In what ways have you found your visit here beneficial?
I found this visit extremely beneficial. I am up in the Baltic States and Poland for about two weeks. The one headquarters that has a comprehensive understanding of what is going on in this area at full operating capability and with an excellent grip of the situation is Multinational Corps Northeast. Everything I have seen has confirmed that you are doing a fantastic job.
NATO’s eyes have been turned towards the East for some time now. How would you assess the current security situation in the region, also in reference to all the recent undertakings authorized by the Alliance up in its eastern peripheries?
Since the Wales and Warsaw Summits, a large number of decisions were made; and here we are, in 2017, having delivered on all of them. Yes, there is more work to do to make them as good as they can be but people should feel very pleased with the progress we have made and I think we have a genuinely credible, effective deterrence and defence posture. When you look to the East, you scent people are nervous. I have been reading a lot of newspapers in the Baltic States and “Zapad 2017” features prominently. Even though NATO does not see a threat from that exercise, it captures the mood. I think it is such a pity that Russia has not lived up to its responsibilities under the Vienna Document because inspections are important and breed that sense of trust and confidence which lowers the temperature. Nonetheless, through those actions that we have taken, especially through our military presence here, we initially reassured people. It will only grow stronger over time.
Given what you have just mentioned, what about the role of Headquarters Multinational Corps Northeast in these changing realities of regional security, especially now after it was certified as a High-Readiness Force (Land) Headquarters? What are your expectations?
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) briefed the North Atlantic Council very recently about enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) to show the clear progress that had been made to deliver four effective land-centric battle groups which are integrated now with the Host Nations brigades’ headquarters. The next step is to deliver a joint deterrence effect, to build on this framework. I think this is a very good platform for learning it.
Talking more personally, you took up your duties as the new Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe in March. How is it to switch from purely national responsibilities to an organization that is much broader than any national armed forces will ever be on their own?
One of my jobs as Commander Land Forces was the delivery of the British eFP contribution to Estonia and so I was very alive to the issues that NATO was dealing with. I was also very lucky that I had a decent almost three months period of preparations before I came to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). In that time, I visited eighteen points of the NATO Command Structure and had the benefit of hearing what commanders had to say under no time pressure. Again, I was lucky with how the SHAPE Command Group embraced me and brought me in. I am really enjoying it.