Operator: Welcome to the Atlantic Council Members and Press Call. Please be aware that each of your lines is in a listen-only mode. We will open the lines for questions following the speakers’ opening remarks. Please remember to press “star” then “one” on your telephone keypad to ask a question. 

Questions will be taken in order in which they are received. Please be sure to introduce yourself when asking a question.  I will now turn the call over to the Atlantic Council who will introduce the call and begin our discussion.  Andrew Marshall, please go ahead.

Andrew Marshall: Thank you very much. My name is Andrew Marshall; I’m the vice president for communications at the Atlantic Council.  Welcome everybody to this press and members call subject of the NATO leader’s meeting here in London where we sit on White Hall on a beautiful winter’s afternoon.

I’m here with Alexander Vershbow, former Deputy Secretary General to NATO amongst many distinguished appointments.  Christopher Skaluba who is the director of the Trans-Atlantic Security Initiative and Lauren Speranza who is the deputy director of the Trans-Atlantic Security Initiative.  

We are going to talk for a few minutes.  I’m going to ask each of our experts about their views about the meeting and then we will turn it over to questions.  We will have a procedure for taking questions which the operator will explain when we get to that point.

So Sandy, starting with you, this meeting has been as often an extraordinary mixture of substance and theater.  What’s your verdict at the end of the day? The declaration is out; you’ve seen it and had a chance to take a look.  You’re a veteran of these occasions.  What do you think?

Alexander Vershbow: Well thank you very much Andrew.  I think like spring sometimes described this meeting went in like a lion and out like a lamb despite a lot of the gloomy predictions and a lot of the rhetoric and recriminations that were exchanged up to yesterday. The meeting itself ended on a very positive note with I think all the leaders determined to project unity to avoid drama and they did, indeed, issue a pretty substantial declaration that set the agenda for the future.

It’s important to remember where we began. The Brussels Summit in 2018 ended on a very tense note when President Trump kind of kicked over the table on the second day and denounced the other allies for being freeloaders and not living up to the commitments to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense and he hinted that the U.S. might be prepared to walk out of NATO so allies were worried about having another such meeting and decided to lower expectations for this one and not even call it a summit.

Keep the agenda very brief and the meeting to just three hours.  And the main goal is to kind of celebrate NATO’s 70th birthday and get out of town as quickly as possible with hopefully none of the drama of 2018. 

But the run up to this meeting didn’t follow the script and the Disruptor in Chief was joined by French President Macron and Turkish President Erdogan as those who threaten to disrupt this meeting and Macron, of course, gave his now famous interview to the economist calling NATO brain dead which I think reflected a lot of concerns among allies, not just the French, about the reliability of U.S. leadership in the wake of the decision to green light the Turkish operation against the Kurds in Northern Syria without any consultation with other allies who had troops on the ground in the coalition.

Erdogan himself was dissatisfied with allies unwillingness to declare the Kurdish militia as a terrorist group which was an awkward situation for the U.S. and others because we were relying on those Kurdish militias to defeat ISIS.  So it looked like a potentially storm affair going into this meeting and it reflected a bit of a paradox because NATO in the last three years has actually become a much stronger and more cohesive organization on the military side but the problems that exist and they still exist after this meeting, are more on the political side.

But I think allies were, as I said, determined to close ranks, minimize their differences in terms of the public message and to issue a statement which sets in motion a number of initiatives that could help manage these differences going forward and that’s what NATO has always managed to do in the past.

Secretary General stressed that there’s always disagreements where democratic alliance with now 29 and soon 30 members. Differences are an everyday matter but NATO usually manages to overcome them because the strength and effectiveness and credibility of NATO is too important to put at risk.

Andrew Marshall: Thank you Sandy.  Chris, we talked a bit about alliance unity and the way that politically the alliance has managed to largely come together on this occasion.  What about looking to the future? 

NATO as an organization has been in pains over the last few years to show that it’s relevant, to show that it’s looking to the future and not just celebrating the past so this event was about the 70th birthday for the organization but it was also about the future vision.

How far have they gone in sketching that vision?  What’s been achieved with that?  What markers have been put down?

Christopher Skaluba:  Thanks Andrew.  I think on that scale, this leader’s meeting will be looked upon as a success in the sense that I think the organizers being NATO and the (inaudible) government really wanted to do three things as I saw going into the summit. 

The first was to celebrate 70 years in the alliance at the level of testing – a big celebration of course happened back in Washington in April at the foreign ministers meeting but they needed to acknowledge that at the sitting government which they did. 

Secondly, I think they wanted to reaffirm kind of the current direction in terms of what they’re doing vis-à-vis Russia and so there’s strong language and declaration outlook on Russia and on readiness of forces. 

But then the last piece, and I think the most important piece for them was to try to sketch out (envision) show that NATO is not some relic of the Cold War, but very much engaged in looking forward. 

So, when you look at the declaration, when you look at some of the (sudden) (events), including the event the Atlantic Council did yesterday on (innovating) the alliance, there was lots of talk about emerging tech.  There’s a mention of 5G, there’s this declaration of space as an operational domain, which is pretty critical.  There’s a mention of cyber, and then I think there’s two other things what are notable, with respect to your question. 

First, is the first ever mentioned in 70 years, the alliance of China, as an actor that has to be accounted for.  I think the language was pretty diplomatic, they got it to a good place, but clearly it’s on the NATO agenda now, because they — there’s a sense that China could be a security threat. 

And then, of course, there’s this idea of a group of experts which will come together to try to reconcile the various view points in the alliance to think about a strategy for NATO in the future.  So, pretty high marks on the sense of looking forward.

Andrew Marshall:       Thank you Chris.  Lauren, Sandy talked a little about the comments made in advance of the meeting by (Erdogan) and Macron.  (Eddogan) making a point that was very important for Turkey about Turkish security and about how Turkey approached the meeting with it’s own trade-offs.  Macron talking about whether or not the alliance was brain dead, but the substance of his point really being about Europe, (in his own defense I could see it), and defense (strategies). 

How did those play out in this?  Were they major disruptors as people had feared?  Are those things that will continue to be issues for NATO?

Lauren Speranza: Thanks Andrew.  Well, I think on the France question, of course President Macron’s comments did have a big impact, they really shook the alliance.  And, I think, he called them a wake-up call, but I think it did force us to have a conversation about where the alliance is strategically, and it actually sort of had an interesting effect when we looked at President Trump’s sort of posture and comments in his press conference with Secretary General Stotlenberg and also with President Macron. 

He really took an important shift, I think, in terms of how he’s talk about the alliances progress on the issue of (burden) sharing, which was, of course, the most important priority for the United States and has been for a while, not just under President Trump, but of course President Trump has been perhaps most focused on this. 

And I think he really talked about this as sort of a champion of NATO and the progress that the alliance has made on this, with a lot of credit to Secretary General Stotlenberg and what he’s been able to do across the alliance on this.  And I think that was really important. 

We did see some of that kind of progress (forwarded), actually yesterday evening when we looked at the dinner that happened at Buckingham Palace, where there was a controversy about sort of some the European leaders reacting to, what we assume as President Trump, but I think that representative of kind of the normal kind of disagreements that happen within NATO and those dynamics (inaudible) for a long time. 

Of course, anytime you get 29 countries together and try and get them on the same page, there’s going to be issues of disagreement, but I think that in the long-run the alliance has shown that it’s able to get through these kinds of issues, and I think this summit was a good demonstration of that.

Andrew Marshall: Thank you Lauren.  Over to Sandy, who I think had a point to make about all this. 

Alexander Vershbow: Yes, I wanted to just second what Lauren said about Trump kind of undergoing a conversion it seemed, in support of NATO, because I think this paradox that I mentioned before, NATO getting stronger on the military side, but getting more fragmented on the political side, reflected the fact that, despite all the good decisions that were taken on readiness of forces and dealing with cyber defense and hybrid warfare, all these things that NATO is stepping up to, there was no clarity that President Trump actually felt any sense of ownership. 

And that’s why the rumors that he might be (musing) about leaving NATO were taken very seriously.  But, perhaps, Macron prodded him into taking the high road during these days in London.

He talked about NATO as having great purpose and praised its flexibility.  He talked about the importance of a broader agenda, which is think is very much in sync with Macron, with Erdogan and many other leaders, that we have to deal with the threat from Russia, but also deal with terrorism, deal with the rise in China and many other threats.

So, like a reformed smoker, maybe he’ll be an even more committed advocate for NATO going forward.  I wouldn’t bet my life savings on that, but I think it was a striking conversion that we saw during the press conference with Macron.

Andrew Marshall: Good point, Sandy.  Can I just ask the operator to outline for everybody the process for asking questions, and then going to ask a few more questions of my own.  But, just so that people are aware how to ask questions.

Operator: If you would like to ask a question over the telephone lines, please press “star” then “1” on your telephone keypad. 

Andrew Marshall: Thank you very much.  I’m just going to come back to one issue that was raised there, about the incident at the Palace last night, in the (inaudible), which is obviously dominating social media today.  The clear tensions between the president and other leaders, and I’m going somewhat unfairly ask Sandy, as a veteran. 

Sandy, it’s not exactly the first time that there has been personal tensions between a U.S. president and his European counterparts, is it?  I — in my career was President Reagan, President Bush, at times President Clinton, this is — this is not the first time, is it?

Alexander Vershbow: No, and these things happen.  I think it’s always a cautionary note for politicians who should know better not to talk so freely when there might be a hot mic near by. 

But the personal dynamics can often be strained between any U.S. President and European leaders.  In this case, Donald Trump is a unique character.  I think the potential ripple effect of this could be based on the fact that the President is fairly thinned skinned when it comes to public criticism. But I think it was relatively light hearted and hopefully won’t have any lasting effects.

Andrew Marshall: So we have two questions, I’m expecting some more.  Can we go, please, to the first question?

Operator:         Your first question comes from the line of (Howard Lafranchy) of the Christian Science Monitor.  Your line is open.

(Howard Lafranchy):  Sorry, I was on mute.  Yes, yes, sorry, I was on mute.  Yes, so I was wondering if you could discuss a little bit more this first time mention of China.  Was it simply a one off, a one line mention, or what kind of thread?

Does it get more into details of China’s growing role in infrastructure in the NATO countries and 5G (inaudible)? What — how is this mention of China, how is that characterized?

Andrew Marshall: Chris.

Christopher Skaluba:  Thanks Andrew.  So, the declaration itself, unlike many NATO documents, is actually very succinct and punchy.  So there’s nothing mentioned in great detail. 

However, the line on China; let me just read it to you so you’re aware because we recognize that China’s growing (inaudible) and international policies present the most opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an alliance.

So nothing terrible provocative, but NATO statements don’t tend to be in that way, and I expect the conversation behind the scenes was much more, as you entailed, what is the threat of 5G, what are Chinese investment infrastructure, can they be turned into political or economic leverage down the road?

But the fact that the alliance has been around for 70 years and never dealt with China as a threat and then suddenly it shows up on the agenda, I think is a strong sign that there’s real discussion there.

I think the other element (inaudible) is that NATO often goes where the U.S. wants to drive it. China in security circles is the main topic of discussion in Washington these days. And so for NATO to be relevant to the United States, it’s going to have to address China in some ways and I think that’s what we’re seeing today.

Andrew Marshall: Thank you.  Lauren, did you have anything to add to that?

Lauren Speranza: Yes.  Maybe just to underscore the points that Chris made, because I think that’s exactly right. 

And I think while the summit declaration itself didn’t necessarily call out China as a military threat, it’s really just an acknowledgement that it’s a growing economic and security power that NATO really needs to be paying attention to, the kinds of trends that we’ve been seeing in a more focused way.

And I think it also shows the significant role that NATO can play as at the platform for trans Atlantic dialogue on key issues.  And that’s the more (inaudible) approach that we have seen to the alliance is whether or not there’s a direct military role for (Grenado) to play, is actually the broader value of the trans Atlantic alliance to be able to come together on issues that matter, come up with a common approach and deal with those things.

Andrew Marshall: Thank you very much. And we have, I think, a second question and (inaudible) ask the operator to outline again, the process for asking questions.

Operator: Again, if you would like to ask a question, please press star then one on your telephone keypad.  Your next question comes from the line of (Stephen Airlanger) of the New York Times. Your line is open.

(Stephen Airlanger):    Hello you all.  Calling from London.  I just wondered whether any of you felt, or all of you felt that (Macrall’s) diagnoses of increasing American indifference to Europe has validity.  Even if you don’t necessarily support his prescription.

Andrew Marshall: Challenging question as always, (Steve). Zandy and then Chris.

Alexander Vershbow: I think the short answer is yes.  Clearly there is trans Atlantic differences on a lot of issues and even though NATO has rallied behind a unified agenda and has agreed on some important steps.

I think there is an underlying concern about the strength of U.S. commitments and even with the conversion by President Trump that I spoke of earlier, whether this commitment is going to be sustained for the long term, particularly if the President is re-elected.

But I think the allies have an opportunity here to take the U.S. at the President’s new words and try to carry out the kinds of adaptations and reforms that are implicit in this Summit Declaration to make NATO as valuable for the U.S as it is for the Europeans. 

I think the burden sharing issue often focuses exclusively on the defense spending issue.  But it’s also about NATO’s relevance.  Will NATO be in terms of it’s mission as relevant to the U.S. as it is to the Europeans? 

Whether you’re a East European or  a Southern European, can’t, it has to be also be serving U.S. interest.  And that’s where the China decision is important.  It may not everything the U.S. was hoping for because I think allies are reluctant to label China as an adversary.  But they are coming to recognize that (inaudible). 

Male:   Whoops, lost you.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, (inaudible) one moment please.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are still experiencing technical difficulties the program will begin again shortly.  Ladies and gentlemen, the speakers are back online.  Please go ahead.

Andrew Marshall: I’m sorry about that.  I hope it’s not somebody trying to cut off our voice at this critical time.  But I suspect it’s more to do with the telephone equipment.  So I think (Steve) is still on the line.  Chris would you just go back over the point that you were making about burden sharing and about where that sits (inaudible).

Christopher Skaluba:  Sure.  What I said was that I’m, I am sympathetic to (McCrone) in some ways.  I think as a (party) professional I get frustrated when we spend a lot of our time and energy focusing on things like burden sharing which I don’t think is strategically critical in the whole scheme of things.  And less time focusing on (subjects of) debates.  But the fact that he was so provocative makes me wonder what his end game is.  Because when you look at the security landscape in Europe, the Brits are going through Brexit and clearly don’t want to follow the French on anything, much less security. 

The Germans made very clear that they’re uncomfortable with (McCrone’s) statements and his approach to NATO in recent weeks.  If you talk to the Nordic States or the Baltic States or the Poles they don’t envision European Security without American influence and American participation.  So while I understand that you can be provocative and (still go) debate a little bit there may be some healthy things that came out of that.  I don’t really see a vision of European Security led by the French because I don’t think he has many followers. 

Andrew Marshall: Thank you.  Lauren, did you have a point to add about that?

Lauren Speranza: I was just maybe add that it did, as Chris said, lead to a broader conversation about the alliances future and I think that is a healthy debate to have right now. 

And I think this drew attention to those competing ideas and priorities inside the alliance that perhaps was the base of (inaudible) what we saw coming out of the Summit Declaration for this idea of a forward looking reflection process.  It’s going to pay attention to the political dimension of the alliance and refocusing that so that we can all move forward on the same page.  So perhaps with a useful outcome of those (comments).

Andrew Marshall: Thank you.  So if I can ask the operator to just explain again how to ask questions and then we’ll go over to the next question, please.

Operator: Again, if you would like to ask questions over the phone lines please press “star” and then “1” on you telephone key pad.  Your next question comes from of (Arwin Lochadek) of (Yalata Counsel).  Your line is open. 

(Arwin Lochadek): Yes, hi, everybody on here.  (Inaudible) segway from what Lauren was just saying there about (inaudible) seven that is (inaudible).  Are we saying that it amounts to the first stepping stone towards a new strategy concept?  After the one 2010 or is it less clear on your mind. 

And second, do you see looking at this (strong) statement here is there anything that (strikes) you that looking at how the Americans, the French, and the Turks (surely) needed a win from this. Is there anything that strikes you that you could see (fingerprints) of any of those (frequent) (inaudible) on the controlling volume we are expecting some language that doesn’t show up here and would suggest that in terms of winners and losers in that declaration.  Thank you.

Alexander Vershbow: Yes, this is Sandy Vershbow.  I think that on the first question, I don’t read this as a stepping stone toward a new strategic concept. 

It seems to have a much narrower focus mainly on the political dimension, political side of NATO activities including the political consultations, which I think were one of the things that (McCrone) was complaining about that the U.S. was and other allies were taking decisions that effect the security of other allies without consulting with them.

Now it could, if successful lead to a new task and to review the strategic concept, which is showing it’s age after nine years.  And the terrain may change on that question after the U.S. presidential elections because I think this exercise will run for a little over a year once the Secretary General sets the guidelines.

On the second point, I think the statement doesn’t have any big wins for anyone.  I think it’s a balanced statement that reflects the usual negotiating process that NATO and the drafting stage.  I think that for Macron who wanted to kind of shift the priority of the threat assessment from Russia to terrorism, the formula in the third paragraph is actually quite balanced talking about Russia’s aggressive actions, terrorism as a persistent threat.  It talks about non-state actors that threaten the international rule of (based order).

So I think it’s sort of showing that the threats are kind of equal significance and each nation may define its priorities on its own.  I think that this for some allies such as Germany who are interested in arms control, in dialogue with Russia there are references to that even with the strong language condemning the Russian violation of the INF Treaty.

I think the inclusion of space and the mention of 5G is important to the United States even though we’re still far from an alliance consensus on how to deal with the 5G issue, but I think it is a reflection of reality that space is becoming an operational domain because the dependence of allied militaries on space-based assets.

Andrew Marshall: And Chris, you had a comment.

Christopher Skaluba:  Hi, everyone.  Nice talking to you.  I think I’d endorse everything that Sandy said.  I might just say one interesting dynamic is that we were concerned that these three presidents – Trump, Macron, Erdogan – might all be disruptive at the leaders meeting for different reasons, but the one thing they all have in common that’s concerning to the rest of the alliance is this somewhat concerning or more accommodating approach to Putin in Russia, and that takes different strands in terms of how they approach it, but what’s interesting to me is despite the fact that they all for different reasons want to be a little bit softer on Russia when you read the declaration, there is Russia named as a threat front and center in multiple ways.

And so, I am – I’m relatively pleased that we didn’t lose too much of a focus on Russia even as we expanded for discussion to talk about some other things.

Andrew Marshall: Did you have (anything to add on)?  I’m actually going to ask a couple of questions.  The first is just to ask again just to bring up this question about Russia.  We – (at the NATO engages) event that we held yesterday with a number of national – NATO national leaders and others, Russia was an undercurrent.  It wasn’t I would say the main theme of the day, but it was a strong undercurrent.

Russia is – was the adversary for many years for NATO.  There’s been a process of rethinking that tension has risen again over the last few years, especially post the events in Ukraine.  Is it really the case that Russia has ceased to be the adversary in that case or are we rethinking how we deal with Russia from within NATO?  Chris?

Christopher Skaluba:  I think there’s no way the alliance could be credible at this point in time without seeing Russia as the number one threat on the agenda, and I think that was reflected in the declaration.  I think that was reflected in a lot of the activities that NATO is currently undertaking whether it’s the (raised) initiatives, the 430s, the Baltic defense planning.

The bread and butter of the alliance right now and it has been since 2014 is preparing to deter Russia in a serious way, but NATO is a large alliance with a lot of priorities, and it needs to balance that against looking to the future a little bit, looking to other potential competitors like China, making sure that it’s not just operating in a classic Cold War fashion looking at the (full gap), but of course looking at where wars are being fought currently in the hyperspace, in the cyberspace, and actual real space.  And so, I think even some of these references to the future are, in fact, implicating Russia as well.

Andrew Marshall: Lauren, you had a follow up.

Lauren Speranza: Actually it was Chris’s last point there.  I think while we might not be focusing in the same way on the conventional threat from Russia because I think we have made a lot of progress, as you said, Chris, on all those things, a lot of the conversation has focused on things like cyber and hybrid and other things that are not only Russia but have a Russia undercurrent, as you said, Andrew. 

So I think that the way we are approaching Russia now is much more comprehensive in terms of the kind of threats that are being posed by Russia to the alliance.  So I think that’s (a possible sign).

Andrew Marshall: My second question is about another country that we haven’t much discussed, which is the United Kingdom.  The United Kingdom had originally hoped that this event was going to be held after the Brexit decision had been taken.  This is the city where I believe originally NATO was supposed to be headquartered.  The U.K.’s membership of NATO is critical – has long been critical as an anchor of its foreign policy.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had hoped that this would be a meeting that would look to future and that would show London as a strong, international power.  Sandy, do you feel that the U.K. has made a good share of running the event, and do you feel that the U.K. has come through as a credible, important player as part of this discussion?

Alexander Vershbow: I do think the U.K. has done a good job organizing the meeting, and I think the fact that it ended on a positive note will kind of retroactively validate the decision to have it here.  It clearly wasn’t much of a political event as sort of a coming out for a post-Brexit Britain as might have been the plan and because Macron stole some of the thunder. 

And part of his agenda was one that is not so congenial to U.K. views, which is more autonomous European defense.  But the fact that that didn’t carry the day may be seen as sort of a positive outcome from the U.K. point of view.

But I think if the – as some of the (WAGs) were saying, the main concern was that the president of the United States not interfere in the U.K. election campaign.  With a few minor rhetorical slips, I think Prime Minister Johnson can breathe a sigh of relief.

Andrew Marshall:       Excellent.  So we’re coming towards the end of our time.  I’m going to ask each of you, starting with Chris, then Lauren, then Sandy to just sum up and whether there are any points – (if there are) any points you don’t feel (we’ve) gone over in the last 40 minutes.

Christopher Skaluba:  Thanks, Andrew.  I think I would just say that, stepping back as objectively – (as possible) as I can be, the final word on the summit is success.  Even if there was a small failure in terms of structuring and such, there wasn’t much kind of family disruption.  We had the bizarre photo sprees and we had some provocative statements.  We had the unfortunate hot mic at Buckingham Palace.

But for the most part, what really matters with respect to defense and security in NATO are actions.  And it feels like NATO is walking away from London with a very concrete action plan, which is balanced against the present as well as thinking about the future. 

And it’s walking away from London in a much different place, as Sandy referenced before, as it did in Brussels in 2018 with the U.S. president saying positive things and seeming committed to the alliance.  So that’s a clear win for this leaders meeting.

Andrew Marshall: Lauren?

Lauren Speranza: Sure, I think – I think Chris is spot on.  And I think if I could just, maybe borrow from the secretary general, he mentioned on our stage at NATO Engages yesterday that NATO has suffered some bad rhetoric but actually has a lot of good substance.  And I think that that is a really demonstrative statement in terms of where the alliance is right now and some of the outcomes of this summit.

I would say that I do think, actually, that we’re starting to see European countries and leaders sort of adapt to the more unconventional leadership that we are seeing from the United States.  And I think we’ve seen some of those positive developments come out in the summit, as we’ve already discussed.

But I think, looking to the future, this is going to play out in interesting ways in terms of the U.S.’s engagement and Trump’s, in particular, engagement with allies because we’re starting to see what I think is an interesting conflation between some of the other Transatlantic issues, like trade for instance. 

We’ve seen the president in press conferences from the bilats at the summit talking about if allies don’t hold up their defense commitments then he’ll hit them with trade.  And that’s an issue where he thinks that he holds all the cards. 

And so I think that we could see some interesting interplay between some of those issues that are not traditionally NATO but are Transatlantic and have implications for the way the U.S. engages Europe. So I think that’s just something to watch as we come out of the summit and go to implementation of these actions.

Andrew Marshall: Sandy, the last word to you.

Alexander Vershbow: Thanks.  I think it will go down in history as a successful meeting and kind of a demonstration, again, of the alliance’s ability to adapt, even to surprises on the eve of meetings like this.

And I think that even though President Macron’s remedy for the problems he diagnosed in his interview weren’t accepted, namely a shift towards greater E.U. responsibility for defense, I think his provoking of a debate about NATO’s purposes and its priorities will in the end be seen as helpful and will probably give some impetus to this reflection process that was agreed by the – by the leaders.

And it could help address some problems which are still not easy to resolve.  The (balance) between Russia and terrorism as the two major threats, I think this – the summit kind of had something for everyone on that. 

Both are important and NATO has to continue to engage in strengthening its deterrence posture against Russia.  Dealing with the hybrid threat, which may be the more immediate challenge from Russia.  But also continue to play its role in the coalition against ISIS and in other ways to fight terrorism.

I think that there are still questions to be resolved on what’s going to be the NATO stance on arms control going forward.  That could be a divisive issue with the Trump administration.  And exactly what the next steps are in dialogue with Russia, given that Russia doesn’t seem to be interested in addressing any of NATO’s concerns since the invasion of Ukraine in 2014.

(And maybe) one issues that’s not mentioned at all in this declaration is Ukraine, which is the reason why we have gone back to basics on defense and deterrence.  And of course, I don’t think this is because of U.S. domestic politics surrounding Ukraine.  I think it’s that there was so many other issues raised by the – by the nations here that it didn’t fit. 

But I think if we’re ever going to have a better relationship with Russia, the Russians are going to have to change their tune on their occupation of the Donbas.  And even though that wasn’t stated in this declaration, I hope that will remain a strong and firm NATO position.

Andrew Marshall: Thank you very much, Sandy.  Thank you very much, Chris.  Thank you, Lauren.  Thank you, everyone, for attending.  If you have further questions or thoughts [email protected] is the e-mail for the communications group.  Thank you very much, everybody, and goodbye.

Operator: This concludes today’s conference call.  You may now disconnect.

END