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 Home > News & Policies > November 2006

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
November 21, 2006

NSC Senior Director for European Affairs Judy Ansley Discusses the President's Trip to Estonia and Latvia and the NATO Summit

4:18 P.M. EST

MS. ANSLEY: Good afternoon. On Monday, November 27th, the President will depart for Europe where he will travel to Estonia and Latvia. This will be the President's first trip to Estonia and his second trip to Latvia.

The President is traveling to Europe to attend the NATO Summit in Riga, Latvia and to visit a NATO ally and a successful new democracy, Estonia.

The United States and Estonia are excellent friends, strong partners and stalwart allies. Estonia is making important contributions in the war on terror with troops deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Our relationship is strong and close. The United States stands with Estonia, committed to our common defense and bound by our shared values.

October 2nd was the 15th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. embassy in Estonia. In the last 15 years, we have seen Estonia consolidate its sovereignty and build a thriving free-market democracy. And we look forward to many more years of close cooperation between our governments.

In Latvia, the President will meet with President Vika-Freiberga, a true friend and partner of the United States, to discuss our shared commitment to promoting global freedom. Latvia is also a strong partner in the war on terror with troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

At the NATO Summit, the President will discuss how the alliance has transformed to address the threats of the 21st century by improving its military capabilities and its ability to work with like-minded security partners around the world. Today, over 50,000 NATO soldiers are involved in six missions on three continents.

The President will also discuss NATO's vital role to global security in leading operations such as the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, where NATO has 30,000 troops participating with 11 partner countries and is in charge of security for the entire country. The President appreciates that NATO is an organization in which small allies can make big contributions far from home in defense of our shared values and common security. Estonia and Latvia are doing just that in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'll now briefly go through the President's schedule. On Monday morning, November 27th, the President will depart Andrews Air Force Base en route to Tallinn, Estonia. There are no other events on Monday.

Tuesday, November 28th, the President will participate in an embassy greeting with staff from our embassy in Tallinn. Following the embassy greeting, the President will travel to Kadriorg Palace for a welcome ceremony followed by a meeting with the President of Estonia, Toomas Ilves. After the meeting with President Ilves the President will travel to Stenbock House for a meeting with Prime Minister Andrus Ansip. At the end of this meeting, the President and Prime Minister will meet a group of Estonians who have worked to promote democracy in other countries.

Following the events at Stenbock House, the President will depart for the National Bank of Estonia where he and President Ilves will participate in a press availability. A social lunch in honor of the President hosted by President Ilves will follow at the National Bank.

Following lunch, the President will depart Estonia en route to Riga, Latvia. This is a short flight, and arrival in Latvia will be in the afternoon of Tuesday, November 28th. In Riga, the President will meet with President Vike-Freiberga of Latvia at the Riga Castle. Following the meeting, the President will depart Riga Castle to deliver remarks at the University of Latvia, followed by a meeting with the NATO Secretary General.

That evening, the President will participate in the NATO Summit program, which begins with a Latvian cultural event at the National Opera House, followed by a working dinner of NATO leaders.

On Wednesday, November 29th, the President begins with an embassy greeting with the staff from our embassy in Riga, as well as the staff from the U.S. Mission to NATO, who will be in Riga working the summit.

The President will then participate in the NATO Summit working session, which will be followed by an official photo and a lunch for NATO leaders and ministers hosted by President Vike-Freiberga.

The President will depart Riga, Latvia on the afternoon of Wednesday, November 29th.

At this time, I'm happy to take your questions.

Q From The New York Times. I just wonder if you could talk a little bit more expansively about what the President's goals are for this summit. What is the main thing that he wants to achieve?

MS. ANSLEY: Certainly. The summit is intended to be a summit which looks at NATO and its transformation post-9/11. And some of the main goals are to ensure that NATO is able to more effectively perform its missions. It has the military capabilities that it needs to perform around the world.

A lot of the things that we're looking at in terms of the initiatives that will come out of the summit really come from lessons learned in Afghanistan. For instance, we expect the alliance to announce an initiative on strategic airlift, a consortium where 14 allies plus Sweden will be buying C-17s. This was a particular problem that NATO has long had on military capabilities with strategic airlift. And we think that this will be a contribution to allow NATO to be able to perform operations at strategic distance, as we are doing in Afghanistan. So that will be a big contribution.

There will also be an initiative on special operations. This, again, something that we learned was very important in Afghanistan, and there will be a way for NATO to kind of consolidate and do joint training with some of its special operations forces. Those are some of the things that we're looking at in terms of capabilities.

Also I think that the summit will focus quite a bit on Afghanistan, on the operation in Afghanistan because NATO is now in charge of security throughout the country. Clearly, there have been some challenges with the expansion in the south during the summer, where NATO has been challenged by the Taliban. But NATO has performed very well. And the main thing now is to make sure that the alliance remains committed to this mission, which is important not only to Afghanistan but to our security in the West, and sees it through to completion.

So I think those are some of the main things -- basically, making sure that NATO is able to continue to effectively perform the many missions that it has, missions that are increasingly far from NATO's shores.

Q Hello, Ms. Ansley. I am a correspondent with ITAR-TASS News Agency of Russia. My question for you, would you be willing to discuss NATO's partnership with Russia at Riga Summit? And do you think this subject would come up during discussions there? Thank you.

MS. ANSLEY: I think that the issue probably will come up for discussion. I think it will also be addressed within the communiqué. We have a close relationship between NATO and Russia with the NATO-Russia Council. I think there will be some evaluation of that. We'll get into the ten-year anniversary of that next year. And I think NATO is looking for ways that it can continue to strengthen its partnership with Russia, so I think that that will be a topic of discussion.

Q Thank you.

Q Hi, I wonder if the President will once again press the other NATO countries to increase their defense spending, and their contribution in Afghanistan. And also, maybe you could discuss whether there will be some discussion at the meeting about maybe redeploying some of the countries around Afghanistan to bring more troops into the dangerous southern areas and out of the more safe northern areas, please.

MS. ANSLEY: A couple issues there. On defense spending, I think that the President will address the issue of the need for more resources for NATO and for NATO countries to spend more for defense. This has been a fairly consistent theme for us, whether it's the President or Secretary of Defense, or Secretary of State for that matter. NATO has an awful lot of challenges in front of it, has a lot of missions that it's trying to fulfill. In order to do that, you need more resources. So I think you can expect that he will discuss that issue.

The same thing in Afghanistan. If NATO is to be successful and to continue to complete this mission, obviously, it will need enough troops and the right kinds of troops to be able to do the mission. And it will need troops in the right places, so I think that you can expect that there will be discussion about the need for some flexibility in where troops are, for an increase in the number of troops, maybe a decrease in some of the restrictions on troops that are currently there. But there's going to be a force generation conference, I think, within the next couple of days to talk about the number of troops in Afghanistan. And we are hoping that we will have what is needed. But right now, we think we're in pretty good shape, but I think that we will address what is needed for the future. You can expect that to happen.

Q Thank you.

Q Yes, thank you. Specifically on Afghanistan, when you talk about the need for an increase in troops, does the President have an idea beyond the 30,000 there how many would be needed? And second -- that's a very specific question -- but more broadly, how can we expect the President to address with his partners there, the other leaders, the question of NATO's broader role? What will be the points that the President will make with them on NATO's broader role in the world?

MS. ANSLEY: Okay. Let me answer your specific question. I think in terms of the number of troops, he'll look to his military commanders for advice on that, to the NATO military commanders. And we've had commanders in the south who have talked about needing an extra battalion, possibly an extra battalion of Afghan troops as well in the south. So that will give you a little idea of the numbers that are being talked about. And that's obviously being discussed within NATO military circles as to how you best meet that need.

In terms of NATO's broader role, I think the President sees NATO as having to deal with security in areas outside of Europe now. If you look to the threats of the 21st century, most of them are not right on the borders of Europe as they used to be during the Cold War. They are coming from farther away. I think Afghanistan is a perfect example. You have a terrorist threat that has already hit our shores, obviously will threaten NATO and NATO member nations again if we don't deal with it there.

So that's the kind of things the President sees that NATO should be involved in -- is dealing with security issues, where they happen to be so that they don't come to our own home countries. So NATO has to have the ability to react to wherever the threats happen to be, to be able to go out to distances.

We have a NATO operation in Iraq. We have a NATO operation in Afghanistan. We have one in Kosovo. We have NATO troops involved in Darfur. So I think it's really a matter of NATO being able to defend our values from the threats wherever they happen to be and being able to deal with them at the source of the problem.

Q Hi, I'm Nikkei Newspapers, Japan. I understand that the NATO is sort of creating a new partnership with Japan, South Korea, and Australia. I wonder what your expectations are to get from this partnership with these three countries. And also, could you tell us a little bit more about the President's remarks in the university in Latvia?

MS. ANSLEY: One of the initiatives for the summit is the global partnership, to create a global partnership, and basically this is dealing with kind of a practical reality. Right now in Afghanistan we have 11 countries outside the alliance participating in the NATO operation, the NATO ISAF operation. The idea behind the global partnership is to allow those partner countries, often security providers to NATO operations but not necessarily limited to those, to be able to interact with the alliance on a more normal basis and a more constant basis.

We have a number of what we call partnership tools that allow a lot of countries to be able to, in Iraq, train more, pre-certify their troops, take advantage of some of the planning capabilities at NATO, and we'd like to be able to include some of the partner countries that are actually involved on the ground in NATO operations on a more regular basis so that when we have operations, we'll be able to come together a little more quickly and be able to interoperate a little bit faster.

So I don't know so much if it's an expectation of what we might receive from Japan. It's really opening up opportunities for other partner countries who might want to participate in some of these NATO partnership tools and participate in NATO operations to have a way to interact with the alliance.

So that's kind of the idea behind the global partnership: recognizing the fact that, in practical terms, NATO does interact -- we do conduct operations with a lot of other countries. As I said, 11 in Afghanistan. We have countries outside of the NATO alliance within our operation in Kosovo as well. So this is a way to allow these countries to be part of -- kind of interact a little bit more regularly with NATO.

Does that answer your question?

Q Yes. And the remarks at the university?

MS. ANSLEY: Oh, I'm sorry, yes. In Latvia, I expect that the President will lay out his vision for what he expects the NATO Summit to achieve, and also probably more broadly talk about the war on terror and challenges that the alliance, the United States faces in the world as we go forward.

Q Thank you.


Q Hi Judy.

MS. ANSLEY: Hey, Michael.

Q Just to follow up on the Afghanistan question, what would be your assessment of why some of the other NATO countries have not been more forthcoming with troops, and dropping caveats? And what do you think the President's case will be to our allies in Riga about why they should be more forthcoming in these areas?

MS. ANSLEY: Well, I don't want to try to anticipate how the President will make his case, but let me try to do it this way. I think that what the President will do is probably explain how important or just talk to his fellow NATO leaders about the importance of this mission, the fact that it is a mission that NATO has taken on, that is it is one that we should see through to completion and do so successfully because of the importance to our own security, as well as the importance to Afghanistan.

So I think the discussion will kind of go along those lines, Michael, in terms of how he will make his case. You know this is the first real large out-of-area operation NATO has ever taken on, and it's an important operation. We have all 26 allies committed to it, and we just need to see it through.

In terms of why countries have some of the restrictions, I don't have an answer for that. I can tell you that a lot of them that are in the north do think that they're doing valuable work there, and they are doing valuable work in the north. And there are some concerns as they move from the north to the south, maybe the north will become less stable. I've heard that from some countries. But the specifics of why they are not going down to the north, I don't have an answer. But I think that there will be a discussion of the need in an alliance to go to the assistance of allied nations when they need help, and when they're in battle. So we'll see if we can't work through some of those issues.

Q And I'm just -- may I ask one follow-up? Do you think that the mission is imperiled if it's not possible to get countries to be more flexible?

MS. ANSLEY: No, I think actually the mission has been remarkably successful. When you take a look at it, obviously NATO was challenged by the Taliban when they moved into the south. But NATO has responded very strongly. They've stood and they've fought, and have been very successful against the Taliban. So I don't see Afghanistan as being a mission in trouble or someplace where we have a problem. I just think that this is a good time for the leaders to get together and to kind of reassess and make sure things are going all right.

But as far as we can tell, the mission is going fine. We just want to make sure that we keep it on the right track, and that we keep it moving forward.

Thank you.

END 4:36 P.M. EST