Clements Center, Center for European Studies and Strauss Center host conference commemorating 75th anniversary of NATO founding

Feb 08, 2024

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Clements Center joined forces with the Center for European Studies and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law to welcome the Atlantic Council, NATO Allied Command Transformation (ACT) and the Consulate General of Canada to the United States to the Forty Acres to convene a public conference of NATO officials, former policymakers, and scholars engaging in a critical discussion about the role of the transatlantic alliance and its enduring value for Texans.

Jujhar Singh, a senior at UT-Austin studying International Relations and Global Studies, opened the event. Singh recalled his recent trip to the NATO Headquarters in Brussels during the Clements Center’s London May Term, and the valuable lessons he learned about alliances, international cooperation and the commitment America has made to keeping NATO strong against authoritarianism and tyranny.

Bobby Chesney, Dean of the UT-Austin School of Law and Honorable James A. Baker III Chair in the Rule of Law and World Affairs, welcomed the crowd. Chesney reflected on UT-Austin’s long history of service, noting that many alumni fought alongside our allies in two world wars. Chesney emphasized the importance of UT-Austin’s investment in educating students about the value of European allies and the role NATO plays in maintaining the post-war peace.

General Philippe Lavigne, Supreme Allied Commander Transformation of NATO ACT, gave the first keynote address. Lavigne argued that NATO is an asset to the United States, and detailed the importance of having allies across the globe when dealing with foreign threats like Russia and China.

The first panel discussion, “Securing NATO’s Future: The Challenges of a New Era,” featured Audra Plepytė, Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania to the United States; General (Ret.) Robert Neller, former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and Clements Center Distinguished National Security Fellow; Kevin Rex, Former Ambassador of Canada to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia; Chris Skaluba, Director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security; and Vlasta Zekulic, Head of Strategic Issues and Engagements for NATO ACT. Michael Mosser, Executive Director of the Global Disinformation Lab and Assistant Director of the Center for European Studies, moderated. The conversation focused on maintaining the coalition, present and possible challenges, and opportunities for NATO in the future, especially regarding education.

The second panel discussion, “North America and NATO: Fostering Political and Policy Dialogue,” featured Adam Klein, Director of the Strauss Center for International Security and Law; Leo Michel, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Transatlantic Security Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security; Lieutenant General (Ret.) Christine Whitecross, Former Commandant of NATO Defense College; and Valbona Zeneli, Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Transatlantic Security Initiative in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. Sewell Chan, Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Tribune, moderated. The panel touched on several topics, including Texans’ perception of NATO, how economic security and energy resources relate to security, and the need for thoughtful, strategic communication to NATO stakeholders.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, former U.S. Ambassador to NATO, gave the final keynote address. Hutchison spoke on the importance of American leadership within NATO, especially in light of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the recent attack on Israel. Additionally, she highlighted why the transatlantic alliance continues to be a worthwhile investment for the United States.