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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 Conservative 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 Conservative 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 Conservative 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 Conservative 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 Conservative 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 Conservative James Bezan

You have time for one more short question.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative 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 Conservative James Bezan

Thank you.

Mr. Kellway, it's your turn.

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

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP 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?

12:45 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

I'm not sure there are as many good examples as the one that you just raised where that kind of specialization can work. For instance, patrolling and keeping safe the airspace of a member that we're obligated to defend is in our interest as the rest of the alliance. I'm not sure to what extent there are many other opportunities that are that clear-cut, where it's simply much better for the rest of the alliance to ensure the security of that airspace than it would be to have it go poorly or undefended.

If you look at other situations, I think particularly in the context of crisis management response, the real issue is not whether or not you specialize and whether or not as an alliance you can gain more capability with certain people having certain things; that's great as long as you have a reasonable certainty that the people who have specialized to do X are actually going to send X on whatever operation you're currently involved in. If you don't have the confidence that they're going to be able to deploy what they've specialized in, then you really haven't gained much overall, right?

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Is this development of the new strategic concept largely not, I guess, a very meaningful one? Is that your suggestion?

Secondly, you talk at the end of your presentation paper about focusing Canadian smart defence efforts at this key group of France, Britain, and the United States. Can you give us some concrete notion of what that focusing might reap?

12:45 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

With respect to the first part, I'm not saying that the strategic concept overall is moot; it's just that smart defence, which is one component of the NATO program going forward, will be very challenging to implement, because I don't think....

I mean, the concept of an alliance that shares burdens is certainly nothing new. I think smart defence is an attempt to put a brave face on a pretty challenging fiscal environment and say that despite the fact that everyone is gutting their defence budget and everyone is disarming, we're still going to be able to do the same stuff we did before. I'm pretty pessimistic that we're not going to actually see the alliance as a whole being able to do less with less resources.

With regard to the focus on smart defence, targeting the smaller subset, again, this is going back to the comment I made that it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense to me that you're going to have specialization with a whole bunch of people at the level of the alliance writ large, if not all of them are going to be there when you actually want to do something.

If you were to target some things, potentially things like ISR surveillance aircraft, looking at down the road acquiring that kind of a capability, that might be an area where you could work out some kind of cooperative arrangement with some of those partners and develop not at the level of the wider alliance—which I think, incidentally, is part of the reason that we aren't going forward with the AGS and the AWACS contribution.

There were concerns that despite the fact that we're contributing to this—and the amount of money was pretty small, about $20 million—that because it was common funded, and received part of the funding through NATO's common funding, when you wanted to deploy it to do something, everybody got a vote and a veto, essentially, and if you didn't have consensus, you might not be able to use it.

So if you could take even those similar types of capabilities, such as surveillance, within the smaller subset, that might be something we can build on.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

To try to bring this down to something a little more concrete, would this focusing on Canadian smart defence efforts impact, in your view, procurement plans for this country?

12:50 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

Potentially, yes.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Do you have any notions about in what way?

12:50 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

The plan to acquire UAV, I believe medium-altitude UAV, through the JUSTAS program might be one, for instance. That's the kind of surveillance capability that Libya showed was, one, in very short supply, and two, essentially a necessity now in any potential operational scenario.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Time has expired.

Mr. Alexander.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Thank you, Chair, for not forgetting the rest of us members of the committee. We're delighted to be part of this conversation.

Thanks for your testimony, Mr. Perry. Your work is extremely interesting.

I want to drill down a little bit into the concept of “leading from behind”. You made it clear that the United States provided enablers and leadership in other forms without which the mission literally couldn't have gotten off the ground. Was it the U.S. leading from behind, though, or the U.S in NATO leading from behind?

12:50 p.m.

Defence Analyst, Conference of Defence Associations Institute

David Perry

That's a good question. I'm not sure about that.

I think overall it was largely a political decision in Washington that they didn't want to be seen to be out front, ahead of everyone else, on another intervention in that part of the world. There are also issues with President Obama's relationship with Congress, and about whether this was or was not a conflict that triggered a bunch of congressional involvements.

So there was a desire, definitely, to take a bit of back seat. I think that even applied before NATO assumed command. When Operation Odyssey Dawn was launched with the United States, Britain, and France, even then you saw President Sarkozy taking surely a more publicly prominent role in leading the charge, even before it transitioned to NATO leadership.