Evidence of meeting #46 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

  • Jack Granatstein  As an Individual
  • Ernie Regehr  Research Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo, As an Individual

1:05 p.m.

Research Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo, As an Individual

Dr. Ernie Regehr

I think NATO does not have a particular role to play either in South Asia or in the Middle East. I think there's broad recognition that the solutions there need to be regional, and in the case of Iran and Israel in particular.

At the NPT review conference in 2010, there was a particular decision-taking, which grew out of a 1995 decision, on the pursuit of the Middle East as a nuclear-weapon-free zone—a zone free of all weapons of mass destruction. That's a very long-term and difficult process, but it's recognized as being central to dealing with the proliferation pressures in that region in the long term: that the easing of proliferation pressures there is dependent upon developing a different kind of security dynamic in the region as a whole.

It's the same thing with India and Pakistan. The tragedy is that India and Pakistan are in a heightened arms race at the moment. They are both producing fissile materials for weapons purposes at an accelerated rate. By the way, the supply of uranium for the civil program in India allows it to use more of its indigenous uranium for weapons purposes. There, too, there are regional elements, because the conventional imbalance between those two also is a major cause.

Also, there is the failure of the international communities to pursue negotiations on a fissile materials cut-off treaty, which has been on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament since 1995 and generally before that. I think the failure to produce that has serious implications for South Asia, and it ought to be a priority in trying to get the Asian arms race—there's only one word for it, I think—under control.

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi Saint-Jean, QC

If I understand correctly, then, Canada's role in NATO should be more on the materials control side. Basically, NATO should focus more on controlling nuclear materials than on deploying diplomatic efforts, as far as the tensions between these countries go.

1:05 p.m.

Research Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo, As an Individual

Dr. Ernie Regehr

No. I think NATO has a responsibility to help create an environment within the Euro-Atlantic community that is conducive to reducing both sub-strategic and strategic nuclear weapons. That's where it has a role. That is partly a materials control problem, but it is more a diplomacy and reconciliation problem, and that's the NATO focus when it comes to nuclear disarmament.

When it comes to non-proliferation objectives beyond the Euro-Atlantic community, then I think NATO is not the context in which Canada pursues that. We are a member of the Conference on Disarmament and have been diplomatically active there. We are currently seeking or finding other means of producing the fissile materials convention negotiations, for example, because the Conference on Disarmament is stalled.

So I think the Canadian efforts need to be pursued in other forums when it comes to non-proliferation beyond the Euro-Atlantic community. NATO's focus is on getting it right in the Euro-Atlantic community when it comes to nuclear disarmament.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Thank you. Your time has expired.

Mr. Norlock.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

You broached the area of concern with regard to nuclear capabilities or proliferation, and of course we don't think North Korea has anything to do...or has the capability. Getting back to Iran, and also of course the India-Pakistan issue, which I think we sometimes leave out, NATO does have an interest vis-à-vis Pakistan in particular because of the nature of the Afghanistan conflict. And of course we deal with the Middle East, and to call the capabilities there a “powder keg” would be an understatement.

So given all the complexities and variations in national interests, and in particular and more specifically as it relates to Iran, because it is a true rogue nation in that it aspires to something other than just maintaining its own nation.... It's actually a bit of a jihad, if you can use that expression when you talk about an ability with nuclear weapons.

How do you begin to square some of those different...? How do you begin to make some sense of that whole mishmash? When you talk about nuclear disarmament, the main word you use is trust, and I don't see that anywhere. If you could use the trust element in nuclear disarmament in those areas, how would you go about doing that?

1:10 p.m.

Research Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo, As an Individual

Dr. Ernie Regehr

To begin, I think you're absolutely right that NATO has keen interests in the South Asia situation, and also in the Middle East. I'm saying I don't think that NATO is the institutional context within which those issues are pursued. In the case of Iran, it's P5 plus 1. So that involves China and Russia as well as European countries and a NATO country.

It's a particularly difficult thing, but I think that generally the solution to the Iran problem is known. There needs to be a cap, an end, a termination of Iran's enriching of uranium to 20% and a recognition of Iran's right to continue to enrich uranium to 3% to 5% for nuclear reactors. And the international community should supply fuel rods for Iran's research reactor that uses the 20% uranium.

That's largely the formula for a solution there. It doesn't mean that Iran is going to accept it, but I think the international community has made a big mistake in insisting all along that Iran suspend all enrichment. Its response, of course justifiably, is that it's entitled to do it under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

And there is the trust element in those other nations I mentioned.

1:10 p.m.

Research Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo, As an Individual

Dr. Ernie Regehr

I think in the case of India and Pakistan—and I'm sure there are people here who can speak to that more directly—there isn't an ample supply of trust between those two countries. The instability in Pakistan is one thing, but the huge conventional disparity between the two is another, so that conventional disparity is not going to be repaired. It's permanent. It's always going to be that way, so that the response there is to build trust. There are some people who are working at that.

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

The other part of the trust involves Israel and Iran. Given the proximity of Israel to Turkey and the complexity there—of course, Turkey has a connection with NATO—that does involve NATO. Would you not agree?

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

Your time has expired.

1:15 p.m.

Research Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo, As an Individual

Dr. Ernie Regehr

It certainly involves NATO's interests.

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Bezan

The final question goes to you, Ms. James.

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to pass my time to my colleague, Mr. Alexander.

June 12th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I didn't get a chance to ask Mr. Regehr earlier, and it was my own fault for not judging time better, about the nuclear issue and the related ballistic missile issue.

You mentioned, of course, the obligations we all have on the non-proliferation treaty. Nuclear weapon states obviously have additional ones for basing and so forth. Clearly Canada remains, as NATO remains, a proponent of nuclear disarmament on the right terms in a way that enhances our security. Meanwhile, if we look at the last 10 years, probably the most disturbing trend in proliferation is in ballistic missile technology, where we're talking about a huge range of states who have them or are trying to have them, and even non-state actors who might be able to acquire them. This could be a small-scale threat to our ships if we deploy them to the Mediterranean or the Indian Ocean, but it could also be a large-scale threat to states, including NATO member states.

Given what you've said about DND and so forth, what do you think NATO's overall approach should be, within or even beyond the strategic concept, to defending its members and other partners, where there's political will to do so, against a growing threat from ballistic missiles?

1:15 p.m.

Research Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo, As an Individual

Dr. Ernie Regehr

I think it's appropriate to pursue a ballistic missile defence capability. That capability is far from mature at the moment. Point defence is reasonably mature and realistic, but the problem of area defence is much more.... There you've got an expert community that is very skeptical of the defence ever being able to overwhelm offence, and that is if any country that has a sophisticated enough capacity to create ICBMs is going to have the capacity to build decoys into them and ways of circumventing missile defence.

So there is a very big job of pursuing a capability. I think where it's going wrong at the moment is the early deployment of a system that has a questionable capability but proves to be politically destabilizing in the Euro-Atlantic region.

I think the way forward is to move together cooperatively with Russia, pool resources, because we have a common interest there, and try to develop a genuine capacity, and also for mid-course interception. By the way, it's the capacity that could also have relevance as numbers of nuclear weapons get way low as protection against breakout and that sort of thing.

So BMD needs to be cooperative to be effective.