Remarks by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

at the change of command ceremony Allied Command Operations

  • 13 May. 2013
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  • Last updated: 13 May. 2013 14:37

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, the responsibility and the privilege of the appointment of Supreme Allied Commander Europe pass from Admiral Stavridis to General Breedlove.

General, on behalf of everyone in NATO, I would like to wish you, and Cindy, a very warm welcome to our Alliance, and to Mons.

Vous ne tarderez pas à vous rendre compte que la communauté locale est très fière de son association avec le SHAPE. Et je voudrais remercier la Belgique, ainsi que les habitants de Mons, de leur hospitalité et de leur amitié à l’égard de tout le personnel de l’OTAN qui travaille ici.

General, you arrive at an important time for our Alliance. And for Allied Command Operations.

Our highest priority remains our mission in Afghanistan. On your watch, Afghan forces will be taking full responsibility for the security of their own country, and ISAF will complete its combat mission as planned at the end of 2014. And you will help shape a new and different NATO-led mission: to train, assist and advise the Afghan forces after 2014.

Our brave servicemen and women also serve on two other continents to safeguard our freedom and security. In the Balkans, in the skies over the Baltic, in the Mediterranean, and off the Horn of Africa. And as you know so well from your previous job as Commander, US Air Forces Europe, they are standing guard on NATO’s south-eastern border to deter any missile threats against our Ally Turkey.

These are demanding tasks, but there is more. Another key task will be to complete the reform of the NATO Command Structure. At a time when all our nations face difficult financial choices, our new structure will be leaner, more effective, and more affordable. We have set ambitious timelines for getting the job done. And I am confident that under your leadership we will get it done.

So General, we look to you to continue the great work done in this headquarters. Again, a very warm welcome.


I should now like to turn to Admiral Stavridis, and to thank him for the outstanding job that he has done as SACEUR.

Admiral, Jim, you are the first naval officer to have served as NATO commander in Europe. But you have navigated these uncharted waters with great skill. The secret to your success can be found in the inspirational TED-talk you gave last year. In that talk, you explained why the security of the future should be built with bridges rather than walls. And that’s exactly what you have done.

In Afghanistan, the bridges you built between Allies, partners, and the Government of Afghanistan have successfully sustained a NATO-led coalition of 50 nations. Your bridge-building skills were also evident in 2011, when NATO responded to the United Nations call and deployed a force in record time to protect the people of Libya.

You have also stayed focused on the strategic horizon. And NATO – and SHAPE -- have benefited from your intellect and innovation.

The Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Centre, as well as the Special Operations Forces Headquarters, are excellent examples of your forward thinking.

You have blogged and you have tweeted to help explain the unique value of our Alliance. And to sustain political and public support for what we do.

Jim, after 41 years of distinguished service with the United States Navy, you will now retire from full-time duty and set sail for home. But you won’t entirely change course.

Later this summer, you will take over as Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University. It’s the oldest American graduate school of international affairs, where you also earned your PhD. Anyone who has watched your TED talk, or indeed seen you briefing the North Atlantic Council, knows that you are the perfect man to combine diplomacy, politics and security studies in that prestigious job.

Amiral, vous allez quitter votre navire, SHAPE, et son équipage pour naviguer vers d’autres horizons, plus civils. Nous vous souhaitons bon vent et bonne mer mais nous savons que vous aurez toujours à cœur de tenir le cap dans toutes les situations.

Jim, let me conclude with my own personal thanks for all that you have done. I have very much enjoyed working with you. And have greatly appreciated your approach – you have always been a collaborative, forward-looking partner, helping to build consensus. Those are skills that I am sure you honed as a midshipman in the corridors of Bancroft Hall in Annapolis. And they are also skills that have made you an excellent SACEUR.

To you, and to your wife Laura, I wish you plain sailing into that exciting future.

And in recognition of your exceptional service to NATO, and to Allied Command Operations, it gives me great pleasure to award you the NATO Meritorious Service medal.