by Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of the NATO Military Committee following the Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence session
Thank you for joining me tonight for this virtual press conference at NATO headquarters.
A little while ago, I concluded the first of our regular meetings, this year, with the 30 NATO Chiefs of Defence and, SACEUR and SACT attending.
We will hold two others this year in May and September.
While this initial meeting was planned to be in person, the rolling waves of COVID-19 across the world pushed us to switch to a virtual format.
While the format may change, our aim does not.
These meetings provide an opportunity for NATO’s Highest NATO Military Authority to come together,
to assess the current security situation, discuss ongoing work strands and reflect on future requirements.
For almost 73 years, NATO has remained the strongest military Alliance in the world through its ability to adapt, expect the unexpected and prepare for it.
In today’s security climate, NATO is facing the most complex set of challenges in a generation;
Russia is more aggressive abroad and more oppressive at home.
Yesterday, the NATO Secretary General hosted a NATO-Russia Council for the first time since 2019.
I attended the meeting in person.
As the Secretary General stated in his press conference,
This was not an easy discussion but all the more important.
There are significant differences between NATO Allies and Russia.
While our differences will not be easy to bridge,
it is a positive sign that all NATO Allies and Russia sat down around the same table, and engaged on substantive topics.
This is an opportunity for constructive engagement, which should not be missed, in the interest of security in Europe.
Meanwhile, across the world,
China is using its economic and military might to control its own people, coerce other countries, assert control over global supply chains, critical infrastructure, and other assets.
We face more frequent and sophisticated cyber and hybrid attacks, targeting crucial infrastructures, like hospitals or law enforcement.
Terrorism threatens the safety of our Nations and citizens.
Adversaries are developing and testing hypersonic glide vehicles and intercontinental ballistic missiles;
We are seeing the weaponisation of emerging and disruptive technologies,
And the instrumentalisation of migration;
The security impact of climate change also looms over us.
These are truly global challenges and the distinct phases of peace, crisis and war are becoming increasingly blurred.
All of this has consequences for our security. Consequences that no nation, no continent, can face alone.
But in NATO we are not alone.
Together we represent 30 nations, with half of the world’s military might, protecting almost one billion citizens.
We are also witnessing an unprecedented level of unity and cohesion in our Alliance, on both the political and military sides.
30 NATO Chiefs of Defence speaking in unison and acknowledging the requirement for NATO to be better prepared.
NATO has been constantly adapting to be able to fulfil its three core tasks:
- Cooperative Security;
- Collective defence;
- Crisis management.
… across all domains, land, air, maritime, space and cyber.
Over the past years, we have undertaken our biggest adaptation in a generation.
We have also taken decisive action to strengthen our collective defence.
Now, we must look to the future, by further protecting our values.
Reinforcing our military power.
Strengthening our societies.
Taking a global outlook.
And building NATO as the institutional link between Europe and North America.
These five points should be addressed in the new Strategic Concept to ensure it reflects new and future challenges.
And that’s exactly why we dedicated our first afternoon of meetings to our Strategic Military Thinking.
Together with SACT and SACEUR, the 30 Allied Chiefs of Defence discussed our military advice for the new Strategic Concept as well as the risks and opportunities facing the Alliance.
The Chiefs of Defence agreed that while our current military strategy is working, it might eventually need to be revised in light of the new Strategic Concept.
They were then briefed on the implementation of NATO’s Warfighting Capstone Concept as well as the progress on the Concept for the Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area.
The Concept for Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area, developed by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, focuses on military requirements we need to deter and defend today.
And the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept developed by our Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, offers a vision to remain militarily strong in the future.
Both concepts will help set NATO’s military priorities and approach to current and future threats.
The NATO Chiefs of Defence also looked at improving future force generation.
While the core procedures for Nations to contribute troops and equipment to NATO have remained the same,
over the years the force generation process has been refined to reflect changes in the types of operations and missions that NATO conducts.
Today, NATO military planners are looking beyond immediate needs, allowing both the Alliance and troop-contributing countries to plan their resources better.
The goal is to better understand the relationships at play in order to achieve fairer and more realistic burden-sharing during NATO-led operations and missions.
But also to ensure that NATO missions and operations are properly resourced to contribute and ultimately achieve their objectives.
Next week, General Wolters will hold a Force Generation Conference.
As NATO has no troops of its own, it falls to Nations to provide the personnel and capabilities to ensure we have the right forces in the right place at the right time.
Just to be clear, we are looking to do things better and, if necessary, to do more.
The Chiefs of Defence also considered how to further enable the NATO Command Structure and the Force Structure to deliver on NATO’s three core tasks in this digital age.
Success in the future operating environment will depend on harnessing information to connect forces through command, control, communication and information,
With more and more data, the advantage will lie with whomever will collect the most vital data, store it, extract and analyse the relevant information and ultimately distribute it to our commanders.
Commanders at sea, on land, in the air and to those working in the cyber and space domains.
At NATO, we are acutely aware of the challenges and opportunities offered by data superiority and we are actively engaged in a digital transformation of our ways of working, our equipment and our human resources.
Finally, the Chiefs of Defence discussed how to increase the speed of military decision-making to support political decisions.
Over the last decades, NATO has been focusing more on crisis management.
However, in recent years, we have had to shift back to collective defence.
And therefore it is vital to maximise preparation time for the military by ensuring that political decisions can be made at the speed of relevance.
In crisis management, we were often involved in asymmetric warfare.
Whereas in collective defence we are dealing with a near-peer or even peer adversary.
The timelines for collective defence are very different from those for crisis management.
This makes a common situational awareness for the strategic political and military levels and faster digital decision-making systems and procedures all the more important.
Improving our ability to understand better, decide faster and be stronger together is critical for our relevance,
and for maintaining our status as the most successful military Alliance in history.
And, above all, remaining capable of providing security and protection to our almost one billion people.
We took this further on our second day by focussing on NATO’s 360 degrees Deterrence and Defence Posture.
Since 2014, we have implemented the largest reinforcement of our collective defence in a generation, enhancing our ability to defend all Allies on land, at sea, in the air, in cyber space, and in space.
This adaptation continues and NATO is stepping up in response to the threats and challenges of today and tomorrow.
We will continue to improve the readiness of our forces and to strengthen and modernise the NATO Force Structure to meet current and future needs.
We also met with our Georgian and Ukrainian Partners, respectively, to discuss the security situation in their Nations as well as the ongoing progress with defence-related reforms.
In our session with the Ukrainian Chief of Defence, the Allied Chiefs of Defence acknowledged the significant advances in reforms made by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, despite facing significant challenges.
Alongside ensuring their own security, the Ukrainian military have been able to improve the capabilities of their Special Operations Forces, set up a Logistic Forces Command and continue to implement NATO standards.
We encouraged them to remain fully committed to the wide-ranging reforms of their Armed Forces, which will allow them to further build security and development for all Ukrainians.
And they will continue to have NATO’s full support in this ambitious reform programme,
as well as our assistance to strengthen their capabilities and resilience to cyber and hybrid attacks.
With similar security challenges, Georgia has also carried out impressive reforms while enhancing its defence capabilities through the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package.
This package was enhanced to improve the interaction between Georgia and the different parts of its command structure,
Strengthen its maritime component;
and focus more on resilience.
Both Partners are benefitting from unprecedented support and assistance from NATO.
We want to ensure they have all the necessary tools to not only ensure their own security but also further contribute to European security.
Finally, in both sessions, we reiterated NATO's unwavering support for Ukraine's and Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The meetings held over the last two days have provided the necessary guidance to take our work forward in the coming months.
We will reconvene in May to take stock of our progress ahead of the NATO Summit in Madrid.