Graduation Speech

Graduation Speech

17th June 2001 

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Graduates, friends,

A safe future for the Baltic nations is now within reach, thanks to the ever more clearly stated U.S. support to NATO invitations to their three states. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are now mentioned as candidates just after Slovenia and Slovakia.

Such invitations are both justified and needed.

Invitations are justified, because all three have developed into stable and mature, liberal democracies. The system has proven to function well when power shifted between political forces after elections, in spite of economic hardship linked to the transition to marked economy. In this area they are all ahead of any other applicant state.

They have all been able to make and implement the often-painful concessions demanded by the West in the political fields related to borders and the Russian speaking minorities left on their territories by the Soviet occupation.

Invitations are needed because they will ensure protection against any future storm so that the economies can develop with a long horizon, attracting investment and growth that will make it more desirable for the talented young Balts to stay in their countries and rebuild them rather than emigrate.

The invitations are needed, because the three countries border a great power that still has not been willing to accept what happened in 1939-40. The manipulated history implies less than full acceptance of complete and full sovereignty of the three states.

These now likely invitations to join the alliance create the both positive and demanding framework for the work of you, the graduates from the Baltic states.

You will be key persons in the force build-up and other military preparations for membership.

You will need everything that you have learned here. You have a better and more relevant, theoretical, holistic, professional insight than anybody else in your forces.

That, however, should not lead to arrogance, but to an understanding that you have a special duty to serve your countries. You must actively seek demanding service as commanders, staff officers, and instructors. Only when the teaching has been followed by experience can you develop into effective, practical general staff officers, preparing the best of you for early leadership in your forces and for effective staff work in NATO staffs and operations, wherever they make take place.

We know that accelerated preparations for NATO membership - and the requirements for Baltic staff officers in alliance institutions - mean that BALTDEFCOL must educate more officers.

Therefore it is very fortunate that the education area is being enlarged by Estonia, and that the long-term plan for the development of the College was approved by the BALTDEFCOL Board on 14 JUN. We now know the budget and staff framework for the rest of the decade.

The addition of both the basement and attic of the BALTDEFCOL wing of this building to the teaching area will give the College an excellent and flexible space.

If the requirement should go beyond what has been agreed, the College has some ability to accept additional students in the courses and find room for the linked extra directing staff.

This means that some of the best of you graduates will have to return as staff members in the College relatively soon, as soon as you have gained practical experience, to accelerate the ability of your countries to work effectively in the alliance.

I want to thank the non-Baltic students. You have contributed to the success of this course to an even higher degree that you are aware. I know that you will assist your Baltic BALTDEFCOL graduates and the three states that you now know so well in the demanding tasks ahead. If your states should support the idea, you are welcome back as directing staff.

It is with both gratefulness and sadness that we say goodbye to some of the staff members that have built and developed the College and the quality teaching in our courses. We are, at the same time, very happy that the seconding states have accepted to send excellent replacements.

The College wants to thank all the representatives of states that have made this second senior staff course a success, and that have supported the necessary further development of the College. A special thanks to our host, Estonia.

On behalf of the three states, the College thanks you all for your contribution. We shall keep in touch.

Brig. Gen. Michael H. Clemmesen
Commandant of the Baltic Defence College


Email again:


Promotion of Major L. Varuolo


Journal on Baltic Security

Share this article