This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Good morning, everyone.

First I want to go over our agenda for today. Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), we need to elect a new vice-chair, since Mr. Christopherson has moved on to bigger and better things, I understand. Then we have our witness.

Mr. Alexander, you have the floor.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Chairman, with great pleasure, I would like to move that Mr. Jack Harris be appointed vice-chair of this committee.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I want to record a dissent.

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

First of all, I have to actually turn the election over to our clerk.

M. Lafleur, s'il vous plaît.

11:05 a.m.

The Clerk of the Committee Mr. Jean-François Lafleur

Thank you.

Good morning, everyone.

Pursuant to Standing Order 106(2), we will proceed to the election of a vice-chair. I'm ready to receive any motions for nomination to the position of vice-chair.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

So moved.

11:05 a.m.

The Clerk

Mr. Alexander moves that Mr. Jack Harris be elected as first vice-chair of the committee.

Are there any further motions?

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I want to hear his platform.

11:05 a.m.

The Clerk

Is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt the motion?

(Motion agreed to)

Mr. Harris is duly elected as the first vice-chair of the committee.

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Congratulations, Jack.

We'll now continue with our study of NATO's strategic concept and Canada's role in international defence cooperation.

It is indeed a great pleasure to be joined by James Appathurai, the Deputy Assistant Secretary General of NATO, the second highest ranking civilian in NATO. He's with the political affairs and security policy section and is special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, and he's a Canadian.

Welcome back. I know it's always good to come home.

I'll turn it over to you for opening comments, and we will ask our questions after that.

11:05 a.m.

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

Thank you very much. Thank you for the invitation. It's a great pleasure to be here, and, as you say, it's a great pleasure to be home. I've already had Timbits, and I've watched all the highlights from last night's playoffs, which I don't normally get to see, so I'm in a very good mood this morning—but also because I have the opportunity to speak to you.

In the introductions that Chris generously made for me to all of you, I came to understand that you're all experts in foreign and defence issues, so I'll try to keep this at a high level, and I'll be happy to take any questions you may have.

It's a good moment to be examining this question, I think, because we've had about a year and a bit to implement the strategic concept, but also because the Chicago Summit is to take place in only a few weeks, where we're going to take it forward again.

In my view, the strategic concept has three primary functions. The first is to reassert the pillars, NATO's core tasks since 1949. The second is to update the alliance's strategic concept because NATO has changed significantly since the previous concept was developed, particularly after the cold war. The third function is to build the way forward. My comments will focus mostly on these three functions, and then I would be happy to answer any questions.

The first function consists in reconfirming NATO's pillars. I will speak about three of them. First is collective defence. Of course, NATO has always had and continues to have the capability to militarily dominate any potential attacker. And it must retain that capability. The strategic concept gives NATO countries the mandate to preserve the capability needed to assert that role in the future.

Second is transatlantic solidarity. The strategic concept recognizes that despite democratic and economic changes throughout the world, NATO's 28 member countries remain a community of nations with common values—democracy, individual freedom and freedom of the press. It is also important to understand that there is more economic trade between the members of this community. This provides us with a structure for political consultation on all security matters, and we use it every day. When push comes to shove, as they say, these are the nations we can count on as allies. For all these reasons, the strategic concept strengthens transatlantic solidarity.

Finally, it also reaffirms NATO's role as far as deterrence is concerned, and that includes nuclear deterrence. That is a current topic of discussion. NATO country officials will head to Chicago, including our Prime Minister, to approve a document entitled “Defence and Deterrence Posture Review”, which sets out the appropriate balance between conventional forces, missile defence and nuclear power for the 21st century.

For the first time, the strategic concept states that NATO will endeavour to create the conditions necessary for a world free of nuclear weapons. That was the vision described by President Obama in the speech he gave in Prague. However, until those conditions are established, NATO must retain its nuclear capability. That sums up the first pillar.

The second role was to get NATO up to date to what it actually does now, the new roles that NATO had taken on.

First, you'll see that the second core task in NATO is crisis management.

NATO is uniquely capable as an organization to generate, deploy, command, and sustain large numbers of forces in multinational operations. No other organization can do this anymore. And I'm not saying this, I hope, to blow NATO's horn. I used to be the spokesman; I'm not anymore, so it's not my job to blow NATO's horn anymore. This is a simply a statement of fact.

When the United States was no longer in a position to command the Libya operation when it was a coalition of the willing, which included, of course, an important role for Canada, but also the United Kingdom and France and a host of other nations, there was nowhere else to go because no other organization or country can command even that kind of mid-sized operation. So there is only one game in town for large multinational operations.

Today NATO has over 150,000 troops in the field, in a variety of operations. I know you know what those are, because Jill Sinclair was here last week. But I think it's worth noting that NATO also has the political structure to go with it. It's not just a technical tool; there is a political council that directs the operation, and it's very important that military and political operations go together.

What does that mean? It means that we have to, according to the strategic concept, do more to enhance this capability as a crisis manager. That means training, different kinds of exercises. It means developing the capabilities necessary for deployment. All of these things will be addressed at the Chicago Summit. I'll come back to those, and I'm quite sure General Abrial will come back to those as well in a couple of days.

It means—and this is also in the document—enhanced coordination with civilian actors. What we've learned over the last 10 years is that military operations have changed. It used to be basically that the conflict would start, we'd hand the ball to the military, they would accomplish their goal, then hand the ball back to the civilians, and it was to the civilians, maybe with some backup, to create stability.

What we've seen in Afghanistan, and also all over the world, is that now we have to be able to do all these things at the same time. We can't achieve mission success without the civilian actors. They can't achieve their mission success without us. That means NGOs, it means the UN, it means the EU. So we are now deepening our structural engagement with all these parties, from pre-conflict situations to the crisis itself, to close conflict management, so that we do it all organically; we call it the comprehensive approach. Other organizations call it different things, but that's basically what it is.

The second part of updating what NATO does is partnership. In essence, during the Cold War, NATO was like an island. We took care of our own defence; we didn't go anywhere. Now we have, as you know, 28 NATO countries in Afghanistan, but 22 other countries are there with us, and there's close cooperation with the UN and the EU. Chris played that role for the UN when he was there. We have a network of partnerships with countries around the world that, to my mind, certainly surpasses anything I would have expected. I think it surpasses what any other organization has by far—beyond the UN, of course—in that we have 40 partners out of non-NATO countries. With them, with one or two exceptions, with about 36 to 37 of them, we have formal agreements for political consultation and practical cooperation. We renew them on an annual basis. And we have a tool box of almost 1,000 activities that we do with them on an annual basis, prioritized to what they need in terms of reform or interoperability or language training. It is a very sophisticated network that doesn't always get the limelight it needs.

Secondly, and this is in the document, we took a decision, based on Afghanistan, that partners that contribute to our operations get a structural role in how they run—developing the plan, taking the decisions on it. So the day the Qataris decided they were going to send support to the Libya operation, they were at the table, in alphabetical order. I think they were amazed—I had spoken to them afterwards—to see how we argue, people storm out of the room, we don't know what we're going to do. They really got an inside view of how policy is developed—to their surprise—in NATO. But I think it was also a very positive experience for them. But they get to shape the plan, they get to help shape the decisions that allies take on how they go. That's very important for countries that are sending troops.

We have a new commitment to consult with partners on a regular basis to try to prevent crises. We use flexible formats. In other words, we had a meeting on piracy, on how to counter piracy. So we thought, okay, let's pick the countries that contribute the most, bring them together, and we'll have a discussion together on how to handle it. We did the same for cyber.

Because time is short, I'll just mention quickly specific partnerships, which might interest you to discuss further. One, of course, is with Russia. You might find that a topic of interest to discuss. Secondly, we're working to deepen our relations with the countries of the Middle East and North Africa as many of them go through this period of transition. We're engaging with the African Union, the Arab League. All of this flows from the strategic concepts decision to push partnership. And let me mention, of course, that the commitment to enlarging NATO has not diminished, even if Chicago will not be an enlargement summit.

One issue that concerns the secretary general, but also me in my particular portfolio, as we're looking forward is how do we retain this acquis of deep partnership, which has in many ways been driven by Afghanistan, both operationally and politically, once we get past 2014? Once that driver of Afghanistan goes away, how do we ensure that we still talk to them, work together with them, can work with them, so that these things don't drift away? So that's a big part of our work now.

That's a nice bridge to the third element, which is the future. What's in the document that looks at the future?

First, it identifies new threats and challenges. One of those is missile proliferation. At the Chicago Summit, we will turn the key on the first phase of NATO missile defence for Europe. It will have four phases, so by 2020 it will be fully operational, covering all European territory and population. And the motivation for that is that more than 30 countries have ballistic missiles, or are developing them or are enhancing them. So we want to make sure we can deal with this new threat and it is being dealt with.

The second one is cyber, and the role for NATO here is one that we're just working out. The strategic concept says that NATO should get engaged in this where it reaches a “threshold that threatens national [...] security” and that surpasses the ability of the country under attack to deal with it on its own. I think it's the right definition, because by definition it can be those things, but it can also not be reaching those thresholds and countries will want to deal with it on their own.

We just approved the new policy on cyber. How we engage with non-NATO countries is a very open issue. The question to which we can expose our systems to non-NATO countries, even the most trusted ones, is something that's very much an open discussion in the alliance.

The second part of that is capabilities, and I know you discussed that extensively with Jill last week. It's important to remember as we go through cuts—Canada and all the other countries in NATO now are looking at that—that NATO has and will remain a group of countries that represent 50% of the defence spending in the world. We have the most capable, best-equipped, best-trained—because of Afghanistan, I won't say thanks to Afghanistan—and by far the most experienced interoperable troops in the world, and not just with each other but with non-NATO countries as well. Our forces really are unmatchable, so we should approach this discussion, I think, with some confidence.

But it is also true that €45 billion have been taken out of European defence budgets in the last two years. The U.S. has just announced $450 billion plus. That number could go up. So we have to make sure that in 2020 we still have what we need.

There are, in essence, two initiatives that you will see launched at the Chicago Summit: one is called smart defence and one is called the connected forces initiative.

Smart defence is making sure you have what you need, prioritizing on your top ten capabilities so that you don't buy everything; buying together what we can no longer afford to buy separately, such as air-to-ground surveillance; and specializing in roles so that everybody doesn't have to do everything. The Baltic states—you discussed this last week—get air policing. They can't afford aircraft, but they do have very substantial roles in Afghanistan.

Those of you who have travelled there may have visited the Lithuanian provincial reconstruction team in Chaghcharan. They're doing a great job. I think they're at 4,000 metres.

Chris, you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's something like that.

The highest point in Lithuania is 352 metres, so they're not necessarily in their most comfortable terrain, but they do a great job.

So everyone is doing what they can.

The connected forces initiative is that you have what you need but ask how it all works together. That's about interoperability, standardization, joint training, and working with partners.

These are the two initiatives you'll see launched from Chicago that flow from the strategic concept. But General Abrial is the man who is doing all of this. I don't want to go into too much detail; he can do it.

The final point is reform. NATO headquarters has not escaped the need for reform, so we are also streamlining our civilian and military headquarters very substantially. We're cutting staff, we're cutting budgets in our own headquarters, and we have created a new division also on new threats and challenges. But our entire command structure has been substantially streamlined. The number of agencies we have has gone from fourteen to three.

So there's a big reprioritization in NATO to cut all the fat so that we can invest in muscle. I personally don't think NATO had a lot of fat, and in some cases we're cutting into muscle, because we have not too much money. But what we're doing for sure is to protect the bone.

I've gone a little bit over my time here, so I will just stop, I think. This has been a general overview of the concept. I'm very happy to take any of your questions; I'm at your disposal.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you, Mr. Appathurai.

I understand that when you're referring to “the document”, you're referring to the strategic concept document titled Active Engagement, Modern Defence. Is that right?

11:20 a.m.

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

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Perfect. I just wanted to make sure, so that everybody is on the same page here.

Also, I failed to mention that this month, May, you'll have been 14 years with NATO. Congratulations.

Before that, he was with the Department of National Defence, and with CBC before that.

Welcome home. It's great having you here, and I really appreciate your first comments.

With that, we're going to go to a seven-minute question round.

To kick us off, Mr. Harris, you have the floor.

May 1st, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Chair.

Mr. Appathurai, you say you don't speak for NATO anymore. I don't understand that. Did you change jobs?

11:20 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

No. I used to be the official spokesman for NATO. I still speak for NATO, but in a different role, and not to the media; that's my point.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

I was just curious. I thought I might have missed something.

NATO is about peace, stability, and security—security, of course, being the means for the other two, peace and stability. Amongst the member nations, I think the mere existence of NATO, maintaining that mutual defence but also stability among all of the 28 nations of NATO, is very important.

Is that one of the reasons for increasing the numbers: to increase the space for stability in the world? In that context, I guess Russia would be a potentially important partner.

11:25 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

You're absolutely right that the principal motivation for taking in new members is to stabilize the region.

It's the process that matters, to my mind, as much as bringing them in. Before they can join, they have to meet a number of standards, and they work very hard to meet them. They are standards that complement well what the EU insists upon. What we insist upon is: no problems with your neighbours; proper democratic control of the military; transparent systems; interoperable forces, so that they can actually make a contribution when they get in; etc.

We push very hard for them to be like us in terms of their own internal systems and their relations with their neighbours before they get to walk through the door.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Can I use Libya as an example of some of the potential problems of using NATO?

We had a UN Security Council resolution. It appeared, very shortly after the establishment of the mission and in response to the Security Council resolution, that either the U.S. or someone else had to have the command and control of facilities. NATO agreed to take on the role. But then we had NATO setting its own objectives. We had individual members of NATO, some of the defence ministers of various states—I won't mention their names, but the U.K. comes to mind—talking about what amounted in my view to mission creep, a different role from the one the Security Council had set out.

We had, apparently, according to the news last week, Canada going to Libya and, even though there was a ceasefire urged by the Security Council, encouraging hostilities.

So what happens once NATO gets involved?

We had a number of briefings here after the mission started. We saw NATO taking on an apparently different role, with potential mission creep, with uncertainty of objectives, and being criticized by Russia, for example, which had abstained on the Security Council, saying that we were being fooled, that we were really trying to do something other than what was authorized in the Security Council resolution, and that it looked as though regime change was the goal.

I have two questions.

First of all, if NATO is going to play some role, because of its command structure and ability, how do you prevent it from getting out of hand?

11:25 a.m.

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

James Appathurai

Thank you for that.

First, of course, these issues come up quite frequently, and the Russians in particular are not shy about raising their concerns. But from our point of view, we were strictly within the mandate we were given. As you know, the mandate had three parts to it: one was the arms embargo, one was a no-fly zone, and the third part was protection of civilians.

I can assure you that all the participants in the operation, but also all the NATO allies, even those who were not sending forces, keep a very close eye on how the conduct of the operation takes place. The NATO allies are firm believers in and supporters of the United Nations, without exception, and would never do anything—and have never done anything, in my view, with one slight exception—outside of that framework. But that exception was not Libya.

From the point of view of the NATO allies, of the NATO governments, they were within the mandate. There are a lot of them around the table. We had our extra partners as well: non-NATO European members and the Arabs. They also believed that this was within the mandate. And by the way, the UN secretary general has been very clear in his public statements that he considers this to be within the mandate. Then there was an international commission of inquiry on Libya, which also concluded that what NATO did was within the mandate. So, frankly, I think there is an overwhelming body of support that makes that case.

I would go even further to say that the operation couldn't have happened without NATO. There were a number of NATO allies in the time of that period of transition from when it went from being a coalition of the willing to being a NATO operation—even NATO allies—who said “we cannot contribute to this unless NATO does it”, for legal and political reasons within their own country. Our partners said the same thing—not all of them, but, for example, the Swedes, who were very clear in their own parliamentary procedure.

So our view is, first, it was within the mandate, and second, it couldn't have been done without us.

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Let me turn briefly to smart defence, which seems to be talking about specialization and defining your contribution. Again, in Libya, for example, Canada contributed frigates in the Mediterranean, fighter jets, coastal air-to-ground surface surveillance through the Arcturus aircraft, plus strategic airlift.

That doesn't sound like specialization to me. Is the aim that people should define their roles in advance of these things, or are we going to have this kind of, I suppose, “ad hocery”? Obviously, every mission is different, but is there going to be some idea that before or during a period of non-action people actually discuss what their contribution might be?

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

Thank you.

That's a very important question, and I would suggest that you put it to General Abrial.

To put it in a general sense, specialization does not mean that any individual country would totally abandon all other roles. We still need the full spectrum of capabilities. The more capable countries, the wealthier countries, the countries that are more, let's say, expeditionary will continue to retain, if not full-spectrum capabilities, a wide range of capabilities.

We still need that, but there are countries that have smaller defence budgets or particular expertise that might invest more in one or another. For example, the Czechs have excellent chemical, biological, and radiological defence capability, so they're always in demand whenever those kinds of weapons might be necessary. Everybody's looking for them because they're the best at it, or amongst the best at it.

That kind of thing, specializing more in one area and maybe a little less in something that is already in abundance, is where I think the specialization idea is going. But we still need the full range of capabilities.

Libya is an interesting case, but I do think it's always important to look at what is happening elsewhere, even under NATO command. While we were doing that in Libya, we were also deploying extra forces into Kosovo because there was unrest there; we had 130,000 in Afghanistan, with the very specific capabilities required there; and ships off the coast of Somalia, with a lot that was required there.

We need a lot in a lot of places. In a time of restrained budgets, we need to make sure that certain countries invest more in one thing or another.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you. The time has expired.

Moving on, Ms. Gallant, you have the floor.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Appathurai, given your experience at NATO, what can you tell this committee about the strategic concept paper?