by the Chairman of the Military Committee, General Knud Bartels, at the NATO Military Committee Conference in Vilnius, Lithuania
Madame President, Excellency,ladies and gentlemen, good morning and welcome to the NATO Chiefs of Defence and the Strategic Commanders gathered here in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the NATO Military Committee Conference 2014.
Madame President, may I begin, on behalf of us all, by expressing my thanks to Lithuania, our host nation, for such a welcome and hospitality.
Lithuania’s continued participation in NATO led operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, alongside contributions to NATO’s Standing Maritime Groups, the NATO Response Force and the provision of Host Nation Support for NATO Baltic Air Policing, are a reflection of solidarity and commitment to the principles and core tasks that bind this Alliance together.
The sponsorship of this Conference highlights Lithuania’s strong support to NATO and I would like to offer my thanks to the Chief of Defence, General Jonas Žukas for providing the perfect backdrop to today’s event.
Madame President, thank you again for finding the time to join us at the opening of this Conference and agreeing to address the assembled Chiefs of Defence and Strategic Commanders.
Madame President you have the floor.
Before I open the meeting, I would like us to pay tribute to the continued commitment of our military personnel who are delivering success on NATO operations and to remember the sacrifice of those men and women killed and wounded in the line of duty.
[ALL stand for a Minute of silence]
Let me, in the presence of the media, make some remarks on the reasons why we are here, the work we have before us, and the outcomes we intend to achieve.
The NATO Military Committee with the Chiefs of Defence comes together once a year outside Brussels in this format to discuss some of the most challenging issues facing the NATO Military Authorities. This enables us to provide military advice to the highest political decision making body of the Alliance, the North Atlantic Council.
Our ability to engage in debates on difficult topics, reconcile a breadth of perspectives and ultimately forge a consensus across 28 Nations, is a reflection of the strength and solidarity within the Alliance.
Today we will begin by reviewing a series of regional security challenges and their potential implications for the Alliance. This will be a particularly important discussion given the increasing instability we see both on NATO’s borders and further abroad, all of which has the potential to impact our security both directly and asymmetrically.
We will start by reviewing the conflict in Eastern Ukraine and the implications for the Alliance’s future relationship with Russia and NATO’s military posture. To set the context for this discussion we will receive briefs by the Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Minister, His Excellency Linas Linkeviḉius and the Lithuanian Chief of Defence, General Jonas Žukas.
We will then shift our focus eastwards with a briefing from the United States Chief of Defence on the Asia/Pacific region, before we discuss the strategic tensions and forthcoming developments in an area, which although distant, has the potential to have profound economic and security implications for Alliance Nations.
Subsequently we will turn to Africa, focussing on the Sahel region.Therefore we will start our discussion with some opening remarks from the French Chief of Defence, based on his nation’s extensive recent experience in this increasingly turbulent region.
We will complete our strategic overview with a briefing on the Middle East and Northern Africa by the Spanish Chief of Defence. This will be complemented by a presentation on recent developments in Syria and Iraq, focussing on the pressing threat from ISIL which is especially relevant to NATO given its proximity to our Borders.
In our subsequent session we will be joined by the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF); General John Campbell, already at the table. Let me welcome you to this first meeting of this kind for you. He will brief on the current situation in Afghanistan and the challenges associated with the process of transition to NATO’s RESOLUTE SUPPORT Mission, which will continue to Train, Advise and Assist the increasingly confident and capable Afghan National Security Forces.
Our third session is dedicated to discussing the outcomes from the recent successful NATO Summit in Wales and providing direction and guidance from the Chiefs of Defence on implementation of many of the key strands of the work.
Central to our discussions will be the development and implementation of the Alliance Readiness Acton Plan, agreed by our Heads of State and Government at the Wales Summit. The Plan articulates NATO’s evolving military strategic posture as a response to the security challenges it faces and as such its delivery is of paramount importance.
We will complete the Conference with a series of discussions and decisions on topics of a more organisational nature, followed by the election of my successor, who will take over the duties of Chairman of the Military Committee from 26th June 2015.
In each of our sessions we will be supported by our Strategic Commanders; SACEUR, General Philip Breedlove, and SACT, General Jean-Paul Paloméros, who will provide the detailed military strategic assessments and insights on the issues we will discuss.
To conclude, in March 2010 when the venue and date for this Conference were decided, it would have been an important but nevertheless routine milestone. Today, however, we are meeting shortly after NATO’s most significant Summit in recent years, and within the context of increasing global instability and threats to Euro-Atlantic Security. Our deliberations today are therefore far from routine and our Nations, our politicians and our militaries will look to us to provide clarity, guidance and direction on a breadth of challenging topics.
The solidarity and strength demonstrated at the Summit, and in these excellent surroundings, I cannot imagine a better setting and a better time to meet with the Alliance’s 28 Chiefs of Defence to discuss and analyse the global and regional security situation and the implications for NATO.
With this I would like to thank the media for attending our opening session. Thank you and I would now ask media to leave the room.