Evidence of meeting #116 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 42nd 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

Chair  Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)
David Barber  Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual
Leona Alleslev  Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, CPC
Frank Baylis  Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.
Stephanie Pezard  Senior Political Scientist, RAND Corporation
Abbie Tingstad  Senior Physical Scientist, RAND Corporation
Pertti Salolainen  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Tom Packalén  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Paavo Arhinmäki  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Ilkka Kanerva  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Simon Elo  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Stefan Wallin  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland
Maarit Feldt-Ranta  Member, Parliament of the Republic of Finland

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

It's the mapping of the seas.

4:15 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

Yes.

Right now, hydrographic services are a branch of the federal department that has responsibility for that. They simply lack the resources to be able to map properly. We have the technology to do it. The federal agencies need the money to be able to do proper mapping. That's a combination of Coast Guard and hydrographic services. We have the infrastructure in place. It just needs to be given the resources to do the mapping.

4:15 p.m.

Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)

The Chair

Thank you very much, Dr. Barber. We really appreciate your testimony here today. We thank you for reaching us from Winnipeg.

Thank you, sir.

4:15 p.m.

Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Manitoba, As an Individual

Dr. David Barber

Thank you, folks, and good luck with your deliberations.

4:15 p.m.

Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)

The Chair

I'm now going to hastily welcome Dr. Pezard and Dr. Tingstad from RAND Corporation.

Ladies, would you take five or six minutes to give us a quick overview. I know there are some questions in the room.

We have until 4:30. Unfortunately we have a delegation coming in to testify before us, so we're going to have to cut it off fairly close to that.

Please proceed.

4:15 p.m.

Dr. Stephanie Pezard Senior Political Scientist, RAND Corporation

Chairman Levitt, other distinguished members of the committee, thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today. Our sincere apologies for the misunderstanding on the timing. We are sorry this has to be rushed.

My presentation will focus on two changes that have modified the geopolitics of the Arctic over the past five to 10 years. One is the increased assertiveness of Russia in the region, and the other is the rising presence of non-Arctic states, particularly China, in a part of the world that used to be almost exclusively of interest to Arctic states.

First, I will focus on Russia. Russia's military capabilities in the Arctic have steadily increased over the past 10 years, raising various concerns, including Russia's denying access to an area that might cover part of Norway, or disrupting sea lanes or undersea communications in the North Atlantic. In this context, I would like to raise three points.

First, tensions with Russia tend to focus on the European Arctic more than the North American Arctic. For Canada, then, the main sources of tension with Russia will be either a potential confrontation with NATO, or emerging issues pertaining to the extended continental shelf, as Russia's claim is likely to overlap with the claim that Canada is expected to submit.

Second, Russia is rebuilding its military capabilities on all of its territory, not just the Arctic, and these capabilities are still at a level below what used to exist during the Cold War.

Third, co-operation at the working level remains high. Most recently, we saw the U.S. and Russia submitting a proposal to the IMO to establish new shipping routes for safer shipping in the Bering Strait. Russia still has strong incentives to co-operate in the Arctic.

That being said, Russia's increasing assertiveness has already had some consequences in the region. One is that Arctic states are coming closer together. For instance, we see U.S. Marines deployed on a rotational basis in Norway, while Sweden and Finland are coming closer to NATO. We also see NATO's cautious move closer to the Arctic through its new strategic concept and through exercises.

I will now turn to China, which is also, like NATO, increasingly present in the Arctic. As an example, last year, 11 of the 27 vessels that transited through the northern sea route were either going to or coming from a Chinese port.

China issued its first Arctic policy in January, which made it clear that they think the Arctic is a global issue that cannot be left to Arctic states alone. China describes itself as a “near-Arctic state” and sees economic and investment potential in the region, with a polar silk road that would eventually be integrated with its larger belt and road initiative.

So far, China has remained within the boundaries of existing treaties governing the Arctic.

Chinese interests do present some opportunities for Arctic communities, but they also raise concerns about whether China would eventually try to impose its interpretation of maritime international law, or whether China's economic presence might lead to more political influence or even a military presence.

Like other Arctic nations, Russia has been showing a mix of interest and caution towards China. China is a key investor in the Yamal LNG project, and Russia is hoping that China will participate in developing infrastructure along the northern sea route. At the same time, Russia is intent on keeping control over that route and is wary of China's military power on its southern border.

To conclude, I would highlight what I see as perhaps the most significant change for Canada and other Arctic states, which is that the Arctic is turning from a periphery to a centre, an economic centre and a military choke point, and Canada and other Arctic states face the challenge of balancing their sovereign interests against the ever-growing presence of non-Arctic states in the region.

Thank you.

4:20 p.m.

Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)

The Chair

Thank you.

Ms. Tingstad.

November 26th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.

Dr. Abbie Tingstad Senior Physical Scientist, RAND Corporation

Thank you very much, Chairman Levitt and distinguished members of the committee. Please accept my apologies, also, for the misunderstanding on the timing of this.

I'll add some insights on thinking about climate's impact on the future of geopolitics in the Arctic. In our research we have found it useful to consider the potential effects of climate change on Arctic geopolitics in the context of other factors that influence activity in the region in two ways.

First, forces other than climate can also play a fundamental role in promoting, restricting or otherwise spatially influencing access to the Arctic. These forces include technological advancements such as the ability to operate in icy waters, automate processes and connect to different networks; legal conventions and regulations; military postures and operations; and widely observed operational and cultural norms, including those related to risk-taking. Other forces shape activity in the Arctic by either motivating or discouraging it. Examples of these include economic opportunities as well as socio-cultural priorities such as support to indigenous communities and the symbolic importance of the North Pole.

Though scenarios may often prove to be wrong, we have found them useful in our exploration of focal issues that might challenge, or not, co-operation and security in the Arctic. My written testimony includes some of the topics we've explored.

Overall our research has found relatively few flashpoints that would plausibly undermine international co-operation in the Arctic in the 2020s and 2030s under the growing changes influenced by climate. However, there are a few wild cards that could, under rare circumstances, lead to increasing tensions and result in some form of breakdown in vision and communication between Arctic nations and stakeholders.

These include three wild cards: first, should maritime access and activity increase faster than countries anticipate and can manage with existing physical infrastructure, regulations and other supporting functions; second, if untapped Arctic offshore oil and gas suddenly become much more economically viable and countries perceive their seabed claims as contested; and the third and final one I'll mention, should nations perceive a security void in the region brought on by a series of maritime safety and security incidents that reflect negatively on co-operation, and in this context, if nations decide to take stances on longer-term security issues.

In conclusion, Arctic nations may increasingly contend with the need to find a forum or forums in which to appropriately discuss security-related matters. With barriers to physical access changing because of climate, it may be necessary to consider whether it's possible to open new dialogues to the mutual benefit of all stakeholders.

Thank you.

4:20 p.m.

Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)

The Chair

Thank you very much.

We're going to do an abbreviated round of questions, just because the Finnish foreign affairs committee is going to come in. Let's do four minutes, because I want each party to get its four minutes, if that's okay.

Let's begin with MP Aboultaif, please.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Thank you both for coming today before the committee. I have two questions. I hope I can cover them in two minutes for each question.

I have a brief here, called “The Arctic Lies at the Intersection of Challenge and Opportunity”. In that, you consider a number of areas where there are gaps in the United States' ability in the Arctic. How do these gaps measure in the Canadian context? Are we better off or worse off compared with our American allies?

That question is to Stephanie or Abbie.

4:25 p.m.

Senior Physical Scientist, RAND Corporation

Dr. Abbie Tingstad

I have not explicitly explored how U.S. gaps could impact Canada, but the U.S. faces gaps in domain awareness, in communications, in accessing the region and in some ways also communicating these challenges. Given that the Arctic is an area of such historic co-operation, where there are search and rescue needs, among others, that require international co-operation, I would imagine that gaps in any Arctic nation's ability to operate in the region would affect all.

4:25 p.m.

Senior Political Scientist, RAND Corporation

Dr. Stephanie Pezard

I would also underline that the gaps that may exist on the U.S. and Canada sides can both be addressed by co-operation between the two countries, which has been ongoing for a long time. It can also allow each country to be most effective where it has the most capabilities. They've been co-operating also in terms of maritime awareness and aerospace warning. These are common strengths that they have and that need to be pursued.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

In another brief here called “Maintaining an Arctic Cooperation with Russia”, you said Russia had increased military presence in the high north, but not to Cold War levels. Can you speak a little about this increased presence, please? What types of increases have we seen? Have other Arctic states increased their military presence in the Arctic as a response?

4:25 p.m.

Senior Political Scientist, RAND Corporation

Dr. Stephanie Pezard

We've seen a whole range of improved capabilities on the part of Russia. They have been refurbishing Soviet-era bases. They have been developing a number of search and rescue stations all around the northern sea route. Some of these military capabilities obviously also have some civilian uses. They have established two Arctic brigades. They now also have an Arctic command. They have deployed a number of air defences, again in various areas around the northern sea route. It's a modernization of existing capabilities, re-establishing some capabilities that existed and also some new structures.

Yes, other Arctic nations have also been doing more in this area. For instance, Norway now has deployment closer to its border. That didn't use to be the case. The U.S., again, has marines deployed in Norway on a rotational basis. There is also more activity in terms of submarine detection. It's not just Russia. There has been a response from other Arctic states.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Thank you.

4:25 p.m.

Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)

The Chair

Thank you very much.

We'll have MP Vandenbeld, please.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Thank you very much.

I was struck by one of the statistics you stated, which is that 11 out of 27 vessels are going to or from a Chinese port. I would like you to elaborate on the role of China in the Arctic, because we do think of the Arctic as the Arctic states, but you mentioned something about this now being a global issue.

To what extent does that change the dynamics, particularly the dynamics vis-à-vis Russia and also vis-à-vis NATO?

4:25 p.m.

Senior Political Scientist, RAND Corporation

Dr. Stephanie Pezard

To some extent, this is not just China, which is why my presentation emphasized non-Arctic states. Pretty much all observers to the Arctic Council that are not Arctic states have developed an Arctic policy or Arctic strategy.

China, of course, is particularly prominent simply because of its military power and economic power. China has a number of objectives in the Arctic, mostly economically based. We have seen them being more involved with Russia simply because Russia has turned to them because of the sanctions. They have been looking for a different source of investment and funding, so that has opened some doors to China.

China is also investing in other Arctic states, but it's still at a low level. For instance, for mining, there are a few projects, but there's a lot of exploration.

It's still tentative, but this vision of the Arctic as a common for China is important because they see climate change happening in the Arctic as having huge implications for their country. At the same time, while they mention the Arctic as a common, they do not contest the general rules under which the Arctic is being governed right now, which is UNCLOS, which is the Ilulissat Declaration and the general perception that, so far, Arctic nations still have the lead in determining this governance.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Ms. Tingstad, do you want to comment on that as well?

4:30 p.m.

Senior Physical Scientist, RAND Corporation

Dr. Abbie Tingstad

I support what Dr. Pezard said, thank you.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Just simply in terms of looking at sovereignty, we were told in other testimony before this committee that, just because there's more commercial activity, it's not necessarily indicative of any threat to sovereignty. In fact, it can be reinforcing.

If we are looking at it from the perspective of sovereignty, what are the most important things Canada can be doing now, whether it has to do with economics, whether it's cultural or whether it's the Inuit? What are the things we need to be doing?

4:30 p.m.

Senior Physical Scientist, RAND Corporation

Dr. Abbie Tingstad

Perhaps I can start on that answer.

In our explorations of some scenarios for the future, one very important factor that came up, which I briefly mentioned, was this perception of a security void. If there were to be a number of maritime safety and security incidents happening over and over without an adequate response, it could create the perception of a security void. I say maritime just because that's the domain that allows the international community and stakeholders to most physically come together. If we think about China and other nations wanting to perhaps operate in the region, they might take that as an invitation to provide some of their own security. Depending on how you look at it, that could be for very good reason.

Anything that has to do with domain awareness is also very important. I can't speak about Canada specifically, but I do know that in our interactions with local communities in the United States—Alaskan communities, as well as in the Eurasian Arctic —there are incidents occurring where people who they don't know show up. They can see some of the changes happening, for example. Having a good awareness of what's going on and keeping track of not just what the local communities are seeing but also understanding some of the different activities that other stakeholders are doing in the Arctic, will be important.

To me, this is one reason why a security forum or dialogue is so important to have, so that there aren't misperceptions that could lead to conflicts or rising tensions.

Thank you.

4:30 p.m.

Mr. Michael Levitt (York Centre, Lib.)

The Chair

Thank you very much.

We will now move to MP Blaikie, please.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Thank you very much.

It came up during the opening remarks, but I just wonder if you could elaborate on the significance of an increasing potential NATO involvement in the Arctic. I'm trying to remember who brought it up. We talked about that question a little bit from the China side. Could you explain how other players may see an increased involvement of NATO in the Arctic?

4:30 p.m.

Senior Political Scientist, RAND Corporation

Dr. Stephanie Pezard

An increased involvement of NATO has been happening, but at a very slow pace. There is a keen understanding from NATO members that it's not an area of the utmost importance for NATO. It is becoming increasingly important as NATO members realize that they may have lost the type of cold weather war-fighting knowledge that they had during the Cold War. They have turned to more expeditionary style of war-fighting and there are simply some capabilities that need to be rebuilt—sort of how Russia is rebuilding, frankly. For that specific reason, Norway has always pushed for stronger involvement of NATO, but other members have not seen it as urgent, simply because the threat has not been as close.

I would say that this closer involvement of NATO in the Arctic is not necessarily about the Arctic per se. It is very much focused on the North Atlantic. In a way, the Arctic is seen as a conduit to the North Atlantic.

There is also worry of keeping a good balance between deterrence and the risk of...not provoking Russia but creating a sense of threat in Russia. Since two-thirds of its strategic deterrent is in the Kola Peninsula, they are very keen on protecting the industry infrastructure they have around the northern sea route. They are very sensitive about the Arctic. It's an area of extreme importance to them. NATO needs to show its presence and its ability to come to Norway's rescue, as a member, if needed, without creating a false sense of alarm or any sense of alarm on the part of Russia. That's a tight balance.