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 countries.

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

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Bernard Trottier Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Thank you very much.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Five minutes go by fast when you're having fun.

Moving on, we have Madame Moore.

Ms. Moore, you have the floor.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to ask you a few questions about ally cooperation in security matters. We are talking about actively contributing to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation. I want to know how that will be done, what is the plan?

11:50 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

The document contains a chapter on arms control and disarmament. Many of the allies strongly believe that they or NATO should play this role. Clearly, NATO's mandate to help control arms is one thing, but arms reduction is another.

I want to start by pointing out that we have reduced the number of nuclear weapons in Europe by more than 90% since the cold war. NATO has already done a lot in terms of this reduction. The alliance also helps facilitate and support the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, which sets out limits, controls the flow and ensures transparency with respect to weapons in Europe. There are problems with the treaty right now, but NATO is still a key part of that treaty.

As for operations, NATO has been crucial on the ground in terms of taking weapons away from combatants, locking them up and destroying them. It did so in the Balkans and Afghanistan, but not in Libya. NATO could perform that function in Libya but the country has not requested it. Nor has the organization responsible for monitoring the entire process, the UN, made such a request. NATO, then, does play a role in all these areas, but not a key one, shall we say.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Is NATO gradually going to reduce its interventionist activities in favour of a more political role? In other words, will the alliance make every effort to use political measures more to prevent conflicts and intervention, in particular?

11:55 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

That is an excellent question. For the first time, the strategic concept actually sets out a role for NATO in terms of pre-crisis and post-crisis involvement, precisely to prevent conflicts.

The alliance has somewhat played that role in the past, for instance, in Macedonia, a site of conflict a few years ago. I admit, however, that I still cannot say how this chapter is going to be implemented. We are talking about how NATO can have a larger role in preventing conflicts; we discussed it last week. But that question has not yet been answered. As far as this document goes, I cannot say that NATO has clearly defined its conflict prevention role.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Is it working with the UN on the issue?

11:55 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

That is actually what we are discussing. I would say we used to do more on that front in cooperation with the European Union, in particular. That partnership has diminished, however, because of external problems, but I think NATO could certainly perform that function. It has the capability needed. So far, all we have are vague answers to that question. I wish I could give you a better answer. In my view, I think we should perform that function, but we have not found the basis it would take to really see it through.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

In terms of the smart defence concept and restructuring, clearly the financial resources of a number of countries are becoming increasingly limited. Implementing this type of concept would likely mean pooling capabilities, streamlining operational commands and favouring political measures over military activities. With such an approach, it is possible that NATO could be just as effective, but with less money.

11:55 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

That is at the heart of smart defence. As I said, our military budgets are still quite substantial. Together, the U.S., Europe and Canada account for 50% of all military defence spending in the world. So enough money is being invested, although it could be spent more efficiently.

But if the allies do not coordinate their efforts, if they do not talk to their partners about what they are going to do before they do it, and if they do not coordinate efforts in procuring essential equipment, it is highly likely that the team will have too much capability in some areas and too little in others.

That is precisely the thinking the Secretary General is trying to promote with the smart defence concept.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Merci beaucoup.

Mr. Chisu, it's your turn.

May 1st, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much for being here with us today.

I do have a question relating to the area I know quite well, eastern Europe, and in this context I will say that historically we have had tension between NATO and Russia, yet in recent years there has been an effort to increase the dialogue between NATO and Russia and to smooth over relations.

Does the strategic concept address the need to improve the relationship with Russia, especially with a subject like nuclear disarmament? There are also some Russian troops in some of the countries that do not desire them to be there, and they are close to the NATO border. So even though there was an Istanbul conference requesting the withdrawal of the Russian troops and so on, I don't know if there has been any follow-up on those things.

Noon

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

James Appathurai

The strategic concept has two paragraphs devoted to Russia, and it clearly states our commitment and desire to have a deeper strategic partnership with Russia.

We have a NATO-Russia council, where Russia sits as an equal. All NATO-Russia issues are decided by consensus with the Russians. We have a substructure, a partnership, and a whole range of actual cooperation, particularly on Afghanistan with Russia, that really is very substantial. So there is a good foundation.

On the other hand, missile defence is a major irritant for them, and we are trying to find a way to provide them the reassurance they want and to have cooperation between their system and our system. There should be a conference taking place about now, or in the next couple of days, on missile defence in Russia that I think you will find very interesting, because it's the Russian view on NATO missile defence.

The bottom line is that there is a lot of potential. I think if we have missile defence cooperation it will change the way we look at each other, because for the first time NATO and Russia will be defending European territory together, as opposed to looking at each other like this. But I think it is also safe to say there is a lot of room to improve trust. That is something running through all of our relations. There is not a lot of trust. President-elect Putin has made some very tough statements on NATO since he won the election, so I think we're in for a very interesting few years.

Noon

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

I think there is an increasing interest in these relations for us because in the Arctic we are in the neighbourhood of Russia, so it is quite important that the NATO-Russian relationship is on a good track.

But in this context I will go a little bit further. How is NATO dealing with the emerging military power of China? I ask this question because, as you know, they are looking at Afghanistan, and Afghanistan has a border with China. I didn't see any commitment from China in Afghanistan and all the other stuff.

It is not in the paper, but you are looking at the prevention of conflicts and so on, and it is an emerging military power in Southeast Asia. They have the little island of Taiwan...with millions of missiles pointed at them, and recently on the Scarborough Shoal there was a conflict between the Chinese and the Filipino navies.

Can you address this?

Noon

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

James Appathurai

First, of course, you're quite right that there's a lot of discussion on China. This year China's defence budget will equal the defence budgets of the top eight NATO allies, not counting the U.S. It gives you a little sense of proportion. Asia's defence spending will equal Europe's defence spending for the first time this year. It would make sense to look at it.

But NATO does not see China as a threat. We don't want to engage in rhetoric that makes conflict with China a self-fulfilling prophecy. I say this on a personal basis, not as a media line. If we constantly call them a threat, then they will feel threatened. As an alliance, we don't take that view. We need to engage with them as an international community, and as NATO, and help bring them into a system that has to accommodate them as much as it has to accommodate us in order to protect what you might call the global comity.

We have a shared interest in free seas, free space, free information, and free trade. So there is a lot on which we can base ourselves. Chinese ships and NATO ships are working together off the coast of Somalia right now. There's a lot of potential to do more. Even so, the Chinese are careful about NATO. They wish to develop relations step by step. That's the expression they use, and they are famously patient.