SKOPJE, North Macedonia – U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, Vermont adjutant general, and leaders from other U.S. states joined their partner nation chiefs of defense for the 26th U.S.-Adriatic Charter Chiefs of Defense Conference in Skopje Sept. 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 ongoing 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.”
Much of the discussion at the conference focused on peace and security in the region, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. Army Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander, U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe, 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, “Cavoli said. “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.”
Leaders from Kosovo (Iowa) and Slovenia (Colorado) also attended the event as observers.
The United States is among over a dozen NATO members contributing to the Kosovo Force peace and security mission. In 2021-2022, Vermont sent multiple units to the mission, including the commander of Regional Command – East.
Slavjanka Petrovska, 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, “Petrovska said. “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, “he said. “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.”
North Macedonia President Stevo Pendarovski was pleased to host the conference for the first time since his country became a NATO member. He spoke about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the need for the European Union to focus on integrating countries in the Western Balkans to strengthen the region’s stability, security and democratization.
Knight said the conference was tremendous.
“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 (of the State Partnership Program), the conference, NATO accession in 2018, and now talk of EU membership — is really incredible.”