GENERAL CURTIS SCAPARROTTI: Good afternoon. This year, more than 25 senior leaders came to our Chiefs of Defense Conference to discuss the importance of countering violent extremist terrorist organizations. This is a subset of the chairman -- that larger coalition, global coalition that meets each October. We do one about halfway that's just the European countries.
With terrorism and transnational threats continuing to impact the Euro-Atlantic area, taking advantage of these types of events allows us to work together and build strategies for enhancing regional security.
As a result, this year event builds on our whole-of-government approach to counterterrorism. This requires collaboration across multiple organizations, just not our military or police, but, internal to each one of these nations, their agencies that support this. And we'll talk about that more in a minute.
No nation stands alone, and no nation's immune to the threat of violence posed by terror. We're definitely stronger together, and we're more -- more effective as a team.
As a coalition network, we can address the global violent extremist -- extremist network, and, with the expertise and resolve of the allies and partners, we can confront and degrade transnational threats. It's the idea of "It takes a network to defeat a network." Our goal is a peaceful future for all of our children, regardless of nationality, race or origin.
The fight against terror and violent extremists will not be easy, nor will it be fast. It will take resources and resolve to see the end of terror in Europe. This is one of those that, today, we, you know, (recognized as ?) chiefs of defense here, et cetera, (in ?) the leadership, that this is going to be a long -- this is a -- this is a long war, as someone said some years ago.
I'd also like to just, with you here, publicly thank all the chiefs of defense -- that includes those from NATO and E.U. -- for participating during these talks, taking time out of their busy schedules to strengthen the military relationships.
The discussions and the advice offered are vital to our combined efforts to the common security of the Euro-Atlantic, and it helps us ensure that we've got, you know, a Euro-Atlantic that's whole, free and at peace.
And -- and, with that, I'll take your questions on the -- on the conference itself.
Q: General, which of the areas did you identify as the biggest challenges, when it comes to the fight against terrorism and extremism?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: You know, we -- we spent a lot of time today talking about the whole-of-government approach. It is a strength, and we've actually improved, within the coalition and within the United States, in that (area ?).
But it's -- it's also one of the challenges that we talked about. You know, working together across different agencies is a challenge. Each agency is designed to do what it does best, if it's Treasury or finance, you know, if it's -- if it's border policy or security -- justice, for instance. In all of our countries, you know, you kind of refine that organization to do what you do best.
And that makes working all together and giving up some of that autonomy you have to work together challenging. And (I'd be ?) -- the United States has been at this a while, and it's -- it's still a challenge. I think we're pretty good at it, but, you know, it's still a challenge for us. So that's the first one that I'd probably say.
You know, policy and law continues to be, you know, a challenge, not only, you know, United States, but in Europe and all of our countries. And those have to do with how do you share information, how do you share intel between -- you know, in terms of police organizations (with ?) military.
In terms of those things, perhaps, information that's entered into the justice side, now -- that might be a criminal case -- and it gets contained there, as opposed to yet being able to be used in other cases, or in other ways, and -- and different countries here in Europe are dealing with that in different ways. And it's helpful to have a conference where the chiefs of defense talk about the different solutions they've found, because it gives others ideas to go back, et cetera.
One that came up today is the challenge of reintegration of returning foreign fighters as a challenge. And there are some countries that have programs in that. We didn't discuss that today. That's one that we took away for the next CHOD conference -- is to bring in some of those who are working programs, and share that information.
And then another we talked about, because we're military leaders, is that, you know, many of us -- many of the countries here have -- have troops reinforcing the police, either into the larger cities, the capital cities, or on the border. That's -- you know, that's an important mission, because it's a mission to protect their people.
But, at the same time, it does -- it does impact their ability to do their primary mission, as the military, and stay trained in that, alongside of, perhaps, missions they have in support of Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, et cetera. So it's a challenge for their chiefs of defense to make all of this fit with some of the demands that terrorism has put on them. It has required them to do extra missions.
That's -- that's my list that I jotted down, actually, at the end of the conference, so that covered most of it.
Q: Can I add one --
STAFF: Sure, we'll go around and make sure everybody gets a shot. Go ahead.
Q: You mentioned a few months ago -- I guess it was during the last meeting -- that intel sharing is one of the big tasks. Has that improved since the last time you -- you mentioned it?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: I -- I actually --
Q: And in which way?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: -- yes. I -- I think it has improved, because we're -- we're actually beginning to get better at this within Europe, as a group of -- of nations.
It's still a challenge. I wouldn't -- I wouldn't be so bold as to say it's not something we don't have to focus on. In fact, the way I wrote it down here on my card here is we -- we've got to continually stress that we need to share information, not control it.
You know, most of our organizations are actually designed to control information, and, in this case, to be successful, you've got to have means of sharing it. Now, (it will ?) mean that there will be an element of control there, and trust, but it has to be done in order to get ahead of this.
We are getting better. EUCOM has a -- a tri-nodal community of interest, we call it. It's actually where we take our interagency team that's inside of the EUCOM headquarters, and we -- we're working with the E.U. and NATO and their teams that look at transnational threats, and then how do we expand that and reinforce what the countries are doing, working with Interpol, Europol, et cetera.
That's an example of some of the things we -- we're doing now that just -- just about a year ago is when we started that. That's made a difference.
We -- we talked today about the number of potential terrorist attacks last year that we, in some way, fed through the sharing of information, and stopped that attack before it actually occurred. And the number's lower than 100, but it's -- it's a fair number. I'm not going to get into detail. I don't want to get into details and numbers in the -- on the intel side of this.
But -- but it's -- it's encouraging to hear that report, because you know that you had, you know, a fairly substantial number that were in some means of being planned, that you were able to -- to interdict someplace here in Europe.
Q: Over what time period is that?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: What's that?
Q: That time period is over -- or less than a hundred --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: No, no, it's --
Q: -- lower than 100 is --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yeah, it's -- it's double digits. It's --
Q: But over what time period?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: That's over the last year.
Q: In Europe.
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: In Europe, so --
Q: And how does that compare to last year's total?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: I don't know. I didn't ask that question. But, to me, it's -- it's positive. You know, it's a -- it's a representation of how we, as nations -- not the military, all -- whole of government worked together and were able to bring information together that led to the interdiction of some planning or something -- you know, something that we had proof that they were planning some type of attack in the future.
So, I mean, that's -- that's encouraging. When we're talking about this, what we did see today and what we -- I think we heard from our intelligence folks was, you know, kind of the nature of the attacks here. You always have that threat of a high-profile attack that we've seen here in Europe, unfortunately -- about 18 of them, I think, in -- since what -- since probably 2015.
But the nature of it has changed today in the sense that, you know, we're seeing more of a low-profile use of a knife, use of a car, something expedient, and those are -- more often than not, the attacks now are in -- what we call "inspired attacks," as opposed to --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: -- inspired, as opposed to supported or -- or directed, the difference being that this is a person that connects through the media, is -- is -- becomes an extremist in that manner and isn't given any direct support or direction from ISIS itself, but -- but takes these steps based on ISIS', you know, propaganda, and has been inspired by it.
And we've seen more of that. In fact, most of those that we've seen in Europe now are, in fact, inspired persons, not somebody directed or a part of that organization that was sent here to do something. So it's a little (change in ?) nature, as well.
Q: General, was there any focus on the migratory movements and whether that poses a threat to Africa and the Middle East?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: You know, we really didn't get into that much. I mean, it's a -- it's something that -- that came up, in terms of -- it -- more so, that migration is -- you know, it's a -- it's an outcome of instability and it's a challenge, obviously, in Europe, and it's another one of those challenges that the military also has to respond to in some countries, as well. But we didn't really get into it in a sharp way.
If you look at -- at least, the last time I looked at it, in terms of, there's always the threat that, among the migrants, you might have, you know, an extremist individual. There's some of that, but the numbers are not that high, from what I've seen here in Europe in the time that I've been here.
Q: And a second one, if I may -- was there any talk about Brexit and Britain leaving the E.U.? Because, today, it was said -- a -- a government minister in the U.K. said that that could impact the anti-terror efforts because it -- it will leave the networks and databases.
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: That didn't come up here today. Not at all.
Q: I wanted to ask you about the threat environment and how it is affected and changed by the factors that, you know, are evolving right now. There's sort of the U.S. position of withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. What do you think -- some kind of an uptick related to that? Or -- or do you anticipate that there -- (that ?) could change the threat environment?
But the other factor is the U.S. National Defense Strategy, you know, changes the way that the U.S. has talked about Russia and China in a pretty substantial way. And I -- I wonder if you can, you know -- you know, put that in context for us, in terms of this fight against terrorism, as well, and whether you see any evidence that there are, you know, connections behind the scenes --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes.
Q: -- you know, the support for terrorism that may be coming from those places.
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes, no, I -- I -- can't say that I can connect anything with decisions on JCPOA, or anything like that with this. You know, when it comes --
Q: (Did you make a ?) -- (inaudible) -- about that? I mean, you know, as you -- you know, you -- (I don't, you know, want to say plan ?) for that, but I mean, you know, if you -- you know, if something significant changes in the geo -- kind of, politics -- political --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes, well, I'd just say this: I -- you know, there -- I often get asked the question about -- about alliance unity within NATO. Well, maybe this coalition is a larger group.
And what I would say to you is, is it -- does it have an impact? It has some influence, obviously. We're talking about it. There's a concern. But, at this point, I would tell you particularly the alliance is just very resilient.
I mean, the NATO alliance has had disagreements within, among its members, in the past, and I think one of the things that makes it stand out a bit is -- is that we can have those disagreements. We can have candid conversations, and we will work our way through it.
And we've always been strong when it comes to the threat that we've come together -- the threats that we've come together to protect our nations against. I think you can see that in how we operate today, even. So that's how I would think about it.
And -- and, at this point, I would tell you that the alliance is strong, and it will do what it's designed to do, in terms of protecting the people and the territorial integrity, you know, of the Euro-Atlantic. I'm -- I'm confident of that today.
In terms of the -- the new National Defense Strategy, you know, the significant difference was it recognized the environment that we're in today, and that environment's changed. We're in an environment of -- of, you know, competitors, global competitors in China and in Russia. And -- and we have to -- we have to recognize that.
And that means we have to -- we have to make some decisions about, you know, how we prioritize our resources and our forces and our perspectives. And, as you saw on that, it -- it recognizes this threat of terrorism, but it -- but it also says there's a priority that we're going to place in this global competition with Russia and China, and we're going to -- we're going to look for ways to -- to be more efficient in the use of forces that are needed for counterterrorism and maintain that effectiveness.
I -- I personally think that that's correct, and, secondly, it -- it's -- it's an easier fit for me, here in Europe, because I've been dealing with both of those in this way for the time that I've been in command. So, for me, this change in strategy actually, at a national level, reinforces what we've been doing in Europe all along -- at least the length of time I've been here -- and so fits, you know, the priorities that I have within this theater.
Secondly, it -- you know, this -- the -- the strategy also has a -- has a center theme and -- of the importance of partners. And I personally believe that, you know, in terms of the alliance, all of these challenges we face are best faced as an alliance. The coalition comes together broader than NATO against this -- this transnational threat of terrorism, and I believe that's exactly the way that we will defeat it.
It's also the way that we can confront the environment we're in today -- is we do it together, you know, rely on each other, what capabilities that we have come together, and when can we afford to bring them together, and how do we do that in different ways, with different priorities, in different areas? That allows each of us to be more efficient, and yet be effective.
This conference today actually feeds that, because we have an opportunity, as chiefs of defense, to talk about, how are we doing this? What are your priorities? You know, what are -- what are our areas that you need help, or capabilities you need help in, and can we provide that from one of the other nations, or, you know, through EUCOM, or NATO? So, I mean, it -- it fits together here pretty well.
Q: And the intention there, then, is to say -- you know, make the process more efficient and then free up resources to focus on the sort of different priority of -- of --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Right. I mean, we --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: -- on the United States side, we have to look at how we're managing our resources, given a -- you know, given the competitions we're in with Russia and China and what that requires, because we've got a lot of resources, you know, focused on counterterrorism, and some of those resources are going to have to shift.
Q: Do you have a sense of what that could mean for you here in this theater?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, I -- I hope that I will see more resources -- (Laughter.) -- quite frankly.
Q: In what areas? Where are your -- where do you see needs?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, you know --
Q: And where would you like to see that --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: -- yes, I won't (do it in ?) specifics so much as to say that -- that, in terms of the force structure that we need here, in each of our domains, there are -- there are additions that I need -- and this has to do with deterrence of Russia, which is my -- which is one of my central tasks here -- that I need to have what I believe to be a -- to be a better and more responsive posture to the -- to the threat of Russia, or the -- to deter Russia and to do it, I think, most efficiently.
There are still forces that I require here. The chairman and the secretary are aware of those. We have a process of making those requirements known, and we're in the midst of that now.
But they -- they're -- there's parts of that in each one of the domains -- each one of, you know, the air, sea, land forces that we have -- that will help me do a better job at deterring Russia and actually set us in a better place for understanding how Russia operates, being able to provide strategic awareness to my (seniors ?), but also, within Europe, to the other nations.
Q: I was recently on board one of the AWACS aircraft that are flying, you know, above Turkey, looking at the airspace, when it comes to the counterterrorism mission.
So is that something that you'd rather have back here in Europe, you know, closer to central Europe or the Baltics to -- as one of those deterrence measures?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, you know, that -- I think the balance in terms of the AWACS is probably right, because we -- I know the balance of that. We actually balance that with other missions, those AWACS you see flying.
But it's a good -- it is a good example of one of the things that I've said I need more of, and that's our, you know, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. Every COCOM will tell you that. But -- but I have some pretty different demands here and a -- and a fair bit of terrain to cover. And so it's one of the things I've asked for more of -- not necessarily just that system, but others, as well.
Q: There has recently been some discussion on how involved the U.S. should be in Syria, now that, you know, ISIS has lost a little territory. Is that coming up in discussion with allies? Do you know -- do they want the U.S. to be there on the ground continuously?
Or, you know, do they -- would they agree with the U.S. pulling resources away from that area?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, I -- first of all, Syria's not -- not my AOR, so I won't get into that much. I'll just say that, yes, it's a -- it's a point of discussion with the -- the allies.
But, generally, the agreement is we have the same objective, and that is to stabilize Syria as an intact nation and -- and end this conflict that's been going on for quite some time.
In my case, in EUCOM, I'm also focused on Turkey, you know, a vital ally here, who also has Syria at this border and -- and a -- a counterterrorism threat or a terrorism threat that we talk about today.
So, within that aspect, that's the area that I primarily focus on with respect to that region, in Syria, and the impacts of -- of, you know, the civil war there.
Q: Let me ask you -- (inaudible). There's a lot of discussion right now -- (from a ?) couple years ago, I was at some air chief conference that was right after the -- the Turks had (decided ?) to buy the Chinese air defense system and everybody in NATO was -- (inaudible) -- nervous about it.
The Turkish official, the air chief involved, actually -- (it's actually proven now ?) he was involved in this -- (in a coup ?). Now, they switched to buying a Russian system. They want to buy a Russian system. I know that's a concern, also, in terms of the F-35s that they are acquiring.
Can you give us a sense of, you know -- you know, including that piece of it -- but it's like Turkey's also home to the (raiders ?), an essential part of this defense construct here.
You know, do you -- are you -- are you concerned about these -- (inaudible) -- growing conflicts of Turkey as -- (inaudible) -- these alliances with countries that the U.S. now considers competitive?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, we've -- as (I.C. ?) said, Turkey's a -- you know, it's a -- they -- a great ally -- you know, an important ally, (chiefs ?) -- you know, in terms of its location, as well, Turkey's very important. And so it's one I spend -- you know, I spend a good deal of time and discussions with them.
Our -- our mil-to-mil relationship's good -- EUCOM, with them. And so these kinds of issues that we have, like -- the S-400 is one that we talk about. I -- am I concerned? I'm concerned, because it creates a problem here in terms of the integrated air missile defense that we have with systems that are, you know, allied with -- with the West and oriented and interoperable.
So it's a discussion we're having. It's -- you know, they're a sovereign country. They have a right to make the decisions they make with respect to what equipment they use and why. I'm -- I'm having discussions with them to encourage them to look at you know one of the options that's interoperable, that we use in the West, and that would be the preferred outcome.
Q: And -- and the (chairman minister's spending ?) an issue to be worried about? The president has -- has spoken about this quite often in recent times.
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, as both the EUCOM commander and, actually, as the SACEUR, I talk to the chiefs of defense. It's important that each of the countries meet the goals that we -- that we've set as an alliance so that they do their fair share in this alliance in terms of not only, you know, their -- their contributions in terms of how they take part in missions, but, importantly, the funding that they -- they put into their defense, as well.
We've all got to work together, and today, in this environment, which is very challenging and changing, my focus in the military side is that they invest so they have the capabilities that are relevant to the environment we're in today and they have capabilities that, when we need them in the alliance or when we need them as a partner in the United States -- that those capabilities and forces are ready. And that requires investment.
Q: But do you think that the lack of investment so far has impacted their missions overseas -- Afghanistan and elsewhere?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, I think, you know, it -- it certainly has an impact in terms of -- greater investment increases your readiness, and you have -- you know, have a greater capacity and capability to provide to missions. I can't point to, you know, a shortfall because of that at this point.
But it's true that today's environment -- the characteristic of warfare today is changing. And so there's -- there are capabilities in space, in cyber, within each of the domains in terms of technological advancement that require funding, you know, we have to invest in, we have to learn how to employ and employ together.
And, frankly, that -- that costs money. And, you know, for our own good, for the defense of the nations that we represent, we have to make those investments. Our -- our adversaries are doing that.
Q: Has there been a change in the Russian posture because you said that's kind of the primary task for --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, Russia -- if you just, you know -- if you look at their modernization program, they've been on a modernization program here for, you know, some years. And they've been able -- despite, you know, a challenging economy, they've stayed true to, you know, their objectives.
So they're modernizing in every domain -- space, cyber, their conventional forces in air, ground and at sea. Their -- they -- they've -- they're replacing, you know, their nuclear capabilities with more modern systems. And, all of these things, we have to pay attention to, and we have to maintain our dominance across each of those domains.
We -- you know, when we were in -- in, you know, the '90s, early 2000s, you know, and the Soviet Union had collapsed, we were dominant and we were dominant in technology. Their modernization is challenging that dominance. And so we have to continue to improve our forces and to bring new technology to bear in how we fight and how we have a force that's prepared to fight.
Q: We have been with a paratrooper unit that trained -- joint training with Serbian forces recently. Is the Balkans a concern to that regard to -- for you, that there's a bit of territorial footprint that's the Russians? (Are you, as Americans, happy there ?)?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Well, I think, you know, the Balkans appear to be stable. But I think they're also fragile under that surface. So, as you know, both the United States, as a part of NATO -- NATO has missions there, as does the E.U. And, in working together, I think we provide for some of that stability.
They've -- in the Balkans, they desire to -- you know, to -- they're looking to the West, democratic processes. We're committed, in those missions, to, one, provide stability -- safe and secure environment, for instance, in Kosovo -- but also to assist them in reform of their government, to accept democratic processes, values of freedom of speech, et cetera. And we're helping them with that. And they're going to continue to need our assistance.
I think the challenge, as you can see, is -- and I've said this before, you know -- Russia is active in the Balkans. And, generally, their, you know, disinformation, destabilization campaign is directed at undermining democratic governments, undermining the values that we believe in and undermining NATO.
So that's the challenge that we see there, and we've got to stay engaged.
STAFF: You have just a couple minutes left.
Q: Just a couple of quick follow-ups.
On the -- on the Turkey question, is the F-35 specifically a concern for you? Turkey is supposed to take possession -- take delivery of its sourced aircraft -- (inaudible) -- airport, or is there some military argument for not having them be able to gain access to the aircraft?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: You know, we've made an agreement with them, at this point, to move on, and that's really a policy decision. It's outside of my --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: -- outside of what I would deal with here. I -- you know, we -- again, they're a close ally. I think we just have to work our way through. You know our -- the S-400 piece on this. That's the one that I deal with.
Q: And I wanted to ask you about Nord Stream. Last week -- (inaudible) -- the -- (inaudible) -- senior official from the State Department talked about the kind of concerns that Nord Stream (brings in ?) and also raised the military intelligence concerns that exist around this possibility that Russia could use this construction period to emplace listening and monitoring technology along the pipeline as it's being built.
Can you be more specific about that? I mean, how -- I assume that there's some monitoring already going on. It's probably the most surveilled little piece -- piece of -- (inaudible) -- there is, right?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes, well, actually, I'd rather not talk about that.
Q: Okay. (inaudible).
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes. I don't -- I don't really think --
Q: You don't want to talk about -- (inaudible) --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: The Nord Stream piece is really a -- is really State -- the one that needs to talk about it. The intelligence business, I'd really rather not get into any more.
Q: You talked about modernization. We've seen, you know, Russia use certain, you know, technology on the battlefield -- for example, in these Eastern Ukraine area, when it comes to jamming devices and things like that.
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes.
Q: Is that something that -- where you're at a point now that you can counter already? Or are you still working on technology?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: We're -- we're -- we're a good force. We've got the capability to deal with what they're -- they're -- with what they're deploying now as a part of their force. But it's a good example of what we've got to be concerned about.
It is -- it's a capability that -- that can create a problem, and -- and we have to have, within ourselves, that capability to deal with that, you know, and the numbers that we need, et cetera. So we're watching that closely, but it's not something we can't handle.
Q: Just very quickly --
STAFF: Yes, last question.
Q: -- is there any concern about Hungary? Because Hungary, too, is -- is engaging a lot with Russia recently. They have a massive energy project, and (then ?) there are also some allegations there. Is that on your radar?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: We have a good mil-to-mil relationship. That's how I -- that's how I interact with them -- good partner for the United States, you know, a member of NATO. And -- and so, you know, we -- we work with them. We -- we work with them in terms of building partner capacity, as well.
There's a number of -- I mean, there's -- there's countries here that, for instance, their chiefs of defense have a -- you know, have a -- have discussions with the Russian chief of defense. That's -- that's a sovereign nation's decision, and most of them do that to ensure that there's no miscommunication, et cetera. So, you know, that's part of the environment we're in.
Q: Have you set a date for the next (RATO ?) -- NATO-Russia conference?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: I wouldn't -- I haven't checked on that. I know there's discussions right now to try and set one up. But, actually, because I haven't been in Brussels this week, I haven't tracked it that closely. I know that they're -- they're trying to come to -- come to a date here soon.
Q: (inaudible) -- had asked you about the terrorism (piece ?), but do you see any evidence that Russia is financing terrorism --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: I don't.
Q: -- as part of its hybrid warfare?
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: I mean, this is one area --
Q: I mean, I was expecting --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Yes.
Q: -- that that might have come up during the meetings --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: No, it didn't.
Q: -- just because you, you know --
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: No. I -- and frankly, you know, this is one area where I think we can work together, because they do have a terrorist (problem ?) as well, so.
STAFF: That's it, folks.
GEN. SCAPARROTTI: Thank you for coming. Appreciate it.