SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Hi, everyone. Afternoon.
Well, I want to begin this afternoon by congratulating the most recent graduate of the U.S. Army's Ranger school. As many of you in this room have reported, two remarkable women are among the 96 remarkable people who graduated. They're the first two women to pass through this elite proving ground for military leadership.
Earlier today, I had the privilege of offering my personal congratulations to the two of them, who, along with their fellow graduates, have now earned the right to wear the Ranger tab. Truly, it's a huge credit for anyone, man or woman, to endure the intense training and curriculum at Ranger school, and to prevail and graduate.
Clearly, these two soldiers are trail blazers. And after all, that's what it means to be a Ranger. Rangers lead the way.
These recent graduates will be leaders of our Army, of our force of the future, and like every Ranger serving today, they will help lead the finest fighting force the world has ever known.
Because of the foundations that were laid for women to serve in additional roles, actually during my tenure here as deputy secretary of defense, which I'm pleased -- I take special satisfaction in the strides like this, that we continue to make.
Approximately 110,000 ground combat positions have been opened to women since then, and the department's policy is that all ground combat positions will be open to women, unless rigorous analysis of factual data shows that the positions must remain closed.
On October 1st, the services will provide a report to the chairman requesting any exception to this policy. And I'll review the services recommendation and make a final determination on that issue by the end of this year.
SEC. CARTER: As we open -- new subject, now. As we open a new chapter in our history, we continue our work to bring another chapter, on a different subject, to a close. Working with our inter-agency colleagues, with the White House and the Congress, we continue our efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
Here, let me reiterate what I have consistently stated as long as this -- detention facility remains open, it will remain a rallying cry for jihadi propaganda. The taxpayers are paying too high a financial price to keep this facility open. And additionally, closing the detention facility at Guantanamo is not something, in my judgment, that we should leave to the next president, whether Republican or Democrat.
It's for all of these reasons that I've strongly supported President Obama's commitment to bringing a responsible end to holding detainees at Guantanamo.
Now to move forward on Guantanamo -- and this is something I've stressed also -- there are two groups of detainees we need to address. First, there's a share of detainees who have been or could be deemed eligible for transfer to other nations.
But only in a way that mitigates the threat that these detainees might pose to the security of the United States. Finding a solution for these individuals involves complicated negotiations with international partners, extensive consultations with the leaders of the national security and legal organizations and final approval by me.
My responsibility to assess that the risk of any transfer has been mitigated is not only the law but common sense.
We do this carefully, we do it deliberately. I've approved the transfer of several detainees and continue -- will continue to do so when appropriate.
Still, I have stressed -- and this is important -- that transferring this group of detainees represents only one complex piece of this equation. We cannot, in fact, close Guantanamo until we find a solution to the second portion of the Gitmo detainee population, namely those who are not eligible for transfer.
This is a group of detainees who, in the interest of our national security, should remain in law of war detention. I, therefore, want to complete a responsible, realistic and security-focused plan for an alternative defense detention facility in the United States for that second population.
I'm pleased that many members from both sides of the aisles in Congress have indicated their interest in and willingness to consider such a plan. Here, we will continue to engage with Congress in finding a solution.
So working with closely with other senior leaner -- leaders of the president's national security team, we recently took another concrete step forward in this direction. Under my direction, DOD assessment teams are evaluating alternative detention sites and examine the investments required to make facilities suitable for holding this second group of detainees.
Assessment teams have gone to Leavenworth and will soon go to Charleston to analyze requirements. This does not mean that either of these sites will be chosen; we will also be assessing other locations in coming weeks.
Ultimately, the facility surveys will provide me, the rest of the president's national security team and Congress with some of the information needed to chart a responsible way forward and a plan so that we can close the detention facility at Guantanamo and this chapter in our history once and for all.
And, finally, while it may be the dog days of August, we're forging ahead here in the Pentagon with some critical work and I don't need to remind anyone in this room that it's only 41 days until a budget must be passed. I hope that, in the coming days and weeks, Congress will come together and pass a responsible budget.
To build the force of the future, the one our warfighters, our taxpayers and our nation deserves, we need budget certainty.
With that, I'll open it up for questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary, two things on Syria: first, I'm wondering if you can bring us up to date on the Syria train and equip program and how you -- what you believe is necessary for the U.S. to do in order to either change or adjust how they are deployed to avert what has happened last month.
And secondly, on Turkey's expected launch of airstrikes into Syria, that has not yet begun again, that there was one initial. But there was a lot of discussion about the U.S. needed to sign some sort of MOU so that Turkey could launch airstrikes into Syria.
Where do you see that? Is there progress?
Or do you think Turkey is dragging its feet and will instead continue to focus its efforts on the PKK?
SEC. CARTER: OK. Let me do the train and equip part first.
That program is part of the strategy; the strategy is the right one, namely the strategy of training, equipping and then enabling local ground forces because that's the only way to have a lasting defeat of ISIL.
That's possible because we're -- we've been doing it in other places, for example, the Kurds with elements of the Iraqi security forces. I've been candid that it is difficult and has been difficult with respect to Syria.
And accordingly, we are, to answer your question, working on adjusting that program constantly, based upon the lessons we've learned so far, the experience we've had, to try to expand the numbers and the scope of that program. That's difficult work but it's necessary work.
With respect to Turkey: we do want Turkey to do more in the fight against ISIL. Your specific question was about Turkey joining in the coalition air campaign. The Turks have agreed in principle to do that; they now need to join the so-called ATO and participate in that. That's only one part of what we need Turkey to do and what Turkey has indicated some willingness to do. We need them also as a neighbor to this conflict zone, as a long-time NATO ally and a responsible member of the anti-ISIL coalition, to control the border, the long border that they have with both Syria and Iraq, more than it has been controlled over the last year.
It is a border over which logistics for ISIL and fighters cross; and so we're looking for them to do more in that regard as well and are in active discussions with them about that second part, which is doing more along the border.
So we need Turkey to do more; we're in active discussions, including the president himself. They've indicated considerable willingness to do that. We're working through the practicalities of that. And it's extremely important for the campaign against ISIL.
Q: Do you believe they're dragging their feet?
SEC. CARTER: No, I don't think they're dragging their feet. I think that they have -- their leadership has indicated that they -- this needs to be done. It's overdue, because it's a year into the campaign, but they're indicating some considerable effort now, including some -- allowing us to use their airfields. That's important, but it's not enough.
They need to join the ATO and they need to work more on controlling their border. And we've -- we have made that clear. Barbara?
Q: Can I ask you to step back for a minute on all of this. The intelligence community has openly called the fight against ISIS as a stalemate at best right now. While there's been some shifting on the ground, overall, stalemate. You have the Turks not moving as fast as you've just said you want them to; the Iraqi forces, three months later still struggling to even get back to Ramadi; train-and-equip in trouble; and your own intelligence community calling it a stalemate.
Your bottom line. It may work eventually. Is it working now? How do you have, as Defense secretary, really feel about this at the moment? Is it working? And we -- and tell me why and why not?
And my other question is on Gitmo, all of your predecessors have publicly said they've been pressured by the White House to approve transfers at a higher rate. Can you tell us are you feeling -- what pressure are you getting from the White House to speed up transfers?
SEC. CARTER: OK, first of all, on the first question, I'm confident we will defeat ISIL. It is hard work, it's difficult work, I think we have the right strategy.
You're right. We're getting Turkey -- to get to the previous question -- more into the fight now. Iraq obviously was in no position to effectively counter ISIL last summer. It is in a better position this summer than it was last summer. Obviously, it's not -- a lot better position than last summer when Mosul fell. A better position, for that matter, than three months ago also because there have been some additional Iraqi forces that have been trained.
Outreach to the Sunnis, some substantial successes by Kurds in the north, and very serious determination on the part of Prime Minister Abadi to carry out the kind of multi-sectarian governance that is necessary for success.
So this is going to be difficult, and it's going to take some time. But the strategy is the right one, and we're just going to have to keep working on it.
Q: Is it --
SEC. CARTER: With respect to the second --
Q: Is it still --
SEC. CARTER: I'm not going to try to characterize it. I --
Q: Well, our intelligence community says it's a stalemate.
SEC. CARTER: Well, then you can report that, but I'm not going to try to characterize it. I'm confident that we will succeed in defeating ISIL and that we have the right strategy, but it's complicated not just only in Iraq, as you indicate, but in Syria as well.
And of course, that's not the only aspect of defeating ISIL. There is an intelligence aspect of that where we need to know better about ISIL than we did last summer, and we're trying to improve that; the foreign fighter flow, which I talked to earlier; and the economic and humanitarian aspects of this. So there are a number of aspects of it, in addition to the military aspect, that makes it more complicated, but all of those ingredients are -- so-called nine lines of effort to the final and eventual and certain defeat of ISIL.
With respect to Guantanamo, I see it exactly the way the president does, which is as I said, this is a -- something that is a rallying point for jihadi propaganda, it's expensive for this department and not something that the president wants to leave to his successor, and I think that is a very, very correct position. I support it entirely.
You -- you ask about transfers, and we are doing transfers. I'm gonna do that very carefully. The public would expect that, that's what the law says, I said the law's consistent with common sense, and I'm gonna do that when and as I can make the appropriate certification.
But the point I was making today, Barbara, is an entirely different one, which is that there is a set of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay that are not going to be transferred, because they have they're not eligible for transfer, so Gitmo can't be closed only by addressing that first part, important as that is, and seriously as I take that work and that responsibility.
There's this the second part. So I've been stressing that even as we work hard and deliberately and carefully and responsibly on the first part, which is what I'm doing and will continue to do, all of that, we have to work on the second part, and that's the point I was making today.
Q: (off mic)
SEC. CARTER: I am working with the White House on this, and have been right from the beginning. Courtney?
Q: One more follow-up on Gitmo, actually. You mentioned in your opening statement that members of Congress have shown some willingness to consider such a plan of moving the detainees here to the continental U.S. Have any of those members of Congress been ones who would actually potentially see the detention center in their state?
So like Charleston, Leavenworth, whatever the civilian ones are that we haven't been --
SEC. CARTER: I don't wanna speak for any particular members. You'd have to ask -- ask them, but the -- I think the basic point is that -- and -- and I indicated this in the statement, that both Charleston and Leavenworth happen to be places where we operate detention facilities, and therefore some of the information, including cost information, and so forth, that we need can be obtained by visiting those two.
That doesn't mean that either of those would be the chosen location for -- and -- and furthermore, we're looking for other ones, as well. So I don't wanna speak for members of Congress. There have been members who have indicated, now, and this goes back in time, a willingness to consider a plan, and so our responsibility is to provide them with a plan that they can consider that is a responsible one, so that people who share my and the president's assessment that this would be a good thing to do if -- if we can all come together behind a plan to do it -- can have a chance to look at something and make up their minds.
Q: And then, if I could ask you another -- a separate subject as well, I -- Russia and Ukraine. Can you give us your assessment of -- there's been some reporting of an -- increased aggression, increased clashes along the border with Russian-backed separatists and around Mariupol and (inaudible).
Can you give us your assessment of what you think this means? Is -- are we on the verge -- on the precipice of an upcoming Russian offensive, or Russian-backed -- whatever, fighters' offensive to take back -- make a land bridge towards Crimea? What is your assessment?
SEC. CARTER: Well, we're watching everything that goes along in the line of -- of contact there. Obviously, we're concerned about the level of violence. We'd be very concerned about it increasing further.
But we -- I don't have a prediction for you in that -- in that sense. We're very concerned about it. We watch it very closely.
Q: Mr. Secretary, are you comfortable with these reports that Iran can take its own soil samples and deliver them to the IAEA?
SEC. CARTER: That's -- I see what you're -- yeah, you're -- I -- that's something you're really going to have to -- I'm going to have to ask you to direct to the State Department rather than -- than here.
Q: (off mic) when you went to Capitol Hill, you assured lawmakers that the U.S. military would check Iran aggression in the region. And my question, sir, is, how are you going to that this fall when you remove an aircraft carrier from the Persian Gulf?
SEC. CARTER: We continue to have a very strong presence in the Gulf. We continue to have aircraft carriers, which can arrive very quickly. It's -- our ability to posture forces, surge forces, respond to aggression in the Gulf is very strong, and that -- and it will continue to be so.
And that's just one of the things we do, both to deter Iranian aggression, to counter Iranian malign influence, to preserve as the president has instructed us to do, the military option, with respect to Iran's nuclear program and, very importantly, to support our friends and allies in the region, especially Israel.
So all of that, we're full speed ahead on doing, whatever the -- happens with respect to the agreement. Our responsibilities and our tasks remain unchanged. All of those things, we will do.
Q: Can you confirm that you are pulling an aircraft carrier --
SEC. CARTER: I'm not going to talk about future operations. I am telling you, though, that you should measure the weight of our presence by the entirety of the weight of our president and the weight of our deterrent by our overall posture, and that's incredibly in that part of the world. It is not going to be reduced in the years to come.
We have very strong interests, very strong commitments there. We're going to keep them up.
Q: Is a French aircraft carrier going to take the place --
SEC. CARTER: Let me -- let me -- I need to move on to somebody else.
Q: Sir, you -- we talked about the train-and-equip program, but there were characterizations that the initial group that went in – the 54, the -- the characterization that that group was a total failure in both the conceptualization of bringing them in too soon, that they were too expose.
What actually happened to that group of individuals, what lessons have you learned from them, and where are you going to go with -- in terms of air cover in the future?
SEC. CARTER: Well, let's start with the numbers and just go through what you said.
The numbers was a small number than, you know, we had set out with the training, but by the time the training was completed, it was down to 54. I've made that point before.
Then you said, "What happened to them"? That's actually complicated. I'm going to let people go through that with you if you -- after this if you don't, because there were 54 of them, and so various things transpired.
SEC. CARTER: But the point I think you're getting is -- and the point I was making earlier is, we need Syrian train-and-equip fights that -- forces that coalesce into a coherent fighting force or can associate themselves with other coherent fighting forces that we can then support and that can retake and hold territory in Syria. That's what we're trying to build towards.
Obviously, those 54 did not represent the end state of that effort. So we have a few thousands more that were in the process of going through the -- the vetting and other procedures that we need to in order to get them, and we're considering where else and in what other ways we can do this so that it can be more effective.
Q: Does that include reaching out even further with the Syrian Kurds?
SEC. CARTER: Sure.
Q: Are you getting any pushback from the Kurds…
SEC. CARTER: Yes, it does. And the Kurds have been very -- the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq have been exactly what we've been talking about earlier, namely a capable and motivated ground force of taking and holding territory. There's a limit to the natural extent of -- of Kurdish forces in terms of what they wished to do and where they would be welcome, but they've been extremely effective there.
And so that's another prong in this effort to build, train and -- and enable capable ground forces, because that's the key to the ultimate and lasting defeat of ISIL. Tara?
Q: Thank you, sir. While the two women who are making history earning their Ranger tab, they're not going to be allowed to move on to serve in a Ranger regiment. And my question is why not? You know, haven't they earned their place? Haven't they earned a chance? That shot?
SEC. CARTER: That -- well that gets back to what I said earlier in the hour, which is the Rangers are still on that list of positions that is at this moment closed to women, and what I will receive on October 1st is from the services that continue to have positions that are not available or open to women, a justification for any if there are any, exceptions that will remain in place after that point. And there will be successive classes of Rangers. I presume that they will include successive classes of females. And if some of them in the future wish to become Ranger, then -- then this process that will come to a conclusion in just a few months is going to be very, very important.
And these people, by the way, talking to them, these are pretty capable people. I'm pretty envious of the -- it's lots of things. It's physical. It's leadership. It's -- it's a lot. And of course the standards weren't changed in any way, and so but this particular training site is a pretty impressive achievement.
Q: Mr. Secretary, there are reports out of Pakistan that indicate that the U.S. military may have to cut funding for Pakistan's military because they've not been effective going against the Haqqani network.
SEC. CARTER: I'm sorry, could you start that over? I didn't hear the very beginning part of that.
Q: There are reports out of Pakistan I think today that indicate that the U.S. military may have to cut funding for the Pakistani military because they have not been effective against the Haqqani network. My understanding that you are supposed to certify, according to law, whether they've been effective or not, and there has been assessment made that they have not been effective. So I'm wondering if you could speak to that.
SEC. CARTER: That hasn't come to me yet, quite honestly. I've seen those reports, Gordon. So let me get back to you when that -- that -- when we've had a chance actually to consider that.
You want to ask another question, accordingly? Sure.
Q: (off mic) something you said at the top. Is -- on Gitmo, you said, of the 52 who are generally considered to be eligible for potential transfer, you said "could be" eligible, and I -- I thought that's what I heard you say, and I just wondered if the Pentagon had kind of had a change in position on --
SEC. CARTER: No. There's no change of position. I think there's some who've been deemed eligible, and then there's an ongoing process of periodic review.
But you're right. There're some who have been deemed eligible. There've been others who are -- have not been deemed eligible, and it's that population that we need to find a place to detain, and if it's not Gitmo, then it's gotta be somewhere else. And so we need to get on with the task of finding that "somewhere else" if we're really going to get this task of closing Gitmo accomplished. It's not --
Q: (off mic) the Pentagon deems now eligible? Like, is there a number of the 52?
SEC. CARTER: Yeah, there is a number that we've made public. I'm -- I'm sorry I -- I'll get it for you, Gordon. I just don't remember it, because it changes, because as I indicated, we do transfer people, and so it goes down over time. And -- and meanwhile, the periodic review board is constantly considering some people. But it's about the number that you've described, neighborhood of 50.
Let me see. Phil?
Q: Mr. Secretary, I want to ask you about another one of your priorities, please, that hasn't come up so far, which is the rebalance to the Pacific and specifically the discussion inside the government about the way the U.S. should respond military to Chinese artificial islands in the South China Sea.
What do you believe the Navy should do in terms of sailing ships or flying aircraft close to those islands as a way for the United States to communicate to the Chinese in ways other than you've already done that it considers them unacceptable?
You were out in the region earlier this year. You talked about it in your speeches. Should the Navy do more physically there to respond?
SEC. CARTER: Yeah, I made three points when I was out there, and I've reiterated them to Chinese leaders subsequently.
The first one, to get to the first part of your question, is that the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits. As we've always the right to do, we will continue to do that, and none of this is going to change our conduct in anyway.
Second thing is that the -- we are very actively pursuing not only what I just described, which is our unilateral activities, but our multilateral activities with other countries in the South China Sea and others in the Asia-Pacific area for the very reason that they are very concerned about this Chinese behavior, which is not only concerning to us, but is also having the effect of strengthening our alliances and increasing the number and strength of our partnerships, and it'll -- will -- that will continue as well.
And the last thing is that we have called for all countries -- not just China, because there're others, but China is by far and away the one that has done the most, especially in the last year to stop dredging, stop any further militarization, not just stop temporarily, but stop permanently that.
And so that's our -- our -- our view. It's a very serious situation the Chinese have created there, and that's our -- our reaction to it.
Q: (inaudible) -- a couple of your thoughts that you led -- (inaudible) -- for a budget question.
You said budget -- Congress needs to pass a responsible budget. You talked about the U.S. has many different ways to contain Iran. I want to pull those two together. Have -- are you going to veto the -- are you -- excuse me -- are you going to recommend vetoing the Defense policy bill and is it a little more complicated now that Congress is reviewing the Iran agreement, that you might be speaking out of both sides of the -- your mouths, you, the U.S. government, if you recommend a veto of the NDA?
The president vetoes the NDA, yet he's trying to get Congress to approve an Iran agreement and show, you know --
SEC. CARTER: I don't think the situation with respect to the NDAA in terms of the issues that it poses for the department. And some of the reasons why we object to it has changed one way or another by the Iran agreement, Tony.
And just to remind you, there are several things in the NDAA that we think are not in the interests of the department and we would, therefore, like to see out.
One of them but a very important one is the provisions regarding the budget. And there I've been very clear -- and I'm just going to say it again -- which is we -- this place needs to get a multi-year -- back on a multi-year budgeting plan.
This will be, if there's a continuing resolution at the end of September, the 7th consecutive year in which there's been a continuing resolution. And just to tell it -- remind you all what that would be like, that would have essentially the effect both in dollars and authorities of sequester.
And this is no way to run an -- run a department strategy -- a number of you asked a strategic question -- strategy isn't a one-year -- one-year-at-a-time thing. Aircraft carriers are not something you build in a year. Our troops, our force, they deserve to know where things are going. And we have somebody who was just asking about the East Asia Pacific area; people around the world might get a misleadingly diminished view of the United States by seeing this budget drama play out a year in and year out.
So for all these reasons, we really need to get off of this herky-jerky, one-year-at-a-time budget approach. So the -- we have indicated -- and there's nothing new here, Tony, I'm just reiterating what you know -- that these provisions of the NDAA need to be changed in the interests of the department. And the president's advisory, including myself, have indicated that he should veto the bill if they're not.
None of that has changed. We need to get at a serious budget here in the United States. And I realize that that's a matter -- I'm going on a little bit here, but I feel passionately about this -- this is not something I can fix. It's something that we and our force -- and I really feel strongly about it -- are subject to and it's something that people need to come together, both parties, and Congress and the -- and the White House. Everybody needs to come together behind -- I'm still -- behind a overall approach to the budget that's not just the Defense budget but the federal budget; in fact, it's not just the federal discretionary budget; it's the whole budgetary picture.
We know that all those parts are necessary in order to solve this. And I continue to be hopeful that everyone can come together behind such an approach and a veto won't be necessary; a CR won't be necessary; sequester won't be necessary. These things are no good for the -- for the country --
SEC. CARTER: Let me go to David.
There's a -- evidently evidence out there that large number of military service members have used their Internet service emails to access an adultery-related website.
Are you aware of that?
Is it an issue?
Is the department looking into it?
What impact --
SEC. CARTER: I'm aware it -- of course it's an issue because conduct is very important. And we expect good conduct on the part of our people. And to the last part, yes. The services are looking into it and as well they should be. Absolutely.
I'll take one more here.
Q: Mr. Secretary, during the week it was reported that the Pentagon was going to increase its number of drone orbits around the world and as part of that contractors would be operating a certain number of them, kind of an escalation in their participation.
What type of oversight will the Pentagon have on these contractors?
And do you foresee a time when contractors would be able to operate armed drones?
SEC. CARTER: The -- just to go backwards in that, the -- what we're -- the -- actually, no; let me go forward, because it's a complicated story. We are -- it -- going to increase effectively the number of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance caps, so-called, from 60 to about 90 and the difference will be made up by some additions to that fleet by the Army, the so-called Gray Eagle aircraft, those that are at the divisional echelon being made available for global employment; the -- some government-owned but contractor-operated, the ones you're talking about, fleet, which will be not armed; we don't envision a time when they will be armed or need to be armed. Will they be supervised? Of course they will, like everything else that is done on our behalf by contractors. Additionally, there are some that are operated by the special operations forces that we -- that are going to be brought to bear and then we're going to manage the whole fleet in a more integrated manner.
So just to give you an example of how you get effectively more caps out of efficient management, if the weather's bad in one place, where one cap was assigned, and the weather's good somewhere else, that cap can be reassigned to where the weather's good today -- it's not going to be effective over there, anyway -- that kind of thing, which you might have thought we'd be doing anyway, we're not doing as systematically as we should.
So global force management of that kind we're also doing. So in all these ways, we're trying to get and will obtain much better ISR coverage than we have now. And that's necessary because the demand is very large for lots of missions from humanitarian right up to counterterrorism and, you know, and all parts of the globe.
So with that, let me think -- want me to take -- no, want to do -- want to do one more. I'm sorry, Tom, Tom, did you have one?
And then --
Q: General Dunford --
(UNKNOWN): Am I OK taking one --
Q: Generals Dunford, Milley and Breedlove have said recently that Russia is the number one threat to the United States, not ISIL. Do you agree with that assessment? And if so, why? And if that is the case, are we doing enough to deal with that threat?
SEC. CARTER: Well, it is a very, very significant threat, and it is -- and I think a point that they've made, but I would certainly make, it -- Russia poses a existential threat to the United States by virtue simply of the size of the nuclear arsenal that it's had.
Now, that's not new. What's new -- and I think also that they were pointing to and where I agree with them -- is that for a quarter century or so, since the end of the Cold War, we have not regarded Russia as an antagonist. Vladimir Putin's Russia behaves, in many respects, as -- in some respects and in very important respects, as an antagonist. That is new. That is something, therefore, that we need to adjust to and counter. And we're doing that in an approach that I've called strong and balanced. And let me take the strong part first.
The strong part means we are adjusting our capabilities qualitative and in terms of their deployments, to take account of this behavior of Russia. We are also working with NATO in new ways, a new playbook, so to speak, for NATO, which has been preoccupied with Afghanistan for the last decade or so, more oriented towards deterrence on its eastern border and with hardening countries at the -- on the borders of Russia, NATO members and non-NATO members, to the kind of hybrid warfare influence or little green man kind of influence that we see associated with Russia in Ukraine. So that's the strong part.
And the balanced part is we continue to work with Russia because you can't paint all their behavior with one brush. There are places where they are working with us: in counterterrorism in many important respects, in some respects, with respect to North Korea, in some respects with respect to Iran and elsewhere.
So where Russia sees its interests as aligned with ours, we can work with them and will continue to do that. And then we'll continue to hold open the door so that if either under Vladimir Putin or some successor of his in the future, there's a leadership that wants to take Russia in the direction that, I believe, is best for Russia, which is not one of confrontation with the rest of the world and self- isolation, which is the path they're on now, but better economic and political integration with the rest of the world in a way that still keeps the wonderful history and culture and so forth and greatness of Russia in tact that that leadership do so.
So that's our strategy with respect to Russia. And, you know, it's not something, Tom -- and I think this is what they were reflecting in their testimony -- that for a quarter century, we thought we'd have to do, but it is. And so we are. And so they're absolutely right. That's an adjustment that we need to make.
And that, I should stop. I've got to do some other things. But let me -- for those of you who haven't gotten away yet in August, I hope you do. For those who have, I hope you're rested. And thank you-all for what you do every day. Appreciate it.