Opening statement by the Chairman of the NATO Military Committee
Knud Bartels, at the joint press point following the NATO Chiefs of Defence meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania
General Žukas, Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening and thank you for being here. I would like to start the press conference by laying out the key points of today’s meetings.
We kicked off the discussions with a detailed analysis on the critical developments in four areas – Russia/Ukraine, Africa/Sahel, Middle East/North Africa and Asia/Pacific. In this unpredictable world, our population and territories are threatened by growing instability and mounting transnational and multi-dimensional threats. In Ukraine, Russia has added its own military forces to the separatist conflict and continues not to comply with international law and respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. In the South, instability and extremism are fuelled by fragile states, sectarian strife and terrorist elements. We highlighted the enduring and significant nature of these current state and non-state threats to NATO, and agreed our Alliance could have a role to play.
NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our allies – the 28 member states – against any strategic and/or hybrid threat. For this reason, Nations agreed at the Wales Summit a Readiness Action Plan that will strengthen NATO’s collective defence and ensure the Alliance is ready to deal with any challenge. It was a clear commitment that demonstrates the Alliance’s solidarity and resolve.
From a military perspective, we will ensure that we have the right forces and the right equipment in the right place, at the right time. We will develop a very high readiness force, able to deploy at very short notice. This force will be sustainable, visible, credible, agile and balanced. The development of this force will require a thorough study with the direction and guidance provided today. Therefore we will also look at an intermediate solution, increasing readiness on existing structures, such as elements of the NATO Response Force.
We also paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands of military and civilian personnel who have served with ISAF and the Afghan National Security Forces over the past thirteen years. Their sacrifices and efforts have made all of our nations safer and improved global security. When the legal arrangements are in place, we will launch a new mission there at the beginning of next year. That mission, called RESOLUTE SUPPORT, will train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces. In the long term, we will remain committed to the NATO-Afghanistan Enduring Partnership.
Finally, I want to congratulate General Pavel, the Chief of Staff of the Czech Armed Forces who was elected by our Chiefs of Defence as the next Chairman of the NATO Military Committee. I wish all the best to my successor and I’m confident that with his experience and familiarity with NATO affairs and processes he will do a fantastic job to keep the Military Committee strong and on top of all the issues.
General Žukas, once again thank you for hosting the Military Committee Conference. Over the past two days, we have really appreciated the generosity of your people and the chance to discover Lithuania. Thank you for your hospitality. The floor is yours.