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|U.S. Department of Defense
|Presenter: Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; Visiting Professor Lawrence Freedman, University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government||September 07, 2016|
Remarks by Secretary Carter at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford, England.
LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: Ladies and gentlemen, hi. My name is Lawrence Freedman. I’m a visiting professor here. I’m really here to be welcoming to the Blavatnik School, the honorable Ashton Carter, the U.S. secretary of defense, to speak to us today. There’s never enough time in these events so I’m not going to give a lengthy introduction, but I do want to mention, because it’s very relevant to Secretary Carter. Secretary Carter, that is the defense secretary, is a Rhodes Scholar.
I first met him when he was at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. But since then he’s had a rather stellar career. It was pretty stellar even then, including four different positions at the Pentagon. He became secretary in 2015. He’s known for the clarity of his thinking and the energy with which he has forged policies and then implemented them.
He comes to us at quite an important time — greaten certainty in some ways with our two countries. In the U.K. because of the vote to leave the European Union and, of course, in the United States because of the coming election. And this is of course at a time of enormous challenges in Europe with Russian still acting illegally in the Ukraine and turmoil in the Middle East.
He’s going to talk to us today on the U.S.-U.K. security relationship and the future of the principle of international order. And after that will be some time where we can have some questions. But please welcome secretary of defense.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Thanks. Thank you, Lawrie, thanks very much. Old friend, appreciate those kind words and for everything you’re doing to help ensure that today’s students and readers learn the best of the old lessons of war and strategy, even as they work to shape and serve in this new era. And I want to thank Dean Woods also, who couldn’t be here I know in the Blavatnik School, for inviting me to return to Oxford to speak with all of you today. And I’ve got a number of friends in the audience I’ll mention shortly.
And it’s a pleasure for me to be back in the United Kingdom, always is, and back on this campus, as you might imagine. That’s because, first of all, the United States has no stronger ally, no closer ally, than the United Kingdom. And the world has few finer educational institutions than this one. For centuries the great and the good have been studying here. And you’ve been generous enough to let in a few people like me over the years.
And as Lawrie mentioned, I was fortunate to be here. I was grateful nobody help my Philadelphia accent against me. Now you probably know, in the United States speaking with a British accent earns you automatically an extra ten points of perceived I.Q. And here it can work just that — just the other way around.
But everybody treated me very well. I had a wonderful time here. I earned my doctoral degree in theoretical physics at St. John’s College under Chris Llewellyn Smith, sitting here today. Perturbative quantum chromodynamics and covariant gauge, if you must know. And I’ll spare you details.
That at St. John’s with Chris, and studied many other subjects at one of Oxford’s other nearby renowned institutions, the Lamb & Flag pub next to St. John’s. And I’m disappointed I won’t have time for a visit there today also. But that’s because, after I meet with you here today, I’m back to London in time for a very special event.
Tonight dozens of defense ministers from around the world will gather for the first ever U.N. peacekeeping defense ministerial. My friend in the United Kingdom, Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon — my very good friend, very able friend — is hosting this important event. Where we’ll discuss how the world’s militaries can and must do more to end, but more importantly to prevent in the first place, conflicts around the world.
Of course, that’s not a new commitment for the United Kingdom. Like many Americans and others around the world, I’ve always valued Britain’s and its people’s global view. I saw that as a student here at Oxford. I’ve seen it in my years working on defense issues for my country, alongside our British allies, who’ve long played a leadership role, economically, politically, militarily, and morally around the world. As it has done so, the U.K. has helped ensure collective security and prosperity in Europe and many other regions of the world, among many other contributions it’s made to global civilization.
And I see the U.K.’s global view, global influence, global reach, both military and morals still today, at a time of great change in the world and at a time when the principled international order we’ve built together is being tested in Europe and elsewhere. Indeed in the face of Russia’s aggression and coercion and ISIL’s barbarism, the two topics I’d like to address this morning, the United States and the United Kingdom are continuing to stand together.
So I’d like to speak with you about the steps that our alliance, our special relationship is taking to continue to stand up for the principles and values that have for decades made us all safer, freer and more prosperous.
We’ve been doing so together for the last seven and a half decades, because although the U.S.-U.K. relationship is rooted in centuries of shared history, including a few contretemps and centuries of tension along the way, our modern alliance can be said to have its roots in conversations and meetings held just 75 years ago this month aboard the USS Augusta and the HMS Prince of Wales.
It was in August 1941 on these two ships anchored off the shores of Newfoundland that President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met for the first time, and together, made history. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill’s conversations those days were unique and instructive for us today.
That’s because before World War II was won, before it even seemed likely to be won anytime soon and before the United States was even in the war, the U.S. and the U.K. and the Atlantic Charter identified the eight certain common principles on which they based their hopes for a better future for the world, as they put it.
Those principles included freedom of the seas, the right of people to choose their own government and the elimination of territorial changes against the wishes of the people who live there. We should take a moment to appreciate the wisdom and pluck, one might say, of those two great statesman who had the foresight to make a plan for after the war before they’d finalized a plan to win the war.
At the time the Atlantic Charter was issued, the United Kingdom was fighting for its very survival, and the United States would soon be in the fight as well. But as the charter demonstrated, they also sought, and later fought together, to build a world that would not just be safer, but also better thanks to those shared principles.
That commitment and the inherent logic of our partnership is what makes our relationship so special. We’re brought together and we work together not only because of shared interests and values, though these are closely aligned, but also because of shared belief in and willingness to take action to promote and defend the principle of international order. That’s why Roosevelt and Churchill met near Newfoundland and worked so closely in the years that followed.
And that’s also why generations of American and British service members and civilians have served together to deliver on the commitment and principles embodied in the charter. Along with allies, other allies, these men and women, whether they served in the Battle of the Bulge, at Bletchley Park, on the seas of the Atlantic or the sands of North Africa, or in the skies over the continent or in battles in the Asia-Pacific — all those places, they together won a world war and set the stage for the hard work to build a better world around those principles.
And together, the United States and the United Kingdom, our militaries, our service members have realized that opportunity. Together, during and after the war, we built multilateral institutions like the United Nations and the Bretton Woods system. We established and led the greatest alliance in history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to deter an aggressive Soviet Union and provide a shield behind which the nations of Europe could rebuild.
During the Cold War, we stood together to confront a global adversary intent on autocracy and dominion, and after we succeeded we helped bring East and West together again. We stood together to help make and keep the peace in the Balkans. We stood and responded together in the face of terror 15 years ago after 9/11, 11 years ago after the 7/7 bombings, fighting side by side during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We’ve continued to do so, most recently in the coalition military campaign plan to deliver ISIL a lasting and certain defeat. And because of all we’ve done together, our people, our two nations and people around the world benefited over these past 75 years. The world’s become more prosperous and dynamic as a result. All that change — economic, political, military, social, technological, personal, national, regional, global — has produced many opportunities for both our nations but it’s also created challenges and crises as well.
Indeed, today’s security environment is dramatically different from that of the last generation and even the generation before that. In this new era, the United States and Department of Defense that I lead are contending with five immediate and major rapidly evolving challenges.
First, of course here in Europe, the United States is standing with the United Kingdom and America’s NATO allies in taking a strong and balanced approach to deter Russian aggression, about which I’ll say more in a moment.
We’re managing change in the vital Asia-Pacific region, where China is rising, which is fine. But also behaving in some ways that are aggressive and self-isolating, which is not. In that same region, we’re also strengthening our deterrent and defense forces in the face of North Korea’s nuclear missile provocations and threat to our ally the Republic of Korea and another ally, Japan.
In the Middle East, especially in and around the Gulf, we’re checking Iranian aggression and malign influence, all the while standing with America’s friends and allies in the region. And of course in the broader Middle East as well as elsewhere in the world, the Defense Department is continuing to counter and to defeat terrorism, in particular accelerating a lasting defeat of ISIL in its parent tumor in Iraq and Syria, and everywhere it metastasizes. More onthat in a moment as well.
Now thankfully, the United States and its military and Defense Department did not have to respond to all these challenges or to underwrite some sort of global security all alone. President Obama and all Americans are heartened to know that we can continue to count on our allies and alliances and friends, and especially on the United Kingdom, to join us in meeting these challenges and defending the principled world order.
And that’s because even with all the change in the world, the inherent logic of our countries’ special relationship still stands. That was true the day before the Brexit vote and it’s true today after the Brexit vote. The United States respects the decision of the British people and we’re committed to continuing to partner together in the months and years ahead.
While I said before the vote that I wished it would go the other way, I’m confident the U.S. and the U.K. will now focus on the future, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m here this week to work with my counterpart, Secretary Fallon, who’s doing the same, to ensure that our countries and our militaries are ready to keep standing together and partnering together in the years ahead.
That’s important because the Brexit decision does not change all that we have to do together, whether in response to Russian provocation or ISIL’s threats or anything else. Doesn’t change the fact that the United Kingdom will continue to have a rich relationship with countries across Europe, economically, politically and militarily. And it does not change at all that the United Kingdom and in particular its military, all that it is doing, all it is doing at home and around the world. It doesn’t change that.
We see that in the ambitious, forward-looking strategic defense and security review conducted by the U.K. government last year, which has quickly progressed to the implementation phase. We see it in the coming modernization of the United Kingdom’s continuous at sea deterrent in maritime patrol aircraft, attack helicopters, which make clear the British military will continue to be among the most capable in the world.
And we see it in the British military’s contributions to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and the global coalition to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat. To our deterrents efforts against Russian aggression and leading NATO, including upholding the alliance-wide commitment — and this is important — to invest two percent of GDP in defense.
This week’s U.N. peacekeeping ministerial is yet another example of the U.K.’s continuing leadership in the world. At a time of crisis and change, strengthening U.N. peacekeeping is vital, and I appreciate Britain’s leadership in pressing for reforms to U.N. peacekeeping. And I look forward to discussing that further this evening when I join Prime Minister May, Secretary Fallon and other defense ministers for this important ministerial.
The United Kingdom’s continued commitment to global leadership comes at a time when the principled international order is being tested. For as more nations rise and some states fail, as some institutions fray, as people seek better lives in other countries and on other continents, some are questioning whether the principle of international order can endure and continue to serve us well into the future.
Unfortunately, some in the world are also intent on challenging or even upending that principled order. I’ll speak about two of those challenges today. The first are states like Russia that are trying to play by their own rules, undercutting the principles that have benefited their own country and the rest of the world. None of these actors can overturn the international order completely, but they’re intent on undermining its cohesion, questioning its effectiveness, assailing its legitimacy.
The second type of challenger, who in their own right stand opposed to principled order, are terrorists like ISIL, who are intent on pursuing a violent ideology premised on hatred and intolerance, and seeking to thrive on division and suspicion. They directly target the human values and shared principles that bind the current order.
Let me start with the challenge posed by Russia’s coercion and aggression. Despite the progress that we made together in the aftermath of the Cold War, Russia’s actions in recent years, its violations of Ukrainian and Georgian territorial integrity, its unprofessional behavior in the air, in space and in cyberspace, as well as its nuclear saber rattling, all have demonstrated that Russia has clear ambition to erode the principled international order that has served the United States, our allies and partners, the international community, and in fact Russia itself, so well.
As it does so, Russia appears driven by misguided ambition and misplaced fear. Russia wants to be considered, and very understandably, as the important world power it is, one of historic importance. Unfortunately, its tendency is to pursue that goal by undercutting the work and contributions of others rather than by creating or making positive contributions on its own.
Sows instability rather than cultivating stability, lashes out, alleging that it fears for its own viability in the future, even though no nation — not the United States, not the United Kingdom — seeks to defeat it or constrain its potential. Just the opposite. We’ve all expressed an interest in being able to work more closely with Russia.
In our response to this behavior, the United States is taking a strong and balanced approach to address Russia’s actions and deter Russian aggression against our allies. We’re strengthening our capabilities, our posture, our investments, our plans, our allies and partners, all the while keeping the door open to working with Russia wherever and whenever our interests align.
Now, let me be clear. The United States does not seek a cold, let alone hot, war with Russia. We don’t seek an enemy in Russia. But also make no mistake, we will defend our allies, the principled international order and the positive future it affords us. We will counter attempts to undermine our collective security and will not ignore attempts to interfere with our democratic processes.
Now, we haven’t had to prioritize deterrents in the Transatlantic community’s eastern flank for over 25 years. Unfortunately, now we do. That’s why the United States is strengthening our deterrent posture here in Europe. Our defense budget for the coming year includes significantly more funding for our European Reassurance Initiative, $3.4 billion. More than quadruple what we allocated just last year.
That will allow us to rotate and arm a brigade combat team into Europe on a persistent basis and to preposition a brigade’s worth of equipment and more fighting gear to be used by American troops flown into Europe. And that’s in addition of course to the two brigades the United States already has stationed in Europe.
Meanwhile NATO, which the United States and the United Kingdom helped establish and build into the greatest alliance in history, has been writing a new playbook for itself. Here’s what I mean by that. The twentieth century NATO playbook that helped counter the Soviet Union in the Cold War is not a perfect match for today’s Russia challenge. That’s why NATO’s new playbook takes the lessons of history and leverages our alliance’s strengths in new ways.
We’ve been adapting and innovating to meet new challenges, like countering the cyber and the hybrid warfare threats we’re seeing more and more of, integrating our conventional and nuclear deterrents and adjusting our military posture and presence here in Europe so we can be more agile and quick in responding to threats.
For example, the United States, the U.K. and our NATO allies have developed and exercised a very high readiness joint task force. It can deploy NATO forces on a 48-hours’ notice from multiple locations in Europe to any crisis on alliance territory. This is a real innovation, one that combines the commitments from many members of the Transatlantic alliance, the United States, the United Kingdom and others, to respond to crises in Europe’s east, in its south or elsewhere.
The U.K.’s own Allied Rapid Reaction Corps will rotate in to spearhead this task force. It has also agreed to a persistent enhanced forward presence of four NATO battalions stationed in allied countries on its eastern flank, one each in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. This past July at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, the United Kingdom announced that it will lead the battalion in Estonia. The United States announced that it would lead the battalion in Poland.
Additionally, NATO and its members, including the U.S. and U.K., are also providing support to partner countries like Ukraine and Georgia, both of which have seen their sovereignty in territorial integrity violated by Russia. We’re helping them strengthen their capabilities for national defense, to improve their ability to work with NATO, to reform their defense to institutions, all important in the face of Russian coercion and aggression.
Of course, even as we take these prudent steps to guard against a revisionists and more aggressive Russia, the United States will continue to hold out the possibility that Russia could one day assume the role of a constructive and reliable partner. In fact, we’ve cooperated with Russia when it’s been in our shared national security interest to do so even recently, most recently in fact in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
In these past few weeks, America’s Secretary of State John Kerry has been tirelessly testing the proposition for a true cease-fire in Syria with his Russian counterpart. Russia entered the Syrian tragedy saying it wanted to counter terrorism and end the civil war, which is the source of so much suffering, through a political transition.
But what it has done is very different from what it said. Unfortunately, so far, Russia with its support for the Assad regime has made the situation in Syria more dangerous, more prolonged, more violent. That has contributed to what President Obama this weekend called the gaps of trust that exist between our two countries.
Nevertheless, our diplomatic team continues to test whether Russia will agree to take and then actually carry out the specific steps to obtain a true cease-fire and whether it is in fact willing and able to influence the Syrian regime towards a political transition that ends the civil war. Today’s news out of Syria is not encouraging. The choice is Russia’s to make and the consequences will be its responsibility.
Of course, there was a time in the years after the Cold War when Russia worked with the United States and other nations closely, contributing to the principled international order rather than undermining it. I know that and I remember that personally. In 1995 for example, I negotiated with Russia’s then defense minister so that Russia could help NATO bring peace to Bosnia and also to establish a number of cooperative efforts together between the U.S. military and the Russian militaries, both of us then blinking in the bright light of a new potential to work to common purpose rather than needlessly across purposes.
And I also worked in a very practical and successful manner with Russian defense officials to help limit the dangers of nuclear proliferation in the former Soviet states. In fact, 20 years ago this summer, I was in the Ukrainian town of Kervomiz with the Russian defense minister and hisAmerican and Ukrainian counterparts when the last nuclear weapon rolled out of the Ukraine.
The denuclearization of Ukraine was a result of far-sighted American, NATO, Russian and Ukrainian statesmen dedicated to turning the page of history and making a better world together. So it can be done and someday I hope to see that spirit rekindle.
Now, let me turn to the Middle East, where the United States and the United Kingdom face a very different challenge from the one posed by Russia, and that’s ISIL, a barbaric organization intent on harming our citizens, damaging our allies and partners and trying to shake the principled international order with an ideology that is hateful to others and cruel to those under its sway.
In response, the United States and the United Kingdom are leading an historic coalition to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat. We’re fighting that campaign in many different ways across all domains, from air to land to cyber space to destroy both the fact and the idea of an Islamic State based on ISIL’s ideology.
As I speak to you today, we’ve entered a decisive phase in our coalition, the counter-ISIL military campaign. Thanks to the contributions and the sacrifices of our local partners in there, in the region and British, American and coalition service members, we’ve accelerated the military campaign. And we have the momentum firmly on our side and we’re seeking this year to put ISIL on a path to the lasting defeat it will surely suffer and richly deserves.
Let me remind you briefly of our campaign’s three objectives and our strategic approach that Secretary Fallon played a critical role in shaping with me last year.
The first objective is to destroy the ISIL cancer’s parent tumor in Iraq and Syria. ISIL’s safe havens and those countries threaten not only the lives of the Iraqi and Syrian peoples, but also the security of our own citizens and those of our friends and allies. The safe havens feed the illusion that there could be an Islamic State based on ISIL’s hateful ideology. That’s why the sooner we defeat it in Iraq and Syria, the safer America, the United Kingdom and other countries will be.
Our second objective is to combat ISIL’s metastases everywhere they emerge around the world, and that’s because while defeating ISIL in Iraq and Syria is necessary, it’s not sufficient. We know that this cancer can metastasize and in some cases already has. That’s why U.S. and coalition forces are engaged in supporting local forces in operations against ISIL in Afghanistan, in Libya and elsewhere and encountering ISIL across the intangible geography and terrain of the internet.
And our third objective and a very important one is of course to support our law enforcement and our intelligence partners and protecting our respective homelands.
All three objectives are critical in defeating ISIL and giving it the lasting defeat that it deserves. Ensuring that kind of defeat, a lasting one, requires our coalition to identify and enable capable, motivated, local forces in Iraq and Syria and not to attempt to substitute for them. That’s our strategic approach.
For local forces is the only ones that can hold and govern territory after its been taken by — retaken from ISIL. And so their participation is necessary to make defeat stick.
For my first conversations with Secretary Fallon, we resolved to accelerate our campaign. We set in motion a series of deliberate steps to gather momentum and put ISIL on a lasting defeat, and you’ve seen those steps we carried out over the last year.
We mobilized the coalition to step up the contributions, not only in the United States and the United Kingdom, but of all its members to get in and join the fight. And we made it clear that there would be no free riders in this campaign.
When the war is over and the coalition prevails, which I’m certain it will, the United States will not forget that the United Kingdom stood with us. And collectively, we will remember who failed to show up for the fight.
Since last fall, town after town, from every direction and every domain, our campaign has accelerated, pressuring and squeezing ISIL and rolling it back towards Mosul in Iraq and Raqqah in Syria. In Iraq, we enabled the Iraqi security forces lead by Prime Minister Abadi and the Peshmerga commanded by Kurdish Regional President Barzani to clear Ramadi and Heet, Rutbah, Fallujah, Makhmur, and now the important town of Qayyarah, setting the stage to complete the envelopment and isolation of Mosul and collapse ISIL’s control of that city.
In Syria, we’ve also enabled considerable results by our local partners. After seizing Shaddadi, a critical juncture on the road between Mosul and Raqqah, and key to cutting ISIL’s self-proclaimed caliphate in two, an Iraqi piece and a Syrian piece, our partners on the ground cleared Manbij City just last week, the key transit point for external plotters, by the way, threatening Europe and our homelands.
And our NATO ally Turkey, working with vetted Syrian opposition forces, is clearing the remaining stretch of the Syrian side of the border from ISIL. The United States is supporting this effort also through air stikes, surveillance and other enablers. And as of last week, just to give you an example, the high mobility artillery rocket system, or HIMARS.
To be clear the United States is willing to do more to help Turkey, including on the ground in Syria, to cut off ISIL lines to and from Europe. At the same time we will continue to work with and support the Syrian Democratic Forces to capitalize on their considerable successes on the battlefield, especially as they begin to converge on Raqqah, which is our next objective in Syria.
At the same time across Iraq and Syria our coalition is pressuring ISIL by systematically eliminating its key leaders and destroying its financial base. Just last week our coalition targeted Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, one of the most lethal leaders within ISIL, who was actively planning to kill our civilians around the world.
Wherever our local partners advance, we’ve taken out ISIL field commanders. Thus far, we’ve removed from the battlefield more than 20 of the external operators and plotters of ISIL, including Jihadi John and Junaid Hussein.
We’re continuing attacks on ISIL’s economic infrastructure from oil wells and cash storage sites to tanker trucks. In recent days, our coalition hit over 40 oil tankers and other key ISIL financial centers, depriving ISIL of tens of millions of dollars in revenues. And we’re taking the fight to ISIL across all domains, including cyber.
We’ve also seen results where we’ve been countering ISIL’s metastasis. Working alongside our Afghan partners, U.S. forces have conducted two large operations against ISIL in Afghanistan, dealing the organization severe blows including killing its top leader there, degrading its infrastructure, logistics bases and training, and more operations are coming.
Meanwhile in Libya, which a few months ago many predicted would become the next ISIL headquarters, our airstrikes and support of local forces aligned with the Government of National Accord has shrunk ISIL’s presence in Sirte to a single neighborhood.
So as I said, we’ve entered a decisive phase in our campaign. Our coalition has expanded its geographic reach, intensified its operations in the air, on the ground and in cyberspace, and we’ve enabled our local partners to take and hold territory. ISIL will be simply unable to resist this pressure. They’re still a dangerous adversary, and their lasting defeat will take time, but we won’t let up until ISIL is defeated.
Now of course, even when the coalition wins this fight, and no doubt that we will, there will still be much more to do. We must ensure that when the time comes, the Iraqi and the Syrian people have what they need to hold, stabilize, govern their own territory and win back decent lives for themselves.
So our coalition’s development and diplomatic institutions must summon the courage and foresight that Roosevelt and Churchill had all those years ago and make their own plans and preparations to keep the lasting peace once our militaries and our partner forces have delivered that defeat.
Russia’s aggression and ISIL’s barbarism are robust challenges for the United States and the United Kingdom, but as I said, and to be sure, there are many others out there. But if we continue to stand together, if we pursue our objectives with vigor, focus and if we avoid needless distractions, we not only can meet these challenges but also seize the many opportunities, the bright opportunities, that lie before us and the rest of humankind.
To do so, as I discuss today and I’ll discuss later this afternoon with Prime Minister May and Secretary Fallon, we must recommit our two countries to standing together and standing up for the values and principled order that we’ve promoted and defended over the last 75 years. We must partner together in new ways and in new domains and we must remember that our two nations have faced and overcome many challenges, many difficult days in the past.
At the close of their meetings off Newfoundland, on the quarterdeck of the USS Augusta, Prime Minister Churchill brought up two copies of a poem, a verse of which President Roosevelt had sent him eight months before to boost the prime minister’s spirits, and it was a very difficult and dark time. As he said goodbye after their meetings, Churchill signed one part of the poem and gave it to Roosevelt and asked Roosevelt to do the same.
That poem was “The Building of the Ship” by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It rather eloquently makes the point that even though a sailor, or by implication a statesman, may worry in the face of storms, rough seas and tough days, they must sail on for their own good and the good of everyone on their ship.
I’ve studied theoretical physics — (inaudible) — didn’t provide many opportunities for me to recite poetry here at Oxford, but I’ll quote a few lines from that Longfellow poem today. What he wrote was, “Sail on, oh Ship of State. In spite of rock and tempest’s roar, in spite of false lights on the shore, Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea! Our hopes, our hearts are all with thee.”
You see, for decades, the United States and the United Kingdom and millions of American and British servicemen have helped provide the security and uphold the values that have allowed millions upon millions of people around the world to be safe, to raise their children, to dream their dreams, to live lives that are full and to contribute to the civilization you see all around you here in this city.
In a time of change and a time of challenges to our two nations have built and defended, we have to continue to do so together. And as we do, we must not be afraid of change or intimidated at the challenge or doubtful of our capacity to meet it. We must not flinch at the rock and tempest’s roar or be distracted by false lights on the shore.
Instead, we’ve got to sail on, sail on together for our national and shared interests, for the principles and values embodied in the Atlantic Charter, for the principled international order that has continued to serve us all so well. As we do, we must remember that the hearts and the hopes of the world are with us.
MR. FREEDMAN: The secretary very kindly has agreed to ask — answer some questions. These questions, I have to say, have been submitted in advance.
SEC. CARTER: You said answer questions.
MR. FREEDMAN: Yes.
SEC. CARTER: Not ask. That’s easier.
MR. FREEDMAN: And so I’m going to start with — goes back to the Brexit issue, but is about the general questions of European security. One of your predecessors, Secretary Gates, made a big play with the need for Europe to take much more responsibility for its own defense and security, including raising defense spending, which a percentile — (inaudible).
I’m just wondering how satisfied you are with progress on that, or whether you think there’s more to be done given the many responsibilities you have in the Asia-Pacific region?
SEC. CARTER: Well, you’re right. In fact, not only Bob Gates but every one of my predecessors has made that same point, that even as we need to resource our own military adequately to the needs of today’s world, so also do our best friends and allies here in Europe.
And I can’t say enough to commend the U.K. sticking with the two percent commitment, by the way, we affirmed recently. It’s important not only in its own right because it is what guarantees that Britain has — continues to have something that very few countries have, namely the capacity for independent action.
That fact is — opens up horizons to British leadership that it has historically taken advantage of and it tells all the rest of its friends and allies around the world that it intends to continue to exercise the outsized physical and moral role that it has in the world. That’s a precious thing in our world. There are very few countries that put power and principle in a truly global vision together, very few indeed. The U.K. is one, and we’re proud to have it as a friend and an ally.
But it takes the resources to do it, and U.K. has pledged to do that. And that is a beacon to the other NATO allies.
And to get to the other part of your question, no. Not all of the allies are doing that. Now, I think they’ve turned around, most of the NATO allies have turned around — (inaudible) — slide in defense spending but it needs to go back up, and they made the two percent target and they need to stick with that two percent target.
By the way, the United States dedicates more of its own, and I think appropriately so, GDP way more than two percent, and has. But we’re asking for two percent. That is reasonable and, yes, I stand in the shoes of all of my predecessors in the past.
And it’s not just selfish interest to we want to have a strong ally. It’s also because we want in kindred souls, which we regard Europe as, a spirit that they’re capable of acting independently, including independently of us, if they take a wish to do so, and occasionally have. It’s a precious thing.
MR. FREEDMAN: With just — you mentioned but didn’t go in to but, was the dominant issue when you and I first met in — in the ’80s, which is the nuclear question. There are decisions depending on the U.S. nuclear posture. How much you do see this as a question that somehow got marginalized because of so much else that’s going on? And how much do you worry that the we perhaps take our minds off the nuclear question?
SEC. CARTER: Well, it’s a blessing to be able to take the publics mind’s off the nuclear question. And here we are talking about ISIL, we’re talking about Russia, and so forth. Imagine the headlines filled with nuclear issues. And fortunately they’re not in the headlines, and I’m grateful for that. But that’s not a birthright.
That’s something we’ve earned and work for all the time. And the cornerstone is deterrence because we’ve never found another way to manage the unprecedented risk inherently posed by the technology of nuclear weapons.
Deterrence is essential. As I said, the U.K. has referred — reaffirmed its commitment to that aspect of its independence and military power, which the United States also values. And speaking for the United States, we intend to do the same. And we’re going to have nuclear weapons as far into the future as I can see. And they need to be safe, they need to be secure, they need to be reliable.
We’re not looking to open new vistas and do new types of things with nuclear weapons, but we are looking to sustain the triad of nuclear forces that we have, and our commitment to our allies here and elsewhere around the world in things nuclear.
They’re — they’re in the background for sure. They’re a bedrock. And they’re expensive, but they come first in terms of what we spend money on. So I’m glad that they’re not in the headlines, and we should take some satisfaction of that — from that. But at the same time, I’m — it’s great that the public can take its eye off it, I can’t.
MR. FREEDMAN: Lastly, because I know you’re on a tight schedule. You mentioned a number of times in the speech the lasting defeat of ISIL as a central objective and course this follows President Bush’s declaration of a war on global terror, but that was in 2001.
Can there be such a thing as a lasting defeat of an ideology and movement such as this, or is it destined just to come up in different places in different ways? Is this a war that you can ever deter?
SEC. CARTER: I think there can and has to be a defeat of the ISIL, physically and its ideology. And, as I said, I’m confident that will happen. It — in order for it to stick, we need to make sure that that’s not something that we can do by ourselves. We have to enable local forces to do it. That has its frustrations, for sure. But it’s necessary in order to achieve a defeat of ISIL that is lasting.
And I’m confident it’ll occur. And if you look at where the places I named in the march that we laid out last year and have begun in the course of this year, those people there are trying to put their lives back together, and they don’t want to live under ISIL.
In the long run, we’ll — even as I think secretaries of defense long into the future, and ministers of defense in the United Kingdom, will be attending to nuclear matters, I suppose and imagine we all will with terrorism as well. And the reason for that is that destructive power of a size and — and scale previously reserved to nation states is falling into the hands of smaller and smaller groupings of people.
And you don’t have to be a statistician to know that the smaller and smaller groups can exhibit more and more aberrant behavior. And so it will be a lasting part of the duty of people whose job it is to provide security, so that people can go on with their lives and do the things that they value, to deal with that kind of group. But ISIL will be defeated. And it will be defeated in a — in a — lasting way. I’m — I’m confident of that.
MR. FREEDMAN: Well, thank you very much. Well, I’ve got to ask Monica Toft a professor —
SEC. CARTER: Monica, come up. Another good friend of mine from Harvard days, Monica Toft. You’re all lucky to have her.
Q: That’s right. So, Ash, really it’s lovely to see you again. So Ash and I spent a decade at Harvard at the other school of public policy across the pond. So on behalf of the University of Oxford and the Blavatnik School of Government, I’d like to thank you for coming.
And I have to say when your appointment was announced in 2015, I was personally comforted and professionally comforted that such a wise appointment was named. And let’s hope that the next commander in chief, whoever that may be, makes as wise judgments, assuming you still want the job.
MR. FREEDMAN: Let me add my personal thanks to Secretary Carter for a wide-ranging important speech. Thank you for giving it here today.
SEC. CARTER: Thank you, Lawrie.
MR. FREEDMAN: Thanks very much.
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