Stavridis_James - 2

James Stavridis

The Norfolk Forum is proud to present ADM James Stavridis USN (Ret.) NATO’s 16th Supreme Allied Commander, Tuesday, January 25, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. at Sandler Center for the Performing Arts.  ADM Stavridis spent 37 years in the Navy, rising to the rank of 4-star Admiral.  He has overseen operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, the Balkans and has done so much more.  Tickets are available via The Norfolk Forum website at www.thenorfolkforum.org.

Yiorgo: With us today is ADM Stavridis, who spoke with us on the phone.  What should people expect to hear, see and experience at The Norfolk Forum and will there be a question and answer period afterwards?

ADM. James Savridis: The title of my talk is 21st Century Security: Risk and Opportunity.  And yes, I will talk for about 40 minutes and then we will have about 20 minutes for a Q & A afterwards.  What we are going to do is kind of walk around the world and look at global risk. What are the challenges that we face and what are some of the opportunities for how we can collectively solve these big global security issues.

Y: What are some of the risks?

ADM. S: Russia and Ukraine are of course big ones at the moment and we'll talk about China, Iran and  North Korea.  We will talk about climate and cyber security as well as walk through the global security challenges.  I will then pivot to talk about what we should do about it.  How do we create effective alliances internationally to meet these challenges?  What are the technologies that are important?  How do we learn and study so that we can meet these challenges? It is an overarching talk about global security with interesting and innovative ideas and I will be illustrating it with a series of photographs which are very evocative, and kind of key up the issues.

Y:  This is so fascinating.  What kind of photographs will you be sharing?

ADM. S: The audience will see an interesting photo of Vladimir Putin, the Chinese Navy under way at sea, photographs of the Iranian missile capability and I will also share some book recommendations, to think about reading. So it's a chance for anybody who is interested in the world to come and get a snapshot of the global environment, and then to have a conversation about what we should do about it, to make ourselves secure.

Y: God bless you and your whole family for your service to our great country.  With your father being a marine colonel, how did he take you to join the Navy?

ADM. S: Thank you and my father was a very proud colonel in the U S. Marine Corps when he retired, and my daughter Julia, is a navy nurse, a commissioned officer in the Navy, who went to Georgetown University. So we're on our third generation of military service.  My father was not happy about me joining the Navy.  He very much hoped I would follow in his footsteps as a marine infantry officer, and initially I thought I wanted to do that.  But when I went to the Naval academy, the first thing they did was put me on a ship at sea, coming out of San Diego Harbor, and when I walked upon the bridge of that ship, it was sunset, and the ship was just getting under way.  I saw all that light and that ocean, and I was like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus.  I suddenly knew what I wanted in my life and that was to be a sailor. You will be happy to know that my father forgave me and became very happy about it about twenty five years later, when I pinned on my first star as a Rear Admiral.

Y: Among your many honors, you were vetted for the Vice President position in 2016, when then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was running for President of the United States.  Can you talk about that process?

ADM. S:  I was one of six candidates who were vetted for Vice President by Hilary Clinton. It’s a very extensive vetting process. It was successful and I think I was strongly considered, but she ultimately chose Senator Tim Kane as her running mate as we all know.

Y: And then of course, after the 2016 election in November, you were invited to go over the Trump Tower for a Cabinet position.  Can you tell us about that visit?

ADM. S: Early that December, I received an invitation to come to Trump Tower, And I met for about an hour with President elect Trump, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, who was Chief of Staff at the time.  I had an extensive meeting with them. We discussed national security, cyber securities, challenges of North Korea, and so forth.  At the end of that, we had a very serious discussion about whether or not I would want to take a Cabinet position with the Trump Administration. Ultimately I felt that was not a good fit for me, but I was honored to have been asked to come and have a conversation.

Y: You created the Navy’s premier operational think tank for innovation, Deep Blue. Can you tell us how it came to be?

ADM. S: When 9/11 occurred, I was in the budget shop of the Navy staff.  I was a newly selected one star officer, in the Pentagon, on the side of the Pentagon where the aircraft struck.  I glimpsed the airplane striking and I survived obviously.  Immediately afterwards the Chief naval Operations, asked me to create a small, group of strategic operational, and tactical thinkers, to come up with new ideas for how the Navy specifically could help in the global war on terror that suddenly exploded in front of our face like the airplane hitting the Pentagon.  He allowed me to pick about fifteen people from across the Navy, aviator, a seal, a submariner, and a marine.  By the way, a number of these folks went on to become Admirals in the Navy.  For the next year and a half, my job was to come up with new ideas.

Y: Can you give some examples?

ADM. S: Yes, here are two examples. One is something called afloat forwarding stationing base. This is the idea of using an aircraft carrier or a big deck Amfib, but instead of a traditional strike package on it, putting on marines, special forces moving forward and launching missions.

A second example would be to create an expeditionary strike force, which is combining a big deck amphibious group, alongside destroyer submarines, special forces to create the ability to inject special forces from these big deck amfibs.  We came into many, many different ideas over that next year and a half.  I was proud to have created Deep Blue and then the Chief of Naval Operations released me for sea duty and I went to command the carrier strike group centered on the USS Enterprise, and off I went to war.

Y: From 2009 - 2013, you were the Supreme Allied Commander for NATO, stationed in Belgium. I'm sure you had the opportunity to travel all over Europe and specifically go over to Greece and Turkey.  As a Greek American yourself, how were you received in those two countries, especially since there are political tensions between Greece and Turkey, going back for hundreds of years?

ADM. S: As you would expect, I was always very, very welcomed in Greece and I traveled extensively through that beautiful country including often to our NATO bases in Heraklion, Crete, and government meetings in Athens.  We traveled and vacationed all over  Greece and we were welcomed with open arms.

I was also very welcomed in Ankara, Turkey.  The Turks were always hospitable and I think they were always concerned. Oh, there's this Greek American who is the Supreme Allied Commander. But I found out they were good partners as well and I was careful to make sure I had a very even handed approach to at that time all 28 nations of the Alliance.

Y: I would like for you to tell us a little bit about one of your 11 books that you have written in 2021, the New York Times bestseller, “2034: A Novel of the Next World War”.

ADM. S: This was my tenth book and my first novel. My previous nine books were all non fiction. Many of them were about leadership and character, the oceans and the maritime world.  I wanted to write a novel because it would reach a larger audience. And the idea of the novel 2034 is to create a kind of warning. I would say, it is what I would call cautionary fiction, in the sense that it describes what we desperately don't want to happen, which is obviously a war with China.  It takes the reader through a scenario that could, possibly unfold in which the two nations end up stumbling into a war together, although it's not in the interest of either nation.  It has an international cast of characters. There's a Chinese Rear Admiral, an American marine major fighter pilot, a career surface warfare officer who, as the novel opens, she is leading her platilla of destroyers into the South China Sea. There are also Iranians, Russians and I think it's a very realistic book set in 2034 and the challenge of our times is how do we avoid stumbling into that kind of conflict like the Europeans fell into in 1914.  That is the genesis of the book.

Y: In your amazing, incredible career, what would you consider as a couple of pinch me, wow, type moments for you?  .

ADM. S: I've been lucky to have dinner in the White House on many occasions, but two in particular, standout.  One was with President Bush, the second Bush, fairly soon after 9/11.  Being in the White House only a year or two after the attack was very meaningful to me.  The second dinner was with Barack Obama, years later, when I was a four star at that point and being there with the first African American President, and you realize what an extraordinary country this is when you see our leaders in the White House responsibly acting to meet the challenges of the day.  Those would be my two pinch me moments,

Y: Along with your speaking engagements, you are also on TV, radio and social media. Where can people find you?

ADM. S: My Facebook page is James Stavridis, my Twitter handle is stavridisj, and Linkedin is James Stavridis.  For NBC news, my actual title is Chief International Analyst and I appear more frequently on MSNBC, which is our 24 hour news channel. I also appear on Fox Radio with Brain Kilmeade on Fridays and I am on the Salem Radio Network on Tuesdays with Hugh Hewitt.

As you can see, I comment across the political spectrum of the media. I have always been a registered Independent, neither a Republican nor a Democrat.  I think it's important as we look at the media, that all of us sample across the spectrum and try to appreciate and understand what others are saying, even when we don't always agree with them. So my commentary on air follows that tract.

I'm also a contributing editor at Time Magazine where I do a monthly column there, and I do a weekly column with Bloomberg Opinion.  They are obviously both in writing, but they are widely available on the internet.  I just feel it's important given the experiences I have had particularly in very senior military positions, to try and share my thoughts and be part of this conversation to hopefully avoid the kind of security challenges that we will be talking about at The Norfolk Forum.

Yiorgo is an arts, entertainment and sports writer. A stage, TV and movie actor, he is also a sports entertainer, educator, motivational speaker, writer, storyteller and columnist.

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