Admiral James Stavridis has been confirmed by the US Senate as commander of U.S. forces in Europe and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), the top NATO military job.
At his confirmation hearing on June 2 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Stravridis gave a comprehensive overview of the main challenges that he (and the Obama administration) believe NATO faces:
As Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, one major challenge to be confronted is successfully conducting the Alliance military operations in support of Trans-Atlantic Security, including International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, Kosovo Force (KFOR), OPERATION ACTIVE ENDEAVOR, and OPERATION ALLIED PROTECTOR. All of NATO’s forces, from Kosovo to ISAF to those conducting counter-piracy and other missions, deserve the best guidance and planning as well as the necessary resources and support to conduct operations. Of these operations, ISAF will likely prove to be most important to our security as well as pivotal to the Alliance’s further adaptation of strategies, capabilities, and internal processes to address the myriad of 21st century risks and threats confronting our nations. ISAF not only reflects the Alliance’s will to address the instability in a country destabilized by extremism and terrorism, but it reflects the Alliance’s will and capability to conduct operations at strategic distance outside the traditional NATO area. Success in Afghanistan will contribute to stabilizing a very important region and demonstrate that NATO in the 21st century is politically prepared and militarily capable of dealing successfully with risks and threats to Trans-Atlantic Security at strategic distances far from the borders of the US or European members.
Secondly, we face the challenge of resetting the NATO-Russia relationship and building a predictable, mutually-beneficial relationship that strengthens security. Military cooperation with Russia should figure prominently in the reset of this strategic relationship. This relationship has been stressed by policy differences over the years, and continues to be a complex relationship given the comprehensive nature of US-Russia engagement across the full spectrum of regional and global security matters. It is a strategic relationship that we must get right, and one that the Russians must demonstrate that they value in both words and deeds. There is great opportunity in the US-Russia relationship as well as great challenge. In many cases we share common strategic challenges that present opportunities for beneficial engagement, such as countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I look forward to working in support of overall US national security objectives to help forge a constructive, reliable, and predictable relationship with Russia.
Thirdly, the Heads of State and Government tasked the NATO Secretary General to develop a new strategic concept for the Alliance. The last concept was developed in 1999. A new NATO strategic concept is crucially important to forging a common perspective on the regional and global security environment; the risks and challenges we face in the 21st century such as energy security, cyber defense, or counter proliferation; the role Alliance members want NATO to play in addressing these risks based on a common perception and common goals; and the strategies, capabilities, and internal processes necessary to successfully be prepared. The Alliance will engage in debate on these important issues. My initial assessment is that the military authorities will seek a balance of collective defense and global operations. Once the political leaders reach consensus, further development of military tasks and defining capabilities will be no easy task and must be done with a realistic understanding of the means available. I look forward to contributing my military advice to the development of a new NATO Strategic Concept, a concept that will drive and frame NATO’s role in the international security sphere for years to come.
Finally, French reintegration into the NATO military structure would also be a key area of focus. As France has always been a very active partner in NATO’s ongoing operations, their reintegration is nominally only a “formal” step to capture their current participation. Their further involvement in NATOs military command structure will provide an avenue for greater involvement – especially in the planning processes.
In addition to the above stated challenges, I believe there will be additional challenges facing the next EUCOM Commander such as defense cooperation in Eastern Europe and further progress in the Balkans, especially Kosovo.
As the focus of European security continues to shift from Central to Eastern Europe, EUCOM strategic plans and activities to address the challenges in Eastern Europe and Eurasia complement NATO efforts to strengthen new Alliance partner capability in this region. EUCOM efforts to stage U.S. forces in Bulgaria and Romania will focus on military-to-military activities that continue to build the military capacities of new NATO Alliance and prospective Alliance countries along with strategic partners in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Ukraine and Georgia, considered exceptionally important countries in the EUCOM AOR, will continue the trend of bilateral relationships and capacity building. EUCOM continues to assist both countries with their NATO-oriented defense transformation and institution-building efforts, which have begun to bear fruit with peacekeeping presences in Kosovo, Operation Active Endeavor, and Africa.
(The full transcript can be read here)