Albania is reorganizing its military to meet its new responsibilities within the NATO alliance and align more closely with Western standards and values. Our navy, as an integrated part of the new Albanian Armed Forces structure, is reshaping operational concepts and readiness to better fit the framework and standards of the alliance.
Increased capabilities to meet the demand for a more efficient, active maritime force along Albania’s 225 miles of coastline is a priority. There is a general acknowledgement that classic concepts for deploying naval forces have been overridden by new threats and a changing security environment.
The Albanian National Security Strategy identifies “the most difficult and immediate external threat” as “the revival of historic regional conflicts fueled by ethnic, religious, and political extremism, as well as external state-supported terrorism.”
Our navy must develop responsive capabilities in support of its primary constitutional mission as well as facing new challenges in the maritime environment. Full integration and interoperability with other naval forces of NATO also will require the adoption of compatible force structure, new operational capabilities, and the upgrade of technologies and equipment.
In that realm the United States has been a reliable ally, providing strong counsel and advice in the implementation of new concepts fundamental to reshaping Albania’s armed forces. The United States plays an undisputed strategic role in the region and a diminishment of its naval engagement would affect our naval forces in three ways.
First, it could inhibit efforts to keep any regional crises from becoming threats to the good relations among Balkan nations. Our naval forces still have limited capabilities to deal with significant disruption to the current maritime environment.
Second, the United States traditionally has secured safe passage across the world’s seas. It has stepped up to meet new challenges, such as piracy. Fighting those phenomena at the source provides security and prevents their spread to coastal nations having limited response capacities.
Third, without U.S. engagement, Albania’s naval capabilities may not be able to remain proportional to increased demands. We have financed a €35 million project with the Netherlands to build four large patrol ships and undertaken numerous other steps to enhance our readiness and response capabilities. Still, ever increasing trade in the Adriatic and Jon (Ionian) seas will increase the demand for naval presence and response.
Even combined efforts with like-minded naval forces in the region would not compensate for a reduced U.S. role in the area. Interaction with other naval forces, despite shared interests and objectives, cannot bring the sense of security that the U.S. naval presence has projected.