By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
June 2, 2009 - The nominee for the top NATO command job told Congress he would urge European allies to continue standing "shoulder-to-shoulder" in Afghanistan if confirmed for the position. Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander of U.S. Southern Command, appeared before the Senate Armed Service Committee today for his confirmation hearing. Stavridis has been tapped by President Barack Obama as the new supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, pending Senate confirmation.
In opening remarks, Stavridis emphasized the importance of a transatlantic alliance, especially regarding the joint U.S.-NATO mission in Afghanistan where 54,000 U.S. forces and 33,000 NATO troops are currently deployed.
"I hope to be a positive force...in convincing our allies to continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us in important missions throughout the world and in particular in Afghanistan," he told senators.
The admiral vowed to take the same approach in Europe that he has at U.S. Southern Command – emphasizing collegiality, multilateralism, international solutions and the so-called "whole of government" approach that complements military efforts with diplomacy, economic aid and other instruments of state power.
"These are challenging times in Europe; they're challenging times in Afghanistan and the world," he said. "If confirmed, I will do my best."
For Stavridis, an appointment to the dual-hatted European duty would represent a return to the continent where he lived as a child and studied as a doctoral student at the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. His resume includes experience working alongside NATO allies in previous conflicts and knowledge of three European languages.
"I have a fair amount of background in Europe, in addition to having lived there as a child. I've traveled Europe extensively over the years," he said. "I've operated with NATO off of Haiti, the Balkans, in the Gulf, studied NATO as part of my academic work that the Navy sent me to at the Fletcher School years ago."
Stavridis, who would replace Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, would be the first naval officer to hold the command in Europe.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who announced Stavridis's nomination in March, praised the admiral as one of the nation's best military officers.
"I would say that Jim Stavridis, both in terms of knowledge of how things work in the inter-agency here in Washington, but also in terms of his diplomatic skills, is probably one of the best senior military officers we have," Gates said at a March 18 Pentagon news conference.