Top diplomats, policy makers, military experts and academics convened at the Montgomery campus for Troy University’s “NATO at 70” conference on Nov. 1 and 2 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of NATO’s creation and discuss the past, present and future of the Atlantic alliance. The program included speeches from major high-profile speakers, including current and ex-United States NATO representatives and representatives from Romania, Poland, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia and more. The two-day event featured four panels examining different aspects of NATO and expounded on its strategic importance as an international alliance for the Western sphere.
The first day of the conference commenced with a panel discussing the significance of NATO’s 70th anniversary with panelists including John Schmidt, Troy’s senior vice chancellor, scholars from Air University and diplomats. This was followed by a tour of the Rosa Parks Museum by the guests with the day concluding with a speech by Robert Hunter, an ex-U.S. ambassador to NATO.
“In 70 years of NATO, the point is whether it continues to have a set of purposes, ambition, ideals and views with the facts of power and the facts of security,” said Hunter in his address. “NATO has been the lead agency for America to continue commitment and engagement in Europe.
“NATO is robust and will continue. NATO’s job is to in regard to the North Atlantic Area is to lead and promote security, stability and confidence among our allies.”
The second day of the conference saw three more panels where scholars, international diplomats and military professionals discussed their scholarship and experience on a range of topics which included hybrid and cyber threats to NATO, NATO’s current regional operations and future threats.
“It was eye-opening to find out how much countries want to be a part of NATO,” said Charles Edward Stringer, a graduate social science student from Brantley. “They really see NATO as being a vital part of their protection against other nations, particularly Russia and China, which was brought up a lot, and then they also want that because of the United States being in there.”
The event ended with a keynote address from the Romanian ambassador, who stressed the importance of the alliance, especially for the Eastern European countries.
According to Michael Slobodchikoff, associate professor of political science, the event was an excellent opportunity for Troy students and faculty as well as community members to meet policymakers affecting NATO and the U.S.
“The event gave a unique perspective on world events that we wouldn’t get otherwise from reading books or from a general scholarship,” Slobodchikoff said. “We go to hear first-hand accounts of what happened and that was incredible experience for everyone in the audience.”
“We got to hear narratives from Balkans, Poland, and it was an opportunity to engage with policymakers, diplomats and official representatives on a level that would have been impossible had we not had the conference,” said Doug Davis, assistant professor of political science.
The event was free and open to the public. It drew a significant crowd on both days where the community and students also got to engage in conversation with the distinguished guests.
“The speakers were very humble people and very down-to-earth and open to questions,” said Stringer. “Being a student and knowing that a person of that caliber was at reach and knowing from them that their achievement wasn’t something that was unattainable was something of an experience.”