the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Briefing by Senior Administration Officials on the Upcoming NATO and EU Summits in Lisbon, Portugal

PRESS BRIEFING
BY U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO IVO DAALDER,
SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT
FOR AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN DOUG LUTE,
SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS
LIZ SHERWOOD-RANDALL,
AND DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR
FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS
BEN RHODES
ON THE UPCOMING NATO SUMMIT AND EU SUMMIT
IN LISBON, PORTUGAL

2:54 P.M. EDT

MR. RHODES:  Thanks everybody for getting on the call.  We just wanted to take this opportunity to preview the President’s upcoming trip to Lisbon.
 
     I’ll just say a few things by way of introduction, then hand it over to Ivo Daalder, our ambassador to NATO; Doug Lute, who runs Afghanistan for us here at the NSC; and then Liz Sherwood-Randall, our senior director for Europe, to talk about the different pieces of this very important trip.
 
     I’ll just say a few things by way of introduction and then give a brief overview of the schedule here before handing it over to Ivo.
 
     Of course, this trip to Europe is an important opportunity for the President to underscore our commitment to our core alliances in the world.  Our relationship with our European partners is a vital cornerstone of our engagement with the world.  We cooperate with Europe on a whole host of issues directly, and then also cooperate with them on a host of global issues.  
 
     And among those, of course, is NATO, which is our core security alliance in the world and is a fundamental part of our efforts, for instance, in Afghanistan.  So the trip will really have three different focus points, which we’ll discuss on the call.  
 
     The first is our efforts to invigorate the alliance for the challenges of the 21st century.  The second is our efforts to align our approach to Afghanistan with our NATO allies at this critical juncture in the Afghan war.  And then a third part of this trip will be the President meeting with his European Union counterparts in a U.S.-EU Summit as well.  So we’re going to be doing a lot of business in a short period of time.
 
     I just want to say one thing before I go through the schedule, and Doug Lute can build on this, but you may not have seen -- or may have seen Prime Minister Harper and the Canadian government announce their future commitment to Afghanistan today.  I’ll just start by saying that Canada has been an indispensible partner in Afghanistan over the last several years as a close ally of the United States, of course, and a NATO member.  
 
     The achievements that have been made in Afghanistan would not have been possible without the robust commitment of the Canadians to improving the lives of the Afghan people and to rooting out terrorist safe havens within Afghanistan.
 
     Today, the Canadian government announced its forward-looking approach to Afghanistan.  As it will end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2011, it will also make a long-term commitment to the future of Afghanistan that’s focused on humanitarian assistance, development support and training, which, of course, is a critical part of our effort to strengthen the Afghan government and to strengthen Afghan security forces.
 
     So as Canada moves to this new phase in its engagement in Afghanistan, the government announced that it will deploy up to 950 military trainers to support these efforts.  And so this additional commitment, along with the civilian assistance that Canada provides, will be very important to our efforts going forward, to NATO’s efforts and ISAF’s efforts in Afghanistan.  And it will help build on the achievements that have been made already in terms of training Afghan security forces, and it will also help, again, continue to strengthen the capacity of the Afghan government’s security forces to take responsibility for their future through a period of transition.
 
So we just wanted to underscore how much President Obama welcomes this announcement by the Canadian government, how much it underscores the very important and constructive role Canada plays in Afghanistan as a member of NATO and as a very close ally and partner of the United States.
 
     Now, let me just go through the schedule quickly and then hand it over to Ivo.
 
     We’ll be leaving here Thursday night to fly to Lisbon.  Our first day in Lisbon will begin, of course, by meeting with our Portuguese hosts.  Portugal is obviously a close friend and ally of the United States, so the President will be meeting with both President Silva of Portugal, and then with the Prime Minister of Portugal, in separate bilateral meetings that will be an important opportunity, again, to underscore the closeness of our relationship with the Portuguese.
 
     Then later that afternoon, we will head into the opening session of the NATO Summit.  So that afternoon will begin with a working session, which will continue through a working dinner of the NATO Summit that evening.
 
     Then on Saturday, the NATO Summit continues with a session that is going to be focused on Afghanistan, again, which Doug can speak to, and it will be followed by a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, again, which is an important opportunity to, again, build the dialogue that we carry out between NATO and Russia.
 
     Following the NATO Summit, the President will then later that afternoon have the EU Summit, at which point we will discuss a range of issues that Liz can preview for you here shortly.
 
     There may be additional bilateral meetings that the President is able to have on the margins of these summits.  We don’t expect there to be extensive bilateral meetings, just because the schedule is very full.  So if any of those get put on the calendar in the coming days, we’ll of course update you on those.
 
     And of course we’ll expect the President to be able to have a press conference on the second day while he’s in Lisbon.
 
     So with that, why don’t I turn it over to Ivo Daalder, our very capable ambassador in Brussels, who can speak to the NATO preparations and the NATO piece of this summit.
 
     Ivo.
 
     AMBASSADOR DAALDER:  Thanks, Ben.  Appreciate the opportunity to spend a couple of minutes talking about what we’re going to do, mostly on Friday and then Saturday afternoon.
 
     The goal, really, of the first day of the NATO Summit is to revitalize NATO for the 21st century, to make sure that this alliance has a new vision, has new capabilities and a new organization to take on the very different security environment, globalized complex environment that we face today compared to the kind of security environment we had during the Cold War or even immediately after the Cold War.
 
     And the manner in which this -- we’re going to revitalize NATO, I expect, is the adoption of a new Strategic Concept that will lay out what the role of NATO is in this 21st century, how we will defend the allies and ourselves against new threats, as well as how we work with other countries and partners around the world and in the neighborhoods around the Atlantic alliance to build security cooperatively with them.
 
     This Strategic Concept, in contrast to most of the ones in the past, is going to be crisp, concise, concrete, short, direct, to the point.  The Secretary General, who has been responsible for drafting this, working with the Council but ultimately responsible to the summit leaders, has done a remarkable job of writing a vision statement for the alliance.
 
     But vision is not enough.  We also need to implement that vision.  So we have proposed and hope to have accepted a set of capabilities that the alliance, in a time of dwindling resources, will decide it must fund.  Those are capabilities that deal with ongoing operations in Afghanistan, but also capabilities to deal with 21st century threats, including beefing up our cyberdefenses and embracing the deployment of missile defenses to protect European territory and populations against the growing threat of ballistic missiles.
 
     Indeed, this missile defense decision is going to be one of the key issues, key decisions that the heads of state and government face:  Will we defend in the 21st century against armed ballistic missiles coming towards NATO territory, or not?  And the alliance leaders will answer that question positively, we expect.
 
     Second, in addition to capabilities, we need to reform the organization, and there’s a whole host of ideas that are being presented to the leaders to change the NATO command structure, the way NATO does business in its headquarters and around the countries where it is involved.  That’s going to be day one, a big deal for the leaders when they meet in the afternoon and talk over dinner.
 
     The second major event Doug Lute will talk about, which is the Afghanistan issue, but a third is the first meeting, summit-level meeting of the NATO-Russia Council since the Georgia conflict in 2008.  Indeed, it will be the first NATO-Russia Council meeting, summit meeting, attended by Presidents Medvedev and Obama.  
 
     And this is an opportunity for Russia and the NATO countries to complete the reset.  We’ve had a reset in bilateral relations with Russia.  Frankly, the bilateral relationship that Russia has had with many of the NATO countries has improved significantly over the past year.  But the relationship with NATO countries and within the NATO-Russia Council has lagged.
 
     We see this as an opportunity to move to a new stage in the relationship, moving from focusing on our differences and talking about them to moving particularly to practical cooperation on a whole host of issues.  We have worked over the past year to review the joint challenges that we face in the security area, talk piracy, terrorism, proliferation of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.  And this review should be completed and adopted by the heads of state and government, allowing us to have practical common action to deal with these issues.
 
     We’re also going to enhance our cooperation on Afghanistan, where it is expected a new transit agreement will be signed between NATO and Russia to allow more goods to be shipped through Russia territory, on rail cars in particular.  We’re hopeful that we can expand our counternarcotics cooperation with the Russians.  And finally, we’re looking towards the possibility of setting up a trust fund for maintenance of -- helicopter maintenance in Afghanistan since most of the helicopters -- all of the helicopters used in Afghanistan by the Afghan army and air force are Russian built.
 
     That’s the basic agenda that we look forward to addressing and agreeing on as we move there this coming Friday and Saturday.
 
     With that, let me turn it back to Ben.
 
     MR. RHODES:  Thanks, Ivo.  And now I’ll hand over to Doug to speak to the Afghanistan piece.
 
     GENERAL LUTE:  The Afghanistan session on Saturday morning in Lisbon has just a slightly different format.  So the alliance will go from the standard format of 28 allies to 48 coalition partners.  So we’ll go from 28 to 48 for the international coalition discussion on Afghanistan.  President Karzai will speak.  
 
     We are viewing this Lisbon summit as a strategic milestone for the ongoing mission in Afghanistan, during which we expect to highlight two mutually supporting themes.  The first theme is an announcement having to do with the beginning of a responsible transition to Afghan leadership.  That is, putting Afghans in the lead across Afghanistan for their own security.  And the second theme is an announcement having to do with an enduring longer-term commitment by NATO to Afghanistan’s security and in particular to the development of its security forces.
 
     Let me just unpack that a bit for you.  With regard to transitioning to Afghan leadership, this process actually began in President Karzai’s inaugural address a year ago.  It was then highlighted again in the conference hosted by the Afghans in Kabul in July of just last summer.  And the idea is that based on conditions on the ground and as a result of the surge in international resources over the last year, it is possible now to begin a responsible transition to Afghan security lead across the 34 provinces in Afghanistan.
 
     Now, this won’t happen overnight.  It won’t be a single event.  It will be a steady, progressive process that will be carefully monitored by conditions on the ground.  Both international security forces as well as Afghans will measure progress and determine how and when the transition can take place.
 
     The goal, however, that President Karzai enunciated and the international community endorsed in Kabul in July is that this process across the 34 provinces will aim to be completed by the end of 2014.  So it’s a process that begins in early 2011 with the target of completion at the end of 2014.
 
     Now, in order -- during this process -- to reassure the Afghans that as they stand up, they will not have to stand alone, NATO is expected to endorse a enduring partnership with Afghanistan, and in particular a partnership that sees NATO sustaining its commitment to the development of Afghan national security forces.
 
     And it’s in that light that Ben’s comments about the very recent Canadian announcement become so appropriate.  So, in many ways, Canada is at the forefront of the overall transition in the mission over the coming years, which will be increasingly seeing NATO move into a supporting role as Afghan forces take the lead.
 
     So we again applaud the Canadian decision to commit 750 trainers and 200 support troops.  These trainers will go a long way to fully resourcing our training mission, the NATO training mission, which of course is central to enabling the Afghan national security forces to take the lead.
 
     So let me stop there and turn to Liz.
 
     MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Thanks, Ben, and thanks, Doug.  We will move from the final session of the NATO Summit, as Ben indicated, onto a U.S.-EU Summit.
 
     And to put that in context, the President first met with 27 EU leaders in Prague in April of 2009 and sent a very strong signal at the outset of the administration that a strong Europe is a stronger partner for the United States.  
 
     And since then, through sustained work we have done with the EU and through the Lisbon Treaty, things have changed qualitatively and our relationship has deepened significantly.
 
     This summit at which the President will meet with the two European presidents -- European Council President Von Rampuy, and European Commission President Barroso -- is designed to highlight concrete cooperation and the opportunities we have to do more together going forward.
 
     We’re going to discuss three core elements of our partnership with the EU:  economic cooperation, security cooperation and cooperation on global issues.
 
     On economic cooperation, we will follow up on the G20 meetings that took place last week in Seoul and look for ways to collectively sustain economic recovery and generate jobs, including by consulting on the best steps we can take to address current imbalances in the global economy; and on a bilateral U.S.-EU level, to address barriers to trade and promoting cooperation on innovation.
 
     And I would just say here that we know that $4 trillion in trade and investment flows between the United States and Europe each year; approximately one in 10 jobs are created by this economic relationship.  So it’s central to all of us.
 
     A key outcome of the summit will be to task the Transatlantic Economic Council, or the TEC, which will meet again in mid-December, to increase its efforts to coordinate our policies to promote innovation and to get our regulators to pursue more upstream collaboration to avoid unnecessary divergence in our regulatory regimes, especially in new and emerging technologies, where regulations have yet to be established.
 
     On security cooperation, which is of fundamental and vital importance to all of our citizens, we are going to be developing ways to enhance our work on counterterrorism and law enforcement.  The concerns that led to the issuing of a U.S. travel alert to Europe and the disruption of the cargo threat that took place more recently demonstrate how critical it is for us to pursue deeper cooperation that simultaneously protects civil liberties and privacy, while also keeping our people safe.
 
     We have good cooperation in place already, with instruments such as our mutual legal assistance agreements and the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, which was voted on by the EU last summer; and the passenger name record data sharing program.  We’re going to be focusing on enhancing that cooperation and looking for additional ways we can cooperate on cyber security and sharing best practices to combat violent extremism.
 
     Finally, on global challenges, we will discuss climate change, to coordinate our views in advance of the Cancun Conference of Parties, and our cooperation on development assistance, following up on the President’s initiative announced at the U.N. General Assembly in September.
 
     On development, we, together with Europe, provide 80 percent of the world’s development assistance, and there a key goal is to work on improving the way in which we divide up labor so that we ensure that we do not duplicate effort and we get greater value for the expenditure of every tax dollar and every euro.
 
     So with that, I would just close in saying, again, that we view a strong Europe as a stronger partner for the United States in meeting all of the challenges that we face in Europe and around the world and look forward to using this summit with the EU to advance those objectives.
 
MR. RHODES:  Great, thanks, Liz and Doug and Ivo.  With that, we’ll take some of your questions.
 
Q    Thank you very much, and thank you for taking the time to do this call.
 
My question is regarding the pending statement or agreement or proposal on NATO cooperation on missile defense, possibly even involving Russia.  Today the Turkish Prime Minister said that without direct command over any NATO missile defense systems in his territory, it would be impossible to accept such a deal.
 
I’m wondering if you have a response to that, and what can we expect from NATO missile defense, and also will it, in fact, include naming the country of Iran as a target or a threat in relation to this?  Thank you.
 
MR. RHODES:  I think Ivo is best positioned to speak to the first part of your question.  Ivo, you want to take that?
 
AMBASSADOR DAALDER:  Sure, absolutely.  Thanks, Josh, for the question.  The NATO decision on cooperation with regard to missile defense is going to be a decision that focuses on making a commitment to get the capability in place to protect NATO’s European territory and populations against ballistic missile threats. That’s the nature of the decision.  All the details of how we’re going to implement them, including the command and control issues, are issues that will be addressed afterwards.
 
     First we have to make a fundamental decision that NATO should have the capacity to build a system that can protect its population and territories.  With that decision, we expect and want a decision to create the command and control backbone, the software backbone that NATO would fund, and that would be controlled like -- as part of any other NATO command structure.  
 
     But the real capability will be delivered by nations, including the United States, which would make available its phased adaptive approach, its European phased adaptive approach, the missiles -- the interceptors, sorry, and the sensors that will be plugged into this NATO system.
 
     Q    And on the question of naming Iran or not naming Iran?
 
     AMBASSADOR DAALDER:  With respect to where the threat is coming from, we’re building a system to protect NATO from ballistic missile attack.  And rather than focusing on where the threat is today or tomorrow, we’re focusing on providing the capabilities to deal with a growing threat, which is the threat of ballistic missile proliferation to more and more countries as well as from more and more ranges.
 
Q    Okay, so to be clear, you don’t plan to name any specific country, is that right?
 
AMBASSADOR DAALDER:  At the moment, we’re focused on the threats that exist from the proliferation of ballistic missiles, which is beyond any specific country.  There are many countries that are acquiring many more capabilities.
 
Q    Thank you.
 
Q    Yes, thank you.  On Afghanistan, can you talk a little bit more about what this transition plan will have in it for next year?  Will there be a certain identification of areas that could be handed on based -- depending on conditions, handed over, or just functions, or how will this be described?
 
GENERAL LUTE:  Yes, this is Doug Lute again.  It’s actually false.  Geographic areas, provinces potentially, or in some cases districts, the four provinces -- so there’s a geographic dimension to the anticipated 2011 beginning of transition.
 
     But there’s also a functional or institutional dimension of it as well, where the Afghan government will increasingly assume lead for control of private security companies come to mind.  Detention operations is another example.  So it’s both geographic and functional.
 
     Q    Yes, I’m wondering what your take is on Afghan President Karzai’s statements to The Washington Post about the future of the U.S. military presence and the visibility of the presence.  How is that going to play out at the NATO meeting?  How is that going to affect the decisions and just the overall approach there?
 
     GENERAL LUTE:  Well, we read President Karzai’s interview as a call for an Afghanistan that eventually is stable, fully sovereign and self-reliant.  And in that call, we have a lot in common.  Those are precisely our goals.  
 
     And Lisbon, by way of these two mutually supporting themes that I described, is actually an important milestone towards those goals.  So you can see how President Karzai’s call for more self-reliance is closely linked to this process of transitioning gradually as conditions permit, both geographic areas of Afghanistan and institutions to an Afghan lead.
 
     There are also, though -- Lisbon is also designed, however, to provide this reassurance by way of the enduring partnership that as Afghanistan becomes increasingly self-reliant, it won’t have to do so immediately on its own, but rather it’ll be reassured by way of this enduring commitment.
 
     But those twin themes, we think, actually support the call that we heard from President Karzai.
 
     MR. RHODES:  Yes, and I would just add one quick note to that.  We obviously are focused, again, on our strategy of building Afghan capacity as we break the momentum of the Taliban.  
 
     The United States has identified July of 2011 as the beginning of our conditions-based transition.  And we’ve had alignment -- a strategic alignment in terms of our approach to that strategy.  We’ve also had alignment with President Karzai from his call in his inaugural and at the Kabul conference for 2014 as the target to move to a full Afghan lead as well.
 
     So we’re looking at, as Doug said, this context of transition and enduring partnership within that context of the alignment we have towards moving to a full Afghan lead in 2014 and building the capacity of the Afghan government and security forces to carry out that function.
 
     Q    But does his specificity about cutting the visibility of U.S. military ops in Afghanistan and his comments about the use of special forces, does that match -- does that also match your vision?  It does not appear to match General Petraeus’s vision.
 
     GENERAL LUTE:  I think we’re talking mostly a difference of timeline.  It’s a question of whether you’re reading President Karzai’s call for immediate changes, or whether he’s talking about changes which we all eventually want to see together.  It’s a question of aligning ourselves, as Ben suggested, on a common path so that we get to where we want to go together.
 
     We don’t think that that’s going to happen immediately, but we all aim for it to happen across the country by 2014.
 
     Q    Thank you.
 
     GENERAL LUTE:  It’s a question of pace.
 
     Q    Two if I may -- one was just a follow-up on that.  Given the importance of special ops in degrading the Taliban, one of the key targets here, is there going to be an effort to at least convince President Karzai that special ops with this increased rhythm that we’ve seen in recent months is essential?
 
     And secondly, just a question.  President Obama called in May for resolute action by Spain when Europe was last in the midst of a debt crisis.  Now that both Ireland and countries like Portugal are really looking under pressure right now, to what extent is the current debt crisis going to be part of the economic conversation that Liz Sherwood-Randall talked about?  And what role can the U.S. do in terms of helping the EU ride this one out?
 
     GENERAL LUTE:  First on the special operations question.  The special operations campaign, like all the other dimensions of the campaign, both civil and military, U.S. and international, obviously have to be aligned over time as things change on the ground with the Afghan effort.
 
     So as Afghan capacity increases -- for example, as Afghan special forces capacity increases -- we’d expect a transition from what is today a predominantly international special operations forces role to one that’s increasingly Afghan.
 
     So the special operations dimension is not much different in theme than all the other dimensions of the fight.  And obviously we are very much with President Karzai that increasingly we want to see Afghans take the lead.
 
     Let me turn to Liz on the Spain question.
 
     MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Portugal.  
 
GENERAL LUTE:  Portugal, sorry.
 
MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  So, Daniel, we are fully supportive of the efforts of the Portuguese government to improve Portugal’s economic situation.  And that will of course be a subject for discussion when the President sees the Portuguese leadership at the top of our day in Lisbon, the first day there.
 
     Q    And more generally on the debt crisis that Europe is going through right now, spearheaded by Ireland?  I mean, is that going to be an issue for discussion at the EU Summit?
 
     MS. SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Certainly they’ll talk about economic issues, as I indicated.
 
     MR. RHODES:  Great, thanks, we’ll move to the next question.
 
     Q    Hi, on the summit and the Strategic Concept, a number of countries that have tactical missiles based on their territory, led by Germany, have throughout the years said that they would like NATO to take the subject up.  Could you say whether it will be addressed in the Strategic Concept, whether there will be anything in there that commits NATO to a discussion of these issues next year or any time in the future?
 
     MR. RHODES:  Ivo, you want to take that one?
 
     AMBASSADOR DAALDER: Sure.  Thanks, Karen.  Of course the nuclear issues will be addressed in the Strategic Concept.  They are in every Strategic Concept and they are in this one as well.  We’ve had a very interesting and good discussion about how do we balance the two parts of the President’s fundamental approach to nuclear weapons -- on the one hand, his commitment to seeking a world without nuclear weapons and taking steps to that end; and on the other hand, making sure that we have a strong and capable and effective nuclear deterrent so long as nuclear weapons exist.  And that balance is going to be reflected in the Strategic Concept.
 
     And that will lay the basis for a discussion about how we move forward with respect to force posture and other issues in the months and years ahead.  It was decided early on that what we would do this year is focus really about what is the role of nuclear weapons, how do we reduce the importance of these weapons over time as we try to achieve our great goal of getting rid of these weapons around the world, how do we as NATO contribute to that?  But at the same time, how do we maintain an effective and secure deterrent?  I think the Strategic Concept addresses that directly, and in the years ahead we will translate that into practical policy, just as we will do with most of the other issues that are addressed in the Strategic Concept.
 
     Q    But do you expect a specific mention of tactical weapons in the concept?
 
     AMBASSADOR DAALDER:  There is -- usually we don’t talk about particular weapons; we talk about the role of nuclear weapons writ large.  And that’s what we will do in the Strategic Concept as well.
 
     Q    Thank you.
 
     Q    Ambassador Daalder mentioned the cutting of defense budgets by some of the NATO allies.  We’ve seen in past NATO summits American presidents push the allies to spend more to keep up defensively.  Is this a concern that’s going to be discussed by the President at this meeting, and is there a concern that some of the allies are not spending enough to keep up with being able to match American capabilities?
 
     AMBASSADOR DAALDER:  Thanks, George.  I think -- it’s impossible to ignore the fact that we’re living in difficult economic times, that all governments are facing the pressure of reducing expenditures, including in the defense area.  
 
     So the whole focus of our discussion and, frankly, the focus of our remarks on this is to say we need to invest what we have more wisely than we did in the past.  We need to work together on buying capabilities together.  We need to get the multiplier effect of procuring systems together, procuring particular nodes that make it possible for systems that -- like ballistic missile defenses, to be more effective as they work together, and also to prioritize our defense expenditures -- that we know that we spend it on the things that matter most.
 
     And I think one of the most important decisions that the leaders will take is to prioritize a series of capabilities and say, we’re going to spend on defense on these areas -- areas that have to do with our current operations in Afghanistan, areas that have to do with respect to dealing with 21st century threats like cyber and missile defense, as well as capabilities that allow our forces to work together much better than they would if we had to purchase these capabilities by themselves, in air defenses and ground surveillance systems, for example.
 
     So that’s how we’re going to address this issue.  We all want our countries to spend on defense and modernize their capabilities and to make sure that they’re interoperable. And I think this summit will address that head on of saying we need to prioritize the key capabilities and fund those and be clear that we get our money’s worth when it comes to defense, particularly when defense spending is under pressure.
 
     MR. RHODES:  And I’d just add to that, again, when you look at the two areas of focus in terms of the alliance in Afghanistan, what we’re focused on is that we have the right capabilities and the right concepts as it relates to the alliance heading into the 21st century, and that we have the right capabilities behind our alignment on our approach in Afghanistan.  And I think we’re confident heading into Lisbon that, again, we are aligned as an alliance on these key issues and that that, again, makes us stronger because a core issue here is that whether it’s NATO broadly speaking or Afghanistan in particular, by working together through NATO we are stronger than we would be working independently of one another.  So the alliance in and of itself, too, is a multiplier in that respect.
 
     We’ll take one more question.
 
     Q    Hi, guys. Thanks for doing this.  Were you caught off guard by Senator Kyl’s statement today about not taking up START during the lame duck?  And what does -- what impact is that going to have on this reset with Russia? You’ve been raising alarm bells going into this about how important it was to keep the reset moving forward.
 
MR. RHODES:  Margaret, I will have a specific comment on START that we’ll be sending out momentarily. So I will just point you to a statement that should be hitting your inbox here in a couple minutes.  
 
     What I’ll say broadly about the reset, again -- and the reset of course is being exemplified further by the NATO-Russia consultations that will be taking place in Lisbon -- is that the reset has been very important to advancing key national security priorities for the United States.  And I’d just point to a number of issues.  The reset of our relations with Russia has facilitated, in many respects, our efforts in Afghanistan through the Northern Distribution Network.  And, again, the progress we’ve made with the Russians has made it easier for us to fully and efficiently equip our mission in Afghanistan.  
 
Secondly, the reset in Russia -- with Russia has been fundamental to our nonproliferation efforts, and that’s across a host of areas.  I, first of all, point to Iran.  Without Russia, we would not have the robust U.N. Security Council resolution that passed earlier this year, nor would we have seen the kind of effective enforcement of those sanctions across the board.  And Russia in particular, for instance, has also supported our efforts in terms of not pursuing certain military sales and deliveries to Iran.  So Russia has been a fundamental partner in our effort, again, to put pressure on Iran.
 
They’ve also been a fundamental partner in our efforts on issues like nuclear security at the Nuclear Security Summit and in support of our goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world in four years.
 
So just pointing to Afghanistan and Iran, two areas where the Russia reset has had huge dividends for critical national security issues.  
 
And then, finally, I’d just point to the fact that we’re having this meeting at Lisbon.  When we took office, the relationship between the United States and Russia, but also the relationship between several countries in Europe and Russia, had drifted to a rather -- I’d say a post-Cold War low point.  And I think it’s a signal of how we’ve turned that around that we’re able to have the kind of dialogue that we can have with Russia in Lisbon, and that, as Ivo said, not only has the United States improved our relations with Russia, but we’ve seen a warming across parts of the continent that, again, is in our mutual security interests.  
 
So, again, we’ll have the comment on New START.  But I would point to the fact that that takes place in the context that our national security has been significantly advanced on issues such as Afghanistan, sanctions on Iran, and European security because of the Russia reset and that we are focused on making sure, again, that we work on a bipartisan basis to do what is necessary to protect, consolidate and build upon those national security gains as we move forward.
 
So we’ll get that START comment out shortly here.  And, again, we thank everybody for getting on the call.  We thank Ivo for joining us from Europe.  And, again, we’re looking forward to a good trip to Lisbon.  I’d just also underscore that this is our eighth trip to Europe since the President took office, which I think again underscores the fundamental importance of our European allies to America’s security and prosperity and approach to the world.
 
And, again, we’ll be in touch with you as we head into Lisbon and let you know of any additional components of the schedule.  Thanks, everybody, for jumping on the call.  

END
3:35 P.M. EDT