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

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and through you to our witness.

Mr. Perry, you've recommended that in future operations, Canada will likely be part of a coalition of the willing built around the Five Eyes nations, France, and a select group of willing NATO nations operating with NATO's stamp of approval.

Is this similar to what we saw in Libya, where there was a smaller group of nations within NATO working together to achieve mission success?

12:40 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

Yes, absolutely. I think that experience in Libya actually was a continuation of what eventually evolved in southern Afghanistan. While you have approval at the level of the entire alliance to conduct an operation, it's a smaller set that's actually doing the day-to-day operations. We therefore developed much closer working relationships with those folks who we were actually operating with on a day-to-day basis, because that's where the real action, so to speak, was happening.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Is this the future of NATO with other nations and key partners undergoing defence budget realignment?

12:40 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

I think it is. I think the nations of the smaller subset are experiencing some pretty significant challenges financially, and are going to undergo some fairly steep reductions, but compared to a lot of the other members of NATO they look pretty good in comparison. Those that weren't even of the subset to begin with are facing some pretty serious pain right now in terms of their defence budgets.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

With respect to the Five Eyes nations and France, with their recent change in government, do you foresee any significant change in policy and participation in NATO?

12:40 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

It will certainly be very interesting to see what happens. Certainly President Sarkozy was a pretty active international player, I think it's fair to say. So whether or not the new president, even if he wants to, has the financial resources, for instance, to devote to taking a very active international role, I think it remains to be seen.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Coming out of the Libyan mission, there was a lot of criticism of the disproportionate amount of burden sharing by some of the larger partners in the alliance. While no one disputes that there are difficulties within NATO, some forget that there are also significant benefits that being part of this regional organization provides to not only Canada but all partner nations. These benefits include a standardization of practices, command and control, interoperability.

Mr. Perry, can you please tell us, with regard to our study on NATO, what are some of the current difficulties and the advantages for members of the alliance?

12:40 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

I think the absolute bottom line is that burden sharing is an issue, but I think it's one that we simply need to accept. Rather than continually hope that certain members are going to do more, recognize the fact that there's a smaller subset—the “swimmers” is what some folks call them—who are actually going to do the operations, and some other people, who are restricted for various different reasons, aren't going to be able to do everything we might like.

The rest of the benefits that the alliance affords, including the ones you mentioned, are things that simply don't exist in other parts of the world. For instance, if a ship goes to the Pacific and it's operating in a non-NATO context, it's a lot more challenging to communicate with people, potentially get refuelling, or do simple things related to seamanship—i.e., to know where somebody is going to be if you're undertaking a certain type of activity.

Those things simply don't exist outside of NATO, for the most part.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Speaking of the Pacific, there have been many reports indicating that there's a shift in American policy away from the North Atlantic towards the Asia-Pacific. In your opinion, how will this impact the future of the alliance?

12:40 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

I think it's already becoming clear that the United States is going to de-emphasize its attachment to Europe. I think there have been a number of statements long-standing from the United States that they're looking for Europe to do more.

If you actually look at the specifics of the pivot, I would argue that it's mostly reducing their force posture elsewhere, primarily in Europe. They're not really adding all that much to the Pacific, at least in terms of ground forces. We're talking about a few thousand troops and redistributing some of the ones who are already there.

Looking to the future, they're making some adjustments to their procurement plans. What is actually changing is withdrawing the brigades from Europe. Essentially everything else is more or less status quo, with the exception of the fact that they're going to reduce the size of their land force fairly significantly.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

You have time for one more short question.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Okay.

So this change in focus is simply a change in focus as opposed to a balancing of priorities.

12:45 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

I think that's fair. It's certainly nothing that's a bolt from the blue under this administration after the new year. These are fairly long-developing trends, having greater emphasis on the Pacific. There have been a number of statements over the past several years, I think to a large extent simply following the reality of both trade patterns and the emergence of several nations in Asia as larger military players.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you.

Mr. Kellway, it's your turn.

May 17th, 2012 / 12:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway Beaches—East York, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and through you to Mr. Perry.

Mr. Perry, I'm a bit curious about the conclusions you draw, on the basis of the presentation you made, where you talk about the fundamental challenge of burden sharing. Yet we have this new strategic concept from NATO that talks about smart defence and gives kind of explicit licence to NATO members to specialize in the context of economic austerity, etc.

We just heard from the Lithuanian defence minister, and she gave very concrete examples of implementing that specialization; “pooling and sharing” I think is the way she described it. Your conclusion, though, is that we're kind of stuck with it. We have to accept the challenge and carry on with the status quo.

Why don't we pick up on this explicit “permission”, if I can say, in the strategic concept to do something around specialization and smart defence?