July 20 SFRC Hearing: Kay Bailey Hutchison to be U.S. Ambassador to NATO

Posted: 1:22 am ET
Updated: 11:48 am PT
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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) is holding a confirmation hearing on the nomination of former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to be the next U.S. Ambassador to NATO.

Date: Thursday, July 20, 2017
Time: 09:30 AM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Corker

A live video of the hearing and the prepared testimony will be posted here when available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Per Section 712 of the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017, the State Department is required to post the Certificates of Competency online within seven days of transmittal to the Senate.  As of this writing, there is no report available online for Senator Hutchison.

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POTUS Abroad: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican, Belgium (NATO), Italy (G-7)

Posted: 11:21 pm PT
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Saudi Arabia May 20–22

Israel May 22–23

Vatican May 24

 

Brussels May 24–25

Italy May 25–27

Bonus tweet!

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Dear SecState Tillerson: Congrats on 737 Cost Savings, But Don’t Ditch Your Press Corps on #Turkey Trip

Posted: 3:01 am ET
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On March 23, the State Department reiterated during the Daily Press Briefing Secretary Tillerson’s excuse for ditching his traveling press:

[H]e was clear and he’s spoken about this in his interviews – is that he is committed to a smaller footprint. That’s not to say – let me be clear – that we’re not going to look at taking any press in future trips. I’m not saying that at all. But he is committed to a smaller footprint. And with respect to the trip to Asia, the space constraints on the plane did not allow, frankly, for a press contingent. So we worked with — [snip] So we work with our embassies. I think it is. And I can get into this. I don’t – we don’t need to have this out here, but I’m happily – happy to talk to you about this offline. But there’s a significant cost savings to taking the smaller plane, but that smaller plane requires – or has minimal seating.

Secretary Tillerson cited “cost savings” in using a smaller aircraft ( a 737), which apparently also “flies faster”; presumably in comparison to the 757 previously used by his predecessors?

We don’t know much about airplanes, so you know we’ve got to take a look, right?

Here is the current secstate’s 737 | C-40 B/C via af.mil:

The C-40 B/C is based upon the commercial Boeing 737-700 Business Jet. The body of the C-40 is identical to that of the Boeing 737-700, but has winglets. Both models have state of the art avionics equipment, integrated GPS and flight management system/electronic flight instrument system and a heads up display. Heading the safety equipment list is the traffic collision avoidance system and enhanced weather radar. The aircraft is a variant of the Boeing next generation 737-700, and combines the 737-700 fuselage with the wings and landing gear from the larger and heavier 737-800. The basic aircraft has auxiliary fuel tanks, a specialized interior with self-sustainment features and managed passenger communications. The cabin area is equipped with a crew rest area, distinguished visitor compartment with sleep accommodations, two galleys and business class seating with worktables.

The C-40B is designed to be an “office in the sky” for senior military and government leaders. Communications are paramount aboard the C-40B which provides broadband data/video transmit and receive capability as well as clear and secure voice and data communication. It gives combatant commanders the ability to conduct business anywhere around the world using on-board Internet and local area network connections, improved telephones, satellites, television monitors, and facsimile and copy machines. The C-40B also has a computer-based passenger data system.  The C-40C is not equipped with the advanced communications capability of the C-40B. Unique to the C-40C is the capability to change its configuration to accommodate from 42 to 111 passengers.

The C-40 B/C is based upon the commercial Boeing 737-700 Business Jet. The C-40 B/C provides safe, comfortable and reliable transportation for U.S. leaders to locations around the world. The C-40B’s primary customers are the combatant commanders and C-40C customers include members of the Cabinet and Congress.  (Courtesy photo)

Previously, the secretary of state’s airplane was a C-32, a specially configured version of the Boeing 757-200 commercial intercontinental airliner.  This is the aircraft used by Secretary Kerry.  757 | C-32  via af.mil:

The C-32 provides safe, comfortable and reliable transportation for our nation’s leaders to locations around the world. The primary customers are the vice president, using the distinctive call sign “Air Force Two,” the first lady, and members of the Cabinet and Congress. The C-32 body is identical to that of the Boeing 757-200, but has different interior furnishings and 21st century avionics. The passenger cabin is divided into four sections: A) The forward area has a communications center, galley, lavatory and 10 business class seats; B) The second section is a fully-enclosed stateroom for the use of the primary passenger. It includes a changing area, private lavatory, separate entertainment system, two first-class swivel seats and a convertible divan that seats three and folds out to a bed. C) The third section contains the conference and staff facility with eight business class seats. D) The rear section of the cabin contains general seating with 32 business-class seats, galley, two lavatories and closets.

The USAF C-32 fact sheet also says that this aircraft is more fuel efficient and has improved capabilities over its C-137 predecessor. “It can travel twice the distance on the same amount of fuel, and operate on shorter runways down to 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) in length. Its 92,000-pound (41,731 kilogram) fuel capacity allows the aircraft to travel 5,500 nautical miles unrefueled.”

Here is the side-by-side comparison of the two planes, the 757 that former Secretary Kerry used and the 737 that Secretary Tillerson is currently using.

Cost savings? Yes, but …

There are fixed costs associated with operating an aircraft that do not vary according to aircraft usage (crew, maintenance, labor, parts, operations overhead, administrative overhead, etc) so we requested from the State Department the cost savings identified with the Tillerson trip to Asia. Its official response was to direct us to the DOD comptroller for the travel per hour cost. According to the DOD Comptroller’s FY2017 hourly rates for fixed wing aircraft effective October 1, 2016 (used when the applicable aircraft are provided on a reimbursable basis), Secretary Tillerson’s 737/C-40C aircraft costs about a third of the previous secretary’s 757 cost per hour.

But, because there’s always a but …the 737/C-40C model used by members of the Cabinet and Congress can change its configuration to accommodate from 42 to 111 passengers. Let’s just say that Secretary Tillerson is using the 737/C-40B model primary used by combatant commanders; this model still has seats for 26-32 passengers.

Secretary Tillerson traveling party to Asia was small, so he basically flew with a half empty plane but the State Department officially cited “space constraints” as the reason for not having a traveling press.  In any case, if Secretary Tillerson is saving money by using a smaller but mostly empty plane, he surely can save more money by using a smaller plane with paying passengers (press pay for their rides in USG planes) instead of empty seats, won’t he?  He does not have to take the whole village, but he has to take more than one, and they ought not be preselected for obvious reasons.

To Turkey, to Turkey

On Friday, the State Department announced that Secretary Tillerson will travel to Ankara, Turkey, on March 30, to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other senior Turkish government officials, then travel to Brussels, Belgium on March 31 to visit NATO.

The Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, rates Turkey’s press freedom status as “not free.” Its report on Turkey states: “Media outlets are sometimes denied access to events and information for political reasons. Critical outlets are regularly denied access to the AKP’s party congress and meetings, and the government prevents certain journalists from attending press conferences or accompanying officials on foreign visits.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) notes that Turkey jails more journalists than any other country in 2016 and closes some 178 news outlets and publishing houses by decree in the space of five months.

This is one trip where the Secretary of State absolutely cannot afford to ditch his traveling press.

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Rose @Gottemoeller Moves to @NATO as First Female Deputy Secretary General

Posted: 1:40 am ET
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In June 2016, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the appointment of Rose Gottemoeller as the next Deputy Secretary General. ‎She will succeed Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, who took up his position in February 2012. She will be the first woman to hold this key position. She will assume her new position this month.  Below is her official bio via state.gov:

Rose E. Gottemoeller was sworn in as the Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (T) on March 7, 2014As Under Secretary, Gottemoeller advises the Secretary on arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament. She had served as Acting in this position since February 7, 2012. While Acting, Gottemoeller continued to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, a position she was appointed to on April 6, 2009. She was the chief U.S. negotiator of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with the Russian Federation, which entered into force on February 5, 2011.

Prior to the Department of State, in 2000, she became a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where she also served as the Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center (January 2006 – December 2008).

In 1998-2000, as Deputy Undersecretary of Energy for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation and before that, Assistant Secretary and Director for Nonproliferation and National Security, she was responsible for all nonproliferation cooperation with Russia and the Newly Independent States.

Prior to her work at the Department of Energy, Ms. Gottemoeller served for 3 years as Deputy Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. From 1993 to 1994, she served on the National Security Council staff as Director for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Affairs, with responsibility for denuclearization in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. Previously, she was a social scientist at RAND and a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow. She has taught on Soviet military policy and Russian security at Georgetown University.

Ms. Gottemoeller received a B.S. from Georgetown University, and a M.A. from George Washington University. She is fluent in Russian.

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Trump’s Wild Talk About America’s NATO Treaty Obligations — Not/Not a Misquote

Posted: 12:19 pm ET
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SANGER: But I guess the question is, If we can’t, do you think that your presidency, let’s assume for a moment that they contribute what they are contributing today, or what they have contributed historically, your presidency would be one of pulling back and saying, “You know, we’re not going to invest in these alliances with NATO, we are not going to invest as much as we have in Asia since the end of the Korean War because we can’t afford it and it’s really not in our interest to do so.”

TRUMP: If we cannot be properly reimbursed for the tremendous cost of our military protecting other countries, and in many cases the countries I’m talking about are extremely rich. Then if we cannot make a deal, which I believe we will be able to, and which I would prefer being able to, but if we cannot make a deal, I would like you to say, I would prefer being able to, some people, the one thing they took out of your last story, you know, some people, the fools and the haters, they said, “Oh, Trump doesn’t want to protect you.” I would prefer that we be able to continue, but if we are not going to be reasonably reimbursed for the tremendous cost of protecting these massive nations with tremendous wealth — you have the tape going on?

SANGER: We do.

HABERMAN: We both do.

TRUMP: With massive wealth. Massive wealth. We’re talking about countries that are doing very well. Then yes, I would be absolutely prepared to tell those countries, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself.”

[…]

SANGER: I was just in the Baltic States. They are very concerned obviously about this new Russian activism, they are seeing submarines off their coasts, they are seeing airplanes they haven’t seen since the Cold War coming, bombers doing test runs. If Russia came over the border into Estonia or Latvia, Lithuania, places that Americans don’t think about all that often, would you come to their immediate military aid?

TRUMP: I don’t want to tell you what I’d do because I don’t want Putin to know what I’d do. I have a serious chance of becoming president and I’m not like Obama, that every time they send some troops into Iraq or anyplace else, he has a news conference to announce it.

SANGER: They are NATO members, and we are treaty-obligated ——

TRUMP: We have many NATO members that aren’t paying their bills.

[…]

TRUMP: I’m a fan of the Kurds, you understand.

SANGER: But Erdogan is not. Tell us how you would deal with that?

TRUMP: Well, it would be ideal if we could get them all together. And that would be a possibility. But I’m a big fan of the Kurdish forces. At the same time, I think we have a potentially — we could have a potentially very successful relationship with Turkey. And it would be really wonderful if we could put them somehow both together.

SANGER: And what’s your diplomatic plan for doing that?

TRUMP: Meetings. If I ever have the opportunity to do it, meaning if I win, we will have meetings, we will have meetings very early on.

There’s mooooore, oh, dear.

Meanwhile — in Russia, Trump is apparently “inspiring a new generation of optimism.”

Here’s the NATO reaction:

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Snapshot: NATO Wales Summit September 4-5, 2014 – By The Numbers

— Domani Spero
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Via GOV.UK:

NATO-by-numbers

 

  • 60 world leaders
  • 70 foreign ministers
  • 70 defence ministers
  • 28 NATO member countries invited to the summit
  • 3 military bands involved over the 2 days
  • around 5 kilometres of power cables laid by Port Talbot-based Aggreko to support the summit
  • 800 staff from Celtic Manor
  • 6 warships from 6 NATO nations’ navies in Cardiff Bay
  • over 7,000 square metres of flooring at summit venues provided and fitted by Cwmbran-based Floorex
  • an estimated 15,000 meals served to delegates, media and production crew over the 2 days
  • 24,000 room nights in 80 hotels reserved in Newport, Cardiff and Bristol
  • an estimated 12,500 litres of water drunk
  • over 1,000 school children in Wales taught from the NATO lesson plan
  • 157 Royal Mint commemorative pieces struck and given to world leaders and Newport schools
  • 12 students from Cardiff Met University cooking with Chef Stephen Terry

For the latest updates visit the NATO Summit Wales 2014 homepage and@NATOWales on Twitter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshot: Defense Spending in NATO Member States

— Domani Spero
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On September 2, President Obama arrived in Tallinn, Estonia. From September 4-5, he will be in Wales for the NATO Summit. There will be 60 world leaders, 70 foreign ministers, 70 defence ministers and 28 NATO member countries invited to the UK summit.

According to the CRS, the formal summit agenda is expected to focus on three main issues:

• Enhancing allied readiness and strengthening collective defense and military capabilities, including through increased troop rotations and military exercises in Central and Eastern Europe;

• Marking the conclusion of NATO’s decade-long mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 and launching a planned follow-on training mission; and

• Enhancing NATO’s support of partner countries outside the alliance, including through a new “Defense Capacity Building Initiative.”

Apparently, also a key discussion that must be had during the summit is the defense spending of member states.  Below via the CRS:

A key question underlying summit deliberations on collective defense will be whether the allies are willing to devote the resources necessary to meet their stated commitments. As such, a primary objective of NATO leaders and U.S. and UK officials, among others, is to secure allied pledges to reverse the ongoing downward trend in allied defense spending.

In 2013, total defense spending by NATO European allies as a percentage of GDP was about 1.6%; just four NATO allies (Estonia, Greece, the UK, and the United States) met the alliance’s goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense (see Appendix for more allied defense spending figures).  Since 2001, the U.S. share of total allied defense spending has grown from 63% to 72%.13 Many analysts and U.S. officials have long asserted that defense spending in many European countries is not only too low; it is also inefficient, with disproportionately high personnel costs coming at the expense of much-needed research, development, and procurement. In 2013, only four allies (France, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met a NATO guideline to devote 20% of defense expenditures to the purchase of major equipment, considered a key indicator of the pace of military modernization.

via CRS

via CRS (click on image for larger view)

Follow the NATO Summit Wales 2014 via GOV.UK here.

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Serbia’s Ambassador To NATO Jumps to Death From Multistory Building

Via NYT:

The Serbian ambassador to NATO, Branislav Milinkovic, jumped to his death from a multistory parking garage on Tuesday afternoon at the Brussels airport, diplomats said Wednesday.

Mr. Milinkovic, 52, a respected diplomat, lawyer and intellectual appointed to the ambassadorship in 2009, was at the airport to meet a visiting Serbian delegation, officials said. B92, an independent broadcaster in Belgrade, Serbia, reported that the country’s assistant foreign minister, Zoran Vujic, was with Mr. Milinkovic at the time and witnessed his death.

Serbian officials said that the motive was not known, and that Mr. Milinkovic gave no sign of what he intended in the moments before he leapt to his death.

lifeline

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

PSA from the Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

Every year, millions of Americans are directly affected by the more than 37,000 suicides and hundreds of thousands of suicide attempts made by friends or loved ones.

The following signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. The risk of suicide is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss, or change. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these signs, seek help as soon as possible by calling the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

  •     Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  •     Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  •     Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  •     Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  •     Talking about being a burden to others.
  •     Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  •     Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  •     Sleeping too little or too much.
  •     Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  •     Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  •     Displaying extreme mood swings.

– DS