Stavridis Reflects on NATO’s Accomplishments, Future
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 7, 2013 As he prepares to turn over command next week of both U.S. European Command and NATO’s Allied Command Operations, the senior U.S. officer in Europe said he’s confident in NATO’s future and “awed by the changes” during his 37 years of military service.
“Despite the challenges for NATO, I believe in the alliance,” Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis said today in his final blog posting before he passes his responsibilities to Air Force Gen. Philip M. Breedlove. “NATO is a force for good in the world.”
Stavridis cited the capabilities of what’s become history’s most-powerful alliance, with more than half the world’s gross domestic product, 3 million men and women on active duty, 24,000 aircraft, 800 ocean-going ships and 50 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft.
“The alliance remains vitally connected to all the sources of security across the globe,” he said. “It has great power, and therefore, great responsibility.”
Stavridis noted some of NATO’s major accomplishments during the past four years:
-- In Afghanistan, more than 100,000 troops have made big strides in building the nation’s national security forces while helping to improve the Afghans’ access to education, health-care and other services.
-- In Libya, NATO conducted the fastest deployment in its history in support of the Libyan people at the U.N. Security Council’s request.
-- In the Balkans and Kosovo, NATO continued maintaining a safe, security environment that allows freedom of movement and provides an opportunity for the political process to work.
-- Off the African coast, NATO has helped achieve strong success in reducing piracy by 35 percent, making the global commons safer and underpinning economic growth.
And within NATO’s structure, he said, the alliance has streamlined its operations to be more agile, effective and efficient.
“But there is still significant work to do,” the admiral said, recognizing challenges in Syria, in NATO’s relationship with Russia, in the cyber domain and in light of budget constraints.
Stavridis expressed confidence in Breedlove’s ability to take on these challenges and in the future of NATO and Eucom operations.
Assessing his military career, Stavridis noted the vast changes since his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1976, when “the Cold War dominated everything.”
“Today’s world is a safer world, as the possibility of global conflict and an exchange of nuclear weapons is now greatly reduced,” he said.
“On the other hand, we live in a vastly more complex world in which weapons of mass destruction are proliferating, trafficking moves weapons, narcotics, victims of human smuggling, cash and terrorists across our borders and through the challenged global commons,” he added. “We must continue to focus on creating security in this turbulent world.”
Creating security in the 21st century will require new ways of operating, Stavridis said.
“What I take away from my 37 years is that, in the end, we will not fully deliver security from the barrel of a gun,” he said.
Lethal force will still be necessary under certain circumstances, he said. But security in the 21st century also requires international, interagency and private-public cooperation. All this has to be pulled together with effective strategic communication that underscores NATO’s commitment to democracy and freedom of speech, religion and the press, Stavridis said.
“Those values matter,” he said. “We have to be prepared to defend them, but to deliver them we have to have this international, interagency, private-public strategic communications consortium. That’s how we’ll deliver security in the 21st century.”