Opening Remarks

by the Chairman of the Military Committee, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, at the 180th meeting of the Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence session

  • 15 Jan. 2019 -
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  • Last updated: 15 Jan. 2019 10:44

(As delivered)

Mesdames, Messieurs, bonjour.

J’aimerais tout d’abord souhaiter la bienvenue aux chefs d’état-major de la défense des pays de l’OTAN et aux commandants stratégiques réunis aujourd’hui pour la première réunion du Comité militaire en session des chefs d’état-major de la défense de 2019.

I would also, this morning, particularly like to welcome three new members of the Military Committee, to the Chiefs of Defence Staff Community and family.  

  • ​ Major General Martin Herem from Estonia. Martin a very warm welcome to our, shall I say club and we very much look forward to working with you as you become Chief of Defence.
  • General​ Enzo Vecciarelli from Italy. Enzo, my friend, it is nice to see you. Swelling the numbers of airmen in the room and congratulations on your appointment.
  • Major General Alenka Ermenc from Slovenia. Alenka not only do I congratulate you on your appointment as the Chief of Defence Staff of Slovenia but you have now made history in our Alliance as the first woman Chief of Defence and many, many congratulations.

So I wish all of you the very best for your appointments. You take up your posts at a very important time in the Alliance, and we all look forward to you bringing your ideas to our discussions.

We, as an alliance, have troops deployed all over the globe, serving away from home and in difficult and arduous conditions to provide security, peace and stability to over 1 billion citizens of our world.

Therefore I think it is appropriate, at the beginning of this meeting, for us to take a moment and pay tribute to all of our serving personnel and remember the sacrifice of those men and women killed or wounded in the line of duty.

Thank you.

2019 marks seventy-years since the creation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Those years have seen many changes and many challenges – from the Cold War, throughout its duration, to the Balkan Wars, to the 9/11 attacks and our involvement in Afghanistan.

Challenges from state and non-state actors combine both traditional and non-traditional methods and we, as an Alliance, must counter them.

To make certain that our primary responsibility of protecting Allied populations and our territory is met and that any potential adversary is in no doubt of our will and our determination.

This Committee, the Military Committee, is the most senior Military Authority in NATO and we, as a collective, provide strategic military advice to the North Atlantic Council.

This advice from twenty-nine Allied Chiefs of Defence gathered around this table, this morning, brings to the Alliance a wealth of experience and expertise.

We are responsible for translating political decisions and guidance into military strategy and recommending measures considered necessary for the defence of the Alliance.

Over the next day and a half, we will focus on our Strategic Challenges and Developments, our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, including Pakistan and the Regional security situation, our Kosovo Force Mission and the Western Balkans, our Deterrence and Defence posture and NATO-Georgia relations.

Today’s session begins with a meeting with the Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg which allows us to hear from the Secretary General, himself, his expectations for this year and allows for a frank exchange of views. And I know he is looking forward to your questions this morning.

Our second session focuses on NATO’s Strategic Challenges, specifically looking to the future. This will lead us onto our conversation on Strategic Developments, to go into detail on our forthcoming Military Strategy, the NATO Command Structure Adaptation and the status of the Alliance’s Readiness Initiative.

We must continue to ensure the Alliance’s deterrence and defence posture remains credible, coherent, and resilient; therefore it is of strategic importance to increase our response, heighten readiness and improve our reinforcement capability.

The adapted Command Structure enhances and strengthens the relationship to the NATO Force Structure headquarters and national headquarters, and of course our Command Structure is unique to this Alliance.

We must therefore ensure our Command Structure remains robust, agile and fit-for-purpose to take quick and decisive action.

As we sit here, as the Chiefs of Defence, 20,000 military personnel are engaged on NATO Missions around the world in complex ground and naval operations and air operations. And we must, as we have just remembered the loses we have suffered, remember them.

Therefore our first session is dedicated to those missions and commitments, focusing on Resolute Support and with our Operational Partner colleagues.

We will receive briefings from the Deputy Commander Resolute Support, Lieutenant General Salvatore Camporeale, on behalf of General Scott Miller, and our Senior Civilian Representative, Ambassador Cornelius Zimmermann on the current political military situation and discuss NATO’s future engagement.

Our commitment to Afghanistan is unwavering.  The security situation remains challenging. Nevertheless, the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces are working very hard to secure their country and deny a safe haven to terrorists.

We have a dedicated session on Pakistan with our friend and Pakistani colleague, General Mahmood Hayat. And we will receive a briefing from him on his perspective of the regional security situation and discuss the potential future cooperation.

Tomorrow, we will begin with a session dedicated to warfare development and the delivery of Common Funded Capabilities. Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General André Lanata – André welcome – is here and he will brief us to provide further direction and guidance.

We will then turn our attention to Georgia, meeting with our Georgian friend and colleague, General Vladimer Chachibaia, and focus on his recent achievements, the security situation and, of course, the way ahead for our partnership.

Our final session of the day, tomorrow, will be on Kosovo Force and the Western Balkans. Following intelligence and operational briefings, we, as Chiefs of Defence, will provide recommendations and suggested way forward.

NATO, as an Alliance, has worked hard to keep the region safe for over eighteen years, through our KFOR mission, now approximately 4,000 troops, and through our assistance and advice, which help to build the capacities of the Kosovo Security Force and civilian institutions.

So the security and stability of the Western Balkans remain paramount to NATO and, of course, we have strong relationships with all Allies, friends and countries in the region.

Throughout this meeting, in each of our sessions we will be supported by our Strategic Commanders; SACEUR, General Scaparrotti – Mike welcome – and SACT, General André Lanata, who will both provide military strategic assessments on the issues we discuss.

Thank you.

And if I may now please invite the media to leave the room as we move to our opening session.