Riga, LATVIA – NATO Special Operations Senior Leaders convened for the NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) Conference "Evolving NATO SOF in Line with Today's Security Environment" in Riga, Latvia, from Oct. 19 to 21, 2021.
More than 30 Alliance and Partner nations participated in the conference co-hosted by Latvian Special Operations Command and NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) to discuss topics ranging from Special Operations as a domain within NATO to support to Ukrainian SOF Developmental plan.
Due to a changed security environment, NATO is in a fundamental shift towards a stronger focus on collective defence. Special Forces can play a unique role in this
The conference seeks to promote efforts to align strategic planning, modernisation efforts and military activities. It also provides a venue suitable for open discussions where SOF military and civilian leaders can explore increased coordination and interoperability opportunities.
Latvia's Minister of Defence Artis Pabriks provided opening remarks for the conference emphasising the increased need for nations to cope with a hybrid environment brought on by competition between Allied nations and their adversaries as the difference between the black and white of peacetime and conflict is frequently blurred. He emphasised that Special Operations Forces are uniquely suited to operate in a grey area.
NATO Special Operations Senior Leaders convened for the NATO Special Operations Forces (SOF) Conference "Evolving NATO SOF in Line with Today's Security Environment" in Riga, Latvia, from Oct. 19 to 21, 2021. - Photo by NSHQ Public Affairs Office
"What is your role? I would say that your role is very special," said Pabriks. "You have the right training, and you have the right capabilities to do the job in the hybrid environment."
Today's threats are constant and target NATO's shared values. For NATO SOF leaders, it is crucial to understand and ensure national plans are coordinated and integrated with NATO plans. The Deterrence and Defence of the Euro-Atlantic Area (DDA) strategy is a hierarchy of integrated plans covering the spectrum of peacetime deterrence, crisis response, and conflict and providing common frames to monitor threats and deliver defensive responses.
Admiral Rob Bauer, Chair of the NATO Military Committee, provided remarks emphasising the important role Special Operations plays in the deterrence and defence across the Alliance.
"Due to a changed security environment, NATO is in a fundamental shift towards a stronger focus on collective defence. Special Forces can play a unique role in this," said Admiral Bauer. "Because, contrary to popular belief, you often come in before a conflict reaches its highest intensity. And then you do everything in your power to prevent that conflict from spiralling out of control, often acting as an interlocutor that connects civilian, military and societal capabilities."
The remainder of the conference included discussions focused on the continued development of the SOF domain plan in support of DDA to ensure SOF requirements are designed for peacetime deterrence, crisis response and conflict; operational overviews of SOF activities; panel discussions on the evolution of SOF in today and tomorrow's security environment; as well as other key NATO SOF topics.
"Here at my first NATO SOF Commanders' Conference, I want to thank our Latvian hosts and everyone for attending and for being part of the discussion," said Lieutenant General Antonio M. Fletcher, Commander NATO Special Operations Headquarters. "As we move forward, we need to remember the lessons learned over the past 20 years, remain focused and continue to build our relationships through exercises, training and other activities."
This was the first in-person NATO SOF conference since the fall of 2019. Bringing together Allied and Partner SOF leadership is key to maintaining strong relationships amongst the NATO SOF community.