NATO is developing new high-tech tools, such as the ability to 3-D-print parts for weapons and deliver them by drone, as it scrambles to retain a competitive edge over Russia, China and other would-be battlefield adversaries.
Gen. Andre Lanata, who took over as head of the NATO transformation command in September, told a conference in Berlin that his command demonstrated over 21 “disruptive” projects during military exercises in Norway this month.
He urged startups as well as traditional arms manufacturers to work with the Atlantic alliance to boost innovation, as rapid and easy access to emerging technologies was helping adversaries narrow NATO’s long-standing advantage.
Lanata’s command hosted its third “innovation challenge” in tandem with the conference this week, where 10 startups and smaller firms presented ideas for defeating swarms of drones on the ground and in the air.
Winner from Belgium
Belgian firm ALX Systems, which builds civilian surveillance drones, won this year’s challenge.
Its CEO, Geoffrey Mormal, said small companies like his often struggled with cumbersome weapons procurement processes.
“It’s a very hot topic, so perhaps it will help to enable quicker decisions,” he told Reuters.
Lanata said NATO was focused on areas such as artificial intelligence, connectivity, quantum computing, big data and hypervelocity, but also wants to learn from DHL and others how to improve the logistics of moving weapons and troops.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said increasing military spending by NATO members would help tackle some of the challenges, but efforts were also needed to reduce widespread duplication and fragmentation in the European defense sector.
Participants also met behind closed doors with chief executives from 12 of the 15 biggest arms makers in Europe. (VOA)
Pope Francis, who is on a historic first trip to North Macedonia, has met with the country’s leadership and held Mass in the main square of the capital, Skopje.
Francis was welcomed by the outgoing president, Gjorge Ivanov, and other government officials.
He has sought to encourage the country’s drive toward integration into the EU and NATO after its name change resolved a decades-long dispute with Greece last year.
Like neighboring Bulgaria — Francis’s first stop on his three-day Balkan tour — North Macedonia, a small Balkan country of 2.1 million, is mainly Orthodox Christian.
But the country has a large community of ethnic Albanian Muslims, who make about one-quarter of the population. North Macedonia is home to an estimated 15,000 Catholics.
In meetings with Ivanov and with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev at the presidential palace, Francis praised North Macedonia’s multiethnic and multifaith culture, calling it an example of peaceful coexistence and a bridge between East and West.
“These particular features are also highly significant for increased integration with the nations of Europe,” he said.
“It is my hope that this integration will develop in a way that is beneficial for the entire region of the Western Balkans, with unfailing respect for diversity and for fundamental rights.”
In his speech, President Ivanov complained about delays in accepting Macedonia in the Euro-Atlantic family.
“You come at a time when [North] Macedonian society is deeply divided, and the [North] Macedonian [nation] is heavily wounded by broken promises, unfulfilled expectations and faltering trust in the international community,” he said.
Viktor Dimovski, state secretary of North Macedonia’s Foreign Ministry, told the media on May 6 that the pope’s historic visit comes at a crucial moment as the country seeks entry into the European Union and NATO.
“The pope’s visit strengthens further internal cohesion and unity, and brings messages of reconciliation and solidarity,” he said.
The pope’s visit also included a prayer at the memorial of North Macedonia’s most famous native daughter, Mother Teresa, who was born Anjeze Gonxhe Bojaxhiu to Albanian parents in 1910 in Skopje when it was still part of the Ottoman Empire.
Francis was surrounded by Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity nuns in praying before the memorial. Mother Teresa was canonized by Francis in 2016.
Ahead of his visit, Francis praised the mix of cultures, religions, and ethnicities in North Macedonia, and said he was traveling there to “sow these seeds” of solidarity.
“Living together is not always easy, we know that,” the pope said in a video message. “But it’s worth struggling toward, because the most beautiful mosaics are the ones that are richest in colors.”
With the name dispute with Greece now resolved, North Macedonia, which has been an EU aspirant since 2005, hopes to get a clear signal for the start of accession talks in June. Skopje also expects to become the 30th NATO member at the end of the year.