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Evidence of meeting #37 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 countries.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Jean-François Lafleur
James Appathurai  Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

11:30 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

The overview I gave you was the essential elements of what I think is important in the document. It's a document that has to last for 10 years, so it is at a certain level of generality. What I like about it is that it's readable for an average person, which was the aim. Also, because of that, I think it has the political engagement from the leaders who signed up to it—I think they actually read it—and a lot has now flowed from that. It is a constant reference point.

As I said, it has to last 10 years, and Chicago should draw quite heavily on it.

Is there a specific thing—?

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

How was it put together?

11:30 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

This one was put together a little differently than previous ones. The previous ones were developed through what you might call the traditional process of negotiation. Those of you who have been diplomats before have had the pleasure of that process. It is gruelling and endless and often results in something that's very difficult to understand.

Here the secretary general himself took a very personal role in drafting and developing it. He worked at a very high level, so we didn't put it into the machine. He worked with the ambassadors directly, and then with the heads of state and government directly, and he had a small team to support him. Because of that, I think it is a much better document.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

What role did Canada play in its development?

11:30 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

Canada had a very important role. There was a small group put together before the strategic concept was drafted to basically create a framework or an early draft and certainly to go through all the issues. Canada had a representative on that team. Then the draft was put to us.

Not all NATO countries are represented on this, so the secretary general asked Canada to contribute. I can tell you there were others who said, “Well, the Americans are there anyway, so why do we need the Canadians?” He deliberately made that choice because he was well aware that this voice should be heard.

Once that was prepared, Canada played the same role as everybody else.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Earlier you were talking about how we're capitalizing on the niches or areas of specialization of different countries. What is seen as Canada's area of specialization?

11:35 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

This is my personal view, so I want to keep it as a personal view, but I don't think Canada is one of the countries to which the alliance is looking to play a role like the Czechs of specializing in one particular area. Because of our geography and our history, Canada has always had very broad spectrum capabilities. We're always going to have broad spectrum capabilities because we have a lot of water and a lot of air space and a lot of land to protect.

This country has always built forces for expeditionary operations, so we can do that in a way that newer NATO members cannot because they have built their forces for territorial defence or they're landlocked or whatever.

All of these reasons, the broad range of capabilities, which your colleague just described, are actually a strength of Canada that NATO would welcome.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

I see that you're the special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia. Would the membership of the Republic of Georgia augment or detract from the strategic concept at this time?

11:35 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

The NATO allies have been very clear, because at the same time they were agreeing to the strategic concept, they also agreed to a communiqué that restated the decision of Bucharest that Georgia would become a NATO member. That didn't have any caveats to it, except that they would have to meet NATO standards. That's what they're doing and working to do.

I think there's no ambiguity between these two concepts. Of course, Georgia has to meet those standards. I don't want to be naive. Russia looks very suspiciously at this process, and their relations with us have this constant burr under the saddle, which is Georgia. It is one of the very few points—if not the only point—of real principle where NATO and Russia constantly disagree and consistently disagree. They do not want to see Georgia in NATO. We say they're a democracy and they meet the standards. They are a democracy, they have a right to join, and they've taken the decision that they will join.

I can't say that it's not a complication. It is a complication. Any move by Georgia to try to get closer to NATO is of real political importance to everybody because of how Russia might react. The principal point remains firm, and I'm quite sure it will be reaffirmed again at the Chicago Summit.

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

So there has been no movement in their designation from aspirant country to one at the next level.

11:35 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

There has been no movement in either direction, downwards or upwards. But because of their reform, they have moved closer to NATO. The secretary general has made that statement as a clear statement of policy. But their final decision on whether or not they will join has already been made. No country has had that before. They are the only country in the history of NATO that has gotten the commitment, “You will be in.”

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

What are the implications going forward for Canada as a result of the Lisbon 2010 strategic concept paper? Does this change the way Canada approaches NATO-led missions like Afghanistan or Libya?

11:35 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

I think that's probably more of a question for the Canadian government than for me. Canada has always been—and I don't say this because I am a Canadian or an international civil servant—an active, staunch member of NATO. They are an active staunch member of NATO now the way they were two years ago and three years ago.

I don't necessarily see that this has affected Canada's commitment one way or another. Canada is a very committed country.

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you. Time has expired.

Mr. McKay, you have the last set of the seven minutes.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you for coming this morning.

I've been reading a book on the west's relationships with the Middle East, then known as the Orient. I'm not going to name the book or the author because it's exceedingly boring and I don't want to be on the public record as depressing sales for this book. One of the chapters is devoted to Napoleon's invasion of Egypt. What struck me about that chapter was the extraordinary preparation Napoleon went through when he decided to invade Egypt. Obviously the military preparation was extreme, but one thing he and his people did, which I thought made the invasion a success, even after the British kicked him out and they were still there, was to make an effort to understand the Muslims, to understand Islam, to understand their thinking.

For the foreseeable future, the various theatres of conflict that we can imagine are going to involve Islam in some way or another. If you just go through your list of countries, virtually every one of them is an Islamic country.

I wonder what you could tell us with respect to how NATO is involving itself with Islam as a general proposition, but also with regard to specific themes and variations on Islamic culture, Islamic religion, Sunni, Shia, and all this other stuff. If Napoleon got it 200 years ago, surely we should get it now. I just wonder what you can tell us about NATO's engagement.

11:40 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

That's an extremely relevant question, and one that we discuss extensively.

The first point to make is that one of NATO's great strengths is that Turkey is a very powerful and prominent member. It plays a number of roles. One, of course, is it can and does provide exactly the kind of knowledge and expertise that you expressed. I think it is true, and I can even say it on the record, that the knowledge of and expertise in NATO on the Arab world in particular and the Muslim world more widely is certainly not what it should be.

I have a good experienced team of—I can't say Arab Canadians—Arab “NATOans”, Arabs, natives of NATO countries who are also from Arab countries, who work on Middle East and North Africa issues. Without them we would be a little bit lost.

Turkey plays a very important role to provide knowledge. It also plays an important role as a bridge to those countries.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Literally and figuratively?

11:40 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

Literally and figuratively. In Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in the Arab world increasingly, as I'm quite sure you're aware, Turkey has had a mixed, let's say, image in the Arab world. That image is becoming ever stronger.

When Prime Minister Erdogan goes to the Arab world, there are tens of thousands of people in the streets cheering him, which is a new thing. We have a natural ability because of Turkey to bridge to that region, but we do need to keep on working on expertise, knowledge, and understanding.

The Arab world is not monolithic. You quite correctly hit on one of the key divisions, which is the Shiite-Sunni division. I work quite extensively now in the Arab world because of this job I have, and I'm constantly learning.

It is also the case that many nations in NATO, such as France and the United Kingdom, have had long experience in the Arab world.

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

But a mixed history, a colonial history, and that's a big problem.

11:45 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

It can be a problem, but it also brings with it decades, if not a century plus, of expertise. In the British foreign ministry there is someone, a friend of mine, whose official title is “Chief Arabist”, because this guy knows everything and he has been everywhere. They devote a lot of attention to it.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I'm encouraged to hear that NATO has become cognizant of this issue and actually has been focusing on this issue, because within I think the reasonably foreseeable future, those conflicts....

One of the ways in which this seemed to play out in the Libyan conflict had to do with various levels of intelligence sharing. There was intelligence that primarily the U.S. wouldn't share with anybody; then there was intelligence that the U.S. would share with some of its best buddies; and then there was intelligence that was one grade above seeing it on Al Jazeera.

Given that intelligence is the sine qua non of how you conduct an operation, how is NATO going to deal with the various levels of ability to share intelligence?

11:45 a.m.

Deputy Assistant Secretary General, Political Affairs and Security Policy, Special Representative for Caucasus and Central Asia, North Atlantic Treaty Organization

James Appathurai

Again, that is an excellent question. In fact, the secretary general came in with the same question and has pushed intelligence from a forum inside NATO, which I encourage you to get a briefing on, perhaps in a less formal, less open structure. He has created a fusion capability within NATO that has substantially enhanced an intelligence unit, in essence, has substantially enhanced intelligence sharing among allies. You are quite right that there are trusted, and more trusted, and more trusted circles when it comes to intelligence sharing, and that's just the way it is. It can be enhanced.

We have an intelligence body within NATO that goes out to certified systems of individual nations. When they reach a certain standard, they get access to certain intelligence. We do try to create an objective standard. That's part of the membership process. They have to meet the minimum standard to get in, but then we can keep working with them to see if they can do better. It is a very delicate issue, and most of all with actionable intelligence.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you.

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Is there—

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Time has expired.