Evidence of meeting #15 for National Defence in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was nato.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Roger Ingebrigtsen  Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence of the Kingdom of Norway
  • Arne Røksund  Head of the Department, Defence Policy and Long-Term Planning, Ministry of Defence of the Kingdom of Norway
  • Trond Grytting  Defence Attaché, Royal Norwegian Embassy

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

I call this meeting to order.

8:50 a.m.

An hon. member

[Inaudible--Editor]...hammer that gavel.

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Oh, I love to hammer, you know that. I'm a good old farm boy and I can swing the hammer.

8:50 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Good morning, everyone.

I want to welcome to the committee from the Kingdom of Norway some very prestigious visitors who want to join us and participate in our discussions on readiness as well as make some comments about NATO and other things happening around the world—Arctic issues, for example.

We're going to welcome to the table the Secretary of State to the Ministry of Defence, Roger Ingebrigtsen. Joining him is Her Excellency, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway, Else Berit Eikeland. Also joining us is Rear Admiral Trond Grytting, who is the Defence Attaché, and Rear Admiral Arne Røksund, who is head of the Department of Defence Policy and Long-Term Planning.

Welcome, all of you, to the table.

First of all, on behalf of the committee I wish to extend our condolences for the tragedy that occurred on July 22 in Norway. Canadians here really expressed their sympathies during July for such a terrible event that occurred. Just let everyone know back in Norway that our prayers and best wishes are with you.

With that, Mr. Ingebrigtsen, if you would like to begin with your opening comments, we'd appreciate it.

8:50 a.m.

Roger Ingebrigtsen Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence of the Kingdom of Norway

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I am very impressed with the way you said the Norwegian last names. It's not easy to speak Norwegian as well as you did now. I guess the reason is that Mr. Roald Amundsen was here a hundred years ago, and you must really be inspired by him to speak such good Norwegian. Thank you very much.

Also thank you very much for your condolences after July 22. As you all know, a single perpetrator attacked Norway and in all our hearts. He started in the afternoon with big explosions in the city of Oslo, the government buildings, the High Court, different ministries, and after that he attacked Utoya, a summer camp for the Labour Party youth in Norway. He killed 69 young politicians, people who just wanted to make a better world.

He tried to create hate in Norway, but the opposite happened. Norway that day told all the world and all the terrorists in the world that they couldn't beat us, that we were staying together. The answer to terrorists is more democracy, but also more security. After July 22, the Norwegian government had a debate on how to bring the police and the defence sector closer together. The police are still going to run operations like this when there is an attack by terrorists, but we need to use more military efforts because terror in the future will use the tools of war, and therefore the answer needs to be more of the defence sector helping the police. But it's very important for us that the police should run a situation like this and not use military efforts without the police.

Secondly, thank you very much for your support. You should know that as a state secretary I was really involved in this situation because my stepdaughter was in Utoya. She was shot four times. We thought we would lose her, but she lived, and she's recovering now. All the phone calls and all that the Canadian people did that day and the next day were very important for not just me, but all Norwegian society. It's a reminder that the world is big but we need to stay together. When things happen in Canada we will support you, as you supported us that day. So thank you very much for your support.

Mr. Chairman, thank you for receiving me here today. I'm not sure exactly which way I should go. Should I start in Norway, Canada, Afghanistan, or Chicago? I think I will try to use five minutes to walk through some important issues for Norway.

I will start with the very hardest issue at home in Norway, which is very close to what you are talking about, the F-35. I've been in Dallas-Fort Worth and Hartford with Pratt and Whitney and in Washington talking about F-35s for the last three days. The plan is to procure approximately 52 air fighters. We have already ordered four F-35s for training. They are going to be located in the United States their whole lifetime. The first F-35 in Norway will arrive in 2018. That is the biggest investment Norway has ever made, and there's a huge debate at home in Norway. Is it correct to do something like this?

I always tell the young politicians in Norway that our grandfathers and fathers took a very important and brave decision in Norway in 1975 and 1979. Norway wasn't so rich at that time, but they found a place in the budget to procure 74 F-16 fighters 40 years ago. These fighters have been very important to Norway for two generations. The lifetime for these fighters is close to the end. We need new air fighters.

Number one, the F-35 is definitely the best candidate. We evaluated three different candidates, and the F-35 was number one in all areas. It's the best fighter in the world; 66 of them have been produced, they are flying, they are landing, they are working.

Normally the debate in Norway is, number one, can you trust all the partners, especially the United States? I want to say that my government is strongly committed to the F-35. We also know that after the F-16 procurement, we can't make a plan one year and be sure that the plan will be followed for the next 10 years. To create a fifth-generation air fighter is one of the most complicated things you can do in the world today, and there will be problems, new numbers, new figures, new statistics, next month or next year.

Our plan is to go to Parliament in March and state to Parliament that we want to make the whole decision in one pocket, to do it in one white paper, and we invite Parliament to do the whole investment now, and the procurement can start in 2018. Do I not see problems? Yes, I see a lot of problems. But the worst thing that could happen to Norway, a nation with a sea area seven times bigger than the territory, and the biggest problem, would be lack of air fighters six, seven years from now. So that is what we are going to solve.

If I had to say something negative, it would be to our good neighbours and colleagues in the United States. When the super committee failed, it sent a signal that did not give us the necessary trust and comfort. We need to see a United States even more strongly committed to the plan with a realistic budget. We are going to have a very close dialogue with the United States in the next two or three months, before we make our decision, but believe me, we are going to procure these F-35s, and I really hope that your nation will do the same. I think that Norway and Canada will cooperate very closely in the future with regard to the high north, and having the same type of equipment will make that job easier. I think we also need to be very close partners relative to this single procurement.

I hear some noise in Canada. We have exactly the same noise at home in Norway. But you have to stay on it. It's our job to give the next generation the same kind of security as my grandfather offered me and my generation at home in Norway.

So that's the F-35. It's not easy. It can't be easy to do things like this, but it's necessary. Someone has to do the job for the next generation, like you have to in Canada, and my colleagues and I do at home in Norway.

I have a few words about the high north. You know that Roald Amundsen started his expedition to the south pole a hundred years ago here in Canada. He learned the high north here in Canada--what to wear, how to use dogs, how to live in an extreme climate like that.

I think we should do more, like Roald Amundsen, to combine things in Norway and Canada, to train more together, to visit headquarters more. You should have your politicians in Parliament meet more Norwegian politicians. You're very welcome to Norway any time. I just invited Minister MacKay to Oslo in March or April. I hope he can come. We're also planning to do something together here next summer.

A Norwegian frigate is coming to Halifax, and we want to show that Norway wants to cooperate. I know that personnel from your army—your navy—is serving on board our frigates, nowadays, to learn things from the Norwegian perspective. We want to bring soldiers to your country and do exactly the same.

So my message on the high north is that, number one, we should do more together. Number two concerns Russia and NATO.

Some think there's a big difference in the message from Norway and Canada related to NATO. Should NATO take part in the high north policy? Well, NATO has been a partner in the high north policy on the Norwegian side since 1948. Without NATO, people in Norway don't feel a necessary comfort for the future. We are not able to build enough deterrents in Norway alone. We do the best we can—F-35s, submarines, perhaps the most modernized navy in Europe today—but that's not enough to have the necessary deterrence.

Therefore, we need the alliance and article 5, but we also need the feeling--mentally--that NATO is a partner in the high north. That doesn't mean that NATO needs to sail an exercise every day, but we need to know that they know what is happening up there. If something should happen in the future, NATO needs the knowledge to support Norway.

It's very important for me to underline today, colleagues, that we don't want a NATO exercise every day in the high north, but we need NATO to be aware and understand the situation, and support Canada or Norway if we need that support one day. I really hope that Norway and Canada can deal with these issues and not make them a problem but bridge each other's different positions.

Russia is no enemy. We have a good relationship with Russia. They are coming to Norway and exercising with the Norwegian army. But if you are going to understand Russia, you need to understand Russian history. We have been dealing with Russia for 100 years, but we have also been close to attack from Russia. During the Cold War there were Russian tanks on the Norwegian border. We were ready for war every day for 40 years.

Nowadays we see a positive development in Russia, but we also see Russia investing heavily in their army. They are going to increase their budget by 60% next year. They are investing in an Arctic brigade, more navy, and more fifth-generation air fighters for the future. So Russia is not just sitting there relaxing. Russia is preparing to have a strong role in the high north in the future. We need to do the same. We want to do the same with you and other NATO nations.

Finally, I have a few words related to international operations. I'm really impressed to see what Canada has done in the last ten years. You are much bigger than Norway, but you're not the biggest nation in the world. What you have been doing and offering in Afghanistan.... It's a brave country; I know that you have had great losses. You lost a soldier just one month ago. It's a heartbreaking story.

I want you to know that people in Norway really know what you are doing in Afghanistan. I also know your strategy to slowly leave Afghanistan. I feel that the Norwegian and Canadian approach is the best approach: leave slowly in a coordinated way; in together, out together. Our plan is to reduce slowly in 2012 and more in 2013. In the future, no Norwegian soldiers will be taking part in combat action in Afghanistan. But Norwegian soldiers could be good teachers and teach the Afghanistan National Army and police how to create and build a good society in Afghanistan. That is what we are going to offer: no more Norwegian war in Afghanistan, but support for the Afghanistan people in building their own army and police.

Finally, Libya is also a great success for Canada and Norway. We took part in this action because we saw, at the end of the day, that if Canadian and Norwegian politicians didn't do anything, Mr. Gadhafi would attack his own citizens. He would hurt women, children, and the people in Libya. NATO took a position and was able to react. It was first of all a success in Libya, but it was also a success for NATO. What we did in Libya together was important for so many people in Libya, for the region. But we also showed the world that NATO is relevant. NATO can offer security and build deterrence.

Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. I'm prepared to give answers if you have any questions or comments. You have my team here: Mr. Grytting in Washington, the ambassador; and Admiral Arne Røksund, from Norway.

Thank you.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you very much. We appreciate those opening comments and your words of thanks, encouragement, and future cooperation.

We'll try to get in as many rounds as we can before we adjourn. We are expected over in the Senate shortly after 9:45.

So I will open it up. I will be judicious with time. If you want to share your time and give all your other colleagues a chance to speak, I encourage you to do that as well.

Mr. Kellway, you have the floor.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Through you to our guests today, I'm honoured by your presence. Thank you for coming.

I should start by congratulating Chris, in particular, but really the whole Conservative side. We had a hockey game last night: NDP with our Liberal friends versus the Conservatives.

With all respect to our guests, it felt a bit like Canada versus Norway on ice.

9:05 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

And we were the Norwegians last night.

In any case, I will start by commenting on the F-35s. I appreciate your comments on the F-35s. I hope you'll appreciate that the circumstances in Norway and the debate in Norway are in a context that is different from the one here in Canada. For the past couple of decades we in Canada have not had a defence white paper in which to frame and provide context for these discussions. We haven't had a proper procurement process, so there's been no statement of requirements that might flow from a white paper. We don't even have any sense coming from the government of what the appropriate number of planes might be for the defence of Canada, much less any clear definition of what their purpose would be. And there's been no tendering process for the contract.

I think I heard you talk about the experience that Norway has had in comparing the different options for fighter jets. We've had none of that in Canada. That, I think, is a critical context to set for the debate we're having in Canada. Of course, within that context, we hear much the same. You are still confronting many of the same issues in your own internal debates about whether it's the right thing to do, about what is happening with, essentially, the security of the development of these planes, and, in light of the American budget situation and so on and so forth, whether we are ever going to see them.

Ultimately, I hope you'll appreciate that these are different countries and our requirements are bound to be the same. You referenced your sea territory versus land territory. As a Canadian for all my life, I'm still astounded by the vastness of my own country. It takes 24 hours from where we are here to drive just across one province, and I can get down to the southern tip of the United States in the same amount of time by car. This is an incredibly vast land, and so our requirements are bound to be different from yours.

In any case, if I could take us back to the study that we are currently doing here, I read with great interest, and frankly admiration, your “Norwegian Defence Facts and Figures 2011”. It's a document we were provided by our analysts last night. What struck me was the consistent reference to a multilateral approach to defence, and you commented on these things this morning.

I was wondering if you could share with us how multilateralism assists with your concept of readiness and ensures your defence forces are ready.

9:10 a.m.

Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence of the Kingdom of Norway

Roger Ingebrigtsen

Is your question related to how Norway deals internationally?

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Yes. We in this committee are talking about how we make our Canadian Forces ready for the defence of this country. Your defence concept very much involves multilateralism. How, in that context, do you ensure readiness of your defence?

9:10 a.m.

Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence of the Kingdom of Norway

Roger Ingebrigtsen

I understand.

Number one, 20 years ago the number of brigades in Norway was 13. Today it's one. But this single brigade, I would say, is better for the need today than the 13 were. We had 15 different bases for our navy. Today we have one and a half. We had double the frigates, submarines, and air fighters. Today it's half.

This transformation was 10 to 15 years ago, and that's the main reason why today we are able to react very quickly. We have a smaller but much better defence sector today. That's number one.

Number two is NATO. When we are exercising with people like you, the United States, Spain, we learn a whole lot. We learn to communicate. We learn to speak English. We learn how to handle different kinds of equipment. We are a common power in NATO, able to react very quickly.

Let me underline the main reason in these documents, and what we are going to state in March next year, about why we still have a defence sector in Norway in deep peace. It's not international operations. The reason is deterrence at home in Norway.

Secondly, we want to take part in the UN and NATO operations in solidarity with the world, but I want to underline that when we are acting abroad, we are also building deterrence at home in Norway. People can see that our F-16s do the job. Our allies can see it, but also those who are not our allies can see it.

The answer is that it's a 20-year tough political job with very tough decisions. Before I was appointed Secretary of State in the Ministry of Defence, I was fighting the government because a submarine base had been shut down in my hometown where I'm elected from, in Tromso in the high north. It was a bad decision for Tromso, but it was a very good decision for Norway. With fewer bases there is more time to sail on the sea.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

Ms. Gallant.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and through you to our guests today.

Your comments on NATO being crucial to security in the high north were very much appreciated. Here in Canada, even on the heels of our success in Libya, there are people who question the relevance of NATO. Given that the economic crisis spreading through Europe and in the United States will inevitably result in the financial constraints in terms of NATO contributions, how do we ensure that NATO remains strong, relevant, and ready, just as we want our local forces to be?