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News Briefing - NATO Defence Ministerials

STAFF: We've got about 20, 25 minutes today. The boss is going to start with some opening remarks, then we'll go to questions around the room. We are embargoed until tomorrow afternoon, after the Secretary General Stoltenberg’s press conference - his opening remarks at that press conference.
 
And without further ado, sir, I'll turn it over to you.
 
GENERAL CURTIS SCAPARROTTI: Thank you.
 
Thanks much for the opportunity here today. I'll keep these short up front.
 
I -- you know, if I think back to the last few days here, this has been a productive -- I think it'll be a productive week for -- for NATO. I just -- this weekend had the Chiefs of Defense Conference in Poland, and then followed with the Defense Ministerials.
 
What's great about that is I spent a weekend and heard directly from the chiefs of defense from the 29 nations, got guidance on the tasks, really, that came out of the summit and came to me. So it was an opportunity to tell them what we're doing with each of those tasks, where we're heading and get their direction and -- and guidance, and basically do the same thing here as you come into the DefMins at a different level, mostly policy-oriented.
 
But things like readiness reinforcement, responsiveness, the Readiness Initiative, NATO command structure, adaptation, strategy, military strategy that we're working on, and the long-term commitment plan that we're working on right now, which is kind of the central piece of this.
 
So all of those are the kinds of topics that we talked about, and again, got direction and guidance. And then, it allows me to come out of this conference with that -- with that direction and continue to work and SHAPE, and we're doing a lot of work. When you look at this, look at the summit, you know, we got over 150 tasks out of that in SHAPE Headquarters, all of which I -- I want, to be frank with you, because they all speak to the readiness of the alliance.
 
And so I'll stop there, and we'll just go to questions. That should get you started.
 
Q: General, as we were -- we -- well, we talked yesterday with the secretary's staff and the secretary about the -- the new cyber plan, and I was wondering if you could address that. When do you think the U.S. would be -- is that sort of a -- any time after now, the U.S. would be prepared to do that? Is it something that requires a ramp-up? And can you just talk a little bit about why this is necessary, and what benefits NATO can draw from this?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, as you know, I mean, it was -- it was just at -- at Warsaw Summit that we decided that, you know, that we would encompass cyber's domain in NATO. And it's one of those characteristics of war today that is changing, and I think will have an impact on the character of war in ways that we don't fully understand. So it's -- it -- I'm just saying that to say it's that important.
 
We in SHAPE and in -- in our headquarters started early on making the changes we needed to make to ensure, first of all, the defense of our systems and defense of our communication systems here in -- in -- in NATO. And so we had a head start from the summit this year that told me to establish an operations center, et cetera.
 
So our Cyber Operations Center is up. It's operating. We're now filling out the remainder of the personnel and experts that we need to -- to better fulfill what I think are our responsibilities in cyber in -- at both operational and tactical level. So we're moving forward on that, but it's going to take us some time yet to get to where I think we need to be.
 
In terms of United States' or other nations' contributions to this, I think that we have the expertise to begin operating across the spectrum, you know, fairly quickly. It -- it -- it will be incremental, though, because I have to grow. You know, it's a matter of how many experts you have, and you know, how functional your Operations Center is. But we could certainly work across the spectrum with the help of very able Allies within NATO that make those experts -- or those capabilities available.
 
Q: Do you think you will need additional U.S. capability in order to do this or is this within existing?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: If you're asking me about the U.S. capabilities --
 
Q: Yes.
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: -- being additional, that would probably as -- you know, I don't know quite how to answer that because that's a little bit of a -- what I would say is this. From the SACEUR’s perspective, there are nations within the alliance that have capabilities within cyber, and quite good ones.
 
And my view is much like any other capability, they can make them available when we need them, from the length of time we need them, and we can move back and forth. I mean, that's -- cyber's one of those areas where, you know, you can have a good deal of flexibility and adaptability.
 
I mean, the people don't even necessarily need to be in my headquarters or in one of my headquarters and you can work this. So I think it's a very adaptive domain, and I don't know that it'd be additive capabilities. I think it's -- that it's sufficient within what's available and then we turn it back over. We don't have to own them.
 
Q: Can I ask, further on to that point. What do you see in terms of Russia cyber activity in the past few months maybe going back to your -- has there been an increase assertiveness especially with duration to the Baltic States?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: I don't that I would say there's been an increased assertiveness. I would just say that they've been aggressive. You know, we have to defend our systems, and I've said to people that if you don't do so in today's world, not only to Russians but others that are out there, individual hackers, et cetera, if you are not discipline in the defense of your systems, then somebody's going to get into them.
 
And so, it's an area where you have to be constantly vigilant, and you have to learn about your environment and adapt. The Russians have been very active. I don't know that there's been an increase. They've just been very active.
 
Q: And separate, the INF Treaty violation by the Russians was talked about yesterday. Pretty strong statement by the ambassador about how, you know, the U.S. could potentially take out aggression, weapons that are in -- you know, are not in line with the treaty. Where are you on this from your standpoint? I mean, are you essentially preparing to take out Russian systems?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: The whole effort here is to bring Russia back into compliance. That's our effort. And so, what we've said and done is in an effort to do that because it's -- you know, our treaties are important, I think, within security, European, Euro-Atlantic security.
 
And so, we prefer to bring them back into compliance and that's what our effort is. In terms of any actions we might take, I don't think it's good to speculate on that, and primarily that's a policy decision. My job in SACEUR is to ensure that I have credible and ready forces to ensure the defense of the Euro-Atlantic, and that's how I look at it.
 
Q: General, can you tell us a little bit more about the planning process for the Readiness Initiative? I think you will need some kind of troop sharing arrangements, things like this --
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes, so how do I frame this for you? What I get the task to do was to lay out a plan that's built around the 4-30s if you understand what those are. And I have to take that and put definition in it.
 
So to me, definition is what are the capabilities that they have to have, one what timeline do they need to be on, et cetera.
 
And the bottom line for me is, is that that gives us a, you know, readiness mindset in NATO. So we're working on that right now. It's not necessarily an addition you said you might need more forces.
 
It's not necessarily an addition to that totality of forces that countries have already committed to within NATO. It's more or less a redefinition of what the readiness level is.
 
What is the capability and what timeline is it available to me as the SACEUR commander. And that's really what we're going to lay out and then come back to the North Atlantic Council for a decision.
 
I'm excited about it because I think what it does is it resets, you know, a mindset of readiness and it allows us to establish the force in a posture that's relevant to the environment we're in today.
 
So said another way. If you go back, you know, prior to 2014 certainly in the years before that for a decade or so, we saw -- we were in an environment where we saw crisis that was slow to develop.
 
Those things that we dealt with were limited in force and size and could be limited. And you had time to make decisions. In today's environment things are fast, information is quick, decision space is reduced, and it's an environment where speed is important if you're going to be relevant.
 
So we have to take the set of forces we have; request of nations to put some of those on specific readiness level so that their -- so that their available to me to need this -- this demand in a new environment.
 
I'm confident we can do that. We're working well in SHAPE and we'll be rolling that here -- you know to do the entire thing as I want to do it would probably be about a two year project.
 
Q: I trust to be sure we are talking about an additional 30,000 troops that should have a higher level of readiness?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: We're not talking about an additional grouping of troops. I -- we -- you know we have -- we have a large commitment of troops by the countries today within NATO, for NATO use should they be needed.
 
But the way that they're provided to me today is by unit type under certain readiness conditions. I'm -- I'm going to ask that those -- that same grouping of troops just be available in different standards. Different readiness standards.
 
So I don't believe I need to ask for additional troops. I will probably regroup those that are within them. So another way of saying this is we have the NRF today, NATO Ready Force. That may grow a little bit. I don't know, it depends on the NAC.
 
But it'll be forces that are already committed; they're just not inside the NRF - if that makes sense to you.
 
Q: For example, for Germany, would it be possible to say we have the VJTF in the next year and we count the VJTF as the German part for the readiness initiative?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Too early for me to say but that's possible. Yes, that's possible. Again, it'll be -- you know in Germany it's hard -- it's too early to say for a certain country. But countries will certainly have to make commitments of forces to NATO.
 
And some of them might be force -- forces per say that they don't have committed to NATO today, they've just got others. You know for instance, I -- I -- one segment of this and I'm looking for the nations ready forces, most of the nations have something that's on a shorter string.
 
Q: And when do you want to have concrete plan?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, sooner the better. Sooner the better. But I've got other things I'm going to connect to this. That's why I spend about probably the entire project, couple of years, two years because as I look at this, we're connecting the reinforcement task that I've been given, the mobility task that I've been given. You know, those other projects -- enablement, which has to do with, you know, the -- with logistics and -- and -- well, logistics and infrastructure and mobility.
 
All of those things can be made a part of this as you move forward, because what we're looking to do is have a NATO force structure now in a posture that's relevant to the environment that we're in, that's a credible deterrent to those challenges that we have.
 
So there're some things that need to change. There's things that will be added, cyber, for instance, forces, and some of the newer forces as a part of the NATO command structure adaptation. And there we will go to nations - Germany and others, to -- to add those new skills or the new commands. One in -- you know, the one that -- in -- in Norfolk for instance, or the -- the one in Ulm, Germany.
 
Q: Could I have go back to the -- excuse me (coughing) INF issue -- it seems like this is an issue for (inaudible) been around for about a year now, a bit more than a year in fact, but in the last couple of weeks and in this week it -- it seems like the rhetoric's kind of been stepped up on (it?).
 
Is there a particular reason for that? Is this in response to some activity on the part of the Russians that you feel now's the time to kind of increase the rhetoric? And secondly, were you pleased to see Ambassador Hutchison take such a strong line yesterday? Is that -- do you feel that strengthens your hand?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well I -- I don't know that there's a reason. I mean, I don't know of any reason for it to pick up, other than the question was asked. And certainly with -- with the Defense Ministerial, this was -- it was a point of conversation at the CHODs conference and it was a proper topic here among the Ministers of Defense. So it's being addressed, and that might have been the reason it was -- you know, it has been brought up lately.
 
As you said, though, we have talked to the Russians over -- we being the U.S. in this case -- over the past couple of years about our concerns about their -- about their violation of the INF treaty. And -- and again, we wanted to bring them back into compliance. And we've tried that, diplomatically and other ways, so we're going to continue to lean into this with the idea that they need to come back into compliance. And we would request that they do so, I think it's important.
 
As a SACEUR, I -- I won't comment directly on -- on the ambassador's comments other than to say that -- that you know a strong statement is correct. This is important to security in Europe, and -- and we need to be clear about things that are as important as the INF treaty so that the Russians understand that, one, our intent's compliance, but two, we also will take the steps necessary to ensure that we don't have any gaps in a credible defense and deterrence posture.
 
Q: Can I sort of take you back to Afghanistan?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes.
 
Q: As we're sort of wrapping up kind of the peak fighting season now, but there's been quite a lot of Taliban and ISIS activity. Can you talk, looking ahead, what you see as any changes or any adjustments that you think need to be made? And specifically on the SFAB, there's going to be a gap between when the first one leaves and the second one comes in. Is that something that you see will be addressed down the road so that there won't be that kind of a gap?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: You know, this is -- Afghanistan has always been a complicated environment. I would tell you that I -- I think that the ANSF has done well and the Training, Advise, and Assist Mission is -- is executing its objectives in terms of their continued development.
 
This is not a linear fight, as you can tell. The -- we have good days and bad ones. I think it's been tough over the last, you know, month, month and a half quite frankly.
 
But I also see that -- that I've been watching the Afghans address that in terms of their posture, et cetera. And I think they're doing that pretty well here. That's one of the reasons that we have train, advise and assist there is to help them with those -- you know, to look at their posture and -- and their present operations.
 
And that's -- that's what we're doing. In terms of change in the future, I mean we've got a new commander there, as all new commanders do, you know, they'll make their own estimate and I look for to Scott Miller's estimate, he's an exceptional commander with a lot of experience in -- in Afghanistan and other regions.
 
And I'm -- I'm quite certain that -- that he'll have some -- some very good insights as we look forward to this. I would say too that, you know, the military piece of this is critical. We must have this, but it's not -- not sufficient.
 
We also have to get to peace, we've got to have the diplomatic part and the reconciliation and there needs to be a real focus on that in diplomatic work as well. I'm encouraged that this year we've seen for the first time a peace initiative and at least a break in the fighting.
 
And there's clearly more interest in reconciliation and particularly in the Taliban with this than I've seen the entire time I've dealt with Afghanistan, so I'm encouraged by that. So I -- it's too early to say changes.
 
I think let's let Scott take an estimate and we together we'll look at this and -- and see how we best continue to meet our objectives in Afghanistan.
 
Q: Can I go back to the INF Treaty violation? So you had -- you know, obviously talked to the Russians about this quite a while. Do you see any progress being made when you talk to them? And when you do talk to them, what's sort of their response when you bring up the violations?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well I haven't talked directly to him personally -
 
(CROSSTALK)
 
Q: But USG to the Russian government --
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: This is a -- and I think its best probably to go into those kind of details with those who did the -- you know, who do the discussions with him. You know, clearly they haven't come forward and had admitted, you know, the capabilities and the system that we're aware of.
 
They -- they tend to deny that and then charge us with being outside of compliance. What we want is we want them to come to the table, be transparent and -- and then get back into compliance.
 
And that's what we need to have happen.
 
Q: On a separate note, last time we talked - last Ministerial - relations with Turkey were at a different phase. Now obviously there's been the case with the preacher, has -- has that affected your job in any way?
 
I know the joint patrols -- the training for the joint patrols in Manbij started or has soon to start, because I mean how has that affected your job?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: So first of all, I would just tell you now, I'm -- this is as the EUCOM Commander. You know, the -- there has been, without a doubt, there's -- there's been tension on the political level at times.
 
But the military -- the military relationship has actually been strong and getting stronger I think over the last few months. We've always had a candid relationship. I personally always had in our -- you know, the folks within EUCOM that deal every day with their counterparts have had a good relationship with Turkey.
 
We don't always agree, but we're frank with each other. And we've been able to make progress because of that. So as you -- as you said, I mean we -- we -- we're on our 54th, I think I'm pretty close on that, independent patrol now. That's -- you know, that's pretty good. That is building an understanding with our patrols, understanding of each other and how we operate and then trust and confidence to operating together in a complex area.
 
And we now have the way forward with combined training that will lead to those combined patrols, and that's starting here this week. So again, I would tell you that we've got a good military relationship that’s been improving despite the tensions, you know, above us.
 
Q: Real quick one question on the new command in Ulm. Can you already tell us how many personnel will work there in peace time establishment and how many in crisis?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: I could give you some numbers if I went back to our NCSA implementation plan. I don't have them off the top of my head. Amy may be able to help you with that, but I would tell you this.
 
That'll be the round numbers. The framework nation, Germany in this case, really -- what you do is you're building this command and the one in the United States off of the core of one of their commands.
 
So in each case, the size of that's really, first, dependent on what they think they need within that command that they use for that and other reason, and then there's numbers that we know that have to do with the Alliance portion of this that's also in that command.
 
So I'm not trying to devoid here. I'm just trying to explain that it's not a clean answer there at least off the top. So the -- you know, the framework nation actually decides the size that they need to meet the mission that we've given them.
 
I'm excited about that mission because that command -- the command that they've had there has been operating in the same field, has that experience, and I'm very confident of their ability to do this well, and it'll just get stronger with Allied insertion of other experts. I'm going to co-locate eventually my -- the SHAPE joint logistics support group will be co-located in time with them, which strengthens that relationship strategic and operational.
 
So I think it's a very good outcome, and the location in Germany in itself is kind of in central part of Europe where much of the Alliance communication supports come together. So I am very appreciative of Germany's stepping up to this, you know, important command.
 
STAFF: Sir, we have one more question that we can take...
 
Q: About TRIDENT JUNCTURE - What's the kind of message you're trying to send out of this? Is this a sort of don't mess? And what can you say about what kind of – will there be like a cyber component to the exercise? Do you have anything to say about that?
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, TRIDENT JUNCTURE is an important exercise to us because it is now the second time in this changing environment that we have trained at an operational tactical against a near peer competitor.
 
The message is really, you know, we're a credible force and our purpose is defense. I mean, we're not -- we're being very transparent about this. This is a defensive exercise at the operational, tactical level. It's not a threat to anybody. But it is designed to both ensure that we're trained in tasks that I believe we need to be able to do to defend the sovereign territory of the Euro-Atlantic, and it obviously sends that message as well.
 
So that's the purpose of it, and we're excited about it because you're doing both LIVEX at a tactical level. We're doing tactical operational at our major command post. It'll be about 45,000. It'll cover all domains to include cyber. It'll be -- you know, it'll be a good test of us in this changing character of warfare that we have and -- and we'll learn from it. We'll get stronger because if it. And we'll come out of that as well with a couple of my headquarters certified, which we do on a routine bases before they take a specific task or command in our rotation. So it serves that purpose as an evaluation as well.
 
STAFF: OK, sir, I think that's enough.
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: All right.
 
STAFF: Thank you.
 
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Thank you all. Have a good DefMin. Have a good day.
 
STAFF: Thank you very much.
 
STAFF: Thank you.

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