Aboard Air Force One En Route Brussels, Belgium June 13 8:05 P.M. BST
Thank you for joining us on Air Force One, on our trip to Brussels. And we have joining us our National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who will give us a preview of NATO, take some questions, and I'm also happy to take some once he's done.
Thanks, everybody. President Biden is heading to Brussels for his first NATO Summit with the overriding objective of sending a clear message to Allies and adversaries alike that Article 5 is a sacred guarantee; that the United States regards NATO as the foundation for our security — not just in the Euro Atlantic, but worldwide — and that we will be there for our Allies. We will have their backs just as they've had our backs.
He'll cover a range of issues during the session with the leaders, including, of course, the immediate issue of the drawdown in Afghanistan, where we're proceeding on an in-together, out-together basis, and coordinating very closely with our Allies as we draw down our remaining forces.
He will also consult on ensuring security for an embassy presence that can continue to provide support to the Afghan National Security Forces and to the Afghan government, as well as humanitarian and civilian assistance to the Afghan people, especially to its women and girls.
He will discuss cyber as an increasingly important dimension of NATO's work. NATO will finalize a national cyber — or, I'm sorry, not a "national" — will finalize a cyber defense strategy for the first time in seven years, which will upgrade the defense, political, and intelligence dimensions of cyber across the Alliance. That will not be a public document, but he will have the chance to consult with Allies on it. And in the communiqué that will be released, there will be a strong commitment to NATO's emphasis on cyber deterrence and collective defense, as well as Article 5 applying on a case-by-case basis to cyberattacks of significance.
Of course, he will discuss the emerging challenges posed by China, not just in the Indo-Pacific but elsewhere, in terms of technology and cybersecurity and information warfare and in other regards, as well.
And China will feature in the communiqué really in a more robust way than we've ever seen before.
Can you repeat that? Sorry. Just didn't hear the last line.
China will feature in the communiqué in a more robust way than we've ever seen before.
What we will see coming out of this is a commitment by leaders to a new Strategic Concept process that will result in the release of a new Strategic Concept at a NATO Summit next year, in 2022. The last Strategic Concept was done in 2010, and, among other things, referred to Russia as a "constructive partner," and really didn't talk about China at all. So it's time for an update to that Strategic Concept for NATO. And he will consult with Allies and partners at the summit about this.
There will also be a Climate Action Plan. The Secretary General, with the support of the President and others, wants NATO to be the premier international security organization working on the intersection between climate and security. And, obviously, the climate dimension of everything — all of our militaries do and all of our security systems do — is growing and intensifying. And NATO will be front and center in all of that.
And then, of course, there's the consultation on Russia. He'll have the opportunity to speak to all of the Allies about what he intends to talk to Putin about. He'll do that behind closed doors. So, they get both to hear from him about his intentions with respect to the summit, and he gets to hear from them as well, so that he will go into Geneva with the full support and solidarity of all of our NATO Allies.
He will meet on the sidelines of the summit with the Baltic presidents, who are a powerful example of democratic governance on NATO's eastern flank. And he will speak with them about a range of issues, including the challenge and threat posed by Russia about issues related to cyber and emerging technology, on which they are leaders; about China and the growing challenges it poses as well; and, of course, about the recent air piracy in Belarus.
And he will also meet with President Erdoğan of Turkey, where they will cover the range of issues in our bilateral relationship, as well as a number of important regional issues, from Syria, to Libya, to the eastern Mediterranean. They will also have the chance to consult on the big powers — China and Russia — as well.
So I think I will — I will leave it at that. I guess I would just close by saying that if you think about the G7 as really centering on the most significant nonmilitary challenges of our time, and President Biden coming out of the G7 Summit with the democracies united behind an affirmative agenda to deal with those challenges, he heads into NATO really to focus on the security and military dimension of this. But that security and military dimension itself is changing, and cyber and emerging technology will play an important role in that.
And so by the time we're done tomorrow, in Brussels, when you combine the G7 and NATO, it's just a really powerful platform upon which America can conduct its foreign policy in the years ahead.
So let me stop there.
Talk about China a little bit. What role should NATO have in countering China?
I think there are three things that I particularly focus on. One is that NATO has a role in information sharing about the nature of the security challenges that China poses. It imposes challenges to individual Allies in both common and distinct ways. And so, a broader, common picture of that challenge will be very important.
Second, of course, is that, increasingly, in the area particularly of emerging technology, China is growing much more sophisticated in its warfighting capabilities and methods, including in the nuclear sphere. And so, NATO has to play a role in developing interoperable capabilities to be able to deal with a challenge from China that is going beyond the region and extending much more broadly.
And then, thirdly, NATO is, first and foremost, the center for security and military coordination and collective defense, but it is also a forum for democratic values. It is an alliance of democracies.
And so, NATO speaking out powerfully about the common purpose and common strength of democracies is an important part of a collective effort to be able to meet the China challenge over the decades ahead.
Jake, on the — at the G7, did he hear anything about the origins of COVID? Any intel shared with him that he didn't know before? Did any of the Allies have anything new to share with him about that?
So, they all pledged to — not only does the communiqué talk about a WHO-led phase two investigation that should take place in China and get to the bottom of things in China, including the original data that was withheld in the first study, but all of the countries also pledged that they would have their national systems try to share analysis and information in the weeks and months ahead, both with that international investigation and with each other.
So I think there was a common sense that we've all got to dig deeper ourselves, as well as supporting this international effort, and then pool our knowledge so we can get the best, most clear, most evidence-based picture of what actually happened with the outbreak of COVID.
So there wasn't consensus on whether it was lab-based or hu- —
So no one — no one really knows?
Jake, on cyber, two things. Can you talk a little more about what invoking Article 5 might look like, in terms of a cyber incident?
And then also, the President was asked today about this idea that was floated from the Kremlin about trading cyber hackers. Are there hackers in America who have been doing — committing cyber crimes in Russia that we should be — walk us through that really means.
So, what the President was responding to in the affirmative was not the specific proposal of the exchange of cyber criminals. He was not saying, "I'm going to exchange cyber criminals." What he was saying was that if Vladimir Putin wants to come and say, "I'm prepared to make sure that cyber criminals are held accountable," Joe Biden is perfectly willing to show up and say cyber criminals will be held accountable in America, because they already are. That is something that we do — is when we know that someone is committing a cyber crime, whether against a domestic target or a foreign target, we take action against them.
And so to the extent what Vladimir Putin wants is a common commitment that no country — neither Russia nor the United States nor anyone else — will hyber [sic] — will harbor cyber criminals, whether ransomware attackers or otherwise, Joe Biden is all in for that.
He's not saying he's going to be exchanging cyber criminals with Russia. There's no cyber criminals who have committed crimes in Russia that he's looking at and thinking, "I'm going to exchange them." I think that was overread or misread in the press coming out of —
That's not what he said, right? I mean, he did — he did talk about specifically exchanging —
If you go back and look at the transcript, I think you will actually see he didn't talk about exchanging cyber criminals.
What did he mean then?
Like, "prisoner swap" — he didn't say that.
He didn't say "prisoner swap."
He didn't say "prisoner swap." What he was talking about was accountability and the idea that responsible countries should hold — should be held accountable to not harboring cyber criminals, and to bringing cyber criminals to justice. He's prepared to do that in the United States. He'd like to see Vladimir Putin do that.
This is not about exchanges or swaps, or anything like that.
On Northern Ireland —
Oh, sorry, just on cyber, really fast, and Article 5: This would be on a case-by-case basis. And the notion is that if someone gets hit by a massive cyberattack, and they need technical or intelligence support from another Ally to be able to deal with it, they could invoke Article 5 to be able to get that. So —
And that's being proposed tomorrow?
That's the concept. That's — that will be in the communiqué coming out of (inaudible).
Jake, on China, when you're bringing this up with NATO, in the past it's mostly been focused about Russia, or in more recent past, Macron has talked about concerns about the United's focus is turning to the east, and not locally. How do you bring the Europeans along more? I mean, even in — even in the G7, in the communiqué, with forced labor, in that paragraph — correct me if I'm wrong — it does not have China in it, but it is mentioned in the communiqué. So how do you bring them along in these next steps, in the NATO —
Well, I think forced labor is a great example of how we are all converging around a common strategy, and that strategy is ultimately about action.
And so the communiqué doesn't just say "forced labor" generically, it says "forced labor" with specific reference to solar, garments, and agriculture. And so where is the world solar made? What are the main products coming out of Xinjiang? You have cotton, you have garments, et cetera.
So the basic notion in the communiqué was: Call out Xinjiang in terms of its human rights abuses and then establish a neutral principle that all democracies can stand behind. We are going to take concrete action and countermeasures against forced labor in these areas. And when you actually apply that in practice, that will have an impact on Xinjiang.
So, from Joe Biden's perspective, the idea here is not to score rhetorical points. The idea is to get agreement around a common set of principles and a common strategy. And if you go through the communiqué and look at the areas where they got that convergence, they are all the central pillars of how we believe we should be dealing with the challenge of China: supply chain resilience, technology standards, an infrastructure alternative, as well as robust, specific, explicit language on human rights and on China's non-market practices.
So that's how we think about G7 and why we actually think this communiqué is a significant move forward from where the G7 has ever been before, and reflects a growing convergence that wasn't there a few years ago.
But it's also how we're going to approach NATO. You're not going to see, like, paragraphs and paragraphs about China in the communiqué. And the language is not going to be inflammatory. It's going to be clear, straightforward, and direct. And also, we're not going to try to over-crank the extent to which tomorrow is about China by any stretch. Tomorrow is about collective security and defense, and climate will be on the agenda; cyber will be on the agenda; Russia will be on the agenda; terrorism will be on the agenda; and this Afghanistan drawdown will be a significant issue.
But, yes, China will be there in a way it hasn't before. And I think President Biden's view is: Explain how we see things in a transparent and clear way. Don't try to push towards confrontation or conflict, but be prepared to try to rally allies and partners towards what is going to be tough competition in the years ahead. And that's true in the security domain as it is in the economic and technological domains.
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