by the Chair of the NATO Military Committee, Admiral Bauer at the US Army War College

  • 06 Jun. 2024 -
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  • Last updated: 07 Jun. 2024 07:50

Fellow officers,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Eighty years ago, on this day, at this exact hour…

The locality of Périer-sur-le-Dan, south of Sword beach, was liberated by the tanks of Staffordshire Yeomanry, after violent fighting.

A lifeboat was launched by the USS Barton, to rescue the injured Rangers from Point du Hoc.

And General Rodney Keller, commander of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, gave a press conference in an orchard near Bernières-sur-Mer.
Eighty years ago, on this day, 179.400 Allied troops landed in Normandy.

In their back pockets they had a letter from General Eisenhower, which contained the following words:

“The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war; and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men.

The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching towards victory!”

End of quote.

As we are gathered here today in the magnificent surroundings of the US Army War College, we bow our heads in respect for the bravery and sacrifice of the Allied servicemen who fought so valiantly on the beaches of Normandy.

These men risked their lives for the belief that democracy could triumph over tyranny.

That freedom could triumph over oppression.

And that light could triumph over darkness.

Together, they paved the way for the freedoms we are lucky enough to enjoy to this day.

Out of this devastating world war, and the one before that, rose a worldwide belief that great power competition should never again be fought on the battlefield.

That conflicts should be resolved through dialogue.

And if that fails: in the courtroom.

A worldwide belief arose that the law of force should make way for the force of law.
Unfortunately, that system… that ‘international rules-based order’ is being brutally attacked.

And this time, it is the Ukrainian servicemen and women who – together with the whole Ukrainian population – are fighting valiantly for the right to determine their own fate.

Relentless in its quest to seek power abroad, in order to maintain power at home… Russia is on a path of ever greater destruction. 

Let us get one thing straight: Russia’s war against Ukraine has never been about any real security threat coming from either Ukraine or NATO.

If that was the case, the Russians would have responded very differently to the Finnish accession.

For they gained a 900-mile border with NATO… and they didn’t move a single soldier.
This war is about something much more powerful than any weapon on earth: democracy.

Because if the people in Ukraine can have real democratic rights, then the people in Russia will soon crave them too.

In many ways, this war places NATO in uncharted waters.

But essentially, this war places NATO firmly back in its roots.

We are once again in an era of collective defence.

NATO was born out of the realisation that North American and European security are intrinsically interlinked.

And that together, we are able to create the strongest shield of deterrence the world had ever known.

That shield has been the foundation for peace, stability and prosperity on our soil, for 75 years.

A whole generation was born, grew up, and died, under the safety and protection of the NATO shield.

It is a success that not even its founding fathers could have foreseen.

When General Eisenhower was asked to be the first Supreme Allied Commander Europe in 1950, he had already retired from the military.

He had become President of Columbia University and he had promised his wife that they would move to a farm near Gettysburg.

So when President Truman came with the request, Eisenhower asked him to make it a Presidential order… probably so that he could defend the decision at home.

Eisenhower later said to a friend: “They want me for NATO because nobody else wants it. Nobody believes it’s going to work.”

In explaining NATO to the American people in a March 1949 radio address, Secretary of State Dean Acheson asked “Will the treaty accomplish its purpose? No one can say with certainty. We can only act on our convictions”. 

Acheson was convinced that NATO was essential for the restoration of the economic and political health of the world.

As was Eisenhower.

As was President Truman.

When Truman signed the Washington Treaty in April 1949, he said that while it was a simple document (just 14 articles, lawyers would love it)… had it existed earlier, it would have prevented two world wars.

And the first Deputy SACEUR, Field Marshal Montgomery, said that in strengthening NATO lies the best hope in preventing a third.

So how do we do that?

How do we strengthen the strongest Alliance in the world?

What it boils down to is that we need to re-learn how to fight for the “we” in a world of “me”.

On the military level, that realisation started after the annexation of Crimea.

Armed forces across the Alliance realised that the possibility of a direct attack on our soil, against all of us, was making a come-back.

Together, the NATO Military Authorities implemented the biggest increase in collective defence since the Cold War.

The fundamental difference between crisis management and collective defence is this: it is not we, but our adversaries (Russia and the Terror Groups) who determine the timeline.

We have to prepare for the fact that conflict can present itself at any time.

We have developed:
- The NATO Military Strategy in 2019
- The Concept for the Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area in 2020 (DDA)
- And the NATO Warfighting Capstone Concept in 2021 (NWCC).

We then proceeded to implement these three strategies in more and more detail.

In 2022 and 2023 we developed the DDA family of plans.

SHAPE and the Joint Force Commands Brunssum, Naples and Norfolk pulled of a herculean task by producing these plans 18 months ahead of schedule.

So that they could be endorsed by our political leaders at the Vilnius summit last year.

Key part of the DDA family of plans are the Regional Plans.

These are geographically specific plans that describe how we will defend key and relevant places in our Alliance against the two threats described in the Strategic Concept and the NATO Military Strategy: Russia and Terrorist Groups.

This change moves us from an Alliance that  - over time - was optimised for out of area contingency operations to an Alliance fit for the purpose of large-scale operations to defend every inch of the Alliance's territory.

Together with the Force Structure Requirements, NATO’s Regional Plans provide a much more precise demand signal from NATO.

Allies now know precisely what assets or capabilities are required of them in a war scenario, including where and what to deploy, and what their tasks would be.

The amount of change that is necessary to move from Out-of-Area Operations to large-scale territorial defence is significant.

The Regional Plans require an improved NATO Force Model to produce more troops at high readiness across our Alliance, at different tiers of readiness. 

Because if there is one thing the war in Ukraine has shown us, it is that numbers alone do not predict victory.

If you want to be effective, you need speed and scale as well as flexibility and a wide range of capabilities.
Which is why we will also strengthen our command and control capabilities… directly corresponding to our New Force Structure Requirements.

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, we have objective, threat-based capability targets to offer to Nations.

These targets will have a significant impact on future investments and developments of Allied Armed Forces. 

NATO and national military planning are now integrated like never before.

In order to be successful, these plans will have to go hand in hand with:
•    Much higher stocks of ammunition and spare parts, made possible by a steep increase of production capacity in our defence industries. Which is not the case yet.

•    Real achievements in enhancing military mobility, where Allies decrease their infrastructure dependencies on for instance China;
•    And crucially: we need strengthened Enablement, especially in the Land domain.  

Needless to say: a plan is never finite.

The Regional Plans are, and will remain, living documents that can and will be updated as the situation requires.

NATO’s entire exercise program is now focusing on larger scale collective defence exercises.

We are actually exercising against the DDA family of plans, instead of fictitious scenarios as we previously have done.

And it is important to note that we are not only planning to deter and defend against the Russian Armed Forces as they stand today.
We must be able to face a reconstituted Russia.

The Russian leadership has not met any of their strategic objectives in Ukraine. And we should not underestimate their ability to rebuild and regroup.

However the war in Ukraine develops, we will still have a Russia problem.

Because they will be either invigorated by their success. Or frustrated by their failure.

The two most poignant questions I often get asked are:

1. How much longer will the war in Ukraine take?
2. When will the Russians attack us?

With regards to the first: I will defer to President Zelenskyy who said at the Munich Security Summit:
“Ask not how much longer the war in Ukraine will take. Ask yourself why Putin is still able to sustain it!” 

There is heavy fighting going on, on the battlefield.

The delays in support have had real consequences.

But with the recent pledges, and the ability to use certain weapons to strike inside Russian territory (to shoot the archer, so to say) I am confident that Ukraine can prevail.

I base this confidence not only on the military assessments at the HQ.

But also on my own interactions with the Ukrainians when I visited Kyiv in March.

I was deeply impressed by their tenacity, level-headedness and strategic vision.

After years of immense suffering and continuous destruction, they remain as clear and firm in their convictions as they have ever been.

They are not only bravely resisting attacks, but they are reforming and rebuilding their nation.

The Russians, on the other hand, have no idea what they are fighting for.

Morale continues to be low. The discontent in the Russian Armed Forces did not disappear with the downing of Prigozhin’s airplane.

Their quantities remain impressive, but the quality of their soldiers is going down.

Training standards are getting lower and lower.

And the lack of mission command continues to be a problem.

Supporting the Ukrainians in their right to self-defence, is not only the right thing to do morally and historically.

It is also the right thing to do militarily.

Even if it means taking risks to our own readiness or temporarily not meeting NATO capability targets.
As Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has rightly said: stocks can be replaced. But lives lost, are lost forever.

If Ukraine loses this war, it will not be the end of instability.

It will be the start of much more instability.

Because autocratic leaders worldwide will learn a chilling lesson: that brute force will not only be accepted but indeed rewarded.

In many ways, this war is not only about democracy versus autocracy.

It is very much also about accountability versus impunity.

And it is up to all of us to make sure that the force of law prevails.

And that brings me to the second question I often get asked: when will the Russians attack us?

Well I have to say: that depends – to a large extent - on us.

NATO Allies represent 50 percent of the world’s economic power and 50 percent of the world’s military power.

We have it within ourselves to strengthen the strongest Alliance in the world.

To ramp up our deterrence.

And to make sure any adversary thinks ten times before they attempt something.

But in order to do that, we need not only a whole-of-government; but a whole-of-society approach.

Just as Eisenhower wrote in his letter to the men who fight in Normandy:

“Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority.”

He spoke of the increase in servicemen: at the start of the war, the US Army had under 200,000 active soldiers.

And by the time it was D-Day, around 11 million Americans were part of the war effort in one shape or form.

It wasn’t only the men in uniform in who won the war.

It was also the men and women in the factories.

It was the people sowing uniforms, making canned goods.
It was truly a collective effort.

And in this new era of collective defence, we – again – need a collective effort to strengthen the shield of deterrence.

In these esteemed surroundings, spirited by the phrase ‘prudens futuri’ (wisdom and strength for the future)… I will share another crucial Latin phrase:

Si vis pace, para bellum.

If you want peace, prepare for war.

Strengthening deterrence and ramping up our defence is the best way to protect what we all hold dear.

In the words of the French Chief of Defence: NATO has a unique ability to win the war, before the war.

For we are collectively defending not only the physical safety of our 32 nations and 1 billion people, but also the democratic values we all hold dear.

In a world of me, NATO fights for the we.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the Military Committee, each country at the table has a slightly different perception of threats, and a slightly different approach to how you should tackle these threats. 

Rather than letting this divide us, we have built our diversity into our biggest strength.

This is what sets us apart from our adversaries.

And enables us to expect the unexpected.

NATO is by no means a perfect organisation.

When I arrived, someone said that if the Alliance has 9 months to make a decision… it will take 9 months.

But what I have also experienced is that if the Alliance has just 2 hours… it will take a decision in 2 hours. 

The fact that we reacted as fast as we did after the large-scale invasion, is because we had the military capabilities (DDA was in place) and the political will to act: fast and united.

NATO remains the only organisation in the world where on a daily basis the political level and the military level comes together and finds consensus on thousands of pieces of policy.

The fact that we are able to do that – with 32 countries – is nothing short of remarkable.

And even though the world is facing unprecedented levels of conflict and tensions.

There is amongst Allies still an unwavering belief that democracy can triumph over tyranny.

That freedom can triumph over oppression.

And that light can triumph over darkness.

In the years that are to come, NATO will continue to do what it does best: unite, adapt and protect.

The integration of NATO and national military planning will enable us to do exactly what the NATO flag symbolises: all Allies will follow the same compass.

We share so much more than the shores of the Atlantic.

Together, our 3.5 million men and women in uniform share the same determination and devotion to freedom.

Together, we send an unmistakable message to any potential aggressor.

And together, we embody an important truth: that we are much stronger together than we are alone.

Thank you.

And I look forward to hearing your questions.