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Why NATO is still so important today

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Officer of the watch, Lieutenant Tim Clouter’s reflects on the Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1) deployment.

I am a Warfare Officer onboard Royal Navy Warship — HMS Westminster — specialising in navigating the ship and making sure we get from A to B safely. The ship’s company have just completed a 5 month deployment working with SNMG1, navigating through the Baltic Sea and working alongside the United States, Spanish and Polish Navies.

The deployment not only allowed our ship’s company to practice and enhance our skills, but it also reassured our other NATO allies around the Baltic region that they are not forgotten. The SNMG1 reminded them that we will provide support for them as and when it is required.

HMS Westminster docked in London after its 5 month deployment in the Baltics.

Working with NATO keeps Britain safe by allowing us to counter any rising global threats from nations stronger than ourselves. It allows us to have a footprint much larger than we would otherwise have.

Although we are allies, SNMG1 has taught me that each NATO partner country has slightly different ways of operating. Working closely with different countries allows us to iron out any operational kinks and ensure we are most effective should we need to bring force to bear.

From a practical perspective, the best thing about working with other NATO partners is the increased scale of the operations which ultimately makes things much more complex, grand and rewarding. From a personal perspective, the opportunities to look around and experience other countries and cultures were second to none.

HMS Westminster (R) docked alongside HMS Kent (L) during the SNMG1 port visit in Kiel, Germany.

HMS Westminster had to undergo an extended maintenance period in Kiel due to the discovery of cracks. Here, our NATO partners were able to help with ensuring ammunition could be landed safely, the compartments could be checked and that we could repair damages despite being hundreds of miles from home.

We are a small island nation that depends on the seas for its trade and prosperity. NATO allows us and our allies to remain safe around the world and project power, together.

My highlight of the deployment would have to be during our stop in Kiel, Germany, during Kiel week — the largest sailing regatta in the world — our ship’s company visited other ships, navies and enjoyed the German hospitality. I was also fortunate enough to be invited onboard a German submarine where I saw how they operated and even watched my own ship — HMS Westminster — through the periscope.

Find out where else the UK Armed Forces are deployed here:

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