November 20th, 2017 18:15 EST
NATO Chief Stresses Unity of North Atlantic Alliance
The Atlantic Ocean doesn`t divide the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance, it unites it, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the Halifax International Security Forum, Nov. 17.
Halifax, the capital of the province of Nova Scotia, is Canada`s main port on the Atlantic Ocean and it was a crucial link in the supply line from North America to Europe during two world wars and the Cold War, Stoltenberg said. It is a symbol of unity, he said, not the start of a great blue barrier.
During World War II, the city`s harbor was filled with allied ships bringing the equipment and manpower needed to defeat fascism. During World War I, the harbor itself was ravaged when an ammunition ship on its way to the Western Front exploded, killing 2,000 people and injuring 9,000 more. The explosion was heard as far away as Boston.
During the Cold War, Halifax was a key port for ships helping to track Soviet submarines.
Stoltenberg called the Atlantic a bridge to new lands and new possibilities.
"In times of war, it has been a bridge to freedom, sanctuary and hope," he said. "The continents of Europe and North America are bound like no others."
The two continents have a shared history and ancestry, Stoltenberg said. "In good times, we enjoy each other`s company," the secretary general said. "In bad times, we come to each other`s aid."
NATO epitomizes the bond, Stoltenberg said. "As a young Norwegian growing up during the Cold War, I slept soundly at night knowing that NATO -- the good guys -- were there to protect us," he said. "We knew that allies from both sides of the Atlantic would come if we needed them. That is the essence of Article 5 of our founding treaty: One for all and all for one."
The alliance deterred the Soviet Union and brought a peaceful end to the Cold War, the secretary general said. The alliance enabled Europe -- East and West -- to integrate into a unified whole, which would not have been possible without the North American allies.
"Long experience shows us that no country can go it alone," Stoltenberg said. "A strong, safe and prosperous Europe means a strong, safe and prosperous North America -- and vice versa."
The end of the Cold War did not mean the end of the alliance, Stoltenberg said. Collective defense is still the best guarantor of peace, he said.
NATO is needed to deter Russia, to combat global terror and "to stand up against those who threaten our world order based on liberty, democracy and the rule of law," Stoltenberg said.
NATO Rotational Force
"On both sides of the Atlantic, allies are stepping up," he said. "For many years, the U.S. and Canada reduced their military presence in Europe -- the last U.S. armored brigade left Europe in 2013. But now, the U.S. and Canada are coming back."
Today, a new American armored brigade is in Germany as a rotational force alongside other reinforcements and equipment, Stoltenberg said. Canada has also made its largest European deployment since the Cold War, leading a NATO battle group in Latvia.
"These are clear examples that the U.S. and Canada are strengthening their contributions to European security," he said. "European allies are also stepping up: Increasing the readiness of their forces, investing in new equipment and increasing their defense spending after years of cuts."
The alliance is also standing against terrorism, the secretary general said. "When terrorists struck at the heart of America on 9/11, NATO invoked Article 5 for the very first time," Stoltenberg said. "In the years since, hundreds of thousands of European and North American soldiers have served side-by-side in Afghanistan. Many, including Canadians, have paid the ultimate price."
NATO also stands shoulder-to-shoulder in Iraq and Syria to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and it shares intelligence to counter the threat of foreign fighters, the secretary general said. Alliance soldiers work with partners in the Middle East and North Africa, he said, to help those countries stabilize their own countries.
"In the fight against terrorism, training local forces is one of the best weapons we have," Stoltenberg said.
The bond between Europe and North America is the backbone of mutual security, the secretary general said. The bond "ensures our democracy, our prosperity and our free and open societies," he said. "It has seen us through good times and bad."
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDODNews)
Photo Credit: Wikipedia