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Media Availability with Secretary Carter following a Troop Event at Morón Air Base, Spain

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: Well, first and most obvious thing, is what a spectacular example this place is of our forces and their strategic transition and strong and principled friendship. The Spanish are wonderful to work with -- my counterpart the minister is a real pleasure. He's very button downed, organized and very friendly. And that kind of characterizes the whole relationship. So that's -- that's the reason for being here. And it of course makes my day to see these guys.

Let's see, I'm sure you're interested in two things, so I'll just say something about them at the front. The first is the Russians in Syria, and I've said it again and again and again, but I'll just say it again, that this -- this is a very wrongheaded and backward approach that's sure to backfire and is not consistent at all with what the 60-member coalition is doing. And it's just going to fuel the Syrian civil war. And so it'a serious strategic mistake on the part of the Russians.

With respect to the air incursion into Turkey, we've condemned that. NATO has condemned that. This is, by the way, NATO airspace, Turkish airspace. And so it's seriously irresponsible and unprofessional. And in connection with unprofessional behavior, I'll just remind you that we met at the defense -- the defense working level with the Russians about professional conduct in the airspace above Syria and they've yet to respond to us.

The other thing that I'm sure is on your mind, so I’ll just say something about it, and then we can go onto other topics. General Campbell spoke yesterday more about the incident in Kunduz. And just to remind you that we will have a full and transparent investigation. We'll find out what happened. I want to know that as much as anyone. And we will share that information as we get it with the -- obviously, with the government of Afghanistan, all the members of the coalition there, and any other concerned parties. And certainly, you know, once again, for innocent lives lost there, our hearts go out to them and condolences to their families.

But we will find out what happened and we will be transparent about that. And if there are those who need to be held accountable they will.

Q: Mr. Secretary, -- one of the Marines asked you about the threat posed by the Russians in Syria. You said we're -- their behavior needs to be checked and we're doing that. What -- what exactly is the United States and the coalition doing to check the Russians?

SEC. CARTER: He asked -- he asked about the Russians in general. And --

Q: What about in Syria?

SEC. CARTER: -- okay. Well, in Syria, they are going to be checked by, in the first instance Craig, by the backlash they are going to get on account of siding with Assad against everyone else. So reality is going to be the first check on the Russians. We're going to continue to do what we're doing because we are on the right path. We're going to continue to work with our Allies.

We'll continue to tell the Russians they have to conduct themselves professionally, but they're making a serious strategic mistake and we will -- this is, you know, going to cause us further to strengthen our posture with respect to Russia and further, you know, evidence that they're not thinking things through very well strategically. And that is the reason why, you know, to go back to Ukraine and so forth, NATO has strengthened its posture with respect to Russia.

But in the particular matter of Syria, they're off on the wrong track. I think they'll continue to come under attack as a consequence of it. But we're on the right path there and they're on the wrong path.

Q: Sir, apparently there's been a second incursion. The Turks called in the Russian ambassador again today.

SEC. CARTER: I can’t confirm that.

Q: But my question was sort of what you think the Russians are doing. Are they messaging or --

SEC. CARTER: I can't say, but I -- I do not believe that it is accidental. I think that the secretary general said that as well. And we will react to that, and certainly the Turks will and have said they will. So it's a serious matter. We take it very, very seriously. And this is behavior by Russia, I can’t confirm that it's deliberate, but I simply have to assume that at a certain point, it's more than unprofessional.


Q: Well, how do you react?


Q: The Russians are now sending in hundreds of volunteer troops -- it sort of seems similar to what they did in Crimea

SEC. CARTER: I've heard that. I've heard that. I can't confirm that, but it would be -- it would be in the pattern of calling people volunteers and that would simply be deepening their -- their mistake in Syria, if it's true. But I can't confirm for you Helene that it is

Q:  What kind of risks to they run by doing that?

SEC. CARTER: Well, those people are going to come under attack, as their own people will come under attack. And of course, their strategy is futile.

Q: You said -- (inaudible) -- -- you said "we will react." What do you think the U.S. needs to do in response to this? And what are you going to ask NATO to do -- (inaudible)?

SEC. CARTER: We'll be discussing that at NATO on Thursday. So why don't we wait until we get to NATO -- (inaudible).


Q:  Does that include caping the Patriot battery in Turkey?

SEC. CARTER: I'm sorry?

Q: Does that include caping the Patriot battery in Turkey?

SEC. CARTER: No, the Patriot battery -- we -- we -- the Patriot battery is coming home to be modernized as part of a -- something that needs to be done to -- for the upgrade of that battery. We'll keep going with that. Remember, that's not -- that's -- that's principally oriented towards a different kind of threat. And there are other, by the way, NATO Patriot batteries, including a Spanish Patriot battery on the territory of Turkey. So the mission is covered by both Turkish forces and other NATO forces.


Mr. Peter Cook:  Everyone, our host is the minister of defense who is waiting for the Secretary so we have to go say goodbye to him


Q: I just want to know if you are going to have another conversation with the Russians?

SEC. CARTER: We are waiting for the Russians. They owe us a response. We met with them last week, as you well know. And we await a response from them, and we expect a response from them.

Q: Is there a deadline for that response? Is there a timetable that was set that was missed?

SEC. CARTER: They should come in and do it right now. You know, remember this was the -- these meetings were their initiative in the first place. They're focused on professional conduct and it's only professional that you follow through on the request they made. And they've not done that yet. And that may be a further sign of their strategic confusion, I don't know.

Mr. Cook: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Q: Thank you.