Conference highlights past, present and future of NATO alliance

Robert Hunter, U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 1993 to 1998, addresses NATO at 70 Conference during a panel discussion at TROY's Montgomery Campus.

Robert Hunter, U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 1993 to 1998, addresses NATO at 70 Conference during a panel discussion at TROY's Montgomery Campus.

Seventy years removed from the birth of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the alliance’s commitment isn’t wavering in the face of changing global threats and challenges. That was the common sentiment shared by officials throughout the NATO at 70 Conference held at Troy University’s Montgomery Campus on Nov. 1 and 2.

The conference, which offered a strategic examination of NATO’s past, present and future, was made possible through the prestigious NATO Public Diplomacy Grant. TROY was the only U.S. university to receive the grant to host the international conference of leading military, diplomatic, policy and academic experts. Dr. Doug Davis, Director of TROY’s Master of International Relations program, and Dr. Michael Slobodchikoff, associate professor and Cahir of the political science, wrote the successful grant.

The free event featured keynote addresses by Troy University Ambassador-in-Residence Robert Hunter, who served as the U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 1993 to 1998, and George Cristian Maior, the Romanian Ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador Hunter said despite opinions to the contrary, NATO and the commitment of its member nations remains strong.

“There are those who believe that things are getting more difficult or complicated for NATO,” Hunter said. “But, over time, it has always been that way and NATO has remained solid as an alliance. NATO at 70 is robust and will continue to promote security, stability and confidence among members of the alliance.”

The passage of time itself provides an ongoing challenge for NATO, Hunter said.

“We have had to face the challenges incumbent with the passage of time,” Hunter said, referring to what he termed the “Successor Generation.” “What do you do to carry on with security responsibilities with people who do not remember the second World War. Now we have the successor of the successor generation, meaning those that are reaching maturity now who do not remember the Cold War. There is not, I dare say, a single student at Troy University who was alive during the Cold War. It is the responsibility of the successor to the successor generation to continue to maintain the commitment of the alliance and correct the mistakes of previous generations.”

In his closing keynote address, Maior told participants that NATO remains relevant in today’s world in spite of the challenges and threats that have emerged in the changing global landscape.

“Despite some difficult moments in the history of NATO, it has stood firm and committed to the shared mission and that is a fantastic aspect of solidarity between its members,” Maior said. “NATO remains relevant because many of the threats and challenges of the 20th century have continued into the 21st century, however traditional definitions of defense and deterrence are now just a part of NATO’s strategic framework. New domains such as cyber and energy security are becoming more important elements of that framework.”

For NATO to remain relevant and effective, it must increase the range of its capabilities, Maior said.

“History has demonstrated that NATO has the capacity to adapt to this new environment,” he said. “The 21st century NATO should not be defined as the U.S. and others. Expansion of the strategic landscape will provide new opportunities for other allies in Europe to maximize their contribution to NATO and its collective defense.”

The conference also featured panel discussions on the “History of NATO,” “Hybrid and Cyber Threats,” “Current Regional Operation” and “Future Threats.”

“This conference has really provided a strategic look at where the alliance has been, where it is now and what the future holds,” said Maj. General Walter Givhan (USAF, ret.), Senior Vice Chancellor of Advancement and Economic Development and president of the Alabama World Affairs Council. “NATO was born out of this collective defense against the Soviet Union following World War II, but those circumstances have all changed and the alliance has continued to adapt. New times demand new strategies and that is what events like this are all about.”

Dr. Davis said bringing NATO to the people was an important aspect of hosting the conference.

“The renowned experts at this conference talked about the importance of the Atlantic alliance, security, history and current events,” Dr. Davis said. “Providing that opportunity to hear from and engage the experts on NATO’s past, present and future was a tremendous value to those who attended the conference.”

Dr. Slobodchikoff agreed, saying the conference “provided a unique perspective on world events through first-hand accounts” of what has happened throughout the history of NATO, as well as what the future holds for the Atlantic alliance.