Remarks by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the change of command ceremony Allied Command Transformation
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Three years ago, I stood here to welcome General Abrial to Allied Command Transformation. Today, responsibility for this Command passes to General Paloméros. General, on behalf of everyone in NATO, I would like to wish you, and Agnès, a very warm welcome.
You will quickly come to realise that your job is made easier, and more enjoyable, because of the friendship shown by the local community. The people of Norfolk have a very long, proud, and close association with our Alliance. And I would like to thank everyone here in Norfolk for the tremendous hospitality and support that they provide to NATO, to Allied Command Transformation, and to all the staff who work here. It is much appreciated.
General Paloméros, we are all grateful that, once again, France has nominated an exceptional officer to lead this important command. Today is not the first time you have taken over from General Abrial. You took over from him three years ago as French Air Force Chief of Staff. So you will know that he has left you a Command that is in very good shape. But that does not mean that he has left you with nothing to do. On the contrary. You, and your new Command, face a broad range of challenges.
We all know how hard it is to find fresh funds for defence under current circumstances. This means that if we want to make our forces more capable, more compatible, and more complementary, then we are going to have to make smarter use of the money we are able to spend on security. At the Chicago summit, we made significant strides in that direction.
One of your first challenges will be to maintain that momentum. With Smart Defence, we are successfully changing the mind-set. Cooperation should be the preferred choice, not the last choice. We must now provide all Allies, as well as partners in certain cases, with the advice, and support, they need to pursue multinational cooperation initiatives. And we must do this while respecting the balance between solidarity and sovereignty.
Second, the Connected Forces Initiative. As we prepare to complete our combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, we must ensure we don’t lose our operational lessons, or our operational edge. We need to retain, and improve, our ability to work together across the whole range of potential military tasks.
Training and exercising will play an important part in these efforts. And so will the judicious use of a strengthened NATO Response Force. Simulation and networking will offer new and cost-effective ways of sustaining, and improving, our operational effectiveness. Our Connected Forces Initiative needs to bring all these strands together, and look for other innovative ways of doing what we do.
In sum, General, we look to you to help ensure that Allies’ national and multinational contributions can be brought together – effectively under NATO command and control. So that the Alliance stays fit for purpose and fit for the future.
It’s a heavy responsibility. But it is one for which you are ideally suited. I have every confidence that you will succeed. And I look very much forward to working with you. Again, welcome, and the best of luck.
I should now like to turn to General Abrial, and thank him for the outstanding job that he has done these past three years.
General, your appointment was significant for a number of reasons. It was a highly visible sign of France retaking its full place in NATO’s Integrated Military Structure. You were the first permanent European commander of a NATO Strategic Command. And your arrival coincided with a crucial time in Allied Command Transformation’s development.
You took up your appointment only a month after I became NATO Secretary General. So for the past three years, we have worked very closely together. And I want you, and everyone here, to know how much I have appreciated your support, your advice, and your achievements. You have made a difference for NATO. For France. And for Allied Command Transformation.
You have brought a clear and coherent focus to the Command’s wide range of work. Due to your efforts, this Command now lies at the very core of NATO’s business.
You made a significant contribution to the development of the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept. Throughout the process, your military advice consistently reflected all the attributes that have made you such a successful commander here – strong leadership, intellectual rigour, foresight, and pragmatism.
Those qualities have also been evident in another major area of NATO’s work – Smart Defence. Along with my Deputy in Brussels, you have been Special Envoy for the Smart Defence initiative and helped make it a reality.
You have travelled tirelessly to capitals, developed a package of concrete proposals, and delivered a catalogue of opportunities for multinational cooperation that was endorsed in Chicago.
NATO is already reaping the rewards of your dedication and your efforts. Many of your ideas are already being pursued by nations. And many more are now in the pipeline. You have given a real capability focus to this Command.
Alliance capability is also about cooperation. As a European in America, you have invested considerable time and effort in strengthening the transatlantic link that lies at the heart of our Alliance. You have established excellent cooperation with the United Nations and the European Union staff and in particular with the European Defence Agency. And you have built strong links with industry, both here and in Europe. These wide networks of cooperation all play an important part in strengthening our Alliance.
Finally, let me mention the Command’s individual and collective training establishments and the Centres of Excellence. They provide much of the glue that binds together Allied service personnel. So that when they deploy, they can operate shoulder-to-shoulder. Your personal engagement in bringing a coordinated and cohesive approach to education and training has brought real benefits where it matters most – on operations.
General Abrial, to you, and to Michaela, on behalf of the Alliance, and from me personally: thank you for all that you have done, and our very best wishes for the future.
After your dedicated service here, you fully deserve your retirement. I understand that as a fighter pilot, you have a need for speed – and that you will be taking a Mustang and a Harley Davidson back to France with you.
But there is also something else I would like you to take back with you. In recognition of your exceptional service to NATO, and to Allied Command Transformation, I should like to award you the NATO Meritorious Service medal.