Key Leaders from NATO and Partner Countries Analyse Global Security Challenges and the Future of the Alliance
From 6 to 10 November 2023, one- to three-star generals and flag officers, ambassadors and diplomats from NATO countries, the Partnership for Peace, the Mediterranean Dialogue, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and Partners Across the Globe assembled at the NATO Defense College to analyse and discuss the main challenges affecting the global security panorama and how NATO is adapting to them.
“Evolving NATO” was the overarching topic of this Generals, Flag Officers, and Ambassadors’ Course (GFOAC) 2023-2, which gathered a total of 77 key leaders and decision-makers, the largest number of participants ever.
Admiral Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, Italian Chief of Defence, delivered the opening speech of this five-day Course. The programme unfolded through a series of expert-led lectures divided into two distinct parts.
The first part focused on contemporary critical challenges, spanning various corners of the globe and reshaping the global security landscape. Key topics included Russia’s war in Ukraine; emerging and disruptive technologies (EDTs); and the security situation in the south-eastern Mediterranean.
The second part focused on analysing NATO’s strategic response and adaptation to the evolving global security challenges. This portion addressed the necessary adjustments required to ensure the Alliance remains relevant and effective into the medium-term future. Highlights under this broad topic were a lecture by the Vice Minister of Defence of Lithuania, Mr Žilvinas Tomkus, emphasizing the need to maintain a strong Alliance, capable of adapting to the changing security situation, and to stay united in the face of threats; and the lecture delivered by Admiral Joachim Rühle, Chief of Staff of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), which focused on the outcomes of the Vilnius Summit and their implications for NATO.
In addition to the lectures, the Course included panel discussions with question-and-answer periods, as well as committee discussions in small groups to consolidate the topics.
These opportunities to share viewpoints and debate them openly were highly appreciated by Course participants. Among them was Lieutenant General Andriy Kucherenko, Adviser to the Head of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine. This senior Ukrainian officer underscored how this Course had given him not only the opportunity to learn about NATO’s view on the war in Ukraine through the lectures, but also the opportunity to freely share his own first-hand perspective about the war and to have open discussions with the other Course participants on this issue.
Course participant Rear Admiral Gunnstein Bruåsdal, from Norway, works as DCOS Partnership Directorate at SHAPE. He was keen to stress the relevance of this GFOAC programme, as the Course is a chance not only to attend high-level lectures on topical issues with a strategic outlook, but also to have unconstrained discussions on these with participants from both Allies and partner nations. For him, this is particularly useful considering that the challenges discussed “are global and affect us all”, therefore, “we need to work together” and “we have to maintain a strategic focus to protect our values”.
On the same note, Ms Céline Danielli, who works at the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA), highlighted that “the Course helps to think a bit more strategically and also to meet some of the goals that we have in NSPA”, for example the development of new skills linked to EDTs. Moreover, she added, GFOAC is “definitely good for career progression” because it gives the opportunity to network with the Course participants and lecturers and to gain new perspectives, which can help you to be a “key enabler of ideas” when you get back to your working environment.
GFOAC 2023-2 concluded with a keynote address delivered by Lieutenant General Stephen Kelsey, Deputy Commander at Joint Force Command Naples. He wrapped up the content addressed throughout the week by summarizing the evolutionary journey of the Alliance, the main points of focus and what’s next for NATO.