Text and photo: Major Hanne Olafsen
"The great global and regional security challenges we see around the world is pointing to the possibility of stormy weather ahead. This tells me that the wartime roles of the navies should be revisited," says Vice Admiral Ketil Olsen, who delivered a speech from the NATO perspective at the Inaugural Offshore Patrol Vessel Conference (OPV18) in London this week.
"That was a great context setter," says conference chairman Bruce Williams and continues:
"Everyone assumes so much when it comes to NATO. It has been so successful that familiarity has bred contempt in some. This needs to be countered, especially in front of an international audience, such as here at the OPV conference. It is important to gently reinforce the message of the pre-eminence of NATO as the credible war fighting alliance which many have attempted to plagiarised in part or in whole. And whose procedures and policies are more often than not drawn off to develop their national doctrine. In part this means NATO can claim it has global intellectual property rights and leadership when it comes to military affairs."
Why is this conference so important?
"I would say the discourse regarding OPVs is very important. Fortunately IQPC host a conference to facilitate that discourse amongst an audience that spans the globe, says Williams, who is also a retired British rear admiral.
But why is it important more now than ever?
Because constrained budgets have focussed many nations' efforts on sustaining only the 'sexier' end of the naval orbit over the last two decades. But the truth is, if there is not a viable constabulary end to any fleet, we end up inappropriately using very expensive assets (meaning they are less available to fulfil the combat portion of a navy – the battle fleet), it means we have too few platforms to develop the 'seed corn' of the fleet (experienced manpower necessary to man the battle fleet) and, critically, it means a navy is unable to sustain persistent reach in its areas of national interest to guarantee protection of such interests. And with global order and the rules based system very much under threat, then the pressure to enhance ones own capabilities is growing rapidly.
"President Trump's statement at the UNGA yesterday clearly tells us that belief in a rules based system for collective benefit is waning: "We reject globalism, and we embrace patriotism," he underlines.
Vice Admiral Olsen is glad that he could contribute by the NATO perspective.
"The great global and regional security challenges we see around the world is pointing to the possibility of stormy weather ahead. This tells me that the wartime roles of the navies should be revisited. It's not necessarily all about constabulary forces and roles, international operations by choice or limited conflicts any more. We live in a fast changing and extremely volatile and unpredictable time. It was therefore a great opportunity for me to discuss this with navy officers at the IQPC conference this week," the Vice Admiral concludes.