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By Capt. Mikel Arcovitch
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, Vermont adjutant general, and leaders from seven other U.S. states joined their partner nation Chiefs of Defense (CHoD) for the 26th US-Adriatic Charter Chiefs of Defense Conference in Skopje, North Macedonia, on September 27.
The Adriatic 5 consists of Albania (New Jersey partner), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Maryland), Croatia (Minnesota), Montenegro (Maine), and North Macedonia (Vermont).
“The State Partnership program, to me, remains one of the most important programs in the Department of Defense,” said Knight. “Dozens of leaders from across the United States and Europe have gathered here to discuss on-going conflict, regional peace and security, methods for continually growing our partnerships, and how we can shape the future. This is in no small part due to the continuity of the National Guard State Partnership Program,” said Knight.
Much of the discussion at the conference focused on peace and security in the region, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was frequently referenced. U.S. Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. European Command (EUCOM), and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), stressed the importance of training and cooperation between allied partners. “Russian aggression and terror groups continue to pose the main threats to the NATO Alliance. To combat these and other threats, members and observers of this charter have pledged continued participation in training events and peacekeeping operations with Allies and partners. Throughout this charter’s 20-year history, we continue to demonstrate that cooperation enhances the defense of each nation and collective regional security for all,” said Cavoli.
Leaders from Kosovo (Iowa) and Slovenia (Colorado) also attended the event as observers. The Kosovo Force (KFOR) mission remains a NATO peace and security mission since 1999. The U.S., among more than a dozen NATO members, contribute to the mission. In 2021-2022, Vermont sent multiple units to the KFOR mission, including the Commander of Regional Command – East.
Slavjanka Petrovska, the Minister of Defense for North Macedonia, also referenced regional security and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “The past two decades have shown and proven that mutual cooperation, trust and unequivocal support are driving postulates of regional cooperation. We are aware of the changes in the security environment in the Euro-Atlantic area that occurred with Russia's unprovoked and unjust aggression against Ukraine. This war contributed to changing the doctrinal and conceptual approach to warfare today and in the future. We also know the role played by hybrid warfare, disinformation and modern technologies on the battlefield. These are challenges that we all need to face together as soon as possible. The topic of discussion at this conference is, how and with which mechanisms we will respond to these challenges.”
The President of North Macedonia, Stevo Pendarovski, was pleased to host the conference for the first time since his country became a member of NATO. President Pendarovski also spoke directly to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the need for the EU to focus on the integration of countries in the Western Balkans, a process that he assessed would strengthen the stability, security, and democratization of the region.
“This has been really a tremendous conference. To be here, in Skopje, with our partner nation hosting such a large-scale conference, is a testament to the progress we’ve experienced together,” said Knight. “I’ve been coming to North Macedonia for nearly 25 years, and to see everything coming together – the 30 year anniversary, the conference, NATO accession in 2018, and now talk of EU membership – is really incredible.”