Press briefing with Ambassador Lute, Assistant Secretary Frank Rose and Romanian State Secretary For Strategic Affairs Daniel Ionită

Ambassador Douglas Lute
U.S. Ambassador to NATO

Assistant Secretary Frank A. Rose
Arms Control, Verification and Compliance

Romanian State Secretary Daniel Ionită
Strategic Affairs

Bucharest, Romania

Moderator:  We have a very prestigious panel.  I would like to begin with our host, Romanian State Secretary for Strategic Affairs, Daniel Ionită.  You’ll find his bio in your packets, but I would just say that his portfolio right now includes multilateral relations with NATO, the OSCE and also the European Parliament.  Also bilateral relations with countries including the United States and Russia.  And policy issues such as security, disarmament, arms control, and human rights.

Now without further ado, State Secretary Ionită.

State Secretary Ionită:  Thank you so much.  My mom would love actually to hear your presentation.

Welcome, everybody, and welcome to — Do you hear me?

Welcome everybody.  On behalf of the Romanian government, we welcome you to Bucharest, where I actually put together excellent weather, especially for you.  Looking at how many of you responded actually to this briefing, my orientation actually is to propose to our American friends to organize more events like tomorrow’s important ceremony.

It goes without saying, it’s my pleasure to join our American colleagues on this occasion.

Tomorrow, as you may know, we’ll hold a ribbon cutting ceremony in Deveselu.  This ceremony will mark the operational certification of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System, which means the facility is certified for operations.  For Romania, this moment has tremendous importance from two perspectives.

First, the overall security of Romania is increasing and the strategic profile of my country is getting additional weight.  This MD facility brings in additional elements to the already existing U.S. forces in Romania at the Mihail Kogălniceanu Air Base as part of our mil to mil bilateral program, and in connection with European Reassurance Initiative and other relevant programs.

Since the end of the Second World War, for more than 70 years we were waiting for the Americans to come and save us from the ugly hands of communism.  Now the Americans are here and we need to be happy and we need to thank our American friends.

Second, the facility in Deveselu is a flagship objective of our strategic partnership for the 21st century with the United States of America.  We worked hard in order to deepen and expand our overall cooperation with the USA, in order to register progress not only in military and security related areas, but also in other fields of activity such as economy, education, people to people contact, cyber security and so on.

Third, this project is good for NATO and moreover, it strengthens the Romanian position in NATO.  For the next two months we will work hard with USA and other like-minded countries to have the initial operational capability of the NATO BMD system declared, hopefully, at the Warsaw Summit in July.

The ceremony of tomorrow is certainly important for our strategic partner, the United States of America, because it reflects the implementation of President Obama’s vision on the European Phased Adaptive Approach on missile defense which, we need to remember, was expressed in 2009.  Therefore, once again the U.S. leads the way through innovative solutions, sophistication, and flexibility.  Once again, thank you, USA.

Also, the system at Deveselu is symbolic for the entire region.  The facility will be transferred to NATO and will become part of an allied, enhanced BMD architecture that will provide increased coverage and protection to European allies.  From this perspective, the event of tomorrow should not be looked at in isolation, but it has to be put in a wider context, both regional and international, through the protection it brings to the national territory and directed to the system that deterrent role and thus the decrease of the likelihood of ballistic attacks.

Let me express my appreciation also for the significant work that has been done in the past six years implementing the U.S. EPAA in Romania, is conducted on the basis of the agreement which was negotiated by a very instrumental and hard-working chief negotiator from the U.S., Frank Rose, and from our side, Mr. Bogdan Aurescu, during the seven rounds of negotiation which were followed by 14 implementation arrangements.  On their implementation, both civilian and military personnel, both diplomats and experts were working hard in order to bring those agreements to be able to be implemented today.

And finally, the system in Romania is not directed against Russia.  Hopefully everybody will hear and understand the voice of wisdom, which tells us that both geography and physics prevent the system to be effective against a massive attack from Russia.  There are legal and technical arguments as well in support of the exclusive defensive character of the NATO ballistic defense capability.

For instance, in our agreement it is stipulated that the system will be used only in compliance with the UN Charter, namely in legitimate self-defense.  It also stipulates that the interceptors deployed in Romania are non-nuclear and forbids changing their type.

In conclusion, Romania’s decision to take on the responsibility of hosting this defensive system shows our country’s steadfast commitment to the principles of NATO’s indivisibility of security and allied solidarity.

I do thank you for your attention.

Moderator:  Thank you, State Secretary Ionită.  I appreciate your remarks.

I would like now to turn to Assistant Secretary Frank Rose, who is Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.

Assistant Secretary Rose:  Thank you very much.  It’s a pleasure to be back here in Romania.  In addition to serving as Assistant Secretary of State, I also served as the lead U.S. negotiator for the three European Phased Adaptive Approach, EPAA, missile defense basing agreements in Romania, Poland, and Turkey.

When I think back to those early days of the Obama administration, it is striking to me how much has been accomplished.  It was September 2009 when President Obama announced his plan for strengthening missile defense in Europe, which became known as the European Phased Adaptive Approach, or EPAA, which is the U.S. national contribution to the NATO missile defense system.

As with the unveiling of anything new, there were lots of questions about what the plan was and what it would do.  So what I’d like to do in my brief remarks today is focus on what we have done and say a few words about where we are going.  I’ll also say a few words about missile defense in Russia.  I will then turn the floor over to Ambassador Doug Lute, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, who will discuss how the EPAA fits into NATO’s larger defense and deterrence framework.

Let me begin by providing you a brief summary of the progress we have made over the last six and a half years.  Starting in 2011 with Phase I of the EPAA, we deployed a missile defense radar in Turkey and began the sustained deployment of Aegis ballistic missile defense capable ships in the Mediterranean.  Additionally, last September, we forward deployed the fourth and final U.S. Aegis BMD capable ship at the naval facility in Rota, Spain, which will allow us to increase our rotational presence in the region and respond to potential crises more rapidly.

As part of Phase II of the EPAA, we completed construction of the Aegis Ashore site at Deveselu, Romania in December of last year, and deployed the new SM-3 Block 1B interceptor.

Tomorrow we will have an official ceremony at Deveselu marking the site’s operational certification.  The U.S. delegation will be led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work.

I give tremendous credit to my Missile Defense Agency and Romanian colleagues.  And furthermore, I want to say this.  The U.S. has had no better partner than Romania, whether it had to do with negotiating the agreement or implementing the agreement, and I give a great deal of credit to Daniel as well as Bogdan Aurescu, who was the lead Romanian negotiator.

And the reason I give these people so much credit is that they were able to take the site from a concept to an operationally deployed capability in six years while staying on time and on budget.  I haven’t come across too many weapon systems that have been on time and on budget.  So this is a significant achievement.

Combined with the missile defense capable ships in the Mediterranean, the site provides a significant enhancement to the coverage of NATO from short and medium range ballistic missile threats originating from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

Finally, Phase III of the EPAA will involve the construction of a second Aegis Ashore site in Poland equipped with the new SM-3 Block 2A interceptor.  In February of this year, the Missile Defense Agency awarded the construction contract for this site.  This Friday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Work will lead the U.S. delegation to the groundbreaking of the Aegis Ashore site at Redzikowo in Poland.  The site is scheduled to become operational in the 2018 time frame.  The Phase III site in Poland, when combined with other EPAA assets, will provide ballistic missile defense coverage of all NATO European territory populations from threats originating outside the Euro-Atlantic area.  So as you’ve seen, we have made tremendous progress implementing the EPAA over the last six and a half years.

Finally, let me say a few things about missile defense in Russia.  As you’re well aware, Russia has repeatedly raised concerns that U.S. and NATO missile defenses are directed against Russia and represent a threat to its strategic nuclear deterrent.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Both the United States and NATO have been clear that the system that NATO is building in Europe is not designed for or capable of undermining Russia’s strategic deterrent capabilities.  U.S. and NATO missile defense systems are directed against ballistic missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.  NATO and the United States have explained this to Russia many times over the years and myself, I’ve explained this to the Russians in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations.  And I think it’s also important to note that the United States and NATO over the past 25 years have put numerous cooperative proposals for missile defense cooperation between the U.S. and Russia and NATO and Russia on the table, including the establishment of two NATO-Russia Missile Defense Centers.

However, it is important to note that it was Russia that in 2013 unilaterally terminated this cooperative dialogue.  Let me say that again.  It was Russia in 2013 who unilaterally walked away from this cooperative dialogue.

Let me conclude by saying the U.S. and the EPAA host nations — Turkey, Romania, Poland and Spain — have made tremendous progress implementing the EPAA.  Our joint contribution to the NATO Missile Defense System.  The EPAA assets will help defend NATO against ballistic missile threats from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.  It is not directed at or capable of undermining Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrent.

On that note, let me turn the floor over to Ambassador Lute, who will brief you on how missile defense fits into the larger NATO defense and deterrence framework.   Thank you very much.

Ambassador Lute:  Thanks very much, and to our Romanian host, thanks not only for this briefing, but more importantly for hosting this site, which will become operationally ready tomorrow.

Let me give you a couple of perspectives from NATO headquarters in Brussels, and the idea here is to give you a bit of a broader and deeper context to this one discrete event which is going to take place tomorrow.

So first of all, as the two previous speakers have described, this is not a short-term venture.  From NATO’s perspective, tomorrow was really begun at the Lisbon Summit in 2010 when NATO at 28 allies agreed with this concept, and six years later, tomorrow, we’re going to take a very important step in realizing that vision that our leaders had at Lisbon in 2010.

Second of all, this is not just about the site in Romania and it’s not just about the U.S.  This is a truly impressive display of alliance contribution.  We’ve already heard and I think you probably had access to this map that displays that this is a system of systems.  So one of the nodes on the system is Deveselu, but it’s not the only node.  It’s not a stand-alone facility.  It works in concert with the detection radar down in Turkey, with the four ships that are home based in Spain, with the command and control center in Germany, and with other allied contributions that complement those missile defense specific systems.  So this is a real system of systems and a large number of the 28 allies — not just the U.S. and Romania alone — are contributing to this picture.

In the broader picture at NATO headquarters, however, missile defense is just one element of a spectrum of capabilities that NATO is developing to deal with new and emerging threats all along what we call in NATO headquarters an arc of instability that traces along the eastern through the southeastern and extends to the southern flanks of the alliance.

Now how is NATO going to deal with this?  Well, many of you will be at the Warsaw Summit in two months and the full story about how NATO will adapt itself and contend with these new challenges will be laid out at Warsaw.  But this missile defense system is an important element of the bigger program, and the bigger program really is described by a spectrum.  So imagine in your mind’s eye a spectrum that’s labeled 21st century or modern deterrence and defense.  What do we mean by that?

We mean that as NATO adapts, it’s got to adapt in several different realms.  The first realm, the center of the spectrum, if you will, is the conventional realm and that’s where the BMD system sits.  We’re deterring conventional ballistic missile strikes from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.  That’s important, but that’s not the only adaptation NATO is taking in the conventional forces realm.  In fact, the State Secretary mentioned the European Reassurance Initiative, which is a U.S. contribution over the last couple of years to reassure allies, especially those allies on the eastern flank.  You heard recently about a U.S. commitment for $3.4 billion next year that enhances the European Reassurance Initiative.  NATO at the Wales Summit in September of 2014 took important decisions in this conventional realm by what’s called the Readiness Action Plan, and we are deploying at sea, on the ground to include here in Romania, and in the air, across the eastern flank of the alliance, conventional capabilities to deter any potential aggressor.

So that’s an important part of what NATO is doing today.  But that’s also not the only part.  To the left of that spectrum, if you will, is the portion of the spectrum that counts on each of the 28 allies to do what they can to defend themselves and to be resilient as one of the 28 democracies in the alliance.

So there’s a whole series of steps underway headed to the Warsaw Summit having to do with building national resilience.  This is resistance to hybrid warfare, this is resistance to cyber attack and so forth.  So that work’s going on and that’s headed to Warsaw as well.

I think finally as you kind of complete this three-part spectrum, think about, or just be reminded that the alliance remains a nuclear alliance.  So there’s a nuclear portion of the deterrence and defense process that’s working its way towards the Warsaw Summit in just 60 days as well.

So if you’re still with me on this rather complicated spectrum, just appreciate that what you’ll see tomorrow and what you will likely report on tomorrow is just one node or one spot on the spectrum which extends all the way from national resilience through the alliance nuclear capability.

What does all this mean?  The fundamental message is that NATO is doing what it was designed to do 67 years ago, and that is to defend every one of the 28 allies.  This is embedded in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty which was signed in 1949.  And today, that Article 5 is just as important as it was in 1949.

Tomorrow, when we commission this site and bring it into an operationally ready status, will be the first time in NATO’s history that we have that kind of capability that is that comprehensive, and it is just another contribution to Article 5.  And fundamentally, tomorrow is all about NATO doing what it says it will do.

Article 5 says we will defend every ally.  An attack on one is an attack on all.  Tomorrow is a demonstration that the U.S., Romania, and the other allies contributing to the alliance missile defense system mean what Article 5 says.


Moderator:  Thank you, sir.  Thank you, gentlemen.  I appreciate your remarks.  Now we can open up to question and answer.

Media:  There is this thing that Romania hears: Russian nuclear capability in Crimea.  Which way or how would NATO respond to that?  Is it going to be attacks, or nuclear deterrence in some way?

A second question is: will you discuss in Warsaw or establish that a cyber attack is similar to military attack, and the response should be or could be military, not necessarily just a cyber response?

Ambassador Lute:  Let me take that one since it’s NATO, and let me take it in reverse order.

So first of all, at the Wales Summit in September of 2014 NATO has already decided the answer to your second question, which is a cyber attack may rise to the level of an Article 5 attack.  So we’ve taken that decision.  We haven’t gotten much more specific about that because there’s some value in ambiguity and not being too specific of what scale or a cyber attack of what type against which facilities.  But we have taken the policy decision that a cyber attack against one of the 28 allies may rise to the level of an Article 5 attack.

Now that’s quite an adaptation, by the way, because when the treaty was written in 1949 they weren’t talking about cyber attacks.  And by the way, they weren’t talking about ballistic missile attacks either.  So it demonstrates that the alliance is awake, paying attention, looking at its security environment and adapting as required.

Look, I don’t have any specific statement here about Russian nuclear posture and so forth, but fundamentally the reason the alliance today remains a nuclear alliance is to deter any nuclear activity or any nuclear threats to the alliance itself at 28.  So if you need any better justification for why NATO remains a nuclear alliance, it is simply that we have neighbors and we have potential opponents that are also nuclear powers, and fundamentally NATO’s nuclear capability has that singular purpose, which is to deter any aggression against the alliance.

Media:  Hi.  Benjamin is my name, from the Belfast Newsletter in Northern Ireland. I’ve got two questions.

There’s been so much emphasis on, in tone, I’m talking about the tone here, about reassuring Russia.  Given how aggressively Russia has behaved, should there not come a point when we are less almost apologetic, and defending ourselves?  That’s my first question.

My second question, for Ambassador Lute.  My first question was maybe for Assistant Secretary Rose.  I come from an island, one part of which is in NATO and the other part of which is not in NATO.  One very small part of Europe that’s not in NATO.  Yet given the success of NATO, 67 years old, do you have a messages at this time for those countries in Europe that are not in NATO and might one day be in NATO?

Assistant Secretary Rose:  Let me take the first part of that question and then I’ll turn it over to Ambassador Lute for the second part of the question.

With regards to Russia and our missile defenses, a lot of it just comes down to a couple of key things.  One, physics, technical capability.

One, we would have some very, very difficult challenges dealing with advanced Russian systems.  The Russians have been building advanced missile systems for a long time and they know how to do it well.  And if you look at the Operational Test and Evaluation Office at the Pentagon, their annual report, our missile defenses don’t have the technical capability to deal with that threat.

I would also note that they have large numbers of missiles.  So even if you wanted to design your missile defense capabilities against Russia — and the United States and NATO do not — you’re going to have significant challenges with the issue of the sophistication of their systems and the number of systems that they deploy.

Ambassador Lute:  Just to follow up on Frank.  The reason we’ve been explicit in our briefings to you and in our handouts and so forth, is that we know the Russian opposition to this site.  They’ve been very explicit.  We’ve been very explicit.  In a multi-year dialogue with them about what this system is, what it’s intended to do, and what it is not.  So I think you’ve probably seen our fact sheets and so forth.

So because we know the Russian objections, we thought we would be explicit in advance and simply lay out our side of the argument.  I don’t think we’re going to convince the Russians.  They’re certainly not going to persuade us.  So we’re trying to be what NATO wants to be, which is the responsible player here.  The player that abides by its international commitment.  The player that is predictable and mature in the Euro-Atlantic space.  So we’re just trying to do what I think you want NATO to do, which is be the responsible player.

With regard to other members, look, it’s a longstanding, in fact 67-year-old standing policy that the door for membership to NATO remains open to European democracies who can contribute to the collective defense, and in fact there will be a very good demonstration of that a week from tomorrow when the Council at 28 at the Foreign Ministers level convenes in Brussels and signs the accession protocol for our 29th member, Montenegro.  So the door remains open.  It begins with a national decision to seek membership as it did with Montenegro, as it did with all 28.  But that process remains open and viable for other European states.

Media:  Robin Emmott from Reuters.  Assistant Secretary Rose, could you give us an idea of what Iran is capable of?  What sort of range does it have?  Could it, say, hit Prague or could it have the accuracy to perhaps hit a NATO ship in the Black Sea?  Thank you.

Assistant Secretary Rose:  Thanks for that question.  Iran continues to develop, test, and deploy a full range of short, medium, and intermediate range capabilities.  Over the past couple of months you have seen a number of tests of their medium range systems.  Those systems can reach into parts of Europe, including Romania.

Furthermore, they also have a large number of short and medium range, shorter range missiles that can reach our allies and partners in the Gulf, and they continue to develop space launch capabilities.  And for those of you who understand the technical issues associated with space launched capabilities, those can easily be transformed into ballistic missile capabilities.

So the bottom line is this.  Iran continues to develop, test, and deploy a full range of ballistic missile capabilities and those capabilities are increasing in range and accuracy.

Media:  This is for the Ambassador.  From NPR.

The question I have is that many Romanians who I’ve spoken to over the last few days, while you’ve been very clear as have your colleagues about this not being something aimed at Russia, certainly that’s the impression most Romanians we’ve spoken to have had.  They feel comfortable, they feel it’s a deterrent, and they’re surprised to learn that in fact it can’t defend against a Russian missile.

I’m just wondering, is there some benefit to having Romanians feel that level of comfort that doesn’t exist?  A.  And B, in terms of the provocation question that Russia raises, the fact that this is being put on a former Soviet base, I mean why not put it on a base that’s built separately somewhere else in order not to provoke Russia?

Media:  It was not Soviet.  It was a Romanian base.

Media:  It was built by the Soviets, funded it back in the early ‘50s.

Media:  They contributed.  They did contribute.  It was a Romanian base always.

Ambassador Lute:  So the location of the base I’ll leave to the two experts here who were instrumental in negotiating the location itself.

Look, I don’t think there’s any value in advertising this to the Romanian people or the people of NATO as something that it is not.  So we’re simply trying to be explicit, candid, transparent, about what the system is and what it is not.  It would be un-NATO-like to advertise this as something that is simply artificial and not true.

So we believe that when you join NATO, you sign up for the democratic values on which the alliance is founded. One of those democratic values is being honest with our people and being a responsible player, and that’s simply what we’re trying to do.

Assistant Secretary Rose:  I’d just say with regards to the location, we took a look at a number of sites.  I think there were like 20 or 25 sites that we examined and we chose the site at Deveselu because it met a number of technical, operational, and support requirements.

State Secretary Ionită:  As you have said, we didn’t have Soviet troops on our territory, so it would have been impossible to have an American base on a Soviet-built base in Romania.  That base was always a Romanian base built in the ‘50s.

Media:  — Soviet money.  Because that is the history, if you look it up.

State Secretary Ionită:  I don’t say so.  In the ‘50s there were a lot of Romanian monies also, or if you are looking actually differently, in the ways in which Romania defined, succeeded actually, to heal the wounds after the Second World War.

Coming back at you to the core of your question, cooperation with Russia and what extent actually this issue is seen by different Romanian politicians.  I can tell you from the very beginning when we started negotiation with the Americans on this site, we said loudly and clearly that this project is not a directed against Russia.  Moreover, we’ve said that this project is developed in full transparency.  Not only towards Russia, but also towards other countries which are not part yet of NATO.  We said that this project will strengthen the security and the stability not only of Romania but also of the alliance and of the region as such.  And we said, as it was also underscored here during this briefing, that this system is designed to protect from threats coming from outside Europe.

So what you have said actually, the question marks which may exist in some minds of some politicians, actually they should not have been there if they would have followed strictly the development of this system.

And once again, Romania doesn’t seek confrontation, but cooperation with Russia. Provided that also Russia clearly understands to cooperate with us, take into consideration the full respect for the international rules north and regulations.

Media:  Russia and Romania severed ties from hosting the missile defense system in Deveselu, also Vladimir Putin said actually a month ago that Russia will counter NATO U.S. missile defense program by deploying weapons.  How do you comment on that?

Assistant Secretary Rose:  U.S. and NATO missile defenses are not directed at Russia nor are they technically capable of undermining Russia’s strategic deterrent.

Ambassador Lute:  I think your question demonstrates why we’ve tried to be transparent and explicit in the course of today, and you’ll hear it again tomorrow.  We are just trying to be mature and responsible here and declare what the site is and what it is not.

Now Russia’s a sovereign state, it can make its own declarations.  Then it’s up to the Romanian people to make their decisions.  But as has been made very explicit here, this really doesn’t have anything to do with Russia.  It’s not aimed at Russia, it’s not capable, it’s not intended.  It never was.  So we’re just trying to be transparent.

Media:  BBC.  I’m sorry to ask on a similar subject.  Are you able from the site in Romania and when the site in Poland is complete to look into Russian territory?  Is the system able to do that?

And, Ambassador Lute, what you mentioned earlier was the [European] Reassurance Initiative that is putting more troops into Europe because of Russia, which is all about Russia, isn’t it?  You’re pretty well fixed into Europe because of Russia.  You’re talking about Iran.  So it doesn’t sound like it’s very joined up if it’s not about Russia’s missile defense system.

Assistant Secretary Rose:  Again, we’ve had this discussion several times.  For a number of reasons like I outlined to your colleague from the Belfast paper, there are technical reasons why our systems do not have the capability to impact Russia’s strategic deterrent.

Media:  That’s not my question.  My question is: could you look into Russia territory with the sensors that you have?

Assistant Secretary Rose:  You know, what I would say is this.  We have a global set of sensors around the world that provide us global coverage.  The question is this.  Can we or do we have the capability with the sensors armed with the interceptors to negate Russia’s strategic deterrent?  And that is the concern that the Russians have.  And the answer to that is no.  Our missile defense capabilities, augmented with our sensor capabilities, do not have the technical capability to undermine Russia’s strategic deterrent.

Media:  I’m sorry.  You keep on saying strategic and people, you know, this is about short range and medium.  It’s different from [inaudible].

Assistant Secretary Rose:  What I would say, Russia’s key concern is that the U.S. and NATO will develop capabilities that will undermine its strategic deterrent.  If you look very, very closely at their arguments, that is their concern.  And that’s why we have been very very explicit.  Not just this administration, but the Bush administration, and the Clinton administration.

Ambassador Lute:  So I’ll let that technical argument stand on its own merit.

I think to some extent if you were here for previous briefings that went into the technical dimensions of the system of systems, there are elements of the system that are, that detect an early launch that get connected eventually to the interceptor.  That chain of events, from initial detection through launch, has to be complete and coherent and integrated in order to have any impact.  We don’t have that capability against Russian systems.

As I explained, NATO is doing more than ballistic missile defense.  Tomorrow, maybe today and tomorrow, we’re doing very heavy BMD.  But ERI, the European Reassurance Initiative, which is the U.S. annual contribution to bolstering NATO’s conventional deterrence and defense capability, especially in the east, is part and parcel of this same spectrum I tried to describe.  And it’s not closely integrated or linked to ballistic missile defense.  In fact, as we’ve already related the history of this, we agreed to what’s going to happen tomorrow in 2010.  And in 2010 we were still in constant and comprehensive conversations with the Russians about what BMD is and what it’s not, and we were hearing their arguments, which is one reason we know them so well.  And that conversation went on for three years after NATO took the decision to do what we’re going to do tomorrow and to create our ballistic missile defense system.

As Assistant Secretary Rose said, it was the Russian Minister of Defense in October of 2013 — I happened to be in the meeting — who surprised all of us a bit by saying “today I wish to announce that we’re walking out of these meetings.  We’re closing the door on NATO-Russia cooperation, and the dialogue having to do with ballistic missile defense.”

All of that came months before Crimea and months before the Donbas, which in turn triggered the European Reassurance Initiative and many of the conventional force steps that NATO is now taking.

So if you line up the sort of chronology of this, ballistic missile defense has been going on for years before ERI, and I think ERI is just another example, though, that NATO is not sleeping in Brussels.  NATO is there, it’s alert, it’s adaptive, it’s making reasonable changes like tomorrow, commissioning of the site; like ERI; like cyber; like hybrid warfare; and like maintaining a safe, effective and secure nuclear deterrent capability.  So we’re working at NATO headquarters across that entire spectrum.

Media:  Just one last question based on [inaudible].  I think what’s confusing all of us on this Russian and BMD is the following.  NATO’s taken all of the measures to meet, to [inaudible] with Russia on the air, on the land, on the sea, et cetera.  But when it comes to BMD you keep referring to nuclear.  Let’s leave the nuclear out of the question.  If I live in Romania or Bulgaria, my concerns would be less about a nuclear attack that’s very unlikely.  And Russia’s short and medium ballistic missiles.

So it seems to me that it would be a responsible thing to [inaudible] and its range of responsible defenses and responses to Russia.  So why the tortured language on BMD?

Assistant Secretary Rose:  Let me start first by saying, let me clarify something.  There is a treaty called the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and it is a bilateral treaty between the U.S. and Russia.  And what that treaty says is this: the U.S. and Russia and several of the other former Soviet successor states agree not to develop, test, or deploy missiles with a range of between 500 kilometers and 5500 kilometers.

Now many of you are well aware that in July of 2014 the U.S. declared Russia in non-compliance of its obligations not to test a ground launched cruise missile with a range of between 500 and 5500 kilometers.  Now they are allowed to have ballistic missiles with a range of below 500 kilometers.

Now we have been trying to use diplomacy to bring the Russians back into compliance and we continue to look at diplomatic options.

So I just think that it’s really important to say that the Russians should not have any short range missiles and medium range missiles between 500 and 5500 kilometers.

So this is an issue that has been out there.  But fundamentally what our focus is with regard to the U.S. missile defense program and NATO missile defense program is dealing with ballistic missiles from outside the Euro-Atlantic area.

So I just wanted to clarify that because I do hear some questions about the Russian medium range ballistic missiles.  They’re not supposed to have medium range ballistic missiles under the INF Treaty.

What I will say is, number one, we have declared them in non-compliance of their obligations under the INF Treaty. We are continuing to try to use diplomacy to bring them back into compliance.  But let me say also one more thing, and that’s the New Start Treaty.  Despite the challenges that we are having with Russia across the board, whether it be the INF Treaty, whether it be Ukraine, implementation of the New Start Treaty, which was the Strategic Nuclear Arms Reduction Treaty that the U.S. and Russia signed in 2010 that limits our operationally deployed nuclear warheads, is going well.  On-site inspections in both the United States and Russia continue.  We continue to exchange notifications with regards to movement of our strategic forces as required by the treaty.  And the Bilateral Consultative Commission that was established by the treaty to work through implementation issues continues to work and continues to solve a lot of these implementation issues.

That’s not to say we don’t have problems in other areas, but with regards to strategic stability I think both the U.S. and Russia, despite our differences, think it’s in our mutual interest to prevent misperceptions and miscalculations with regards to strategic nuclear weapons.

Ambassador Lute:  Let me just add a couple of points on that.

It is useful to remember that at least for what, 60 years or so, both the United States and our NATO allies and even as NATO has enlarged over that period, all our NATO allies, have lived under the potential threat of Russian nuclear weapons.  I mean this is older than probably anybody in this room.  So this is not a new reality and it’s not new because we open the site tomorrow.  This has been a Cold War reality and it remains to this day.

When you ask, well why are we so explicit about this system not having an effect on the Russian deterrent is because for those same 60 years or so, we’ve enjoyed relative stability in the nuclear regime, the nuclear standoff between sort of east and west.

We don’t wish to do anything that could potentially destabilize that deterrent regime.  So we’re explicit that we’re not meddling in anything that could be perceived as potentially destabilizing.  And we so value that deterrent stability.

So it’s the belief that we have that the nuclear deterrent regime must remain stable and not be destabilized in any way, even by perception, that we’re being very explicit today.

Moderator:  We’re about out of time.  I wanted to thank the panelists for their time spent.  And we thank you all for the great questions.