Evidence of meeting #41 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

  • Rasa Jukneviciene  Minister of National Defence, Government of the Republic of Lithuania
  • David Perry  Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Time has expired.

Moving on, Mr. Byrne.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Madam Minister. Thank you, Your Excellency, and senior officers. I'm delighted to have you here. Welcome to Canada's Parliament and to these discussions.

Would you be able to expand a little further on your thoughts concerning your relationship with the Russian Federation? In the current context, you indicated that Lithuania feels much safer because of the partnership and the covenants within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but at the same time you feel very clearly that there does seem to be an increased level of threat or concern because of an increase in military activity along the border states.

Could you describe for this committee the nature of the diplomatic dialogue that's currently occurring between yourselves and the Russian Federation, but as well the dialogue that's occurring between NATO and the Russian Federation, and how NATO could further increase if necessary your feeling of safety, given the nature of the NATO charter?

11:45 a.m.

Minister of National Defence, Government of the Republic of Lithuania

Rasa Jukneviciene

On the Russian Federation, we have a normal diplomatic relationship, recognizing we are both independent states. We have quite an intensive economic relationship. Our agriculture exports a lot of products to Russia, and they are very welcome in Russia because they're very good quality. Our transport relationship.... It is also based on the issue of NATO activities, ISAF transit, for example. ISAF transit in Lithuania, Latvia, and the Russian Federation is very important today, and maybe it will be even more important for reverse transit from Afghanistan. It's the shortest way, keeping in mind what we have now in Pakistan. So Lithuania is the safest and shortest way for the Russian Federation for ISAF transit. We're doing a lot together, but the main challenge today, as I mentioned already, is energy issues.

The Russian Federation's interest is to keep it as is, to keep the infrastructure owned by their companies, and so on. Their ownership is not the problem. The main problem is monopolization. They monopolize the market and the gas sector especially. They own the pipeline 100%. The gas we have today is from the Russian Federation. They also own this infrastructure inside the country. That's why the third package of the EU adopted a rule that this market can't be monopolized. So we are using this very important European Union tool in Lithuania to de-monopolize gas from influence, gas from ownership.

So of course Russia is not happy, but we can't act any other way because it's in our interest to de-monopolize infrastructure and sectors like the electricity and gas sectors. That's why we need a nuclear plant. That's why we need LNG, and I hope we could cooperate with Canada too. It will be a very important part of security, not only direct military exercises but also investments—Canadian and American investments in very important sectors of our economy. It's a very important part of our security, maybe today even more important than military cooperation. I'm speaking now maybe against myself as Minister of Defence by saying that, of course, both are very important.

That's why your visits to Lithuania are necessary, keeping in mind that afterwards business will also follow your advice or your impressions of the region.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Thank you, Madam Minister.

Would it be—

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Your time has expired, unfortunately. They are only five-minute rounds because of the time constraints.

We're going to keep moving on. Mr. Chisu, you have the floor.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much, Your Excellency, for appearing in front of our committee. Welcome to Canada.

I was born in eastern Europe, so I know what your feelings are on the issues. The Russian chief of defence recently made some very hostile comments regarding certain NATO initiatives, specifically the ballistic missile system. I know it is not only for Lithuania, but also encroaching on other countries, such as the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, and so on.

Minister, can you provide this committee with Lithuania's thoughts on the ballistic missile system, especially in light of this recent flexing of muscles by the Russian Federation? Also, you mentioned Georgia, but I would go closer to Georgia and the Republic of Moldova, and that is the Transnistria region where there is a presence of the Russian so-called peacekeepers.

Further to this question I would also ask you about the position on the strategic area of Kaliningrad, which is an enclave basically. Quite recently they declared they will put missiles and so on, if NATO continues with its ballistic missile system.

11:50 a.m.

Minister of National Defence, Government of the Republic of Lithuania

Rasa Jukneviciene

What you asked about Kaliningrad and the missile defence issue is closely related to what General Makarov made a presentation in Moscow about. My political director, Mr. Vaidotas Urbelis, attended this, I would say, propaganda-style meeting in Moscow a few weeks ago. They made their presentations. Of course, they have their own opinion on that.

I already mentioned that I think this sectorial approach, which was proposed by the Russian Federation is not acceptable to any NATO countries. What does it mean? It means that they would like to have common infrastructure and to divide the European territory. The Baltic states and more than half of Poland would be defended by the missile defence system of the Russian Federation, so it is not acceptable. It's impossible for us to accept such an approach. I do think that Russians know that it's not acceptable, so why are they proposing such things when they know that they are not acceptable? Maybe they are buying time, because they are already building their missile defence and they are doing this in the Kaliningrad region.

Speaking of the Iskander issue, you know that President Medvedev in November mentioned that if NATO develops a missile defence shield over the European territory, they will deploy Iskander in Kaliningrad. According to our knowledge and understanding, it's not related to missile defence. Today, they have in the Kaliningrad region not so much old-fashioned but Tochka-style rocket installations. They need to be replaced. This is the last year for the resources they have, which means they planned to replace them with more modern Iskander-style rockets this year or next year. They already did this near St. Petersburg. They already made these Iskander installations near St. Petersburg last year.

So, according to our understanding, they will do this in the Kaliningrad region despite the decision on missile defence. They are just using this as propaganda, to say to people, “Look what these bad guys from NATO are doing. That's why we are forced to do this in the Kaliningrad region”. It's not the truth. They are doing this because of their modernization plans. They made these plans a long time ago.

The Kaliningrad region is very interesting because of what has been going on there up until now. It's connected to our energy security issue. Why? The Kaliningrad region is also very dependent on transit via Lithuania. They have only one pipeline. We have the same pipeline for gas, and the end of this pipeline is in the Kaliningrad region. So it means that as long as the Kaliningrad region is dependent on getting its supply from Russia via Lithuania, it will be more or less one situation, but if they really do what they are planning to do—to have a Nordic pipeline from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea—and they get a branch of this gas pipeline into the Kaliningrad region, the situation will be different.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

I'm going to keep moving on.

Ms. Moore, you have five minutes.

May 17th, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Thank you very much.

You mentioned the smart defence concept a few times. I'd like to hear your take on smart defence cooperation between European countries and North America, mainly Canada and the United States.

11:55 a.m.

Minister of National Defence, Government of the Republic of Lithuania

Rasa Jukneviciene

I mentioned already one very important example we are involved in. It's the Baltic air policing mission. Americans are very active in this mission. Our partners help us to protect our airspace, protecting all three Baltic countries. In this austerity period, there is no other way than just to be active and to share.

In the European Union, we say there's pooling and sharing. But in terms of NATO, smart defence is something very similar, because one country has fighter capabilities and other countries have other capabilities, so this is what we are speaking about in smart defence.

Canada and the United States are the utmost important countries for smart defence projects.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Very well. But how do you see that cooperation playing out, in more concrete terms?

It's easy to see how it would work in Europe, with so many borders and countries being so close together. The distribution of capabilities would be a bit more logical.

At the same time, I was wondering how you think integrated smart defence would work with an ocean separating Europe from Canada and the U.S.

11:55 a.m.

Minister of National Defence, Government of the Republic of Lithuania

Rasa Jukneviciene

That load is becoming smaller and smaller. Communications are becoming most important. One more concrete example is training, military exercises, your participation in European parts of NATO with your armed forces, your troops in military exercises in our region, ours also....

Our cooperation in Afghanistan, I already mentioned, is the best example of what we are doing together. For example, in our mentoring team in Kandahar, there are Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Latvians, and Belgian members. We are training Afghans on Russian Mi helicopters. We are training them. It means that we have this capability. You haven't had experience on Mi helicopters. You have other experience.

This is what we think about smart defence today, very clear, very concrete examples, and maybe we will find in the future new AWACS. I know that Canada has a little bit of a different understanding, but for us the AGS project is very important, and other projects we have now in NATO.

Noon

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

I have one last question for you.

We are really seeing the U.S. encouraging European nations to assume more and more responsibility from both a military standpoint and a regional one. There is also this idea that European countries should increase their military spending. I'd like to hear your thoughts on that.

Noon

Minister of National Defence, Government of the Republic of Lithuania

Rasa Jukneviciene

Of course I am in favour. As Minister of Defence, I have to say that for me it's the main concern. As Minister of Defence to have this budget that we have now in Lithuania, it's not enough.

The U.S. pays for 75% of NATO's spending. Of course it's a gap, a huge gap. The gap is increasing. I made a proposal some months ago to the secretary general to have permanent meetings not only of ministers of foreign affairs and ministers of defence in NATO, but also ministers of finance.

On the other hand, we have to understand that today to overcome the crisis we are facing is also part of security. If we do not overcome this deficit problem, as we were doing last year, we will not have an economy, we will not have incomes. So it's very much related to what we are doing now with our economies and trying to overcome the situation. But of course, challenge number one for NATO is the huge gap between European spending and that of the United States, Canada, and other countries, which are spending much more.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you kindly.

Your time is up, Ms. Moore.

Mr. Strahl, you have the final question for the minister.