NATO

On Wednesday, June 21, U.S. Air Force General Lance L. Smith, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, hosted a press conference in Radisson Atlantic Hotel, Stavanger, Norway, with Her Excelleny Anne-Grete Strom Erichsen, Norwegian Minister of Defence and His Excellency Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General.

The theme of the press conference was this year's SACT Seminar on "Delivering Transformation". The one-and- a half day seminar brought together the senior leadership of NATO to foster relationships and to guide transformational thinking.

General Smith opened the press conference with a short statement about NATO's transformation, which includes the most significant organizational change in NATO's history. The General stressed that NATO was transforming for the future. He stressed the importance of the Joint Warfare Centre in this process. Through tailored rehearsals and robust training programs, the Joint Warfare Centre and the Joint Force Training Centre ensure NATO forces can respond to crises effectively prior to engagement in possible contingency operations.

"We chose Stavanger to host this seminar, as the visible element of what Allied Command Transformation does is right here at the Joint Warfare Centre, where we train staffs for ISAF before they go to Afghanistan as well as NATO Response Force operational commanders. At the same time, it is here we train Iraqi key leaders," he said.

"We are here to discuss transformation," echoed Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General. "Twenty years ago, it would be unthinkable that NATO would send thousands of men and women to Afghanistan. It would be unthinkable that NATO would launch a major operation after an earthquake, as it was in Kashmir, Pakistan, that involves airlifting of necessities, setting up hospitals and tents. It would be unthinkable, even three years ago, that the aircraft assigned to NATO would fly the forces of the African Union in the horror-theatre which is called Darfur. So, simply realize that, changing NATO is a permanent process, and that is done under the leadership of General Smith. NATO's credibility is linked with, to a large extent, on how successful we are in those missions. You need the right people, who, at the same time, need the right training," he added.

What capabilities do we need to make NATO better? The three panel participants confirmed that NATO should possess capabilities across the full spectrum of military operations so that NATO forces can be flexible enough to respond to potential threats of the 21st century. In that base, the immediate focus of transformation is supporting Allied Command Operations and delivering the NATO Response Force. General Smith said that the NATO Response Force would demonstrate the Alliance's ability to meet threats wherever they may be, adding, "The NRF is the product of transformation."

Anne-Grete Strom Erichsen, Norwegian Minister of Defence, stressed that she is very pleased that Stavanger is hosting more than 100 participants, representing 26 member nations of NATO for such an important seminar.

"I am very glad that so many distinguished individuals are gathered here to discuss the future of NATO. We share a responsibility together with all member states. We need to transform our armed forces together and take this our common responsibility," she said.