Opening remarks

by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Chairman of the NATO Military Commitee at the 181th Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence Session

  • 22 May. 2019 -
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  • Last updated: 22 May. 2019 10:47

(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 deuxième réunion du Comité militaire en session des chefs d’état-major de la défense de deux mille dix-neuf.

As stated by the Secretary General in his address to Congress last month, the Alliance is facing unprecedented challenges and the global balance of power is changing.

Seventy years from its creation, NATO remains a potent combination of soft and hard power, a politico-military defensive Alliance committed to defending its population and territories from any potential challenge, from any direction.

Consequently we are adapting as an Alliance with the largest reinforcement of our collective defence in decades.

We are increasing the readiness of our forces.

In the eastern part of the Alliance we are maintaining a forward presence of four multinational battle groups, supported by joint forces.

And we have enhanced the NATO Response Force with a Spearhead Force of 5,000 troops.

We ensure that we remain at the forefront of technological change by increasing our efforts on disruptive technologies and we enhance NATO’s human capital whilst transforming.

We have stepped up our role in the fight against terrorism, including the establishment of a new and important training mission in Iraq.

Last month our Foreign Ministers approved a package of measures for the Black Sea region to improve our situational awareness and to step up our support to Georgia and Ukraine.

Adaptation is not finished – work is ongoing to ensure this Alliance is ready and able.

The Military Committee, the standing military body in the Alliance, plays a pivotal role in this adaptation by continuing to provide unfettered military advice and guidance to the North Atlantic Council.

It is therefore with great pleasure that I welcome a new colleague to our family and our committee

General Christos Christodoulou from Greece. A very warm welcome Christos to you.

I would also like to use this opportunity to welcome General Tod Wolters the new Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Tod, welcome.

You both join us at a very busy period in the Alliance’s history. I look forward to working very closely with both of you. Your experience and expertise will enhance the guidance this group receives and then we can provide to the North Atlantic Council.

As we sit here today, across the world soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines from all Allies and Partners are working together under the NATO flag – from the high North to the Mediterranean Sea, from the North Atlantic to Afghanistan.

Our troops play a vital role in guaranteeing the safety and security of Allied populations and territory.

So it is appropriate now to take a moment to pay tribute to our serving men and women and remember their sacrifice.

[All stand for a minute’s silence. The ‘In memorium’ slide will be shown on the large Conference screens and the lights will be dimmed by EXCO’s team]

Thank- you.

I will now briefly provide an overview of what the Chiefs of Defence are going to discuss today.

Today will focus on:

  • The Deterrence and Defence Posture as a defensive Alliance,
  • NATO’s Military Strategy,
  • SACEUR’s Area of Responsibility,
  • Cooperation with our partners
  • NATO-Ukraine cooperation and particularly the Mediterranean Dialogue.

The Military Committee is responsible for translating political decisions and guidance into military strategy.

It is therefore appropriate that we begin today with a meeting with NATO’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg.

This meeting allows you the Chiefs of Defence, to be directly informed by the Secretary General on his priorities.

We will then discuss NATO’s Military Strategy and our overall Deterrence and Defence posture.

The military strategy provides overarching guidance, outlining how the Alliance effectively deters and defends and helps shape our future plans.

It will be a handrail which guides our decision making process and provides coherence to our overall efforts.

We cannot predict the future, but this strategy and the strategic thinking that goes with it provided by you gives a level of guidance to what we could do depending on the circumstances presented to us.

We’ll then give additional guidance on how to go forward as this will become a living document.

Effective deterrence is about convincing of a potential aggressor that the consequence of either coercion or armed conflict outweigh the potential gains.

This requires the Alliance to retain and maintain credible military capability and strategy with a political will to act.

This political will was made clear in this room last year when during the Brussels Summit, our Heads of State and Government took over 100 decisions to strengthen our defence and deterrence posture.

We, in this committee, turn those decisions into reality. We increase our ability to move across the Atlantic and within Europe, and we modernise our military command structure.

Therefore today, we will focus on SACEUR’s Area of Responsibility which affects our ability to deter. This is much more than about logistics.

This is the identification and implementation of the whole Area of Responsibility to assure the Alliance’s ability to project and sustain combat power that allow us to pursue strategic and operational goals we have been set.

This is a big subject and requires a whole of government approach with cooperation of both civil and military actors across a wide range of fields and across other organisations.

So consequently we will discuss the challenges this generates to allow you as Chiefs of Defence to provide additional direction and guidance within your capitals.

We will then have a session with partners.

And just to be clear this Alliance does not, and will not, accept Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea and we continue to call on Russia to withdraw from Crimea, and cease its support to militants in eastern Ukraine.

We also call on Russia to release the Ukrainian sailors and ships seized in November last year near the Sea of Azov.

Our final session today will be with our Mediterranean Dialogue colleagues. The Chiefs of Defence will discuss Projecting Stability and helping to build Capacity in that region.

This year, 2019, marks twenty-five years of political-military dialogue and practical cooperation with those Nations.

We have created a culture of cooperation, increasing interoperability, mutual understanding, and importantly contributing to National defence reforms.

We, the Chiefs of Defence will offer advice and guidance on current and planned activities to enhance security and stability and recommend new activities.

In each of sessions today we are supported by our Strategic Commanders; Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod Wolters, who has just been introduced to you and of course Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General André Lanata. Both of our strategic Commanders will deliver detailed military strategic assessments on the issues.

Thank you.

I would now kindly ask the media to depart this opening session so we can get on with our busy day. Thank you.