by NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow at the opening ceremony of ‘Trident Juncture 2015’ live exercise
Under Secretary Alfano,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to be here at the opening of ‘Trident Juncture 2015’, the largest and most important NATO exercise for over a decade.
Under Secretary Alfano, on behalf of NATO, I would like to thank Italy for hosting Trident Juncture along with Spain and Portugal. And I would also like to thank General Domrose of Joint Force Command Brunssum, the commanding officer, and his team, for organizing such a large and complex exercise.
Exercises like this one, and the many others held by NATO and our Allies – over 300 this year – are vital for our continued security. Within a rapidly changing security environment, with new challenges appearing almost daily, ensuring the readiness and the operational capability of our forces is more important than it has ever been.
The last time NATO regularly held exercises of this magnitude, we were in the midst of the Cold War, facing the Soviet threat. While there was always the possibility of nuclear war, in general, the Euro-Atlantic area was a place of stability.
Now, we have a far more unstable and potentially more dangerous situation. In the east, Russia has illegally annexed Crimea, continues to support the separatists in eastern Ukraine; and now appears to have entered the war in Syria firmly on the side of Assad. And to our south, from Syria to Libya, failed and failing states have opened the door to extremist and terrorist groups, eager to fill the vacuum.
In this new world, NATO’s Allies and partners must be able to move quickly and act decisively. To deter and defend against those who would do us harm at home and be able to respond to crises beyond our borders when our interests are threatened. We must be able to achieve our military objectives, including the protection of the civilian population, especially women and children.
This exercise puts NATO and its partners to the test. It will examine how we can work together under pressure with other international organisations, such as the European Union and the African Union; and with NGOs such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, for modern operations need far more than just a military component. A successful operation requires a comprehensive approach. And it is this approach that will be tested during Trident Juncture.
I would like to thank many of our partners for sending military units. Exercises like these are essential to continuing the close connectivity and interoperability of our forces, gained after years standing side-by-side in operations in the Western Balkans and in Afghanistan
And I welcome our observers from as far afield as Brazil, and Mexico. We are a transparent organisation and welcome observers at our exercises.
We have already held the first part of Trident Juncture, to test the command-and-control elements of the NATO Response Force. Today, we move into the next phase, a live exercise with around 36,000 troops from more than 30 countries, including more than 140 aircraft and more than 60 ships.
Exercise Trident Juncture will demonstrate that NATO is ready and able to defend any Ally against any threat in any form. It will demonstrate our ability to move quickly and decisively beyond our borders to protect our partners and our interests. And that we can deal with everything from conventional military engagements to more subtle hybrid warfare techniques and propaganda.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The scenario, the countries and the issues that our forces will deal with in the coming weeks may be fictitious, but the experience they will gain and the lessons they will learn will be very real.
That is why we are here today, why we have worked so hard to make Trident Juncture as sophisticated and realistic as it can be. And why we can all be confident in the continuing strength and resilience of the NATO Alliance.