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

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

Mr. Kellway, you have the floor.

May 1st, 2012 / 12:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and my thanks to Mr. Appathurai for being here today. It's been a very interesting discussion.

One comment you made was about the development of the strategic concept document and the advantage in the way it was drafted. It didn't go through the machine, as you called it. I'm a bit stuck on the nuclear arms issue. There seems to be some ambiguity in the document about nuclear arms. There are statements to the effect that as long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance. There is a reference to the supreme guarantee of security provided by strategic nuclear forces. Yet it also refers to creating conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. Can you decipher all of that and clarify which way NATO is heading on this issue?

12:05 p.m.

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

James Appathurai

First, you're right that there are two messages there. It's not just one message. We have countries in NATO, just to get to the politics, that are deeply committed to nuclear deterrence. They believe that to abandon nuclear deterrence in a world full of nuclear weapons would substantially compromise their security and NATO's security.

Second, all the NATO allies agree that, while there are lots of organizations or nations focused primarily on disarmament, NATO's job is security. We have to be the last line of defence. Yes, we can help create conditions. Yes, we can work towards that goal. I can tell you that President Obama's speech in Prague resonated with all the allies as a definition of a goal that we want to work towards. But NATO's job is defence. We will keep working towards those goals, but we have to keep the ultimate guarantee. The allies really landed on that position.

That being said, the commitment to work towards those goals is very strong, particularly in some countries. I don't think it's any secret that the German government and the German foreign minister are heavily committed to nuclear disarmament and want NATO to work in that direction. This bears on the discussion surrounding the document on deterrence and defence posture review. It will be approved in Chicago. We're going to make it public. It goes into detail about where the balances are and what our goals should be. I would recommend it to you. It didn't go through the same process, so I'm not sure how readable it will be. It kind of went through the machine.

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

In response to Mr. Chisu's question about China, you said that if you keep calling them a threat, they'll see themselves as a threat and that's not helpful. I'm wondering about the NATO missile shield. Isn't that saying in a loud way that we still consider certain countries to be a threat? Could you tell us about that missile shield, where it is in its development and what its future might be? After all, we're trying to establish some trust between ourselves and Russia. Doesn't this initiative undermine the ability to establish that trust?

12:05 p.m.

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

James Appathurai

First, I will just say with regard to China that we have not received the slightest indication that the Chinese are concerned in any way with the NATO missile defence system.

Russia is concerned, and Russia's defence strategy hinges.... The big pole in the tent is their strategic deterrent, so anything they think might undermine their strategic deterrent is of great concern to them, just to understand their perspective.

Technically, in terms of numbers, in terms of the speed of intercept, and in terms of the location, the NATO system cannot—even if we wanted it to, and we don't—undermine the 5,000 or whatever nuclear warheads and missiles that the Russians have, but they continue to ask for more in terms of guarantees. We're trying to offer them access to the technical parameters to witness the tests. We've offered them joint centres, one for data exchange and one for joint interception, so that they can be in the system and not out.

We believe we can get there, and we believe we can get there because they don't want a system that threatens them, and we're not building a system that threatens them, so there has to be a meeting point at the end. There is a big upside, which I mentioned before, which is that my neighbour in Belgium and the guy in Moscow will know that NATO and Russia are working together to defend them together.

So I think we'll get there, but we might have a little bit of a rocky time until then.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

Please go ahead, Mr. Norlock.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Through you to the witness, thank you for being here this morning.

I'm going to just tap some very fundamental questions, the kinds of questions that are referred to at the place where you buy your Timbits. They're the people who pay the freight, sir. They're the people who pay the taxes that help us afford and—to use some of my constituents' words—to belong to the international clubs that Canada belongs to. They ask me—and I think I give them the right answer, but I'll listen to you to get the right answer, and you can say yes or no—and I tell them that NATO is an evolutionary organization. In other words, they look at NATO and they ask why we have all these other folks way off from the Atlantic join.

Maybe you would answer in a few sentences, because I have several follow-through questions that are very important to my constituents. Would I be correct in saying that it's an evolutionary organization?

12:10 p.m.

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

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

They also ask what the difference is as we expand NATO to every country on the face of the earth, and I explain why we might want to do that. Then how do I explain the difference between the United Nations and NATO to people? I used to say that NATO was, in the past and is currently, to some extent, the UN's muscle. How do you respond to a statement like that?

12:10 p.m.

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

James Appathurai

There are three things. One is that NATO can't expand to every country on earth; we can only expand in Europe. That's a charter restriction. We have partnerships with many other countries, but certainly it won't expand.

Second, NATO doesn't have the money, or the mandate, or the ambition to do what the UN does. We only do security, and the UN does everything.

The third thing I would say is that to a large extent you're right; NATO has been the muscle for the United Nations. Having worked on UN peacekeeping when I was at DND, I think we should be glad about that, because the UN cannot handle 95% of the things that are given to it to handle. If we relied only on the UN system and blue helmet peacekeepers, they would never be able to manage it.

I would direct your constituents to what Ban Ki-moon has said about the NATO intervention in Libya. He said, “We've saved countless lives” on the UN mandate. They could never have done it.

So I think there is an upside for both organizations.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

The differentiation I like to make, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, is that the difference between NATO and the UN is that the UN does the blue helmet peacekeeping but NATO does the peacemaking. Would that be correct, or is that too definitive a role?

12:10 p.m.

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

James Appathurai

Well, the UN has also taken on tougher roles where they didn't wear blue helmets. But you're right that NATO takes on the tougher end of peace operations, which the UN cannot handle. I would put it that way.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Very good.

While we're talking about our relationship with Russia and nuclear disarmament, Canadians love hockey, so the best defence is a good offence. You say that peace and security of the membership in NATO.... Would you agree with me that part of that peace and security is the ability to play offence as well as defence? And if you agree with that statement, could you expand on that a little bit?

12:15 p.m.

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

James Appathurai

I would say this: sometimes, and more and more, keeping yourself safe at home means going to the problem before it comes to you. That's why we are in Afghanistan. Frankly, the problem came to us. We need to make sure we don't get more problems from there.

It's not just that kind of problem. Libya also would have just metastasized into a bigger problem. Kosovo would have metastasized into a bigger problem had we not gone to it. Waiting for the problem to come to you in a globalized world is simply to fail.

I agree that sometimes you need to go away. Security at our borders sometimes requires going to someone else's, but only when it's our security that is directly threatened. We do not want to give the idea, to anybody, that NATO is sort of gallivanting around the world trying to solve everybody's problems. We're not. When there is a clear and direct threat to us, we can't wait until it strikes us.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Generally speaking—again, not wanting to put words in your mouth—what NATO prefers is to have the United Nations make the determination; in other words, to use my words, to legitimize the operation. Then NATO takes over as the sometimes muscle of the UN. Would that be correct? We use the United Nations as the international forum and NATO legitimizes its actions by living up to or operating under the umbrella of UN direction.