LJUBLJANA, Slovenia--British Royal Air Force Air Chief Marshal Stuart Peach said the alliance is changing to meet the challenges posed by new threats, just as it has changed in the past.
"Today's security situation is the most unpredictable it has been for many years," he said. "However, the alliance's commitment to preventing conflict, to preserving peace [and] to succeeding in deterrence for nearly 1 billion people on both sides of the Atlantic remains constant."
The Military Committee provides strategic military advice to the North Atlantic Council, and the chiefs of defense will translate the political will and guidance from the council into strategy and capabilities. The U.S. is represented by Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"NATO is a political-military defensive organization combining both soft and hard power," Peach said. "We promote democratic values and are committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes."
Still, if diplomacy fails, the alliance must have the ability to defend the member states.
On the agenda for the conference are operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and in neighboring Kosovo. The alliance is committed to operations in Afghanistan and agrees "that it is clear that a sustainable solution in Afghanistan cannot be reached by military means alone," Peach said.
"NATO allies and partners will continue to train and advise Afghan security forces," he said. "“We make them stronger so they can fight international terrorism and create and sustain security in their own country. Our military presence is there to create the conditions for peace."
The alliance mission in Iraq continues, with NATO personnel strengthening Iraqi security forces to ensure the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria does not return, he said. NATO service members are training Iraqi soldiers in military medicine, logistics and countering improvised explosive devices. "Our mission in Iraq contributes to the wider fight against terrorism," Peach said. "Training local forces is one of the best weapons we have in this mission."
NATO is a far-reaching organization conducting air policing missions in the Baltics, patrolling the Black Sea and assisting the European Union in the refugee and migrant crisis.
"All these commitments come against the backdrop of adapting our alliance in a complex and challenging security environment," he said. "As we develop our deterrence and defense, we need to ensure that our strategic communications support our operations and missions. In the world that we are in, misinformation and propaganda are tools that are used by both state and nonstate actors against the alliance. Therefore, NATO's civilian and military communications must be supported to communicate transparency on our deployments, on operations … and on our exercises."
NATO is a defensive alliance and does not seek confrontation. "NATO's aim is to preserve peace," the air chief marshal said. "We will not compromise on the principles on which the alliance and security in Europe and North America rest. Maintaining current operations and missions whilst looking to the future means we need to be ready to respond to any challenge or threat."
The chiefs of defense will take a hard look at the alliance's strategy for deterrence and defense of the Euro-Atlantic area and warfighting concepts. All these are aimed at countering multinational and multidomain challenges.
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