NSC Advisor O'Brien: "Assad is a very bad actor"

 

Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center hosted U.S. National Security Council Advisor Ambassador Robert O'Brien,Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs for a "View from the West Wing" conversation about both national security and the process for managing the National Security Council in our turbulent time.

President of Atlantic Council, Fred Kempe, and Former National Security Advisor Steven Heydemann made opening remarks and CBS News Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent and Face the Nation Moderator Margaret Brennen moderated the program.

"Assad is a very bad actor,Iranians who are up to their ears are terrible actors,the Russians are not helping the situation, and Turks are not helping the situation. Erdogan and Putin, who have an interesting relationship, sometimes they are the best of friends and sometimes they are not. It is really up to them to work that situation out," Ambassador O'Brien said.

Margaret Brennan asked Ambassador O'Brien what the U.S. is doing about the violence in Idlib, Syria. "I do not think we are going to intervene militarily in Idlib to straighten out that bad situation,What are we supposed to do to stop them? We're supposed to be a global policeman and hold up a sign and say stop this Turkey, stop this Russia?" Ambassador O'Brien said.

U.S.-China Relations:

Ambassador Robert O'Brien admitted that the Chinese Government promised purchases under the Phase 1 trade deal will be reduced as a result of the growing health emergency.

"This could have an impact on phase one deal. It's not going to change the phase one deal. It's just we expect that is part of the phase one deal. China will expend more money on U.S. agricultural products. And we'll have to see how that plays out, "Ambassador O'Brien said.

Ambassador O'Brien said:" We've offered American doctors and experts to China to assist with coronavirus, but the offer has not yet been accepted."

He also highlighted that the U.S. would like to see North Korea its Singapore Summit commitments, and they are open for another summit If there's an opportunity to make progress.

Ambassador O'Brien believes that It's time for America to come home, and we wanted to come back under conditions that keep in place protections for our colleagues and our partners in Afghanistan. We want to make sure Afghanistan doesn't become a safe-haven for terrorism again."

Restructuring NSC

In his address, U.S. National Security Advisor Robert reported that the National Security Council was in the final stages of a reorganization that would get it "back to a manageable size. In the last five months of the Trump Administration, White House National Security Council has shrunk from over 175 policy staffers to 115 staffers. He also explained how NSC is working under his leadership.

Regarding the recent Philippines decision ending its military cooperation agreement with the United States, Ambassador O'Brien said that the United States would remain a strong partner in the Philippines. We are there to help the Philippines."

Pictures taken by Ali Cinar,Atlantic Council

NATO Leaders Meeting in London and the Future of NATO

NATO Heads of State and Government meeting in London witnessed some groundbreaking declarations. During the meeting, it was announced that North Macedonia would join the organization as its 30th member and for the first time, China's rising power became the subject of a joint declaration which stated that "China’s growing influence and international policies present both opportunities and challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance”. 

"We have been able to change when the world is changing," said Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO, underlining that NATO is the most successful alliance in history. Stoltenberg further stated that the defense expenditures have increased and there is only one platform for North America and Europe to discuss and make decisions.

In the joint declaration, countries have agreed on solidarity and Moscow's withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was also touched upon, underlining that Russia's worrying activities pose a threat to the Euro-Atlantic security.

It was underlined that NATO members have increased the number of initiatives to protect their sovereignty in both the aerial and naval domains and that NATO's defensive and dissuasive powers are continuing to being strengthened with nuclear, conventional and missile defensive capabilities. In addition, the commitment to the 5th article of the Washington Treaty which promises that "an armed attack against one member state is an armed attack against all members" was reiterated 

The Trump-Erdogan Meeting

The latest developments between Turkey and the USA were addressed in this unexpected meeting which took place over the course of NATO Heads of State and Government meeting. While the USA was represented by Pompeo - the Secretary of State- and O'Brien - the National Security Advisor -, Yildirim - former prime minister -, Cavusoglu - Minister of Foreign Affairs -, Albayrak - Minister of Finance -, Akar - Minister of National Defence -, Dr. Altun - Communication Director of the Presidency - and Kalin - Presidential Spokesman - were present to represent Turkey.

During the Trump-Erdogan meeting, which was the second face-to-face meeting of the leaders in a month, NATO's co-operation was discussed once again.

The Merkel-Johnson-Erdogan-Macron Meeting

Following the suggestion of President Erdogan, Boris Johnson - Prime Minister of the UK - hosted a quadruple summit where the before mentioned leaders came together with Emmanuel Macron - President of France - and Angela Merkel - Chancellor of Germany - to discuss Syria. In the joint declaration that was presented at the end of the meeting which lasted over an hour, it was stated that the countries agreed on ceasing the attacks that target the civilians all over Syria, including Idlib. While the second quadruple summit is planned to be held in Turkey in February 2020, and Turkey watches Europe's lack of action with concern, in regards to events that are taking place in Syria. 

Turkey's YPG-PKK Sensitivity

An issue was raised about Turkey's initial refusal to back Baltic defense plan over YPG-PKK matter, and the country's later approval for the before mentioned plan. Yet the Turkish side declared that the previous statements made in regards to the correlation between YPG and PKK by the NATO members are still valid, and that the countries have agreed upon certain issues.

However, the disagreements over YPG-PKK matter between the USA and Turkey continue to exist. While some American military authorities and diplomats acknowledge the correlation between YPK and PKK, YPG is being segregated when it comes to Syria.

The sincere support of NATO members to Turkey's fight against terror is important. Otherwise, the presence of the trust issue between certain members will continue to exist.

Trump's Sensitivity to the NATO Budget

After President Trump had taken office and criticized that the NATO member countries are not fair when it comes to NATO's budget, the budget issue had come to the forefront.

This year, NATO members, who have increased their defense expenditures continuously for the last 5 years, increased their defense expenditures by 4.6% in real terms. The number of countries allocated 2% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to defense expenditures has increased to 9. These countries are Bulgaria (3.25 %), Greece (2.28%), England (2.14%), Estonia (2.14%) , Romania (2.04%), Lithuania (2.03%) , Latvia (2.01%) and Poland (2%).

Additionally, Trump got together with leaders of these 9 countries for a dinner as a mean to thank them.

This year the defense expenditures of NATO members surpass $984 billion. While Turkey's budget is $18 billion, the USA single-handedly contributes 70% of NATO's defense expenditure by spending $685 billion 99 million.

 

The 30th Member North Macedonia 

NATO took its final step to accept its 30th member after having signed the accession protocol with Northern Macedonia in February. Zoran Zaev, the Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia took part in the leaders' summit in London and the flag of N. Macedonia was represented at the NATO meetings.

Northern Macedonia, which took part in the NATO meetings, will become the 30th member of NATO once the accession protocol has been approved in the parliaments of all member countries and all official procedures have been completed.

While the area of influence of Russia becomes more restricted with Northern Macedonia, it is expected that NATO will also continue its policy of expansion in 2020.

NATO, S400 and Turkey-Spain Relations

Spanish Prime Minister announced that Spain would maintain its presence in the NATO missile defense mission in Turkey and made a reference to other members. Because Turkey expresses that they are not receiving an adequate amount of patriots from the NATO members against internal and external security threats.

In addition to this, Jens Stoltenberg - Secretary-General of NATO - stated that the "S-400s used by Turkey will never be integrated into the NATO".

 

Dispute over Macron and Trump-Erdogan Solidarity

As was the case before the London summit, both US President Trump and President Erdogan responded to French President Macron's statements that the brain death of NATO had occurred, giving out the message that we would endeavor to make NATO even stronger. Trump referred to the words of Macron as very humiliating and said, "NATO has a great purpose. Nobody needs NATO more than France. These kinds of statements are very dangerous".

2019 NATO Activities

 

Established in 1949, NATO is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Apart from the London Summit, the organization hosted two conferences at foreign ministerial level (with one of these in Washington DC) and three conferences at defense ministerial level.

Established in 1949, NATO is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Apart from the London Summit which was participated by the Heads of State and Government of the member countries, the organization hosted two conferences at foreign ministerial level (with one of these in Washington DC) and three conferences at defense ministerial level.

NATO, along with performing over 100 military operations this year, has declared space as the new theater of operations. It has also been announced that NATO was on new actions regarding cybersecurity.

Following North Macedonia, the work is being done to include Georgia to NATO as a member country. Even though there are difficulties due to Russian annexation over 20% of Georgian land, NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg will be in Tbilisi in March and NATO has a coordination office in Tbilisi since 2010.

NATO had also reached a $ 1 billion agreement with Boeing, allowing AWACS fleet to serve until 2035.

As a summary, the future of NATO is not in despair. With each member is making positive statements on the organization, investments of NATO in new fields, attempts to reach the desired budget and with new members, I presume that this 70-year-old alliance will last many many years.

 

 

 

 

Why is Turkey Buying the S-400 Russian Missile Defence System?

Turkey, which boasts the second-largest army in NATO, announced last week, on Tuesday, it had inked a deal to buy an S-400 (NATO version SA-21 Growler) missile defence system for $2-3 billion from Russia. The deal led NATO members to question Turkey's move and what it means for their alliance with NATO. The parties did not share the details of the S-400 agreement due to its sensitivity. But according to initial agreements, next year Turkey will receive two S-400 missile batteries from Russia and in the next two years will produce two batteries on Turkish soil. The agreement dates back to November 2016, however, at the end of April 2017, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made it clear that they were in talks with Russia regarding the S-400s and negotiations about joint production and costs have picked up steam since then.

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