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27 Jan 2015

Interview with Major General Blotz, Director Operations Division, International Military Staff, NATO HQ

During his visit at NATO School Oberammergau on 27 Jan 2015

Q: How important is interoperability for NATO - today and tomorrow in regards to the changes in our security environment?

Major General Josef Blotz: Interoperability has been a key factor for success since the Alliance was formed in 1949. Interoperability between all the NATO Allies is a crucial factor for success and credibility. We need to be able to work together tactically, technically and in decision making.

The ISAF mission was so valuable from the interoperability point of view that we came up with a notion of the Connected Forces Initiative (CFI). CFI is actually saying that all the good lessons we have learned in terms of interoperability within NATO and with partners must not be forgotten. We must process all these lessons; we must translate them into manuals, concepts, papers. Interoperability, Interconnectivity and Standardization are absolutely key for our future - for an Alliance that trains, exercises and is ready.

Q: For several months, we have seen the presence of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. We also see instability and violence in North Africa as well as in the Middle East. What are NATO's roles in facing current and future security challenges?

Major General Josef Blotz: The Russia-Ukraine Crisis has shown that NATO is an Alliance based on values such as solidarity and cohesion. We all must give assurance to all Allies, "28 for 28". Particularly on the eastern borders of the NATO territory it is so important for our Allies there to see that the entire alliance is behind them in terms of political commitment, will and capabilities.

The Alliance has been responsive and reactive and needs to continue to be. It has also proven to be capable and creative in terms of adapting to new challenges with swift, direct and concrete measures. The Readiness Action Plan that was approved by the Allied Heads of State during the NATO summit in Wales in September of 2014 foresees a series of far reaching adaptations to the Alliance posture with regards to strategies, concepts and exercises. What we need to do is to reorient ourselves with political will and commitment. We also need the financial resources to maintain the momentum and prevent this ongoing crisis from escalating. This crisis was kind of a reality check, which demonstrated a change in the European Security landscape and we must adapt to it. Now we need to use the momentum and be ready to respond in terms of solidarity and cohesion to whatever comes up in a 360 degree perspective.

Q: Looking at the logo of the Resolute Support Mission at first glance there are no visible changes. The letters have changed from ISAF into RS. The commitment in dari, which stands for "support and cooperation", stayed. How obvious is the new character of the mission in Afghanistan?

Major General Josef Blotz: There are things that are about to change and other things that won't change and must not change. The first things that must not change is the commitment of the international community, NATO, organizations and countries across the world, and the commitment to Afghanistan's peaceful and prosperous future. Also, when the ISAF and RS missions come to an end, it will not be the end of our commitments - otherwise we would jeopardize all the achievements we have made and should be so proud of. Hence we will see the Enduring Partnership Program.

NATO took over the responsibility for the ISAF mission in 2003 and we need to carry on - with a different setting. Within RS a couple of things have changed for example the fact that RS is not a fighting force, RS is a Train, Advise, and Assist Mission within a combat environment. It is smaller and differently mandated and equipped. However, the Commitment, Support, Assistance and Reliability still remains "Shoulder by Shoulder".

Q: A few of us could have predicted the events of 2014, which will be remembered as a year of significant change in the global security environment. Just one year ago NATO's military efforts have focussed on the International Stabilization Force in Afghanistan. What is the best case scenario for 2015?

Major General Josef Blotz: I am really convinced that the Alliance has undergone a reality check. We have been reminded by the ongoing challenges of our core values and the importance of professionalism within the military world. We have been reminded of the significance of realistic and frequent exercises and of the need to identifying all lessons we have learned over so many years and operations, also understanding everything that is currently going on. I see us on the right path and remaining a strong and dedicated Alliance ready to deter and defend upcoming challenges. I am quite confident that we are on the right track. Right now it is all about staying the right course, staying committed and always remembering the core values of this alliance.