Opening Remarks

by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee at the start of the 184th Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence session

  • 27 Jan. 2021 -
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  • Last updated: 01 Feb. 2021 08:48


Mesdames, messieurs, chers collègues, bienvenue à la première session du Comité militaire des chefs d’état-major de la défense de deux-mille-vingt-et-un.

C'est un plaisir de voir des collègues assissent autour de la table avec moi, ainsi que ceux qui y assistent virtuellement.

Je tiens à remercier la Belgique pour tout son soutien supplémentaire tout au long de la pandémie et en ces temps difficiles.

Alors que nous continuons à faire face à cette crise, le gouvernement et l'armée belges ont permis à notre organisation internationale de continuer à faire son travail essentiel.

Merci Michel. Merci à votre gouvernement.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues, Welcome to the first session.

It is a pleasure to see you all here. NATO has continued to operate during the pandemic and these challenging times.

The Chiefs of Defence today will provide strategic advice and guidance to enable the decision making of our political leadership.

The Military Committee commitment to its mission and the advice it provides to the North Atlantic Council is steady and steadfast.

I am very grateful the Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, has found time to meet with us this morning to offer us his guidance, to discuss the progress on NATO 2030, and provide views on the forthcoming Defence Ministers meeting.

All around the Alliance, on duty away from family and friends, in difficult arduous conditions, our Allied forces play a vital role in keeping 1 billion people of our combined populations and territories protected and secure.

I invite all of you to stand with me now.

As we pay our respects and remember the sacrifice of the men and women wounded or killed in the line of duty.


Thank you

Last year and today, we see governments around the world adapting to counter and halt the spread of coronavirus.

There is cause for hope as the number of effective vaccines grows, but the fight is not over – we must not let our guard down now.

All of us have been affected by this pandemic and we struggle with the societal and economic repercussions.

However, we also see strength and resilience in our societies, reaching out across communities, supporting each other at this time of need.

Resilience is an issue for us as military leaders and we should think and discuss how it can be strengthened as we endure and adapt, ready to bounce back from whatever happens next.

And our security and prosperity depends on a resilient society.

We work together with our Allies and Partners following shared values and understanding we are stronger together.

General Tod Wolters, to my left, our Supreme Allied Commander Europe, is leading the military coordination of NATO’s response to the pandemic, and we are receiving many requests passing through our Euro Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre.

General Wolters, SACEUR, has implemented new procedures to speed up air transport in coordination with Euro Control, who agreed a new dedicated call sign for military relief flights.

We are very grateful to our forces, particularly our military medical teams, who from the very beginning have assisted both national and international Partners, Allies and friends, wherever and whenever possible.

From supporting civilian hospitals, and using military hospitals, creating support to infrastructure to building field hospitals as well as the military flights transporting vital equipment, ventilators, oxygen, vaccines as well as essential goods across the Alliance and beyond.

We have created a trust Fund and a stockpile of medical supplies and equipment through our procurement and support organisation.

And we are reviewing lessons for the future so we can offer the best support to Nations, Allies and Friends.

Importantly for this committee and this group of leaders, our operations, missions and activities continue.

We have robust procedures in place to protect our people, with our military medical teams playing a key role.

On land, in the air, at sea, in space or online with cyber - our troops stand shoulder to shoulder and continue to protect each other and keeping our nations safe.

And I have seen that, despite the restrictions on our visits.

Interoperability stems from not only from operations, but also exercises and training, which support NATO’s effortd to build readiness within the Alliance, deter potential adversaries, under the exercise programme, led by SACEUR.

This enables us to work with civilian organisations to work in theatres of operations and elsewhere, to test capabilities and practise working together in crisis. And we will hear more about that from Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Andre Lanata later.

NATO-led forces must be able to work together despite differences in doctrine, language, structures, we work together and we are interoperable.

This is important because the security environment remains contested and only by working together can we deal with these challenges.

Each Nation, each of you, bring different experience and expertise and I have seen throughout my tenure the immense benefit working together.

And we invest in partner security across the Alliance which we will witness this afternoon with our partners.

But as a regional Alliance we pay respect for our geography, but we face global challenges and you’ll hear more about that in a moment from the Secretary General.

We, as an Alliance, are determined to protect and defend our security, our freedom, and our common value.

Which include individual liberty, human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

We have been present in Afghanistan for almost two decades.

Our forces are there in the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Defence Forces and the Afghan Government.

I know from my own visits, as does SACEUR and the Secretary General, the Afghan people want and deserve peace.

NATO fully supports the US lead process. 

We continue to assess our presence based on conditions on the ground.

We do so together, in a coordinated and deliberate way.

In Iraq, the Alliance continues to play a key role in the fight against international terrorism, with our training mission.

And we are assisting the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces in building a sustainable, transparent, inclusive and effective security institutions and armed force.

They are then better able to fight terrorism, prevent the return of Daesh and stabilize their country.

A lesson from all of our missions is that the sooner we can start to build local capacity, train local forces and build local security institutions, the better for everyone.

Training local forces is one of the best defensive weapons we have. 

Peace and stability in Europe is crucial to NATO’s core mission and the security of the Western Balkans is part of Euro-Atlantic stability. 

Our offices in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Skopje promote political dialogue and carry out practical cooperation.

We are fully committed to Kosovo’s security.

Our Kosovo mission continues to provide a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all communities, in line with the UN mandate.

Today we will devote time to discuss the plans and policies to sharpen our military edge for the future.

Two years ago we adopted the NATO Military Strategy, which sets out our military priorities and approach to current and future threats.

It’s a guide - whatever is required to achieve and maintain our security, within the resources available.

Building on that military strategy, General Tod Wolters, Supreme Allied Commander Europe and his team have developed a concept that focuses on the Deterrence and Defence of the Euro - Atlantic area.

It covers the immediate and short-term response to identified threats based on existing capabilities, people and technology.

And crucially it provides a clear link between the NATO Military Strategy, whilst underpinning the NATO defence planning process, which again marks us out as unique.

In addition, NATO's ability to innovate is what has guaranteed our military superiority over seven decades.

Innovation is an essential part of deterrence and defence and it needs to be accompanied by investment so we maintain our technological edge.

We also have our scientific advances, not just in our own scientists but also the convening authority of the Alliance which works with universities, scientists, engineers, across our huge region with over one billion people.

The organisation, led by Dr Bryan Wells, has more than 6,000 scientists and engineers, and works with you to conduct research, technology, experimentation on a wide range of issues for the future.

So today, we will review and approve the Warfighting Capstone Concept, under the leadership of Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, General Andre Lanata, which takes the triad of the Military Strategy, the concept of Deterrence and Defence of the Euro Atlantic region now with a look further ahead for twenty years.

This provides foresight so that we have the necessary requirements and capabilities for the future. And today we will review it in detail before  sending advice, our advice, to the Secretary General and North Atlantic Council.

So therefore today we will focus on:

Operations, missions and activities, as well as meeting with our Operational partners, many of whom are here in person.

We will align our Defence and Deterrence concept and look forward to implementation,

We will approve the NATO’s Warfighting Capstone Concept and discuss lessons from the COVID crisis

In addition we continue to work together with our Commands to streamline and synchronise all our work, making best use of resources.

And to do that we need and have a strong team of leaders.

Today, I would particularly like to welcome the new Chiefs of Defence,

Admiral Art McDonald from Canada. Welcome Art.

General Flemming Lentfer from Denmark. Welcome Flemming.

Bryndís Kjartansdóttir from Iceland. Welcome Bryndis.

General Steve Thull from Luxembourg. Welcome Steve.

And to that to say in closing, 2020 was a challenging year but we did not miss a beat on operations and support to the Alliance.

As we look forward, it is absolutely clear this link with CHODs and National Military Authorities is as vital as it was when we were created as a Standing Committee in 1949.

I look forward to your advice and guidance on all our work

And can I now ask our cameras to leave so I can welcome the Secretary General and begin our conference?