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Category Archives: NATO

Austin Says Afghanistan, Iraq, China Among Topics at NATO Meeting – Department of Defense

Posted: February 22, 2021 at 2:37 pm

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III briefed Pentagon reporters on the results of NATO's virtual Defense Ministerial, discussing the decisions to increaseNATOsupport in Iraq and defer a decision about NATO troops in Afghanistan, and summarizing discussions among allies and partners about China.

It was Austin's first Pentagon briefing since taking office.

The importance of the alliance to American strategy was apparent since Day 1, as Austin's first call upon entering the Pentagon was to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Austin said the discussions were productive and covered a wide range of NATO concerns. The alliance does face challenges, including a resurgent Russia's disruptive technologies, climate change, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the persistent threat of terrorism, and an increasingly aggressive China. Exacerbating all of these challenges is the COVID-19 pandemic.

Austin said his first goal in the ministerial was to detail President Joe Biden's commitment to NATO and underscore that the United States values allies and partners around the world. He emphasized that U.S. foreign policy will be led by diplomats supported by a strong military.

"I also stressed our ironclad commitment to the security guarantee under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty," he said. "I don't use that word 'ironclad' lightly. Our shared responsibility as allies our duty is to protect our populations and our territory. And to meet that duty we require what the secretary general refers to as credible deterrence and defense."

Doing this requires commitment and funding. Austin was pleased that nine NATO allies now meet or exceed the alliance's goal of 2% of gross domestic product spent on defense. After years of reductions, the alliance is now in the seventh year of defense spending increases. "Naturally, we want this trend to continue, and we want to see every member of the alliance contribute their fair share," he said.

The secretary noted that Sweden, Finland and representatives from the European Union joined the talks and were especially helpful on their views about China. "Indeed, I applaud NATO's work on China, and I made it clear that the United States is committed to defending the international rules-based order, which China has consistently undermined for its own interests," he said.

He reiterated that the United States sees China as the pacing challenge. "We believe NATO can help us better think through our operating concepts and investment strategies, when it comes to meeting that challenge," Austin said.

The ministers spent a full day discussing the NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"On Iraq, I reiterated our strong commitment to the defeat of ISIS and to supporting Iraq's long-term security, stability and prosperity," he said. "That's a commitment that I made to my Iraqi counterpart and the Iraqi minister of interior just the other day after last weekend's deadly rocket attack in Erbil. I also welcomed that expanded NATO mission in Iraq that responds to the desires and aspirations of the Iraqi government."

In Afghanistan, the secretary walked the allies through U.S. thinking as the Biden administration comes to grips with the reality on the ground. "The bottom line is this: We are committed to a responsible and sustainable end to this war, while preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups that threaten the interest of the United States and our allies," he said.

Austin said the United States wants to see "a just and durable end" to the long-running conflict.

The administration is conducting an interagency review of the situation in Afghanistan, including all relevant options with full consideration of the consequences of any potential course of action, Austin said.

"We are mindful of the looming deadlines," he continued. "But we want to do this methodically and deliberately."

Austin said the Taliban violence is too high and that more progress must be made in Afghan-led negotiations. "I urge all parties to choose the path towards peace," he said. "The violence must decrease now. I told our allies that no matter what the outcome of our review, the United States will not undertake a hasty or disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan that puts their forces or the alliance's reputation at risk."

No decisions about future force posture have been made, the secretary said. In the meantime, current missions will continue and commanders have the right and the responsibility to defend themselves and their Afghan partners against attack.

Any move ahead will be made after consultations among all those interested parties. "There will be no surprises," he said. "We will consult each other, consult together, decide together and act together."

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Austin Says Afghanistan, Iraq, China Among Topics at NATO Meeting - Department of Defense

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NATO: A Year of Pandemic, Pain, Patience, and Perseverance – Boxoffice Pro

Posted: at 2:37 pm

By Patrick Corcoran Vice President & Chief Communications Officer, NATO

Bits of news had been trickling out of China about a new and contagious respiratory virus at the very end of 2019. On January 23, 2020, China announced it was closing all 70,000 cinema screens as part of its efforts to control the virus. On January 31, NATO distributed an updated and revised Preparing for a Flu Pandemic, originally prepared in 2009, as well as its Crisis Management Handbook. That same day, travel restrictions for non-U.S. citizens from China went into effect.

Preparations for the 10th-annual edition of CinemaCon, scheduled for March 30April 2, continued, with a wary eye on worsening case numbers of the novel coronavirus, now known as Covid-19. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic, and NATO canceled CinemaCon that same day. NATO, unlike many organizations and event planners, had pandemic insurance, meaning that the organization would incur no losses as a result of canceling the show.

Within a week, movie theaters across the country began to close, as audiences began staying away from public places and the industry anticipated state-mandated closures. Most observers at the time anticipated no longer than a six-week- to three-month-long period of closures. As we all know now, they were wrong.

For NATO and its members, the pandemic has meant an ever-changing mixture of crisis response, managing expectations, and drawing on deep wells of experience and relationships developed over years.

NATOs Executive Board began meeting weekly two days after the WHOs declaration and before U.S. movie theaters began to shut down. First priorities were to understand the extent of the crisis, state and local mandates, and how to plan as an industry for what was expected to be a not-far-off reopening. The theater industry would make it known that we would behave as responsible citizens, that the health and safety of our patrons and employees were our highest concerns, and that we would be back.

We called upon industry allies and they called on us. Christopher Nolan asked what he could do. Within three days of U.S. theaters closing, we helped him place his piece, Movie theaters are a vital part of American social life. They will need our help. in The Washington Post.

NATO contributed $1 million to a seed fund for the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers to provide assistance for movie theater employees affected by the closure of movie theaters due to the pandemic.

NATO lobbying was in full swing as discussions began in Washington over a potential aid package for businesses and individuals affected by the pandemic. NATO coordinated with its regional affiliates on outreach to local health officials on how to sensibly and safely reopen.

We began weekly State of the Industry webinars on April 23 to keep members informed and to learn their concerns. We are preparing for our 35th such webinar as this article is written. There have also been stand-alone webinars on various provisions of federal aid packages, as well as operational, marketing, and other issues.

There has been constant communication with the studios, large and small, on the complexities and challenges of the pandemic release calendar. While there have been disappointments in movies going straight to the home, or in hybrid home and theatrical pandemic release windows, the vast majority of major titles have chosen to delay their release in theaters, rather than abandon it.

The first stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, provided direct aid to individuals and enhanced and extended unemployment relief. The CARES Act also provided two new loan programs: the Paycheck Protection Program, which granted partially forgivable loans to small businesses, and the Main Street Lending Program, which made loans available to companies with up to 15,000 employees and $5 billion in revenue. The CARES Act also provided tax relief to business of all sizes, through payroll tax deferral; the long-sought QIP fix, which corrected an error that extended capital improvement expense depreciation to 39 years and allowed businesses to amend those items in 2018 and 2019 returns; and the net operating loss carryback provision, which allowed businesses and individuals to use net operating losses against taxes incurred up to five years before, yielding hundreds of millions in tax refunds for exhibitors.

As the late spring and summer stumbled forward in fits and starts of reopenings and closures, it became clear that individual company health and safety protocols were not effective at convincing local officials to consider allowing theaters to reopen or to lift restrictions on capacity, nor were consumers clear on just what movie theaters were doing to help keep them safe. Both problems were also making studios wary about releasing movies with large box office potential. A national movie theater health and safety protocol was necessary.

NATO staff and member volunteers worked throughout the summer with epidemiologists and state boards of health to develop voluntary health and safety protocols. Unanimously adopted by NATOs Executive Board, CinemaSafe was rolled out to members and non-members alike, with a national press conference and website and multimillion-dollar marketing effort in time for the release of Chris Nolans Tenet, in late August. In-theater graphics and a consumer-friendly video was made available to the historic group of 420 companies, 3,150 locations, and more than 33,000 screens nationwide. Health officials in multiple countries adopted CinemaSafe as their standard for movie theater reopening protocols.

CinemaSafe became a useful tool in convincing health officials across the country of the seriousness with which movie theater owners took their responsibilities and formed a framework for their reopening policies.

This was not effective in all jurisdictions, as NATO and NATO of New Jersey sued the state of New Jersey in U.S. District Court to allow movie theaters to reopen at the same time the state allowed religious institutions and other similarly situated business and institutions to open. NATO did not prevail in that suit, but the pressure undoubtedly prompted New Jersey to reopen movie theaters weeks before they had originally planned and accelerated the opening of theaters in adjacent New York State.

But the pandemic will have its way. A second wave of the virus hit the U.S. in late summer, and Europe, where the response had been far more promising and theaters had been allowed to open broadly, in the fall. Throughout this time, NATO continued to lobby on a badly stalled second pandemic stimulus program.

As it became clear leading up to elections in November, that negotiations on a new relief package were serious, NATO engaged its grassroots and industry allies to lobby key administration and congressional leaders to include movie theaters in their plans. NATO, through its relationship with a new associationNIVA (National Independent Venue Association)lobbied for the Save Our Stages Act. Initially intended for live music venues, SOS had multiple Congressional sponsors and a real path to enactment. NIVA agreed that movie theaters should be included, if we could convince the sponsors to agree to add $5 billion to the initial $10 billion allocated for the provision. NATO succeeded in this, and through intense lobbying, including thousands of contacts from NATO members, SOS, now known as the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, passed Congress and was signed into law by the president.

The grants, much discussed in yet more NATO webinars, provide a lifeline that will help small and mid-size theater companies make it until vaccines are widely available and business can return to normal.

Meanwhile, working off a template developed by NATO of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan to establish state-based grants to movie theater operators, multiple states have provided more money to movie theaters across the country.

And in an extra bonus, a long-term NATO policy goal and lobbying focus, the maintenance of the ASCAP/BMI music licensing consent decree, was left in place by the outgoing head of the Department of Justices Antitrust Division. The decision means that U.S. movie theater companies will not have to pay hundreds of millions annually to license the music that is in movies they play, unlike our counterparts around the world.

In these difficult times, NATO has also experienced something unusual for an industry in crisis. We have grown. In February 2020, NATO had 676 members (590 Domestic, 3 from U.S. Territories, 21 from Canada, and 62 international), comprising 66,014 screens at 7,425 locations worldwide; 34,171 screens at 3,389 locations domestic.

In January 2021, NATO membership totaled 1,018 companies with 70,222 screens at 8,320 locations worldwide. 904 of those members were domestic, with 35,854 screens at 3,828 locations.

Through careful financial management and the huge success of CinemaCon over a decade, NATO had accumulated a reserve fund that was quite large for an organization of its size. As a benefit to members and to attract new members, NATO announced, pre-pandemic, that it would suspend dues payments for fiscal year 202021. A pretty nice deal, but the deal has not been the driver. The vast bulk of new membership has come as a result of the pandemic and NATOs response to it.

And NATOs response to the pandemic and all its attendant issues was not possible without that robust financial reserve, without the active engagement of a large, diverse, unified membership. Theater owners stories, told in hundreds of media interviews month after month, making personal their plight, and their value to their communities, and told to congressional staff in districts across the country, helped make those various relief measures a possibility. Members embracing the CinemaSafe protocols, members working with the NATO regional associations, got theaters reopened and lifted onerous restrictions and got grants to keep going.

Were not done. We will continue to lobby the Small Business Administration to make sure the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants are administered fairly; we will continue to lobby states and localities to allow theaters to reopen when it is safe to do so, without discriminatory provisions or unreasonable capacity caps; we will continue to lobby the studios to provide movie product and to return to pre-pandemic windowing models when the business returns to normal.

We will continue to do this and more for you. But we cant do it without you.

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An attack on one is an attack on all’ Biden backs NATO military alliance in sharp contrast to Trump – CNBC

Posted: at 2:37 pm

President Joe Biden speaks virtually to the Munich Security Conference in Germany, from the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 19, 2021.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON President Joe Biden promised on Friday to repair what he called "strained" relationships with European allies and NATO partners in the wake of his predecessor's "America first" foreign policy.

In an address to the annual Munich Security Conference,Biden said that the United States will "earn back our position of trusted leadership," telling the virtual audience "America is back."

"I know, I know the past few years of strain have tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined to re-engage with Europe," Biden said without naming former President Donald Trump.

"Our partnerships have endured and grown through the years because they are rooted in the richness of our shared democratic values. They're not transactional. They're not extractive. They're built on a vision of the future where every voice matters," Biden said.

Biden, who ascended to the nation's highest office a month ago, also said the United States was fully committed to the NATO military alliance.

"An attack on one is an attack on all. That is our unshakeable vow," Biden said, referencing NATO's mutual defense clause, known as Article 5.

To date, the 30-member alliance has only invoked Article 5 once in defense of the United States in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Biden's remarks come on the heels of his administration's debut this week at the NATO defense minister's meeting. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin reiterated Washington's commitment to the world's most powerful military alliance and a more coordinated approach to global security.

Read more: U.S. enters NATO meetings as China and Russia threats loom and war in Afghanistan drags on

Trump frequently dressed down NATO members throughout his presidency and had previously threatened to leave the alliance.

During a May 2017 visit to the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Trump declined to reaffirm U.S. commitment to the alliance's Article 5 clause.

Trump, who spoke in front of NATO's 9/11 memorial, thanked allies for their swift response to invoke Article 5 but would not explicitly say if the U.S. would do the same.

Two months later, Trump ended his conspicuous silence on the matter and said during a Rose Garden address that he was "committing the United States to Article 5."

In December 2019, Trump reiterated at the NATO leaders meeting in London that too many members were still not paying enough and threatened to reduce U.S. military support if allies do not increase spending.

Trump singled out German Chancellor Angela Merkel for not meeting the 2% of GDP spending goal set in the 2014 NATO summit in Wales.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) looks at US President Donald Trump (R) walking past her during a family photo as part of the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019.

CHRISTIAN HARTMANN

"So we're paying 4[%] to 4.3% when Germany's paying 1[%] to 1.2% at max 1.2% of a much smaller GDP. That's not fair," Trump said at the time.

Germany, at the time, was only one of 19 NATO members that had not met the 2% GDP spending goal set at the 2014 summit.

Last year, Germany's president kicked off the annual Munich Security Conference by taking a swipe at then-President Trump's "America First" foreign policy approach.

In his opening remarks, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned that the United States would put its own interests first at the expense of allies.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses the opening speech of the 56th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, on February 14, 2020.

Christof Stache | AFP | Getty Images

"Our closest ally, the United States of America, under the current administration, rejects the very concept of the international community," he said. "'Great again but at the expense of neighbors and partners," Steinmeier added without naming Trump but referring to his "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan.

"Thinking and acting this way hurts us all," he said.

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Turkey’s position in NATO and terror concerns | Daily Sabah – Daily Sabah

Posted: at 2:37 pm

The PKK terrorists' execution of 13 unarmed Turkish citizens in Gara, northern Iraq, will remain the subject of heated political debate for some time. The debate could have an impact on Turkey's foreign policy if it builds on the political consciousness that awakens following events of this nature and supports our fight against terrorism rather than the oppositions accusations.

Unlike the U.S. Department of State, which was compelled to condemn the PKK after issuing a scandalous initial statement, NATOs Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg unequivocally denounced the act of terrorism and offered his condolences to the Turkish people.

Praising Turkeys contributions to the fight against Daesh terrorists, he highlighted that the country has suffered more terror attacks than any other NATO ally and hosted millions of refugees.

I must say that Stoltenberg plays a constructive role through his promotion of dialogue and empathy among NATO allies, opposing Turkeys alienation at a time when there is talk of NATOs brain death.

However, it is expected that Turkey's role within NATO will be more intensely debated in the coming months.

In December, when NATO allies were discussing their vision for 2030, Washington was preoccupied with the turbulent transfer of power to Joe Biden, who intends to strengthen the alliance.

Under former U.S. President Donald Trump, NATO summits had been uncharacteristically tense. Replacing a president who called NATO obsolete, threatened to leave the alliance citing the failure of European allies to pay and moved to pull U.S. troops out of Germany, Biden intends to restore faith in the United States.

The Biden administration consists of policymakers who believe that international order must rest firmly on American values. In addition to strengthening Washingtons cooperation with its European and Asian allies, containing China and Russia are at the top of the new administrations agenda.

Biden, too, is expected to emphasize collective security and pursue a foreign policy centered around economic security. That approach inevitably calls for stronger ties to NATO and the European Union.

It remains unclear, however, how exactly Washington intends to get there. When Trump belittled NATO, the Europeans began to think about securing their own future and pursuing strategic autonomy.

They may not have agreed on that goal, but whether Europe will choose to re-engage with the U.S., as they did in the past, under Biden is unknown.

Another important question is how pro-European the Biden administrations alliance plans to be. For example, Germany remains under pressure over the Nord Stream 2 project.

It remains unclear whether Chinas commercial expansion, a shared concern, will compel Washington and the Europeans to adopt a common policy. Indeed, Trump (or someone else) may win the U.S. presidential election in four years to restore America First and downplay the trans-Atlantic alliance.

As NATO allies attempt to reinvigorate the organization, budget issues, the withdrawal from Afghanistan and Turkeys position will be on the table.

In the recent past, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his frustration with Turkeys actions in Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean and Libya by taking a jab at NATO.

The Western media echoed the sentiment, complaining about Turkeys problematic situation within the alliance.

It is unclear how the U.S. will treat Turkey, as it attempts to strengthen NATO. If the Biden administration were to object to Turkey's relations with Russia on the grounds they harm NATO, not to mention the S-400 missile deal, it would have a negative impact.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoan clearly expressed Turkeys disappointment with its allies over their failure to support the country against terrorist groups like the PKK and the Glenist Terror Group (FET), declaring: If we are to stand together with you around the world, and within NATO, you must act sincerely. You cannot stand with the terrorists. A warning that must be taken seriously.

Calls for the creation of new mechanisms to limit Turkeys veto powers and for closer cooperation with countries that are concerned about Turkish foreign policy are ideologically motivated as opposed to rational.

The rational nature of Turkeys relations with Russia must be appreciated. Any policy that successfully addresses Turkeys national security concerns would only strengthen NATO.

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Biden Wants to Restore NATO. Macron Is Looking to Move On. – Defense One

Posted: at 2:37 pm

President Joe Biden came to office promising to renew the spirit of the Western alliances born after World War II. Its his deliberate rejection of the Trump-and-Brexit era of hyper-nationalism and the America First bullying that has beleaguered Europe for five years.

Im sending a clear message to the world: America is back. The transatlantic alliance is back, Biden said in a Friday speech streamed from the White House to Western leaders listening in at this years virtually-held Munich Security Conference. And we are not looking backward, we are looking forward together.

But are they?

Frances President Emmanuel Macron is looking forward to an entirely new transatlantic security architecture for the 21stcentury. Macrons vision is an all-European defensive collective that is armed up and can act independently and ahead of brain dead NATO. Biden knows this, but made no mention of it in his remarks, offering instead only sweeping declarations that Europe and the United States must again trust in one another. And so, just minutes after Bidens speech, the first by a sitting U.S. president to the annual event, Macron pumped the brakes.

I listened to President Biden and appreciated the list of common challenges, Macron responded in French, but we have an agenda that is unique. Declaring that his message to this years conference had not changed since last years, he delivered his by-now-familiar sales pitch, repeating that Europe has its own security issues that should not always require or rely on U.S. participation or permission, especially for military actions on Europes borders with the Middle East and North Africa. We need more of Europe to deal with our neighborhood, Macron said. I think it is time for us to take much more of the burden for our own protection.

Like Biden, Macron is reacting in part to his tumultuous experience with President Donald Trump and the far-right American nationalists who almost kept him in power for four more years. Dont forget: for a short while Macron tried to buddy up to Trump and American political leaders. But three years ago, he popped the bromance bubble and delivered the best political speech Americans had heard in years, rebuking Trumpism and isolationism during a joint session of Congress. And by last year, he was delivering a codified lesson from those experiences: Europeans no longer should leave their security to the Yanks.

For Macrons idea to work, he must convince the new American president, European politicians and voters, and his own electorate in France. Macron is up for reelection this year, and the left already is unhappy with his less-than-liberal shifts, including this push for a far-more-robust European defense.

To Frances allies, Macron argues, this new order is no threat. It is totally compatible. More than thatI think it will make NATO even stronger than before, he said Friday. But it also would require shifting resources, strategy, and culture, increasing defense spending and acting collectively to deploy troops beyond Europes borders.

And statesman-to-statesman, the 43-year old French leader will have to convince the 78-year old Biden or, at least, Bidens team of Secretary of State Tony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

Macron laid some of that groundwork two weeks ago when he spent 90 minutes speaking to the Atlantic Council, the influential Washington-based think tank. He gave three priorities for working with the Biden administration, all of which would lead him to his new-era multilateralism that gives Europe more control and flexibility over its regional security. My mandate has been to try to reinvent or restore an actual European sovereignty, he said.

Macron argued that NATO had been under U.S. control for decades, and that its European members under the umbrella of the U.S. Army had to buy American. Meanwhile, American troops, he suggested, are beginning to linger in Europe without purpose.

First, because this is not sustainable to have, I mean, U.S. soldiers being in Europe and in our neighborhood involved at such a scale without clear and direct interests. At a point of time, we have to be much more in charge of our neighborhood. In other words, he said, NATOs sustainability was always at risk.

I think we are in a periodin a moment of clarification for NATO, he said.

Macron hopes the idea of shifting European defense to Europeans is palatable to Americans. I think the more Europe is committed to defend, invest, and be part of the protection of its neighborhood, the more it is important for the U.S. as well, because this is a more-fair burden sharing. The question is the nature of the coordination at NATO and the clarity of our political concept and our common targets at NATO. To wit, he said, the Middle East, Africa [are] our neighbors. It is not the U.S.s neighborhood.

At the moment, this neighborhood is more on Macrons mind than Washingtons. Frances spat with Turkey over its independent positioning in Libya and at-sea standoffs with the Greeks has the French president calling for a new system that somehow requires NATO allies agree to work together to be of the same minds militarily but also politically. What he seems to want is a way to force Turkeys President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to capitulate. Macron said Turkeys military incursion into northern Syria hurt the entire alliance.

The absence of any regulation, I would say, by NATO the absence of intervention to stop the escalation was detrimental for all of us, he said. At the time, NATO forces were on the ground in Syria with their proxies, the Syrian Democratic Forces, which Ankara broadly alleges are all anti-Turkish terrorists, he recounted. And suddenly one of our members decided to kill them because they became terrorists. This is exactly what happened. The credibility of NATO, U.S., France was totally destroyed in the region. Who can trust you when you behave in such a way, without any coordination?

Macron pushed for NATO members to deliver concrete results meaning, Fix the Libyan situation. Get rid of Turkish troops from Libya. Get rid of thousands of jihadists exported from Syria to Libya by Turkey, itself, in complete breach of the Berlin conference.

Its a hot moment for Macron, who is fighting for his political life and European strategic autonomy. If Biden and his team are ready for it, they didnt show it on Fridays virtual teleconference.

I know the past few years have strained and tested our transatlantic relationship, but the United States is determined determined to re-engage with Europe, to consult with you, to earn back our position of trusted leadership, Biden said, in a rather low-energy reading of the speech.

Consulting may not be enough. Biden and his team may have to act. They have an opportunity and momentum to fundamentally re-make the outdated transatlantic security balance with less reliance on American dollars and troops. That may not necessarily mean Washington has less influence, as NATOs Article V promise Bidens unshakable vow and NATOs treaty-based nuclear deterrent umbrella will remain intact. Macron just may need to find a way to lead Biden where he wants this to go.

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Eastern Approaches – The New Administration and NATO Challenges in 2021 with Former SACEUR Gen. (ret.) Philip Breedlove – Jamestown – The Jamestown…

Posted: at 2:37 pm

In the latest episode of Eastern Approaches, Jamestown President Glen Howard and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) General (ret.) Philip Breedlove discuss the challenges facing the new Biden administration and the Transatlantic alliance. NATO must continue to stay united as it confronts a hostile Russia, but it will have to maintain credible and effective warfighting capabilities despite likely renewed budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Breedlove offers poignant and timely advice for increasing NATOs readiness posture and ability to deter future conflict in Eastern Europe, the Black Sea region, and the Arctic.

The Eastern Approaches video series is named after the book by British diplomat, spy and adventurer, Fitzroy Maclean, and features conversations with renowned experts on the most important geostrategic issues the United States faces in Eurasia, with an eye toward detail typically absent in foreign policy discussions today.

Featuring

Gen. (ret.) Philip BreedloveFmr. Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO Allied Command Operations

Interviewed By

Glen HowardPresident, The Jamestown Foundation

Participant Biographies

Gen. Philip M. Breedlove (Ret.)is a proven strategic planner, motivational leader and talented communicator. He is a highly decorated retired general of the U.S. Air Force where he reached the highest levels of military leadership as one of six geographic combatant commanders and the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO. During 39 years of service, General Breedlove served in a variety of demanding command and staff positions, leading large-scale, diverse, global operations across two theaters of combat and earning a reputation as an inspirational leader focused on his people, their families and mission accomplishment. Leading a diverse political-military alliance, he was able to build consensus and form teams to accomplish complex tasks spanning multiple continents.As the Supreme Allied Commander Europe and the Commander of U.S. European Command, he answered directly to NATOs governing body, the North Atlantic Council, and to the President of the United States and Secretary of Defense. He led the most comprehensive and strategic structural and policy security changes in the alliances 70-year history. His diplomatic skills reassured allies, deterred potential aggressors and maintained alliance unity during the most dynamic and challenging period since its inception. He led the forces of 28 nations and multiple partners in ensuring the security of an alliance that accounts for more than half the worlds gross domestic product.

As Commander, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa, General Breedlove was responsible for organizing, training, equipping and maintaining combat-ready forces while ensuring theater air defense forces were ready to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime defense. This diverse portfolio included both theater and operational air and ballistic missile defense, areas where his operational designs remain in place today.

As Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force, he presided over the Air Staff and served as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Requirements Oversight Council and Deputy Advisory Working Group during a period of intense challenge, including devising measures to meet the requirements of the Budget Control Acts required $480 billion reduction of the Department of Defense budget. Accordingly, he led the organization, training and equipping of more than 690,000 people serving in the U.S. Air Force and provided oversight of its $120 billion annual budget.

***

Glen Howardis the President of the Jamestown Foundation, one of the worlds leading research and analysis organizations on Eurasia. Based in Washington, D.C., Mr. Howard has overseen the research and analysis activities of Jamestown for the past 16 years and extensively dealt with Russia and Eurasia in his capacity as Jamestown President, working with the regional leaders and national strategists across Eurasia from the Baltic to Central Asia.

An expert on Eurasia and Russia, Mr. Howard is the co-author with Matt Czekaj of the new bookRussias Military Strategy and Doctrine, a collection of writings on Russian military strategy and doctrine by some of the worlds leading defense experts. Mr. Howard is also the editor of the bookVolatile Borderland: Russia and the North Caucasus, and other works. He has published articles in theWall Street Journal, Real Clear Defense, the Hill, and other prominent publications.

Mr. Howard is privileged to have worked for the late Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski from 2002 to 2008 as the executive director of an advocacy organization seeking a peaceful resolution of the second Russo-Chechen war. Mr. Howard worked at the U.S. Embassy Moscow from 1984-1986 and is fluent in Russian and proficient in French, Turkish and Azerbaijani.

Mr. Howard received a Masters degree in Soviet and East European Studies from the University of Kansas (1988) and has an undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University in Business Management (1984).

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NATO Chief: No Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan Before the Time Is Right – Voice of America

Posted: at 2:37 pm

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan need to do more to meet the terms of a 2020 peace deal with the United States to allow for all international forces to leave the country by a May deadline.

Stoltenberg spoke to reporters in Brussels ahead of a meeting later this week of allied defense ministers where the future of a NATO presence in Afghanistan will be discussed in line with the February 29 U.S.-Taliban agreement.

The NATO chief, however, cautioned against staging an abrupt foreign troop withdrawal, saying it could again turn Afghanistan into a haven for international terrorists.

There is still a need for the Taliban to do more when it comes to delivering on their commitments, including the commitment to break ties to not provide any support for terrorist organizations, Stoltenberg argued.

So, our presence is conditions-based. While no ally wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary, we will not leave before the time is right, he stressed. We need to find the right balance between making sure that we not stay longer than necessary, but at the same time, that we don't leave too early.

The deal signed under former U.S. President Donald Trump helped launch the first direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government last September. It has allowed Washington to reduce the number of U.S. forces in the country to 2,500 from nearly 13,000 a year ago.

But Afghanistan has lately experienced a spike in violence, prompting U.S. President Joe Biden to review the deal to examine whether the insurgents are complying with their commitments and whether to close what has been the longest overseas U.S. military intervention.

The U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. soldiers and cost Washington nearly $1 trillion.

Stoltenberg echoed the U.S.s skepticism about the Talibans intentions to end hostilities.

Peace talks remain fragile, and the level of violence remains unacceptably high, including Taliban attacks on civilians," Stoltenberg said. The Taliban must reduce violence, negotiate in good faith and live up to their commitment to stop cooperating with international terrorist groups.

Afghan leaders have alleged the Taliban are dragging their feet in the peace talks because the insurgents plan to seize power through military means once all U.S.-led foreign forces withdraw from the country.

The Taliban have repeatedly rejected allegations they are not complying with their obligations outlined in the agreement with the U.S. They have warned against abandoning the February 29 accord, saying it would lead to a dangerous escalation in the nearly 20-year-old war.

In a statement issued ahead of the NATO ministerial conference, the Islamist group insisted their fighters were not launching new offensives and instead were taking only defensive" actions to guard Taliban-held territory against attacks from U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.

Our message to the upcoming NATO ministerial meeting is that the continuation of occupation and war is neither in your interest nor in the interest of your and our people. Anyone seeking extension of wars and occupation will be held liable for it just like the previous two decades, the Taliban said.

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New Docs Show 1983 NATO Exercise Led To The Soviets Arming 100 Jets For Nuclear War – The Drive

Posted: at 2:37 pm

Soviet fighter jets, forward-based in what was then East Germany, were loaded with nuclear bombs and prepared for immediate use, as Moscow readied its forces for a potential full-scale war with NATO in 1983. These are among the latest details to have emerged about the war scare that year, which saw the two sides on the brink of a major conflict, all due to very serious misunderstanding.

The catalyst for the Soviets going onto a war footing in November 1983 was NATOs upcoming annual Able Archer command post and communications exercise, which tested the ability of the alliance's forces across Europe and beyond to conduct nuclear warfighting in a highly realistic fashion. Combined with other global tensions at that point in the Cold War, the Able Archer 83 maneuvers were misconstrued by the Soviets as genuine preparations for an all-out assault.

Rob Schleiffert/Wikimedia Commons

A MiG-27D Flogger departs Grossenhain Air Base in former East Germany for the last time, as part of the withdrawal of Russian forces, in 1993.

While the broad scope of this Cold War flashpoint has become much better known since the declassification in 2015 of a U.S. government report into the incident, details that reveal the seriousness of the situation, and how the Soviet side geared up for a nuclear war continue to emerge.

The new revelations come from a new batch of intelligence documents on these events released by the U.S. State Department and they paint an alarming picture, as Soviet forces prepared for the Armageddon that their leaders seem to have sincerely expected was about to come.

In the past, it was known that Able Archers warfighting simulations caused serious alarm among Moscows leadership. Since these drills used a scenario based on a nuclear attack on the Warsaw Pact, its easy to perceive how, if the intentions were misunderstood, that the situation could very quickly become extremely hazardous.

The exercise scenario for Able Archer 83 itself began with the hypothetical enemy forces opening hostilities in Europe on November 4, after which NATO went on general alert. The virtual enemy initiated the use of chemical weapons on November 6. While this was all scripted, the exercise itself began on November 7 and ran over five days. It was based around a simulated transition from conventional and chemical warfare to a nuclear exchange. Above all, the drills were designed to give NATO command posts and communications networks training in this kind of escalation. The realism was such that among those involved were British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

National Security Archive

A U.S. Air Force after-action report from Able Archer 83.

In 1983, a subsequent investigation by the Presidents Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board stated, we may have inadvertently placed our relations with the Soviet Union on a hair-trigger.

What we can now understand, too, are some of the precise mechanisms that put the two superpowers onto a potential nuclear collision course.

Derived from signals intelligence collected at the time, the documents describe how the Soviet military command posts across East Germany were ordered to be manned by augmented teams around the clock. In particular, we now know how the Soviet 16th Air Army, with its dozens of airbases scattered across East German territory, responded when the alarm was raised, being placed on a heightened state of alert on the evening of November 2.

National Security Archive

Rob Schleiffert/Wikimedia Commons

An impressive line-up of MiG-27s at Lrz Air Base, former East Germany, ahead of their withdrawal in 1993.

As the spearhead of the 16th Air Army, the fighter-bomber divisions, which primarily flew MiG-27 Flogger and Su-17 Fitter combat jets, plus smaller numbers of swing-wing Su-24 Fencers, were the focus of much of the activity. Its not surprising, too, that NATO was keeping a close eye on these units, as they would have been tasked with nuclear strikes against the alliances airfields, missile bases, and other key targets.

It wasnt just the 16th Air Army that was preparing for war, either. Further to the east, the Soviet 4th Air Army in Poland was also put on alert, on the orders of Marshal Pavel Kutakhov, the chief of the Soviet Air Forces.

National Security Archive

Among the fighter-bomber divisions, one squadron within each regiment was ordered to arm its aircraft with nuclear bombs. Typically, each regiment had three squadrons, of which one was a specialist in nuclear strike missions, regularly practicing loading and unloading weapons, and flying appropriate attack profiles.

The now-declassified documents state that the nuclear-armed jets were put on 30-minute alert, with their crews briefed to destroy first-line enemy targets. Providing the intelligence is accurate, and one squadron from each of the eight Soviet fighter-bomber regiments in East Germany was armed with at least one nuclear bomb. That would have provided around 96 aircraft ready for a nuclear strike, depending on serviceability, based on a nominal squadron strength of 12.

Rob Schleiffert/Wikimedia Commons

A Su-17M4 Fitter-K taxis at Gross DllnAir Base, former East Germany.

Its a little-known fact that within the Soviet Air Forces tactical aviation branch, known as Frontal Aviation, almost all combat aircraft included a variant tailored for the carriage of freefall nuclear bombs. Even today, however, few details are available about the weapons themselves. As of 1983, the standard tactical nuclear bombs included the RN-40 and RN-41, carried by the MiG-23, MiG-27, MiG-29, Su-17, and Su-24. Western sources give the RN-40 an approximate yield of 30 kilotons twice that of the Little Boy bomb that the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima near the end of World War II.

As well as the nuclear weapons themselves, NATO intelligence confirmed that at least one of the Su-17M4 Fitter-Ks at Neuruppin Air Base home of the 730th Fighter-Bomber Aviation Regiment was fitted with an electronic jamming pod for self-protection, more evidence that offensive missions were being planned. Intelligence gathered from the National Security Agency then revealed that the squadron encountered an unexpected weight and balance problem and was told to continue without the electronics gear.

PUBLIC DOMAIN

An original Western intelligence photo of one of the earlier Su-17M2 Fitter-D fighter-bombers, dated 1985 and almost certainly taken in East Germany.

This message meant that at least this particular squadron was loading a munitions configuration that they had never actually loaded before, i.e., a warload, U.S. military intelligence analysts concluded at the time.

The hazards of the 1983 war scare are still all too clear to see, almost four decades later. After all, as mentioned before, this was a critical point in the Cold War. Before Able Archer, tensions had already been heightened by a variety of factors, including an escalating arms race, increasingly belligerent statements from leaders on both sides, leadership crises in the Soviet Union, and a previous scare in which a serious malfunction led to a Soviet satellite control center to alert officials to an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) attack from the United States. In September 1983, just months before the annual Able Archer exercise, Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (KAL007) had been shot down by a Soviet Su-15 Flagon interceptor over the Sea of Japan, killing all 269 passengers and crew on board.

U.S. Navy

After-action report map for the joint American, Japanese, and South Koreas search operations in international waters after the shootdown of KAL007.

While the regular Able Archer maneuvers were known to the Soviets, they still considered it most likely that World War III would begin with a surprise NATO attack under the cover of just such an exercise. When all these elements came together in late 1983, there was a terrifying sense of inevitability in how the Soviets began preparing for nuclear war.

This, of course, is with the benefit of hindsight and it is fortunate that critical decision-makers at the time were not necessarily aware of how the Soviets had responded to the exercise. The recently released documents also include the testimony of Air Force Lieutenant General Leonard H. Perroots, who was, at the time, Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence within U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE), headquartered at Ramstein Air Base in then-West Germany. Perroots recalled contacting his superiors at the time of the war scare, including the USAFE commander-in-chief, General Billy Minter.

U.S. Air Force

Lieutenant General Leonard H. Perroots, who later became Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Minter asked Perroots for his assessment of what was happening in East Germany and was told that there was insufficient evidence to justify increasing our real alert posture. But Perroots admitted later that, as more details became available about the status of the Soviet forces across the border, he became ever more concerned. If I had known then what I later found out I am uncertain what advice I would have given, he later admitted.

Perroots maintained that he had made the right call in not recommended an escalation on the NATO side. However, he was aware that he lacked a complete picture of the preparations that the Soviets were making. It was only after the exercise that he began to realize just how serious the situation appeared, including what was happening across Soviet airbases in East Germany.

On this occasion, we should probably all be thankful that Perroots was not a party to the details of Soviet preparations for a nuclear war that we now have to hand. All in all, the 1983 war scare continues to provide sobering reminders of the dangers of nuclear brinkmanship and how suspicions between foes can rapidly escalate into something altogether much more perilous.

Contact the author: thomas@thedrive.com

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Canada to face pressure to reverse withdrawal of troops from NATO mission in Iraq – CP24 Toronto’s Breaking News

Posted: at 2:37 pm

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press Published Wednesday, February 17, 2021 5:45AM EST

OTTAWA -- Canada is expected to face pressure this week to reverse a recent drawdown of troops from Iraq as the NATO military alliance prepares to expand its presence in the country.

The alliance has persistent concerns about Islamic State extremists and Iranian-backed militias.

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg predicted this week that defence ministers from across the alliance would approve the deployment of more trainers and advisers to help Iraqi security forces fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will be among those participating in the discussion during a two-day, closed-door meeting where he and counterparts from across the alliance will also discuss Afghanistan and the threats posed by China and Russia.

I expect ministers will agree to launch an expanded mission with more allied personnel training and advising in more security institutions across the country, Stoltenberg said during a news conference on Monday.

The mission will expand gradually in response to that situation. This follows requests from the Iraqi government, in close co-ordination with the global coalition. So that together, we can ensure that (ISIL) does not return.

The proposed expansion would see a dramatic increase in the number of troops assigned to NATO's current training mission - and likely result in pressure on Canada to start sending troops back into Iraq after having withdrawn nearly 200 over the past year.

The current NATO mission was launched in 2018 and involved around 500 troops with the aim of building up Iraq's military so it could better combat extremist groups like ISIL. Canada contributed 200 of those initial troops and the mission was led by a Canadian general.

The Department of National Defence says only 17 Canadian troops are now working with the NATO mission, command of which was passed to Denmark in the fall.

The NATO mission isn't the only area where Canada has started to withdraw troops from the war against ISIL, with the military saying it had fewer than 400 troops in the region in January - down from a high of more than 850 several years ago.

(In addition to the NATO training mission, Canada's war against ISIL has meant deploying special-forces troops to northern Iraq, transport aircraft and intelligence units to Kuwait and training teams to Jordan and Lebanon.)

Canadian military commanders have previously linked the drawdown to a decreased need for trainers as the Iraqi military has increasingly been able to conduct operations against ISIL and other extremists on its own.

A report published last week by the U.S. Defense Department's inspector general appears to back up that assessment, even though it added that Iraqi security forces continued to rely on coalition air power, surveillance and intelligence.

The report also described ISIL as an ongoing menace, with estimates of between 8,000 and 16,000 extremist fighters in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, and also warning that Iranian-backed militia posed some of the greatest threats.

That threat was underscored on Monday when a military base in northern Iraq housing western soldiers - including Canadian special forces - was targeted by a rocket attack. One person was killed and several others were injured, including a U.S. service member.

Defence Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said all Canadian military personnel at the base located next to the Irbil International Airport in Iraq's Kurdistan region were safe and accounted for.

One of the many Iranian-backed militias in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack, the latest attributed to such groups, which many observers see as proxies in the broader, slow-burn conflict between the U.S. and Iran.

Sajjan declined in December to say whether Canada's mission against ISIL would even be extended beyond its current end-date of March 31, instead emphasizing in an interview with The Canadian Press that Canada would continue to be a reliable partner.

However, the defence minister did say the government would base any decision on ensuring the hard-fought gains made in previous years are not lost - particularly in Iraq.

Bessma Momani, a Middle East expert at the University of Waterloo, notes the Canadian military is heavily involved in several other missions, especially at home, where it has been helping with the COVID-19 pandemic.

But she believes Canada can and should contribute more troops to Iraq to ensure the country can continue to stand not only against ISIL, but also Iran and its militias.

It's a small force, in my humble view, she said. The ask is so low, and the potential upside of that is really high.

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U.S. enters NATO meetings: China and Russia threats …

Posted: February 18, 2021 at 2:30 pm

WASHINGTON Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will meet with members of the world's most powerful military alliance on Wednesday for the first time since joining the Biden administration.

NATO meets Wednesday and Thursday to discuss an array of challenges facing the 30-member group. The virtual meetings will be a glimpse into President Joe Biden's foreign policy agenda and comes on the heels of his calls to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with America's closest allies.

"When we strengthen our alliances we amplify our power as well as our ability to disrupt threats before they reach our shores," Biden said during a speech at the State Department. "America cannot afford to be absent any longer on the world stage," he added.

Biden's message broke sharply from his predecessor's "America First" policy, which on occasion seemed to vex NATO members.

Under former President Donald Trump, Kay Bailey Hutchison served as the connective tissue between Washington and the alliance in her role as the U.S. Ambassador to NATO.

"There was never a rift or tension among the ambassadors and me," she told CNBC when asked if the alliance was impacted by Trump's approach.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg greets NATO's US Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison on the second day of the NATO summit, in Brussels, on July 12, 2018.

Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt | AFP | Getty Images

"Now, that's not to say that some of the allies weren't upset with what the president had said or done on a given day. But overall we had a great relationship and always kept everyone informed," Hutchison explained, elaborating on the wider policy goals shared by NATO members.

"I think the alliance is strong and unified and I think everyone knows that the U.S. is essential in NATO," the former Senator from Texas said, adding that the United States will continue to take a prominent leadership role within the group.

Ahead of the virtual meetings this week, Hutchison shared what she expects will be high on the alliance's agenda.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, attend the Tsinghua Universitys ceremony, at Friendship Palace on April 26, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Kenzaburo Fukuhara | Getty Images

The tension between Beijing and Washington soared under the Trump administration, which escalated a trade war and worked to ban Chinese technology companies from doing business in the United States.

Over the past four years, the Trump administration blamed China for a wide range of grievances, including intellectual property theft, unfair trade practices and recently, thecoronavirus pandemic.

Biden previously said thathis approach to China would be different from his predecessor's in that hewould work more closely with alliesin order to mount pushback against Beijing.

"We will confront China's economic abuses," Biden explained in a speech at the State Department, describing Beijing as America's "most serious competitor."

"But we're also ready to work with Beijing when it's in America's interest to do so. We'll compete from a position of strength by building back better at home and working with our allies and partners."

Hutchison said that many of the issues the Biden administration looks to address with China also fall into shared interests held by the NATO alliance.

"We have been really focusing on China much more in the last two years," Hutchison said. "When the Belt and Road initiative came out and then, of course, the crackdown on Hong Kong, Covid-19 and the lack of transparency on that, all really brought China into the NATO radar."

If all of us speak with one voice, we can have more influence on China."

Kay Bailey Hutchison

Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO

Hutchison explained that the members will discuss the great power competition, which is used to describe the friction between the United States and China in shaping security practices and setting trade norms worldwide. Russia is sometimes included as an element in the power struggle.

She also said that as the Pentagon began to stand up a new military branch dedicated to space, the United States Space Force, the NATO alliance also expanded its mission and declared space a security domain.

"That was because China is doing a lot up there with satellites and artificial intelligence, and we are now having to focus on that and begin to build deterrence as best we can," Hutchison said of the move by NATO leaders to include space in its security portfolio.

"Cyber and hybrid, of course, is another big area where both China and Russia are active," she added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters the St. George Hall at the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

Mikhail Klimentyev | AFP | Getty Images

Like China, Biden has also said that the United States will have a different approach in dealing with Russian PresidentVladimir Putin.

"I made it very clear to President Putin in a manner very different from my predecessor that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russian aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyberattacks, poisoning its citizens, are over," Biden said earlier this month.

"We will be more effective in dealing with Russia when we work in coalition and coordination with other like-minded partners," he added.

The White House is currently reviewing other maligned Russian actions including the SolarWinds hack, reports of Russian bounties on American troops in Afghanistan and potential election interference.

"There was never any let-up in NATO regarding Russia," Hutchison told CNBC when asked about the alliance's approach. "And I don't think there'll be a change in course because I think we've been tough about Russia," she added.

Hutchison said that in the wake of the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the NATO alliance was swift to condemn Moscow's actions.

"There was a unanimous vote of our allies calling out Russia on the Navalny issue when it was first, of course, clear that Russia had poisoned this man," Hutchison said.

Last summer, Navalny was medically evacuated to Germany from a Russian hospital after he became ill following reports that something was added to his tea. Russian doctors treating Navalny denied that the Kremlin critic had been poisoned and blamed his comatose state on low blood sugar levels.

A still image taken from video footage shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, during the announcement of a court verdict in Moscow, Russia February 2, 2021.

Simonovsky District Court | via Reuters

In September, the German government said that the 44-year-old Russian dissident was poisoned by a chemical nerve agent, describing the toxicology report as providing "unequivocal evidence." The nerve agent was in the family of Novichok,which was developed by the Soviet Union.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied having a role in Navalny's poisoning.

Last month, Navalny flew to Russia from Berlin, Germanywhere he spent nearly half a year recovering. He was arrested at passport control and latersentencedto more than two years in prison.

Hutchison also explained that the alliance will need to discuss the messy, multibillion-dollar deal between Russia and Turkey, which led to unprecedented U.S. sanctions on the NATO member.

In 2017, Turkish President Recep Erdogan brokered a deal reportedly worth $2.5 billion with Putin for the S-400 missile system.

The S-400, a mobile surface-to-air missile system, is said to pose a risk to the NATO alliance as well as the F-35, America's most expensive weapons platform.

In short, these two big-ticket weapons systems that Turkey hoped to add to its budding arsenal could be used against each other.

You can't work out a Russian missile defense system in the NATO alliance and have business as usual."

Kay Bailey Hutchison

Former U.S. Ambassador to NATO

A Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

Sergei Malgavko | TASS via Getty Images

In October, the Pentagon and State Department issued strong rebukes following reports that Turkey's military tested the Russia-made missile system.

In December, Washington slapped sanctions on the country.

"It's a huge problem and it's one that Turkey kept thinking, apparently, that this could all be worked out. But you can't work out a Russian missile defense system in the NATO alliance and have business as usual," Hutchison explained to CNBC.

"Everyone in NATO knows it's a problem and Turkey needs to find an off-ramp for this," she added.

U.S. Marines and Georgian Army soldiers run to the extraction point during Operation Northern Lion II in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013.

U.S. Marine Corps photo

The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $1.57 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001, according to aDefense Department report.

The war in Afghanistan, which is now America's longest conflict, began 19 years ago and has cost U.S. taxpayers $193 billion, according tothe Pentagon.

Last February theUnited States brokered a deal with the Talibanthat would usher in a permanent cease-fire and reduce the U.S. military's footprint from approximately 13,000 troops to 8,600 by mid-July last year. By May 2021, all foreign forces would leave the war-weary country, according to the deal.

There are about 2,500 U.S. troops in the country. Currently, the U.S. is slated to withdraw American service members from Afghanistan by May 1, 2021.

"I told all the Biden people when we were in transition that they were really going to have to make the decision about whether they want to draw down by the first of May or draw down over a different time period or not draw down and keep troops there," Hutchison explained to CNBC.

"All the vibes I'm getting, without talking to anyone specifically, is that they are going to leave troops there and not draw down further," she added.

Read more: Pentagon uncertain on pullback date for U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Last month, the Pentagon said the U.S. troop drawdown in Afghanistan would be contingent on the Taliban's commitments to uphold a peace deal brokered last year.

"The Taliban have not met their commitments," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters during a Jan. 28 press briefing.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby speaks at press conference at the Pentagon January 28, 2021 in Arlington,Virginia.

Yasin Ozturk | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

He added that Austin was reviewing the matter and had discussed the path forward in the war-torn country with NATO allies and partners.

"It is under discussion with our partners and allies to make the best decisions going forward on our force presence in Afghanistan," Kirby said, adding that the Biden administration has not yet made a determination.

NATO Secretary-General JensStoltenberg previously warned that leaving Afghanistan too soonor in an uncoordinated effort could present unintended consequences for the world's largest military organization.

"Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organize attacks on our homelands. And ISIS could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq," the NATO chief said, referring to Islamic State militants.

In February, theAfghanistan Study Group, a bipartisan congressionally mandated panel under the United States Institute of Peace, recommended keeping U.S. troops in the war-torn country "in order to give the peace process sufficient time to produce an acceptable result."

The group wrote, in a report released on February 3, that the United States has a significant interest in safeguarding Afghanistan from "becoming again a safe haven for terrorists."

"We believe that a U.S. withdrawal will provide the terrorists an opportunity to reconstitute and our judgment is that reconstitution will take place within about 18 to 36 months," former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford told a virtual United States Institute of Peace audience. Dunford, a retired four-star Marine general, co-chairs the study group.

1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, watch as CH-47 Chinook helicopters circle above during a dust storm at Forward Operating Base Kushamond, Afghanistan, July 17, during preparation for an air assault mission.

U.S. Army photo

"We also conclude and there will be no surprise to those who follow Afghanistan, that the Afghan forces are highly dependent on U.S. funding in operational support and they'll continue to be for some time to come," Dunford said.

NATO joined the international security effort in Afghanistan in 2003 and currently has more than 7,000 troops in the country. The NATO mission in Afghanistan was launched after the alliance activated its mutual defense clause known as Article 5 for the first time in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

"I think there's a lot that will be decided and it will be pivotal what the administration and Secretary Austin say," Hutchison told CNBC. "The allies are going to be looking for what the U.S. is intending because of course, we provide the enablers for the train-and-advise mission of NATO there," she added.

Hutchison also added that the alliance may discuss the possibility of expanding the training-and-advising mission in Iraq.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the days that the NATO alliance is meeting.

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