Today, our day started with a taste of social action in Belgium, since there was no public transportation due to a strike. It shows that there are economic and social issues that Belgium is dealing with and also illustrates how strong Unions are in Belgium. Despite these challenges, everyone somehow made it on time to the meeting spot. After a two and a half hour bus ride, we finally made it to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers of Europe (SHAPE) in Casteau, Belgium near Mons.
SHAPE is the headquarters of the Allied Command Operations (ACO) which controls all North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations worldwide. The commander of the ACO is known as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and is General Curtis Scaparrotti as of May 2016. His predecessor was General Breedlove, a Georgia Tech alumnus.
We had an introduction presentation by a NATO official and then another presentation by a EU Military Staff Officer.
The NATO official gave us a general overview of both NATO and SHAPE and reviewed information that we had learned in our security course and on our site visit at NATO earlier in the program. The presentation reiterated that NATO is a political and military alliance between sovereign states which are each responsible for their own and collective defence. One notable figure from the presentation was that in 1993, NATO has 32 different headquarters whereas in 2016 that number has been reduced to 11 to reduce redundancy.
Today, NATO has to react faster to local conflicts meaning that it needs a lighter and more capable structure. Risks today are harder to predict and can come from new challenges. The Very High Readiness Joint Task Force was created to be able to react to these challenges in a fast and effective manor (i.e. Within 48 hours).
The active NATO missions and operations are KFOR in Kosovo, Ocean Shield in the Gulf of Aden, Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea, Air Policing Mission in the Baltic States, Resolute Support in Afghanistan and a Deployment in Turkey. KFOR’s goal is to ameliorate the security situation. Ocean Shield’s goal is to combat privacy in a dense trading zone. Active Endeavour’s goal is to counter terrorism and deter weapons, drugs, and human trafficking. The Air Policing mission aims to preserve the integrity of the NATO Airspace in the Baltic States and has 25 fighter jets. The Resolute Support Mission’s goal is to train, advise, and assist Afghani military and police forces.
Our next presentation was by a EU Military Staff Officer. He gave us an overview of the EU structure and then discussed the European Common Security and Defence Policy as well as EU- NATO Relations. One important point that he made is that the EU often has a complimentary job to NATO in terms of defence so as to not duplicate effort from common member states (of which there are 22). It was interesting to note that NATO has a Permanent Liaison Team to the EU and that the EU has a Cell at SHAPE. The EU Military Staff are the military experts within the European External Action Service (EEAS). Our present or then discussed common areas for deployments, the Berlin Plus Agreement and EU Military Operations.
The common areas for deployments were (and are) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Somalia, and Afghanistan. The Berlin Plus agreement assured access to NATO planning capabilities, availability of NATO command operations (through the DSACEUR- who is also the commander of EU operations), presumption of availability of NATO capabilities and common assets as well as the adaptation of NATO Defence Planning. This agreement was the most important step in developing EU NATO relations.
The EU Currently has 6 ongoing military operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mali, Central African Republic, Somalia, the Gulf of Aden, and the Mediterranean Sea. Past operations have occurred in Macedonia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.
We had the honour of having lunch with a NATO official who shared several interesting points of views on different issues before returning to Brussels.