SZCZECIN, Poland – NATO's Allied Land Command held its 17th biannual meeting of Alliance Land Forces commanders from the Headquarters of Multinational Corps Northeast (MNCNE) in Szczecin, Poland September 21-23. The theme of this iteration of the LANDCOM Corps Commanders' Conference, held virtually for the first time since 2012, was NATO Land Forces Readiness for Deterrence and Defence.
During a planned media engagement to officially kick off the event, U.S. Army Lieutenant General Roger L. Cloutier Jr., LANDCOM's Commander, explained the joint decision he made alongside his counterpart, MNCNE's Commander, Lieutenant General Sławomir Wojciechowski, to transform the event from a physical conference to a mostly virtual one.
"We had nearly 30 commanders from across NATO on both sides of the Atlantic scheduled to be here this week," said Lieutenant General Cloutier. "As you know, the world has been dealing the challenge of COVID-19, and NATO is not immune to this challenge. So, out of an abundance of caution, we changed our conference into a virtual event."
LC3 is a biannual event that brings commanders from the NATO Force and Command Structures together to develop a shared visualization of the role of Land Forces and to discuss emergent challenges. Among the topics discussed during the conference were Land Domain Training and Exercises, Deterrence in the Land Domain, U.S. planned integration with NATO, Air Domain Integration with Land Operations, and others.
Despite the virtual nature of this event, Lieutenant General Wojciechowski maintained high hopes for what would be achieved as an enduring result of the Fall 2020 iteration.
"We will have the opportunity to discuss all the most important subjects covering our Corps' functioning and – in a broader aspect – the functioning of NATO. I am very happy to see the commanders in Poland – be it in person or online," he said. "It is a great enterprise and a clear indication our actions are real and of major significance.
Joint Force Command Brunssum Commander, General Jörg Vollmer who also attended the conference in person, said the venue provides NATO Commanders the chance to further discuss and develop concepts for deterrence and defence of the Alliance. He also highlighted MNCNE's critical role for NATO as a regionally aligned, Land Domain headquarters.
"This headquarters here in Szczecin plays, for all of us in NATO and in JFC Brunssum, an important role. Because, this is the regional headquarters that has the responsibility for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and for Poland," said General Vollmer.
NATO hosts four Multinational enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Groups in each of these Baltic nations, whose presence is designed to make clear that an attack on one Ally will be considered an attack on the whole Alliance. NATO's battle groups formed part of the biggest reinforcement of NATO's collective defence in a generation when they were designed in 2016.
General Vollmer emphasized NATO's capability to protect its own people from the COVID-19 pandemic, yet still maintain crucial security operations, including the eFP mission, Baltic Air Policing, and Maritime operations. He said the strength of the Alliance comes from its member nations united in defence of the North Atlantic Area.
"The defence of Europe lies at the end in the hands of our 30 Allies. And I'm really proud we have the contribution of so many nations," said General Vollmer. "So this is something that underlines how strongly we believe that deterrence and defence of the Alliance can only be achieved by all 30 nations together.
Lieutenant General Cloutier stressed his high expectations for the virtual event as he prepared to address NATO commanders from both sides of the Atlantic in the closed-door meetings.
"Ultimately, it's about NATO land forces readiness for deterrence and defence," he said.