The Situation Room NATO Responds To Trump
Wolf Blitzer, TONIGHT, April 6, 2016, IN A RARE INTERVIEW, NATO’S SECRETARY-GENERAL IS HERE LIVE IN THE SITUATION ROOM. HE WILL RESPOND TO DONALD TRUMP.
Below is the full unedited text of Wolf Blitzer’s April 6, 2016 The Situation Room program
Aired April 6, 2016 – 17:00 ET
Also, NATO response. Donald Trump calls the alliance protecting Europe obsolete and says member nations have left paying the bills to the United States, all that as the organization faces criticism it’s not doing enough to fight ISIS right now. Tonight, in a rare interview, NATO’s secretary-general is here live in THE SITUATION ROOM. He will respond to Donald Trump.
Also tonight, the secretary-general of NATO joins us here in THE SITUATION ROOM after meeting with President Obama. I will ask him about Donald Trump’s recent comment that NATO is obsolete and is not doing enough in the war against ISIS. Our correspondents, analysts and guests are all standing by with full coverage of all of these developing stories.
BLITZER: We’re following new developments in the war against ISIS right now and key questions about a key U.S. ally.
In just a few moments, I will be speaking live with the NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg. He’s here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There are new criminal now — criticisms emerging from Donald Trump, worldwide questions about NATO’s relevance and the role of NATO in the war against is. He’s been here in Washington this week. He’s personally thanking U.S. troops for their help, holding important discussions with President Obama about the alliance’s future.
But, first, let’s go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
Barbara, what have U.S. leaders been saying about NATO’s future and its role in fighting ISIS?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Wolf, administration officials are adamant that NATO is good value for the U.S. security dollar, even if the alliance itself is not yet all in on the fight against ISIS.
STARR (voice-over): With members of an ISIS terror network at large across Europe, new security worries for President Obama as he meets with his commanders.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we have seen from Turkey to Belgium, ISIL still has the ability to launch serious terrorist attacks. One of my main messages today is that destroying ISIL continues to be my top priority.
STARR: The president hearing military recommendations on how to destroy key ISIS centers of power.
OBAMA: We can no longer tolerate the kinds of positioning that is enabled by them having headquarters in Raqqa and in Mosul. We have got to keep on putting the pressure on them.
STARR: While individual NATO member nations have undertaken military actions against ISIS, there are questions about whether the alliance itself should jump in. Great Britain, France and Turkey making some of the biggest contributions in personnel, aircraft and intelligence, but Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump says the U.S. is not getting NATO to shoulder its fair share. DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The people that study NATO,
they’re so close to it. They don’t understand that it’s obsolete.
STARR: Telling Wolf Blitzer in a recent interview the U.S. pays a disproportionate amount to NATO to ensure the security of allies.
TRUMP: Frankly, they have to put up more money. They are going to have to put some up also. We’re not — we’re paying disproportionately. It’s too much. And, frankly, it’s a different world than it was when we really originally conceived of the idea.
STARR: NATO remains central to U.S. national security policy, though many small member nations are unable or unwilling to spend as much on defense as the U.S., even on a proportional basis.
MAGNUS NORDENMAN, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL: NATO is far from obsolete and is probably more relevant than it’s ever been before.
STARR: So, is the U.S. paying too much for NATO? The latest calculations show under the U.S. defense budget about 11 cents of every $100 spent on defense goes to the alliance — Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thanks very much.
JOINING US NOW IN THE SITUATION ROOM, THE NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL, JENS STOLTENBERG.
Secretary-General, thanks very much for coming in.
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Go ahead and tell us why you disagree with Donald Trump when he says NATO right now is, in his word, obsolete.
STOLTENBERG: Well, I will not be part of the U.S. election campaign, but what I can do is to tell what NATO is doing.
And we are as vital for security both for the United States and for Europe as we have ever been, because we are living in a more dangerous world. NATO is responding to a more assertive Russia in the East, and we are playing a key role in fighting terrorism, ISIL on the southern flank…
BLITZER: But he makes the point and other critics of NATO make the point that many of the NATO allies, they don’t spend on defense what they should be spending, at least 2 percent of their GDP. The U.S. does, a few other countries, but they are what Donald Trump calls free-riders.
STOLTENBERG: There are more European NATO allies who should spend more on defense.
BLITZER: Why don’t they?
STOLTENBERG: Because they haven’t, so far, implemented what we…
BLITZER: Can NATO do anything to punish these NATO — there are 28 countries in NATO. They want the benefits, but they don’t want to share the burden.
STOLTENBERG: Well, we decided in 2014 to stop the cuts in defense spending and then gradually increase toward 2 percent.
And in the first year after that, in 2015, we have seen that the cuts have stopped. That’s the first step. Then we will continue to push for an increase, and last year, actually 16 NATO allies increased defense spending.
BLITZER: But they’re still not at that 2 percent level.
STOLTENBERG: The picture is mixed.
Some NATO allies spend 2 percent or more, for instance, the United Kingdom, Poland and other — some other NATO allies in Europe. But too many are spending too little. So, that’s the reason we will continue to address these at all our meetings in NATO. And every time we meet leaders from NATO countries in the different capitals, I address this issue.
BLITZER: Now, NATO countries individually are fighting ISIS, which is a grave threat, as you well know. But NATO as an organization has not gone in to fight ISIS as it did to fight the Taliban, for example, in Afghanistan.
Why can’t NATO play a role as an organization in trying to crush ISIS?
STOLTENBERG: As I said, all NATO allies participate, contribute to the international efforts to fight ISIS.
BLITZER: But why can’t NATO do against ISIS what it did against the Taliban?
STOLTENBERG: What NATO then does is that we have started to build local capacity to fight ISIL, because we believe that, in the long run, it’s better that we enable local forces to fight ISIL, instead of us deploying a large number of…
BLITZER: But NATO is headquartered in Belgium right now, outside of Brussels. We saw what recently happened. You would think that the NATO alliance would say, you know what? This represents a threat not just to the region, whether Iraq or Syria or elsewhere. It represents a threat to Europe. Most of the NATO allies are in Europe.
So, why not get together and say, as an organization, we’re going to get the job done and crush ISIS? STOLTENBERG: Well, that’s the reason why we are stepping up our
efforts, by, for instance, starting to train…
BLITZER: Who is resisting?
STOLTENBERG: There’s no resistance that NATO shall support the efforts of the coalition.
But we are doing that in different ways. NATO’s alliance has presence in Turkey, bordering Syria and Iraq. We have increased our presence there. We have started to train Iraqi…
BLITZER: But Turkey is a member of NATO.
STOLTENBERG: Yes. But it’s very important for us to be present in Turkey and to provide the assurance, military assurance to Turkey, because Turkey is so much affected of what’s going on in Iraq and Syria.
Moreover, we have started the training of Iraqi officers, because we strongly believe that by building local capacity, by enabling forces in the region to fight ISIL, that’s a more sustainable solution in the long run.
BLITZER: Is anyone proposing that NATO do to ISIS what it did to the Taliban?
STOLTENBERG: Well, NATO and NATO allies are doing that, but…
BLITZER: NATO — individual NATO countries are doing that, like the United States, the U.K., other countries, but, as an alliance, because that’s what the Americans, a lot of Americans want to hear, that NATO is getting its act together and going to crush ISIS, which is seen as a grave threat.
STOLTENBERG: The important thing is that we are able together to fight ISIL in an effective way.
And we have agreed that NATO shall do capacity-building, train, assist and advise. Then the high-end airstrikes shall be done by the coalition, and all NATO allies support those efforts.
Then, we have to remember that also what we do in Afghanistan is important when it comes to fighting terrorism.
BLITZER: But NATO did get involved, and very impressively. A lot of NATO troops, unfortunately, died fighting in Afghanistan. More than 1,000 died in Afghanistan.
NATO did not get involved as an organization in Iraq, and now it’s still not involved in this fight, as an organization, against ISIS.
STOLTENBERG: Well, I think to help and train Iraq to fight ISIL, to train Iraqi officers is an important element in fighting ISIS.
BLITZER: How many NATO troops are in Iraq right now training Iraqi troops?
STOLTENBERG: Well, we have — we do the training in Jordan. And we’re using also Jordanian forces, organized and financed by NATO to train Iraqi forces.
BLITZER: So you’re training Iraqi forces in Jordan. Why not train them in Iraq?
STOLTENBERG: Well, that may be the next step.
But many NATO allies are already doing that. AND, AGAIN, THE WAY WE ORGANIZE THIS IS NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS THAT NATO ALLIES IN DIFFERENT WAYS ARE PART OF THE FIGHT AGAINST ISIS.
BLITZER: One final question. How worried are you about your security, not just you personally, but NATO security in Brussels right now, given what’s going on? We saw the other week what happens.
STOLTENBERG: What you have seen in Brussels is that no country is immune and no country is 100 percent secure against terrorist attacks.
And that just underlines the importance of fighting ISIL in Iraq, Syria, but also to step up the work when it comes to intelligence in countries like Belgium. And NATO allies are doing exactly that.
BLITZER: And you’re beefing up your security at your headquarters, I assume?
STOLTENBERG: We are.
BLITZER: Jens Stoltenberg is the NATO secretary-general.
You got a huge mission ahead of you. Good luck to you. Good luck to all the NATO alliance.
STOLTENBERG: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much for coming in.