WEST POINT, N.Y. -- For more than 200 years, the U.S. Military Academy has developed leaders for the United States Army who have served on the forefront of global conflicts.
As the world changes at a quicker pace than ever before, particularly in the realm of technology, the leadership of West Point graduates will play a key role in preparing America, as well as its allies and partners, to defend itself from adversaries, said Jens Stoltenberg, the Secretary General of NATO.
Stoltenberg gave a lecture and took questions from cadets in West Point's core international relations courses Sept. 25 during a stop at the academy while visiting America for the United Nations General Assembly.
"When Thomas Jefferson established the United States Military Academy, it was because he knew the vital importance of having educated and innovative Soldiers," Stoltenberg said. "The knowledge and experience of West Point cadets has helped the United States to be the strongest military power on earth. You inherit their legacy. You will be the ones who will lead our alliance into the future. A future where your expertise, your discipline and your strategic vision will help to maintain our security, our perspective and our freedom."
Stoltenberg has served as the Secretary General of NATO since October 2014 after previously serving as the Prime Minister of Norway on two separate occasions. He is the 13th person to lead the NATO alliance, which celebrated its 70th anniversary this year and currently includes 29 countries.
"NATO is an extraordinary idea to bring together nations that share the values of democracy, freedom and the rule of law and unite them in a common cause to maintain our collective security in light of foes that no one can face alone," Stoltenberg said. "NATO was created by men of foresight who could see the old world as it was and toward the world as it could be, for good or for ill."
NATO was originally created to thwart the growing threat of the Soviet Union. But following the end of the Cold War and the fall of the USSR in 1991, NATO was able to rapidly adapt to new security challenges, Stoltenberg said.
The decision was made to go out of area, intervene in the Balkan conflicts and join America in its war against terrorism in Afghanistan. The unity of the countries, both the original 12 countries and the 17 who have joined since the founding, and the ability to adapt to a changing world is what has enabled the alliance to last longer than any other of its kind, Stoltenberg said.
"You can measure the strength of the nation in many different ways, by the size of its economy, the strength of its military, but also by the number of its friends, especially those who are willing to fight by your side," he said. "And through NATO, the United States has more friends and more allies than any other power in the world."
Stoltenberg focused his remarks at West Point on the biggest change the world is going through now - the rapid expansion of technology and its role in warfare.
In recent years, cyberattacks against a NATO country have been added as a condition that could trigger article 5 of the NATO treaty, which requires member countries to come to the defense of a NATO country that is attacked.
NATO has also established a new cyber operations center to help member countries stay on the forefront of technical advancements. Leading the way in technology research, Stoltenberg said, is a key part of allowing NATO countries to protect themselves and deter the threat of attacks in a rapidly changing world.
"We simply cannot take our technological edge for granted," Stoltenberg said. "Our future security depends on our ability to understand, adopt and implement emerging and disruptive technologies. NATO has a key role in driving this change, not least by making sure that allies are investing enough in defense."
Following his prepared remarks, Stoltenberg also took questions from cadets and Douglas Lute, the former U.S. Ambassador to NATO and the chair of the West Point Social Sciences Department.
"I think it's really cool West Point provides us with these opportunities just to casually on a Wednesday go and listen to the NATO Secretary General," Class of 2021 Cadet Barbara Bunting said. "I think it's important to go to things like this to expand our thinking past cadet life and the daily activities we have. That helps us think more broadly. What we're doing doesn't only matter for the Army, but it also contributes to international security."