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

May 1st, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Chair.

Mr. Appathurai, you say you don't speak for NATO anymore. I don't understand that. Did you change jobs?

11:20 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

No. I used to be the official spokesman for NATO. I still speak for NATO, but in a different role, and not to the media; that's my point.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

I was just curious. I thought I might have missed something.

NATO is about peace, stability, and security—security, of course, being the means for the other two, peace and stability. Amongst the member nations, I think the mere existence of NATO, maintaining that mutual defence but also stability among all of the 28 nations of NATO, is very important.

Is that one of the reasons for increasing the numbers: to increase the space for stability in the world? In that context, I guess Russia would be a potentially important partner.

11:25 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

You're absolutely right that the principal motivation for taking in new members is to stabilize the region.

It's the process that matters, to my mind, as much as bringing them in. Before they can join, they have to meet a number of standards, and they work very hard to meet them. They are standards that complement well what the EU insists upon. What we insist upon is: no problems with your neighbours; proper democratic control of the military; transparent systems; interoperable forces, so that they can actually make a contribution when they get in; etc.

We push very hard for them to be like us in terms of their own internal systems and their relations with their neighbours before they get to walk through the door.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Can I use Libya as an example of some of the potential problems of using NATO?

We had a UN Security Council resolution. It appeared, very shortly after the establishment of the mission and in response to the Security Council resolution, that either the U.S. or someone else had to have the command and control of facilities. NATO agreed to take on the role. But then we had NATO setting its own objectives. We had individual members of NATO, some of the defence ministers of various states—I won't mention their names, but the U.K. comes to mind—talking about what amounted in my view to mission creep, a different role from the one the Security Council had set out.

We had, apparently, according to the news last week, Canada going to Libya and, even though there was a ceasefire urged by the Security Council, encouraging hostilities.

So what happens once NATO gets involved?

We had a number of briefings here after the mission started. We saw NATO taking on an apparently different role, with potential mission creep, with uncertainty of objectives, and being criticized by Russia, for example, which had abstained on the Security Council, saying that we were being fooled, that we were really trying to do something other than what was authorized in the Security Council resolution, and that it looked as though regime change was the goal.

I have two questions.

First of all, if NATO is going to play some role, because of its command structure and ability, how do you prevent it from getting out of hand?

11:25 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

Thank you for that.

First, of course, these issues come up quite frequently, and the Russians in particular are not shy about raising their concerns. But from our point of view, we were strictly within the mandate we were given. As you know, the mandate had three parts to it: one was the arms embargo, one was a no-fly zone, and the third part was protection of civilians.

I can assure you that all the participants in the operation, but also all the NATO allies, even those who were not sending forces, keep a very close eye on how the conduct of the operation takes place. The NATO allies are firm believers in and supporters of the United Nations, without exception, and would never do anything—and have never done anything, in my view, with one slight exception—outside of that framework. But that exception was not Libya.

From the point of view of the NATO allies, of the NATO governments, they were within the mandate. There are a lot of them around the table. We had our extra partners as well: non-NATO European members and the Arabs. They also believed that this was within the mandate. And by the way, the UN secretary general has been very clear in his public statements that he considers this to be within the mandate. Then there was an international commission of inquiry on Libya, which also concluded that what NATO did was within the mandate. So, frankly, I think there is an overwhelming body of support that makes that case.

I would go even further to say that the operation couldn't have happened without NATO. There were a number of NATO allies in the time of that period of transition from when it went from being a coalition of the willing to being a NATO operation—even NATO allies—who said “we cannot contribute to this unless NATO does it”, for legal and political reasons within their own country. Our partners said the same thing—not all of them, but, for example, the Swedes, who were very clear in their own parliamentary procedure.

So our view is, first, it was within the mandate, and second, it couldn't have been done without us.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Let me turn briefly to smart defence, which seems to be talking about specialization and defining your contribution. Again, in Libya, for example, Canada contributed frigates in the Mediterranean, fighter jets, coastal air-to-ground surface surveillance through the Arcturus aircraft, plus strategic airlift.

That doesn't sound like specialization to me. Is the aim that people should define their roles in advance of these things, or are we going to have this kind of, I suppose, “ad hocery”? Obviously, every mission is different, but is there going to be some idea that before or during a period of non-action people actually discuss what their contribution might be?

11:30 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

Thank you.

That's a very important question, and I would suggest that you put it to General Abrial.

To put it in a general sense, specialization does not mean that any individual country would totally abandon all other roles. We still need the full spectrum of capabilities. The more capable countries, the wealthier countries, the countries that are more, let's say, expeditionary will continue to retain, if not full-spectrum capabilities, a wide range of capabilities.

We still need that, but there are countries that have smaller defence budgets or particular expertise that might invest more in one or another. For example, the Czechs have excellent chemical, biological, and radiological defence capability, so they're always in demand whenever those kinds of weapons might be necessary. Everybody's looking for them because they're the best at it, or amongst the best at it.

That kind of thing, specializing more in one area and maybe a little less in something that is already in abundance, is where I think the specialization idea is going. But we still need the full range of capabilities.

Libya is an interesting case, but I do think it's always important to look at what is happening elsewhere, even under NATO command. While we were doing that in Libya, we were also deploying extra forces into Kosovo because there was unrest there; we had 130,000 in Afghanistan, with the very specific capabilities required there; and ships off the coast of Somalia, with a lot that was required there.

We need a lot in a lot of places. In a time of restrained budgets, we need to make sure that certain countries invest more in one thing or another.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you. The time has expired.

Moving on, Ms. Gallant, you have the floor.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Appathurai, given your experience at NATO, what can you tell this committee about the strategic concept paper?

11:30 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 overview I gave you was the essential elements of what I think is important in the document. It's a document that has to last for 10 years, so it is at a certain level of generality. What I like about it is that it's readable for an average person, which was the aim. Also, because of that, I think it has the political engagement from the leaders who signed up to it—I think they actually read it—and a lot has now flowed from that. It is a constant reference point.

As I said, it has to last 10 years, and Chicago should draw quite heavily on it.

Is there a specific thing—?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

How was it put together?

11:30 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

This one was put together a little differently than previous ones. The previous ones were developed through what you might call the traditional process of negotiation. Those of you who have been diplomats before have had the pleasure of that process. It is gruelling and endless and often results in something that's very difficult to understand.

Here the secretary general himself took a very personal role in drafting and developing it. He worked at a very high level, so we didn't put it into the machine. He worked with the ambassadors directly, and then with the heads of state and government directly, and he had a small team to support him. Because of that, I think it is a much better document.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

What role did Canada play in its development?

11:30 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

Canada had a very important role. There was a small group put together before the strategic concept was drafted to basically create a framework or an early draft and certainly to go through all the issues. Canada had a representative on that team. Then the draft was put to us.

Not all NATO countries are represented on this, so the secretary general asked Canada to contribute. I can tell you there were others who said, “Well, the Americans are there anyway, so why do we need the Canadians?” He deliberately made that choice because he was well aware that this voice should be heard.

Once that was prepared, Canada played the same role as everybody else.