Evidence of meeting #37 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

  • Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Jean-François Lafleur
  • James Appathurai  Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Good morning, everyone.

First I want to go over our agenda for today. Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), we need to elect a new vice-chair, since Mr. Christopherson has moved on to bigger and better things, I understand. Then we have our witness.

Mr. Alexander, you have the floor.

May 1st, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Chairman, with great pleasure, I would like to move that Mr. Jack Harris be appointed vice-chair of this committee.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I want to record a dissent.

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

First of all, I have to actually turn the election over to our clerk.

M. Lafleur, s'il vous plaît.

11:05 a.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Jean-François Lafleur

Thank you.

Good morning, everyone.

Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), we will proceed to the election of a vice-chair. I'm ready to receive any motions for nomination to the position of vice-chair.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

So moved.

11:05 a.m.

The Clerk

Mr. Alexander moves that Mr. Jack Harris be elected as first vice-chair of the committee.

Are there any further motions?

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I want to hear his platform.

11:05 a.m.

The Clerk

Is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to)

Mr. Harris is duly elected as the first vice-chair of the committee.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Congratulations, Jack.

We'll now continue with our study of NATO's strategic concept and Canada's role in international defence cooperation.

It is indeed a great pleasure to be joined by James Appathurai, the Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO, the second highest ranking civilian in NATO. He's with the political affairs and security policy section and is special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, and he's a Canadian.

Welcome back. I know it's always good to come home.

I'll turn it over to you for opening comments, and we will ask our questions after that.

11:05 a.m.

James Appathurai Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Thank you very much. Thank you for the invitation. It's a great pleasure to be here, and, as you say, it's a great pleasure to be home. I've already had Timbits, and I've watched all the highlights from last night's playoffs, which I don't normally get to see, so I'm in a very good mood this morning—but also because I have the opportunity to speak to you.

In the introductions that Chris generously made for me to all of you, I came to understand that you're all experts in foreign and defence issues, so I'll try to keep this at a high level, and I'll be happy to take any questions you may have.

It's a good moment to be examining this question, I think, because we've had about a year and a bit to implement the strategic concept, but also because the Chicago Summit is to take place in only a few weeks, where we're going to take it forward again.

In my view, the strategic concept has three primary functions. The first is to reassert the pillars, NATO's core tasks since 1949. The second is to update the alliance's strategic concept because NATO has changed significantly since the previous concept was developed, particularly after the cold war. The third function is to build the way forward. My comments will focus mostly on these three functions, and then I would be happy to answer any questions.

The first function consists in reconfirming NATO's pillars. I will speak about three of them. First is collective defence. Of course, NATO has always had and continues to have the capability to militarily dominate any potential attacker. And it must retain that capability. The strategic concept gives NATO countries the mandate to preserve the capability needed to assert that role in the future.

Second is transatlantic solidarity. The strategic concept recognizes that despite democratic and economic changes throughout the world, NATO's 28 member countries remain a community of nations with common values—democracy, individual freedom and freedom of the press. It is also important to understand that there is more economic trade between the members of this community. This provides us with a structure for political consultation on all security matters, and we use it every day. When push comes to shove, as they say, these are the nations we can count on as allies. For all these reasons, the strategic concept strengthens transatlantic solidarity.

Finally, it also reaffirms NATO's role as far as deterrence is concerned, and that includes nuclear deterrence. That is a current topic of discussion. NATO country officials will head to Chicago, including our Prime Minister, to approve a document entitled “Defence and Deterrence Posture Review”, which sets out the appropriate balance between conventional forces, missile defence and nuclear power for the 21st century.

For the first time, the strategic concept states that NATO will endeavour to create the conditions necessary for a world free of nuclear weapons. That was the vision described by President Obama in the speech he gave in Prague. However, until those conditions are established, NATO must retain its nuclear capability. That sums up the first pillar.

The second role was to get NATO up to date to what it actually does now, the new roles that NATO had taken on.

First, you'll see that the second core task in NATO is crisis management.

NATO is uniquely capable as an organization to generate, deploy, command, and sustain large numbers of forces in multinational operations. No other organization can do this anymore. And I'm not saying this, I hope, to blow NATO's horn. I used to be the spokesman; I'm not anymore, so it's not my job to blow NATO's horn anymore. This is a simply a statement of fact.

When the United States was no longer in a position to command the Libya operation when it was a coalition of the willing, which included, of course, an important role for Canada, but also the United Kingdom and France and a host of other nations, there was nowhere else to go because no other organization or country can command even that kind of mid-sized operation. So there is only one game in town for large multinational operations.

Today NATO has over 150,000 troops in the field, in a variety of operations. I know you know what those are, because Jill Sinclair was here last week. But I think it's worth noting that NATO also has the political structure to go with it. It's not just a technical tool; there is a political council that directs the operation, and it's very important that military and political operations go together.

What does that mean? It means that we have to, according to the strategic concept, do more to enhance this capability as a crisis manager. That means training, different kinds of exercises. It means developing the capabilities necessary for deployment. All of these things will be addressed at the Chicago Summit. I'll come back to those, and I'm quite sure General Abrial will come back to those as well in a couple of days.

It means—and this is also in the document—enhanced coordination with civilian actors. What we've learned over the last 10 years is that military operations have changed. It used to be basically that the conflict would start, we'd hand the ball to the military, they would accomplish their goal, then hand the ball back to the civilians, and it was to the civilians, maybe with some backup, to create stability.

What we've seen in Afghanistan, and also all over the world, is that now we have to be able to do all these things at the same time. We can't achieve mission success without the civilian actors. They can't achieve their mission success without us. That means NGOs, it means the UN, it means the EU. So we are now deepening our structural engagement with all these parties, from pre-conflict situations to the crisis itself, to close conflict management, so that we do it all organically; we call it the comprehensive approach. Other organizations call it different things, but that's basically what it is.

The second part of updating what NATO does is partnership. In essence, during the Cold War, NATO was like an island. We took care of our own defence; we didn't go anywhere. Now we have, as you know, 28 NATO countries in Afghanistan, but 22 other countries are there with us, and there's close cooperation with the UN and the EU. Chris played that role for the UN when he was there. We have a network of partnerships with countries around the world that, to my mind, certainly surpasses anything I would have expected. I think it surpasses what any other organization has by far—beyond the UN, of course—in that we have 40 partners out of non-NATO countries. With them, with one or two exceptions, with about 36 to 37 of them, we have formal agreements for political consultation and practical cooperation. We renew them on an annual basis. And we have a tool box of almost 1,000 activities that we do with them on an annual basis, prioritized to what they need in terms of reform or interoperability or language training. It is a very sophisticated network that doesn't always get the limelight it needs.

Secondly, and this is in the document, we took a decision, based on Afghanistan, that partners that contribute to our operations get a structural role in how they run—developing the plan, taking the decisions on it. So the day the Qataris decided they were going to send support to the Libya operation, they were at the table, in alphabetical order. I think they were amazed—I had spoken to them afterwards—to see how we argue, people storm out of the room, we don't know what we're going to do. They really got an inside view of how policy is developed—to their surprise—in NATO. But I think it was also a very positive experience for them. But they get to shape the plan, they get to help shape the decisions that allies take on how they go. That's very important for countries that are sending troops.

We have a new commitment to consult with partners on a regular basis to try to prevent crises. We use flexible formats. In other words, we had a meeting on piracy, on how to counter piracy. So we thought, okay, let's pick the countries that contribute the most, bring them together, and we'll have a discussion together on how to handle it. We did the same for cyber.

Because time is short, I'll just mention quickly specific partnerships, which might interest you to discuss further. One, of course, is with Russia. You might find that a topic of interest to discuss. Secondly, we're working to deepen our relations with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa as many of them go through this period of transition. We're engaging with the African Union, the Arab League. All of this flows from the strategic concepts decision to push partnership. And let me mention, of course, that the commitment to enlarging NATO has not diminished, even if Chicago will not be an enlargement summit.

One issue that concerns the secretary general, but also me in my particular portfolio, as we're looking forward is how do we retain this acquis of deep partnership, which has in many ways been driven by Afghanistan, both operationally and politically, once we get past 2014? Once that driver of Afghanistan goes away, how do we ensure that we still talk to them, work together with them, can work with them, so that these things don't drift away? So that's a big part of our work now.

That's a nice bridge to the third element, which is the future. What's in the document that looks at the future?

First, it identifies new threats and challenges. One of those is missile proliferation. At the Chicago Summit, we will turn the key on the first phase of NATO missile defence for Europe. It will have four phases, so by 2020 it will be fully operational, covering all European territory and population. And the motivation for that is that more than 30 countries have ballistic missiles, or are developing them or are enhancing them. So we want to make sure we can deal with this new threat and it is being dealt with.

The second one is cyber, and the role for NATO here is one that we're just working out. The strategic concept says that NATO should get engaged in this where it reaches a “threshold that threatens national [...] security” and that surpasses the ability of the country under attack to deal with it on its own. I think it's the right definition, because by definition it can be those things, but it can also not be reaching those thresholds and countries will want to deal with it on their own.

We just approved the new policy on cyber. How we engage with non-NATO countries is a very open issue. The question to which we can expose our systems to non-NATO countries, even the most trusted ones, is something that's very much an open discussion in the alliance.

The second part of that is capabilities, and I know you discussed that extensively with Jill last week. It's important to remember as we go through cuts—Canada and all the other countries in NATO now are looking at that—that NATO has and will remain a group of countries that represent 50% of the defence spending in the world. We have the most capable, best-equipped, best-trained—because of Afghanistan, I won't say thanks to Afghanistan—and by far the most experienced interoperable troops in the world, and not just with each other but with non-NATO countries as well. Our forces really are unmatchable, so we should approach this discussion, I think, with some confidence.

But it is also true that €45 billion have been taken out of European defence budgets in the last two years. The U.S. has just announced $450 billion plus. That number could go up. So we have to make sure that in 2020 we still have what we need.

There are, in essence, two initiatives that you will see launched at the Chicago Summit: one is called smart defence and one is called the connected forces initiative.

Smart defence is making sure you have what you need, prioritizing on your top ten capabilities so that you don't buy everything; buying together what we can no longer afford to buy separately, such as air-to-ground surveillance; and specializing in roles so that everybody doesn't have to do everything. The Baltic states—you discussed this last week—get air policing. They can't afford aircraft, but they do have very substantial roles in Afghanistan.

Those of you who have travelled there may have visited the Lithuanian provincial reconstruction team in Chaghcharan. They're doing a great job. I think they're at 4,000 metres.

Chris, you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's something like that.

The highest point in Lithuania is 352 metres, so they're not necessarily in their most comfortable terrain, but they do a great job.

So everyone is doing what they can.

The connected forces initiative is that you have what you need but ask how it all works together. That's about interoperability, standardization, joint training, and working with partners.

These are the two initiatives you'll see launched from Chicago that flow from the strategic concept. But General Abrial is the man who is doing all of this. I don't want to go into too much detail; he can do it.

The final point is reform. NATO headquarters has not escaped the need for reform, so we are also streamlining our civilian and military headquarters very substantially. We're cutting staff, we're cutting budgets in our own headquarters, and we have created a new division also on new threats and challenges. But our entire command structure has been substantially streamlined. The number of agencies we have has gone from fourteen to three.

So there's a big reprioritization in NATO to cut all the fat so that we can invest in muscle. I personally don't think NATO had a lot of fat, and in some cases we're cutting into muscle, because we have not too much money. But what we're doing for sure is to protect the bone.

I've gone a little bit over my time here, so I will just stop, I think. This has been a general overview of the concept. I'm very happy to take any of your questions; I'm at your disposal.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you, Mr. Appathurai.

I understand that when you're referring to “the document”, you're referring to the strategic concept document titled Active Engagement, Modern Defence. Is that right?

11:20 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Perfect. I just wanted to make sure, so that everybody is on the same page here.

Also, I failed to mention that this month, May, you'll have been 14 years with NATO. Congratulations.

Before that, he was with the Department of National Defence, and with CBC before that.

Welcome home. It's great having you here, and I really appreciate your first comments.

With that, we're going to go to a seven-minute question round.

To kick us off, Mr. Harris, you have the floor.