MStrat Student Trip to Brussels and Mons, Belgium 18-21 March 2014

The MStrat course recently undertook a field trip to Brussels and Mons between Tuesday 18 and Friday  21 March 2014.

The aims of the MStrat to Belgium were, among other things:

  • To gain an understanding of the institutional structure, policy-making and crisis-management processes, and main policy issues pertaining to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union External Action Service (EEAS).
  • To gain a non-NATO/EU perspective on the crisis in Syria, the Balkan region and Russia-EU relations, by visiting the Russian Permanent Delegation to the EU.

The MStrat trip was led by Dr. Sergio Catignani and accompanied by Dr. Daniel Steed and Ms. Roo Haywood-Smith.

Visit Highlights

The MStrat cohort visited NATO Headquarters where Mr Jonathan PARISH, Deputy Assistant Secretary General of the Defence Policy and Planning Division, spoke on the current political agenda and the future of NATO as well as on the key themes that the next NATO Summit in Wales will deal with this September. Moreover, Mr Patrick ANDREWS of Crisis Response Systems and Exercises, Operations Division gave a detailed presentation on NATO’s Crisis Management Operations and how NATO was currently reacting to the crisis in Ukraine.

Following the NATO Headquarters visit, the MStrat cohort was hosted by the Egmont Institute (The Royal Institute for International Affairs) in the Prince Albert Club, the Belgian Armed Forces’ All Ranks Club, where Professor Sven Biscop and Brig. (Ret.) Jo Coelmont gave respectively presentations on European Security and European Defence prospects during the “Age of European Austerity”.

The following two days saw the MStrat cohort visit the European External Action Service where, among others, Brig. Gen. Philippe Boutinaud, the Director of Cabinet of the European Union Military Committee Chairman, spoke on the EUMC’s role and decision-making processes and challenges particularly during international crises. Ms Joëlle JENNY, Director for Security Policy and Conflict Prevention, also gave a very insightful presentation on the ways in which the EU seeks to improve conflict prevention in global affairs particularly through upstream engagement activities and programmes.

At Supreme Headquarters Allied Europe, the MStrat cohort received several briefings including one on the workings of NATO’s Comprehensive Crisis and Operations Management Centre as well as how NATO is trying to improve its capabilities and activities relating to the comprehensive approach to conflict prevention and conflict resolution processes by British Army Brig. Gary Deakin and Dutch Ambassador Hans Wesseling. It also received a detailed briefing by a member of the European Union Staff Group on the EU’s “Operation Althea in Bosnia Herzegovnia” in order to prepare students’ for the next MSrat cohort trip to Bosnia Herzegovina, which is scheduled to take place in May 2014.

The MStrat delegation also had the unique privilege of receiving a detailed and lengthy briefing by the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, General Sir Richard Shirreff, on the challenges that NATO countries face over the coming years. He also spoke at length on the Ukraine crisis and the key decision point that NATO countries face today as a result of Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimea. His comments on the Ukraine crisis were especially poignant given the fact that the previous day the MStrat cohort had visited the Russian Federation’s Permanent Representation to the EU, where the Deputy Permanent Representative, Mr. Sergey Kopyrkin, provided a Russian perspective on issues such as the Ukraine and Syrian crises and the Russian Federation’s future relations with the EU and its constituent member states in light of the Ukraine crisis.

MStrat Staff and Student Visit to SHAPE, Mons on 21 March 2014