Stavridis: Europe Remains Vital to Current, Future Security

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2012 — U.S. Euro­pean Com­mand, along with NATO allies and oth­er close part­ner­ships in Europe, remains crit­i­cal to the Unit­ed States, even as it imple­ments new defense strate­gic guid­ance focused on chal­lenges in the Asia-Pacif­ic region and the Mid­dle East, Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the Eucom and NATO’s supreme allied com­man­der for Europe, said.

“Let’s face it: our most endur­ing pool of part­ners exists in the Euro­pean the­ater,” Stavridis said dur­ing a recent inter­view with the Pen­ta­gon Chan­nel and Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice. He not­ed the strength of the 28-mem­ber NATO alliance, a 3 mil­lion-strong force with 24,000 air­craft and 800 ships. In addi­tion, the allies have a $31 tril­lion col­lec­tive gross nation­al prod­uct, about $300 bil­lion of which is devot­ed to defense bud­gets.

“This is an alliance of enor­mous resources, and it rep­re­sents those that stand with us today in Afghanistan, in the Balka­ns, in the Libya oper­a­tion and in [coun­ter­pira­cy],” Stavridis said. “So these strate­gic, endur­ing part­ner­ships in Europe are going to under­pin the strate­gic focus on the chal­lenges in Asia and in the Mid­dle East.”

That demands even more focus on Europe and NATO, explained Navy Rear Adm. Mark C. Mont­gomery, Eucom’s deputy direc­tor for plans, pol­i­cy and strat­e­gy. To address that risk else­where on the globe, he said, “we need to actu­al­ly redou­ble our efforts to main­tain our part­ners’ capa­bil­i­ty and capac­i­ty.”

Navy Vice Adm. Charles W. Mar­toglio, Stavridis’ for­mer chief of staff and now deputy com­man­der, called the U.S. mil­i­tary “the glue that enables NATO to oper­ate at the high lev­el of effi­cien­cy that it does.”

The U.S. mil­i­tary pres­ence in Europe offers assur­ance to allies while help­ing them main­tain the sta­bil­i­ty and eco­nom­ic foun­da­tion that helps cre­ate secu­ri­ty, he explained. “So it is a win on the U.S. side, and it is a win on the Euro­pean side,” he said.

But beyond the U.S. com­mit­ment to the NATO alliance, Stavridis not­ed Europe’s strate­gic geo­graph­ic posi­tion. Forces eas­i­ly can piv­ot from Europe into the Mid­dle East, the Lev­ant area at the cross­roads of west­ern Asia, the east­ern Mediter­ranean and north­east­ern Africa, the Mediter­ranean as dur­ing the Libya oper­a­tions, and down into Africa, he said.

The alliance also is pos­tured to address secu­ri­ty chal­lenges, such as vio­lent extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions, direct­ly on the Euro­pean con­ti­nent. “While [ter­ror­ists] have been active in Europe and there have been acts of ter­ror­ism in Europe over the last 10 years, Europe has been used pri­mar­i­ly as a recruit­ing and finan­cial cen­ter for ter­ror activ­i­ties,” Mar­toglio said. “But that can change quick­ly, should it ever get into the inter­ests of vio­lent extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions to car­ry out large-scale attacks in Europe.”

Ulti­mate­ly, Mar­toglio said, Eucom’s for­ward pres­ence makes the Unit­ed States more secure. “We are a nation that has an expe­di­tionary capa­bil­i­ty. We fight our wars over­seas so we don’t fight them on our own shores,” he said. “And Europe and our Euro­pean part­ners are huge enablers of that expe­di­tionary mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ty.”

Stavridis said main­tain­ing U.S. forces in Europe enhances their abil­i­ty to build that capa­bil­i­ty in part­ner­ship with NATO allies and oth­er coali­tion part­ners.

“Being in Europe gives us the oppor­tu­ni­ty to train, exer­cise and work every day with this com­bat-ready force that has fought with us in Afghanistan, the Balka­ns, in [coun­ter­pira­cy] and oth­er mis­sions,” he said. “So there are a lot of good rea­sons for us to be engaged and ‘home-port­ed,’ as we would say in the Navy, in Europe.”

The new force pos­ture in Europe, with a 15-per­cent troop reduc­tion to be off­set par­tial­ly with increased ship, air­craft and spe­cial oper­a­tions capa­bil­i­ties, ensures the prop­er force num­ber and con­fig­u­ra­tion to sup­port the new strat­e­gy guid­ance, he said.

As it is imple­ment­ed, Stavridis offered assur­ance that forces assigned to Eucom will stay active­ly engaged in vital real-world mis­sions in Europe, Africa and the Mid­dle East.

“We will con­tin­ue to have an impor­tant and endur­ing mis­sion in the Euro­pean the­ater for many years to come,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)