandez, Europa Press.

QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary Clinton. I’m over here.


QUESTION: I’m over –

SECRETARY: Where are you? Oh, there you are.

QUESTION: I’m over here. Thank you so much. Do you agree with the statement that ex-Russian president Gorbachev, asking for a rerun of the elections, given the important flaws?

And my second question, if I may, it’s on the very important summit of the European leaders today and tomorrow to try and resolve the crisis. U.S. has publicly gone out with statements really, really stating that Europe needs to solve the crisis and it needs to do it right now. Are you confidence that this will happen? Particularly since the rest of the international community – and I’m thinking particularly of strong International Monetary Fund members – have not been too willing to help financially Europe, seeing, as they say, that Europe is rich anyway.

Thank you so much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to your first question, I think those kinds of decisions will have to be left up to the government and people of Russia. Obviously that’s an area that deserves attention. The OSCE monitors, who were there for the elections, either already have or are about to submit a report with a number of recommendations, which I think should also merit attention. So we hope that there will be decisions made that reflect the significance, having free, fair, credible elections.

On the issue of the Euro Zone, as you know, Secretary Geithner has been in Europe this week. He is continuing the close consultation that our government has had with both individual governments and with the European leadership, on the Euro Zone crisis. And we are very committed to and hopeful for decisions coming from Europe’s leaders that will put forth a way forward that everyone can rally behind. And that includes the entire world, not just Europe and the United States.

And as President Obama said during last week’s EU-U.S. summit in Washington, the United States stands ready to do our part. We want to help you resolve this crisis because it’s the right thing to do. As we meet here in NATO headquarters, Europe is at the heart of NATO and the Transatlantic Alliance, which is critical to our security. Resolution of Europe’s economic challenges is beneficial to our own economic fortune.

So, we see ourselves as your partner, your supporter, your friend, going forward. We have a great stake in Europe’s success. We will continue to work constructively with our European partners. And we are confident you will succeed. We have great confidence in Europe. There is absolutely no doubt about that. But we do need a plan to rally behind, in order to know the way forward. And so we look forward to hearing the results of the deliberations that will be coming forth in the next day or two.

Thank you all very much.

PRN: 2011/T57-23