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Multinational Division Southeast Full Operational Capability Ceremony

As delivered.
Thursday, 22 March 2018, Cincu, Romania

Minister Fifor, General Ciucă, General Petrescu, Ambassadors, fellow General and Flag Officers, ladies and gentlemen, what an honor to be with you here today to celebrate Full Operational Capability for Multinational Division Southeast, here in Cincu, Romania!

I was reminded last night at dinner with General Ciucă of one of my favorite authors, he’s an American and his name is Robert Kaplan. And in his youth Robert Kaplan went off to fulfill his dreams, he actually took time away from school, he served in the Israeli Defense Forces for twelve to eighteen months. When he finished, he was given a little money, a severance pay. Instead of going back to the United States of America, he came here to Romania and he fell in love with your country. Those of you that don’t know that author, you may recognize some of his works: his most famous, Balkan Ghosts; Revenge of Geography; Asia’s Cauldron; and he wrote about you. He wrote about you in a book called In Europe’s Shadow. It is an excellent account of his love for Romania and the Romanian people, the importance to NATO to Romania, and Romania to NATO in addressing the threat from the East, the toughness, the resilience, the beauty, and the wonder of this country and its people. And I share every one of those sentiments with Robert Kaplan about you and your country. You’ve proven your resilience and your persistence in the stand-up of this multinational Headquarters South East today.

Activated in December 2015 in Bucharest, Romania, MND Southeast is a regional multinational divisional headquarters establishing tailored forward presence in the strategic Black Sea region. This Headquarters contributes to the Alliance's strengthened deterrence and defense posture, situational awareness, and peacetime demonstration of NATO's intent to operate without constraints.

Before Exercise Dacian Lancer, before FOC, MND Southeast already demonstrated its capability. During Exercise Noble Jump 2017, it was this HQ in its maturity coordinated the first short-notice, operational deployment of the NATO spearhead force. By land, air, sea, and rail 2000 troops from 7 nations arrived here in Cincu—trained, prepared, and sustained …as we say, "fit to fight.”

Now at Full Capability, Multinational Division Southeast is ready to do its part deter and, if necessary, to defend the people and territory of the Alliance, 24/7 and around the compass 360 degrees.

Thanks to the hard work and sustained commitment of Multinational Division Southeast, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a strong signal of support to regional security in the Black Sea. The center of gravity of the Alliance is and always will be our solidarity. Together, we focus on maintaining our shared values of democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law.

On the battlefield, our defensive Alliance must be able to keep pace with the changing nature of warfare by investing at least 2% of GDP which Romania is doing in defense. And think about it, by spending 20% of these budgets on equipment and research and development, we will remain at the leading edge of military technology and capability, and ready to meet the future security challenges of the 21st Century.

The greatest responsibility of the Alliance is to protect and defend our territory and our populations against attack, as set out in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty of 1949. NATO presence, exemplified by MND Southeast, is foundational to our collective security. Exercises like Dacian Lancer proves our Defensive Alliance is "Fit to Fight.”

Every day, and every way, our Allies and partners join us in defending our shared values, preventing conflict, and deterring war, and maintaining the rules which underwrite a free and open international community. The Alliance continues to reinforce our collective defense, enhance our capabilities, and strengthen our resilience.

To sum it up, Minister Fifor, General Ciucă: Exercise Dacian Lancer: Mission accomplished. MND Southeast FOC: Mission accomplished. Now on to the next challenge!

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