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

Noon

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Madam Minister, thank you for making time for us today; I imagine you have a busy schedule.

In our previous meetings we talked about NATO and about the world economic environment we find ourselves in, where countries across the board are reducing expenditures, certainly on defence. In the face of that challenge, I appreciated hearing from you your commitment to continue to support the mission in Afghanistan. Certainly, as Mr. Norlock said, that does not go unnoticed. You did expand a little on the role Lithuanian forces have played there, and that is appreciated.

You mentioned briefly the Chicago summit that you're on your way to. Many analysts see the Chicago summit as a defining moment for NATO, coming out of our successful missions in the last number of years. But as I said, many nations are undergoing significant budget cuts.

Going into the Chicago summit, what are Lithuania's objectives, and what do you hope to see accomplished and discussed at that conference?

Noon

Minister of National Defence, Government of the Republic of Lithuania

Rasa Jukneviciene

Collective defence—NATO must reaffirm its readiness to the four major joint operations. This is critical for the implementation of COPs, the contingency operational planning that we are doing now.

Of course our interest is to have NATO air policing long term. You know that in the beginning, when we became members of NATO, the mission was established until 2014. Today everybody agrees that we need this mission. NATO needs this mission. NAC has already made the decision that it has to be a long-term solution with permanent periodic reviews of such missions, so we would like to keep going and be mentioned in the documents of this summit.

I already mentioned missile defence. I will not go into the details because we already discussed.

As for capabilities, the ministers of defence will discuss capabilities during the meeting in Chicago, focusing on collective defence; support for joint forces; more exercises, including in our region, as I already mentioned with the Article 5 scenario; Steadfast Jazz, next year's military exercises.

All these issues relating to a strong NATO are in our interest in Chicago. I think it will be in our interest to keep this alliance as strong as possible for a long time. It's the fundamental interest of our state.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Thank you, Madam Minister.

I want to go back to Afghanistan a little. One of the failings of NATO is the communication of.... In Canada anyway, we all know how we contribute. We see what the U.S., Britain, and Australia do. We don't often hear about what might be called the smaller countries.

Can you expand, again, on the role you played in Afghanistan in the training mission? You mentioned some helicopter training. What else is Lithuania doing there?

It's good for us to share these stories. Too often the view is that there are only a few NATO partners pulling the load, and obviously that's not true. We want to hear more about Lithuania's contributions.

12:05 p.m.

Minister of National Defence, Government of the Republic of Lithuania

Rasa Jukneviciene

According to our partners, we Lithuanians are doing more proportionally than such medium-sized or smaller countries can do. We are leading PRTs in the very centre of Afghanistan, in Ghor province, and we are leading that alone. For my ministry it is a great challenge, and we are doing very well.

Of course, we are very happy having partners such as Japan. We provide civilian projects such as hospitals, roads, and schools. It's one of the poorest provinces in all of Afghanistan. I think it's the most important part of our activities in Afghanistan.

Special operations forces are acting in the Kandahar region and in Zabul province, together with our partners the Americans, and are doing very well. I am getting only the best evaluations of what they are doing there—the highest level. They, of course, have become more experienced. It's also good for them.

Also, we have established new groups for, as I mentioned already, the air mentoring team.

Today, we are reshaping our activities, trying to concentrate more on training, training, and training—training in Chaghcharan in the Ghor province, and training armed forces, the Afghanistan National Army. We are also training local police together with Americans from the Pennsylvania National Guard. In Kandahar, our special operations forces are training Afghanistan special operations forces or forces similar to that.

Our logistics and everything that is located there related to that, we are conducting.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you, Mr. Strahl. Time has expired. I know that the minister and her delegation have a busy schedule ahead of them.

We appreciate your taking the time to come and join our committee to share with us the Lithuanian perspective of NATO and the strategic concept.

Even though NATO is an organization that is 63 years old now, since you joined in 2004 and your eight years' experience in NATO and your joining in right away with the efforts in Afghanistan in 2005—and I know it was greatly appreciated by Canada and our allies to have had your involvement in the battle in Afghanistan—really provides us with the opportunity to have this two-way exchange of ideas and to find out how things are going, and to have your perspective on how the relationship with NATO continues to progress and hopefully improve the lives of Lithuanians and all the partners in the alliance.

I want to wish you the best of luck in your meetings in Chicago at the NATO summit. I know that you're going to be doing a little bit of touring around Canada and are going to visit the Lithuanian community in Toronto. I hope you have a pleasant trip to Toronto and meeting with the diaspora who are there and who are excited about having you here in Canada.

12:10 p.m.

Minister of National Defence, Government of the Republic of Lithuania

Rasa Jukneviciene

Thank you very much indeed. I am very happy to be here among friends and allies.

I would very much like to invite you to my country to visit. It's better to see once than to listen ten times. Please come; I think it's a very important venture.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

We appreciate that invitation.

Minister Jukneviciene, thank you so much for coming, and Ambassador and members of your delegation. Enjoy the rest of your stay in Canada.

With that, we're going to suspend. We're going to change out our witnesses, and then we will get right back at business.

Thank you.

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

I call the meeting back to order. We're continuing with our hearings.

Joining us for the second hour is David Perry, who is a doctoral candidate in political science at Carleton University, where he holds the Dr. Ronald Baker Security and Defence Forum Ph.D. scholarship.

Congratulations.

He's a defence analyst with the CDA Institute, a member of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and the Canadian International Council's strategic studies working group, and a pre-doctoral fellow with the Centre for Security and Defence Studies at Carleton. Prior to beginning his doctoral studies at Carleton, he served as the deputy director of Dalhousie University's Centre for Foreign Policy Studies. He has done a lot of research and has presented on conferences in North America and Israel and been published widely.

Mr. Perry, I'll give you the floor to bring us your opening comments.

May 17th, 2012 / 12:20 p.m.

David Perry Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Honourable members, it's a privilege to be asked to appear before you today, and I thank you for the invitation. In my opening remarks I'll be drawing from a study, “Leading From Behind Is Still Leading”, which was recently published by the Conference of Defence Associations Institute. In doing so, I'll try to be brief and focus on what I think the Libyan operation can tell us about future NATO military deployments.

In February of last year, the Arab spring spread to Libya, prompting large-scale protests in Benghazi. In response, Colonel Gadhafi's regime retaliated with rapidly escalating levels of violence. Consequently, the UN Security Council passed resolution 1973 on March 17, authorizing all necessary measures to protect Libyan civilians. Soon after, NATO launched Operation Unified Protector to enforce this UN mandate. This started with a naval arms embargo on March 22, and NATO assumed command of the no-fly zone on March 31.

Unified Protector's goals were three-fold: ending attacks against civilians, returning regime forces to base, and ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to all Libyans. By the conclusion of the mission at the end of October, NATO had flown more than 26,000 air sorties. The Canadian Forces flew 6% of these overall and roughly 10% of the strike missions. As well, our maritime forces made a crucial contribution to the defence of Misrata, preventing that city's fall to Gadhafi's forces at a vital point in the campaign.

Overall, I think two broad lessons can be drawn from this experience for NATO's future military deployments.

First, Unified Protector was an operational success. It ensured the protection of Libyan civilians while keeping collateral damage to a bare minimum. In doing so, it proved the value of NATO's command and control, standardization, and interoperability arrangements, and the alliance was able to assemble and deploy operational forces in roughly two weeks—a remarkable achievement that no other organization could achieve.

Furthermore, the operation demonstrated NATO's ability to work effectively with non-traditional partners. Qatar, the U.A.E., and other players had a significant role in the operation, providing unique capabilities and serving as interlocutors with anti-Gadhafi forces. In doing so, they validated NATO's cooperative security initiative articulated in the 2010 strategic concept.

In sum, Unified Protector demonstrated that under the right conditions and enabled by special operations forces, NATO's air and maritime assets can conduct an effective intervention.

At the same time, however, Libya highlighted a number of shortcomings related to NATO burden sharing. Despite statements that the United States led from behind in Libya, Unified Protector demonstrated the degree to which NATO relies on American military power. U.S. forces conducted the bulk of initial strikes, which allowed the rest of the alliance to conduct a no-fly zone over essentially undefended skies.

Thereafter, the United States contributed the majority of reconnaissance, air control, and electronic warfare aircraft, flew 80% of refuelling flights, and provided most combat search and rescue. In short, while U.S. efforts were not publicly prominent in Libya, without them the mission would simply not have happened. How the United States implements its defence reductions and pivots to Asia will therefore be highly consequential for future NATO operations.

This is especially the case because the role in Libya of other NATO members was highly uneven. Only eight members in total participated in the air campaign, and some of the European partners who did would not fly strike sorties. Libya may have actually provided an early demonstration of the impact the financial crisis is having on NATO Europe, as some of these members were forced to withdraw assets early because of funding shortfalls.

Finally, Unified Protector demonstrated both the potential benefits of NATO smart defence and the likely challenges involved in actually implementing it. The dependence on American air-to-air refuelling, for instance, highlights the rest of NATO's need for such operational enablers. If smart defence can increase the alliance's capabilities in these areas, it will help reduce NATO's reliance on the Americans.

Germany's decision to withdraw its pilots from the AWACS missions over Libya, however, suggests that this is not going to be easy. Both the specialization and cooperation components of smart defence will ultimately require that nations be willing to deploy the assets on operations. Otherwise, the alliance may gain enabling capabilities but still experience burden-sharing shortfalls when the time comes to actually use them.

To conclude, Libya demonstrated NATO's operational benefits and that they are unmatched, but at the same time, exposed a number of major burden-sharing problems. Consequently, while NATO will remain an important element of Canada's role in international defence cooperation, we should be realistic about the contributions we can expect individual members to make to future missions. Not all will contribute equally, but at the same time, this does not undermine the value of operating under NATO command. As a result, Canada should develop even stronger working relationships with the subset of NATO members—particularly France, Britain, and the United States—with whom we are likely to operate alongside in the future.

Focusing any Canadian smart defence efforts on this key group of allies would provide the greatest net benefit for any future Canadian contribution to a NATO crisis response.

Thank you. With that, I'm happy to answer your questions.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you, Mr. Perry. We're still going to go with five-minute rounds.

We'll start with Mr. Harris.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Perry, for your presentation.

Your assessment of the Libyan situation obviously is a subset of what we heard from General Abrial when he was here a couple of weeks ago, that NATO as a group makes a decision on a consensus basis to get active in a mission but that contributions to any mission are the choice of individual countries. That's not going to change, as far as I see it, and I guess as you see it as well.

Is there any particular reason why Canada should step up and say that regardless of what NATO does we're going to be in the top rank on a military basis, or is there potentially another role for Canada internationally? I'm not saying we wouldn't participate, but instead of putting all our efforts on the military side have you considered other alternatives that Canada might play as an alternative, whether it be in NATO or through the United Nations, to contribute to international peace and security?

12:25 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

I think in answering that question it is important to keep in mind that even though there are significant problems related to burden sharing, not everyone is going to do what we or other people may want them to. A NATO operation versus a UN operation or operations, which could be ad hoc in other parts of the world, do have an enormous number of benefits in terms of standardization, interoperability, and these kinds of things, that simply aren't matched anywhere else.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

I agree. The reason NATO stepped in here, and it was a very vital reason, was that aside from a single command by the U.S., NATO was probably the only organization that could provide the command and control function and make that happen between multilateral parties, so I'm not taking away from NATO's role.

One of the concerns is about burden sharing. I know it comes up because it seems sometimes that certain nations contribute more than others, but again that's the NATO pact, particularly when we're outside the area of article 5. That would be a very different set-up, and maybe you can comment on that. But some of the NATO members in the Libya mission, in my view, acted, spoke, and talked up beyond the actual mandate. There was a lot of talk about regime change in Libya, which was not part of the UN Security Council role, of course.

How do you see NATO being able to control its members, in particular the contributors, in a situation perhaps like Libya where the protection of civilians can be defined in very many ways? I'm not suggesting that you went beyond the legal limits, but just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. So how is NATO as a body able to control the perhaps more aggressive members in a particular mission like Libya?

12:25 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

I think it's important to keep in mind that just because certain nations that were NATO members, that were contributing to the NATO mission, did other things that may have been, let's say, stretching the mandate, they weren't necessarily doing so in a NATO capacity. I think a lot of initiatives were undertaken by countries, like France, that have admitted openly to doing things in a national capacity that were not specifically within the NATO framework.

I think it's important for the alliance to have a coordinating function, but ultimately if nations wanted to go a little bit beyond what the consensus approves and is willing to do, then the goal is to try to have that all work toward a common purpose.

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Unfortunately, of course that then taints the mission itself, and you have countries like Russia saying now that they're reluctant to get involved in Security Council resolutions if they see countries going beyond the mandates on an individual basis.

Do you see any way of NATO controlling that in a mission situation?