Opening remarks

by the Chairman of the Military Committee, General Knud Bartels, at the 172nd meeting of the Military Committee in Chiefs of Staff session

  • 21 Jan. 2015 -
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  • Last updated: 21 Jan. 2015 10:27

Ladies and Gentlemen, good morning.
I’d like to start by welcoming the NATO Chiefs of Defence and Strategic Commanders to their first Military Committee meeting of the year.   

I would also like to welcome the three Chiefs of Defence for whom this is their first NATO CHODs meeting:

-        Major General Andreij Ostermann of the Slovenian Armed Forces;
-        General Romain Mancinelli from Luxemburg, and;
-        Lieutenant General Nicolae Ciuca of the Romanian Armed Forces.

Andrej, Romain, and Nicolae, congratulations.  You are taking over your responsibilities at a challenging time.  Your input will significantly shape the Military Advice on the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan.  Thereby, setting the conditions to ensure NATO has the capability and capacity to meet current and future security challenges. 

Looking back, few of us could have predicted the events of 2014, which will be remembered as a year of significant change in the global security environment.  

Just twelve months ago NATO’s military main effort was focussed on the International Stabilisation Force in Afghanistan.  This mandate was carried out at significant cost and with substantial success.  We will always remember the sacrifice of the international and Afghan forces, who deserve our respect and our gratitude.

NATO has now opened a new chapter in our relationship with Afghanistan.  As of January 2015 the Alliance is conducting a train, assist and advise mission in support of the Afghan National Security Forces.  We are well aware that although this is a non-combat mission, it is conducted in a combat environment.   

The Wales Summit demonstrated NATO’s willingness to adapt to the ever-changing security environment and its unwavering commitment to Euro-Atlantic security.  Our Heads of State and Government, through the Summit Declaration and Readiness Action Plan, have given their direction and guidance.  The political imperative is clear and there is the momentum to deliver tangible outcomes that are underpinned by military realities.    

Therefore, the Chiefs of Defence have come together to provide Military Advice to the North Atlantic Council on some of the most challenging issues facing the NATO Military Authorities.  Our ability to reconcile differing perspectives and forge consensus across all Allied Nations is a reflection of the cohesion and solidarity within the Alliance.

Let me, in the presence of the media, make some remarks on the discussions we are about to undertake and the outcomes we intend to achieve.

We will start the meeting with an update from the Director of the International Military Staff’s Intelligence Division on the strategic threats to the Alliance’s Eastern and Southern borders.  Russia’s illegal military intervention in Ukraine remains a significant cause for concern; while the growing instability in the South compounds the challenges facing the Alliance.  Challenges that NATO must continue to have the capability and capacity to counter.     

This update will ensure a common situational awareness across the 28 Allies and set the conditions for the meeting with our seven Mediterranean Partners.  It will also highlight the background for our Ukrainian partner’s unforeseen absence – let me underline here that the Ukrainian Chief of Defence has been forced at very short notice to cancel his attendance due to the evolving situation in the East of his country. 

I want however to reiterate that the events in Ukraine are shaping our thinking on NATO’s security challenges.  We have seen in Ukraine the use of hybrid warfare which combines traditional, conventional and paramilitary operations, as well as sophisticated disinformation campaigns.  At the Wales Summit we decided how to ensure that the Alliance plays its role in responding effectively.  This includes improving information sharing, developing exercise scenarios that address hybrid threats and strengthening coordination between NATO and other organizations.

The update will be followed by a session in the Mediterranean Dialogue format.  This provides the perfect opportunity to enhance our understanding of the regional security challenges that our Partners are facing and the potential implications for the Alliance.  We will hear directly from the Jordanian and Tunisian Representatives with all Partners providing their insights of this dynamic and evolving situation.   

This will lead to discussion and subsequent agreement on a series of proposals that have been developed in conjunction with our Partners to strengthen the Mediterranean Dialogue.  These proposals are focussed on interoperability, capability building, training and exercises.  They will provide the basis for further cooperation as we look to the future.

Au cours de la première réunion de l’après-midi, nous rencontrerons nos partenaires de la mission RESOLUTE SUPPORT, soit 42 pays au total. Le simple fait que 42 pays contribuent directement à RESOLUTE SUPPORT montre notre engagement constant en Afghanistan. Il s’agira de notre première réunion dans cette configuration depuis le début de la nouvelle mission de formation, de conseil et d’assistance. Le Haut représentant civil nouvellement désigné, l’ambassadeur Ismail Aramaz, fera le point sur la situation politique. Le SACEUR et le commandant de la mission RESOLUTE SUPPORT donneront une vue d’ensemble de la situation opérationnelle en mettant l’accent sur l’évolution positive des forces de sécurité nationales afghanes.

Aujourd’hui, notre dernière réunion sera un débat approfondi sur la mise en œuvre du plan d’action pour la réactivité. Les autorités militaires de l’OTAN sont déterminées à maintenir la dynamique du sommet du Pays de Galles. Nous donnerons un avis militaire aux ministres de la Défense le mois prochain, notamment sur les points suivants :

  • le renforcement de réactivité de la force de réaction de l’OTAN (NRF) ;
  • le soutien de la structure des mesures d’assurance tout au long de l’année 2015 ;
  • la mise en place d’une solution intérimaire pour la force opérationnelle interarmées à très haut niveau de préparation (VJTF) en 2015 ;
  • l’adoption des besoins en entraînement pour la NRF revitalisée.

Tomorrow’s session will provide an opportunity to develop the Military Advice to NATO’s Political Guidance 2015 which will be agreed in June by NATO’s Defence Ministers.  This new Political Guidance is to reflect the changes in the security environment and the implications for NATO’s military posture.

In each of our sessions we will be supported by our Strategic Commanders: SACEUR, General Phillip Breedlove and SACT, General Jean-Paul Palomeros, who will provide the detailed military strategic assessments on the issues we will discuss.

I would like to thank the Media for attending our opening session.  Thank you very much and I would now ask you to leave the room.