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

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

I call the meeting to order.

I have one piece of committee business that we need to deal with quickly. We have a budget item that we need to deal with for the study—to pay for witnesses who have attended committee.

The total amount is $17,950. Could I have a motion that the committee adopt the proposed budget in the amount of $17,950 for its study on the NATO strategic concept?

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

I so move.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Is there any discussion? Seeing none, all those in favour?

(Motion agreed to)

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you.

In the interests of time—because of our votes, we are delayed—we're going to have both of our witnesses appear together as we continue with our study under Standing Order 108(2) on the NATO strategic concept and Canada's role in international defence cooperation. Joining us are Jack Granatstein and Professor Ernie Regehr.

We welcome both of you.

Professor Regehr is a research fellow from the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Waterloo.

We're looking forward to your opening comments.

If each of you can bring us your opening comments and keep them under 10 minutes, that would be very much appreciated.

Mr. Granatstein, could you start first?

June 12th, 2012 / 12:05 p.m.

Dr. Jack Granatstein As an Individual

Thank you, sir.

Honourable members, I thank you for the opportunity to appear before you.

I believe this committee can play its most useful role for this nation by considering Canada's relationship with NATO. Is the alliance still relevant for us? Is Canada still useful to the alliance? If the answers to these questions are not immediately clear—and I do not believe they are—then we might ask if the Canadian commitment to NATO should be increased, sustained as is, reduced, or even ended.

We have not asked such questions since the government of Pierre Trudeau came to power in 1968. It is long past time to ask them once more. Why? Because the alliance's experiences in Afghanistan have been difficult, to understate matters. Nations, including Canada, until the end of 2005, imposed caveats on what their troops were allowed to do. Many members contributed no troops or small numbers of troops and could not be moved to do more. The alliance's command structure was sometimes ineffective, and the United States for a time all but refused to operate within or cooperate with NATO's ISAF structure. These flaws had serious tactical consequences, and I would suggest they led to unnecessary Canadian casualties.

Professor David Bercuson and I discussed some of these questions in a paper we wrote for the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute.

Some might argue last year's Libyan operation demonstrated that NATO could work effectively. I do not believe this to be the case. First, France all but hustled NATO into the operation, launching its own air strikes. Second, although many member nations did good work, not the least our air force and navy, many members either refused to participate at all or placed severe caveats on their forces' role. Members had too few aircraft available, too little ammunition, and a shortages of pilots. The command structure, ably led by a Canadian general officer, nonetheless had the familiar flaws of uncertain command and control and lines of communication. While successful in toppling Gadhafi, the operation, more than anything, demonstrated the military weaknesses of the European members of the alliance.

Now matters are worsening, and will worsen further, as the global and European Community financial situations force cuts on alliance members' defence budgets. NATO's “smart defence” is intended to promote better and more coordinated use of members' military resources. This is a fine idea, but given more than a half century of history, there's very little to inspire confidence that NATO will be able to make this work. The reality is, if it wished to, Europe would be completely able to defend itself without North America's help. The U.S.S.R. is gone, and Russia, while a potential threat, is not likely to be a serious one for at least a decade. There are no other challengers in sight. A wealthy continent even now, Europe can and should do what it feels necessary to protect its interests.

The United States, like Canada, is turning its gaze towards the Pacific. There are challenges to come there, not least the rise of China as a military, economic, and political power. No one is suggesting war, but there is a need for increased preparation, enhanced readiness. Given the American financial troubles and given our own, we might ask if adequate attention can simultaneously be paid to both Europe and Asia. I think it cannot.

I'm not suggesting that Canada quit NATO. The alliance links us with our friends and it serves our national interest. But perhaps we should downplay our interest in and commitment to NATO, as in fact we have been doing by withdrawing from some alliance military programs. Perhaps we ought to begin looking for new partners to work with us from North America. Britain and France, although perhaps less so in the future under the Hollande government in Paris, appear willing to defend western interests. The Australians and New Zealanders provided excellent troops for Afghanistan and are historic partners in the Commonwealth. In the future, perhaps the Republic of Korea, Japan, India, Singapore, and other nations might be willing to join in what we might call an expanded anglosphere.

I do not see a new formal alliance in the immediate future, but it is not unlikely that there will be new coalitions of the willing—democracies that are capable of operating well together and that share an interest in protecting and advancing their common values.

I'm a historian, not a futurologist. Historians have enough difficulty trying to understand what has already happened, let alone what might happen tomorrow. But it is the task of government and members of Parliament to plan for the future. Your committee, ladies and gentlemen, can contribute to this by thinking ahead.

Thank you very much.

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you, Mr. Granatstein.

Professor Regehr, please.

12:10 p.m.

Dr. Ernie Regehr Research Fellow, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo, As an Individual

Thank you very much.

I appreciate the invitation and welcome the opportunity.

I've prepared a background paper. I understand it has been distributed. In the next few minutes, I want to summarize some of the key points. I will devote my attention exclusively to the nuclear elements of the NATO strategic concept and posture, as did the paper I have submitted.

Though disagreements abound, we are still in a moment of some real opportunity for advancing nuclear disarmament. NATO's 2010 strategic concept partly reflects that increased international attention to and support for the pursuit of a world without nuclear weapons.

Paragraph 26, the central arms control paragraph, stands in sharp contrast to the 1999 strategic concept. The latter was effusive about nuclear weapons on European soil being “vital to the security of Europe”. It insisted that deployments in Europe “remain essential to preserve peace”, and that nuclear weapons in Europe were “an essential political and military link between European and North American members of the Alliance”.

None of that language is present in the 2010 strategic concept. It simply notes that NATO will retain “the full range of capabilities necessary to deter and defend”—but without explicitly insisting that nuclear capabilities be based in Europe.

There is, nevertheless, still reluctance to take action in support of the welcome change in rhetoric. Growing pressure to end European nuclear deployments is proving to be a politically vexing issue within NATO. But on one level, the issue should be straightforward. The nuclear non-proliferation treaty expressly prohibits, in articles I and II, the deployment of nuclear weapons in non-nuclear weapon states. The U.S. and NATO are currently alone in not complying with those two articles.

An estimated 200 B61 gravity bombs are currently deployed in five NATO countries. The justification is that it is an arrangement that goes back to before the treaty's 1970 entry into force, as did a similar Soviet Union-Warsaw Pact arrangement. It was tolerated in the Cold War context, but that tolerance is now wearing thin.

In the NPT review process, there are persistent calls for all nuclear weapon states to ensure that all their nuclear weapons are returned to and held within their own territories, that the capability for their rapid deployment to other states be eliminated, and that all nuclear training with non-nuclear weapon states be ended.

Germany has called for an end to nuclear deployments on its territory, partly out of concern for NPT compliance. The European nuclear deployments are now defended largely as symbols of political solidarity. Indeed, it is the conventional wisdom that the B61 bombs have no military utility.

In other words, the U.S. and all the current host states—Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Turkey—could comply with the treaty requirements without any adverse security consequences.

The European states that host the B61 are all facing decisions on replacing the aircraft that currently carry and deliver them—a series of individual national procurement decisions that could end the deployments by default. The Eurofighter, the likely replacement choice for Germany, does not currently have a nuclear-capable version. The Dutch, the Italians, and the Turks are considering the F-35.

In each case, adding a nuclear capability would add some $5 million to $10 million to the per unit cost. The Belgians are considering not acquiring a new fighter aircraft at all, thus ending their nuclear role.

The added financial costs for nuclear capability will be an issue in each of these countries, but even more so will be the political costs of an explicit decision to commit to a nuclear role for the next three to four decades that the new aircraft will be in service.

In the meantime, the U.S. is committed to upgrading the B61 warhead, including modifications to the tail assembly, in the interests of greater accuracy against hardened targets. If the B61's heightened accuracy were to be mated to new F-35 stealth fighter aircraft based in Europe, the result would be, from Russia's perspective, a significant escalation of the nuclear threat.

Even so, Russia does not justify its retention of non-strategic nuclear weapons primarily as a response to U.S. nuclear bombs in Europe. NATO's massive conventional superiority is the greater concern. Russia accounts for less than 6% of world military spending, while NATO states collectively account for about 60%. As long as Russia regards this overwhelming conventional force as a serious challenge to its regional interests, it will resist the final elimination of its tactical nuclear weapons. Two decades have now passed since the end of the Cold War, and it is past time for the mutual suspicions between NATO and Russia to be challenged and seriously addressed.

Notably, through the pursuit of a genuine mutual security community within the OSCE region, in testimony before this committee a few weeks ago, the Department of National Defence ADM for policy said that NATO has consistently told Russia, “This alliance is not about you. It's not against you.” It was an important point about pursuing mutual security interests, but the defence minister of Lithuania told this committee only a week or two later that it's absolutely about Russia. Lithuania and the Baltic and East European states seek collective defence against Russia as the priority NATO mission: “Our main concern,” said the minister, “is Russia's intention to dominate the region and the Baltic states.”

So NATO has not sent a consistent message to Russia, and neither have NATO's actions been unfailingly consistent with mutual security objectives. B61 modernization is one example, and ballistic missile defence is another. It is true that Russia is given to exaggerated claims about the likely impact of European missile defence on its security and the reliability of its deterrence, but it is also obvious that missile defence is a major drag on efforts to reset the overall Russia-NATO relationship. Some laud BMD as an element of smart defence, as did the Lithuanian minister, but there is a significant expert community that asks what is smart about a military deployment that relies on unproven and still hotly debated technology, that is deployed against an uncertain threat, and that undermines a key NATO arms control objective, namely the elimination of sub-strategic forces?

All of this suggests some constructive policy directions for Canada. I won't list all of the ones that I have suggested in the paper, but perhaps we could talk about those during the discussion period.

Thank you.

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you, gentlemen. I appreciate that both of you were able to stay under the 10-minute time limit.

In the interest of time, we're going to have five-minute rounds right through to try to get as many members up with questions as possible.

Mr. Harris, would you kick us off, please?

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to both of the witnesses for coming to share your thoughts with us today.

First of all, Professor Granatstein, I don't know if you're deliberately trying to be provocative here, but your reputation precedes you. The idea of us as a Canadian nation joining with others to form some sort of “anglosphere” in the world as a military alliance strikes me as not the kind of thing that a bilingual, multi-founding nation country should be engaged in.

Obviously we share a lot of interests and values with some of the countries you mentioned, but surely the interest of international peace and cooperation must depend on Canada cooperating with and trying to make friends and strategic alliances with people like the Lithuanians and NATO and the other nations of the United Nations that perhaps use our knowledge to help them learn from us some of our skills and values.

Are you trying to be provocative here, or do you really believe that?

12:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Dr. Jack Granatstein

I was careful not to say that we should leave NATO. I was trying to suggest that if we are turning our attention towards the Pacific, it's a bit outside NATO's usual sphere of operations, and maybe we should be looking for people who share our values in that part of the world. The Australians and New Zealanders are obvious ones. Britain and France have continuing interests in that area. Perhaps the Koreans, the Japanese, the Indians, the Singaporeans, and those in other nations might find that they share some western interests in the face of growing Chinese aggressiveness and pushiness in the South China Sea and in other parts of the Pacific. I'm not suggesting that a military alliance should be formed. I'm suggesting we should talk to people.

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

SEATO exists there too.

12:20 p.m.

As an Individual

Dr. Jack Granatstein

It doesn't any longer.

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

We'll leave that. You're right.

I don't have much time. That's why I'm moving on quickly, Professor Granatstein.

Professor Regehr, I want to thank you for your analysis and for pointing out the significant differences on the nuclear side of policy with respect to the 1999 to 2010 strategic concept notions.

Your paper suggests some of the things Canada should be doing. Within NATO, can you suggest any top two or three things Canada should be pushing for to see that new concept make some progress, now that we seem to have adopted a new approach? What are the two or three most important things we should be pushing for?

12:25 p.m.

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

Dr. Ernie Regehr

I think the issue of the nuclear deployments on European soil is shaping up to be a major issue, because of the procurement decisions that are coming along. Ultimately, that's going to be primarily a European decision, but I think Canada should make its own position clear, that the utility of these weapons, whatever they once were, have passed, and that an international community that is trying to deal with non-proliferation challenges elsewhere—Iran and DPRK obviously—ought to be particularly sensitive to a policy that continues to deploy nuclear weapons within the territories of non-nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT. I think that's a particularly rankling policy, and I think we ought to push for strict adherence in the spirit and letter of the NPT law.

I think then the relationship with Russia, and that involves both the issue of the modernization of the warheads the United States is planning and also the deployment of ballistic missile defence, is also a particular concern. Germany and Norway and some other states have called for new, reinvigorated discussions within the Russia-NATO Council on cooperation with Russia. I think we ought to be pushing that strongly and calling for a halt, at least, or a slowdown, a pause, in ballistic missile defence deployments until we get a better understanding and some assurance that if ballistic missile defence is to go forward, it goes together cooperatively with Russia, rather than viewed as being against Russia's interests.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

Thank you. Time has expired.

Mr. Alexander.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Thank you very much, Chair. And thanks to our witnesses for being here and for accommodating the unpredictable schedule today. Thank you to you both for your opening comments.

I'll start with Professor Granatstein. You're a historian. You're taking the long view on these issues. You mentioned 1968 and other high points, or low points, in our thinking about NATO and our contributions to NATO.

I think many of us on this committee are impressed by the fact that Canada's percentage of GDP dedicated to defence hasn't rivalled that of the U.K. or France, let alone the United States, since the early 1960s. There was a secular decline in that decade, a further decline in the 1970s, some recovery in the 1980s, a decline again, and now some recovery, but not dramatic.

Could you say more about where you think we are in terms of Canada's relationship with NATO? Is our strategic thinking really out of step with the rest of NATO right now? Do we really need a fundamental reconsideration of first principles? What about our overall level of ambition and commitment in terms of spending?

12:25 p.m.

As an Individual

Dr. Jack Granatstein

In my view, we're not spending enough to keep up with what we need to do. We have caught up a good deal in filling the holes in the military, but we still have too few personnel. We still are remarkably short of equipment in certain areas.

And of course we are effectively out of NATO except when we choose to participate. We have staff officers there. We've withdrawn from some small but key programs in NATO that we'd had people committed to until recently.

We did, of course, participate with NATO in Afghanistan and in Libya, but those were in effect “wars of choice”, if I might use that term. We went with NATO because it served our interests, as we believed, to do so.

I think that's now where we are, effectively, with NATO. We're in a wars of choice situation. We're distant from it, but we will, if it serves our interests, participate in further military operations or further alliance operations of some kind. But it will be choice.

Now, that assumes that an article 5 conflict arises and NATO's solidarity is called into question; then, yes, I believe we would participate. We should realize, of course, that this could occur again fairly soon.

There's been some suggestion that Turkey might find itself in a situation where, because of the Syrian situation, it calls on NATO to act, to defend Turkey. We would, I assume, respond. How we would respond is another question. I can see us dispatching a ship, but it seems to me unlikely that we would be providing substantial ground troops at this point.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

As you know, this strategic concept provides for three main roles, tasks, vocations for NATO. One is collective defence, which is the historical legacy role. The other is crisis management, the wars of choice, or missions of choice. Not everyone contributes equally to them, as we've seen. But then there's also cooperative security.

I'd like your comments, Professor Granatstein, on that issue. NATO's strategic concept talks about the opportunity to work with partners around the globe to shape the operations of the future, and yet, at the same time, it's a security organization that's keeping the door open only to European members.

To what extent can NATO be relevant to addressing the Asian and other global security challenges you see, and to what extent should we work through another regional security arrangement?

12:30 p.m.

As an Individual

Dr. Jack Granatstein

I guess the thrust of what I was saying in my prepared comments was that NATO is not necessarily the best vehicle to approach the Pacific. Not all NATO countries have interest in the Pacific. Not all NATO countries care about it.

The reality is that we of course have a very large coastline. We have many interests that affect the Pacific. It will be much more important to us than it will be to most other NATO members. Do we want to be in a situation where we're dependent on the Lithuanians to vote for collective action in the Pacific?

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Probably not.

12:30 p.m.

As an Individual

Dr. Jack Granatstein

Probably not. It's not the right way for us to approach this.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

I have two seconds left—

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Bezan

No, your time has just expired. I have to be diligent here, and judicious.

Mr. Trudeau, you're on deck.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Thank you very much, Chair.

I went from having seven minutes with each of you to having five minutes with both of you, so I will ask my question fairly quickly and then allow the rest of the time for both of you to comment.

NATO was of course created largely in response to the pressures of the Soviet bloc, or ended up becoming what it was because of the Cold War. That model, with certain exceptions—the concerns around Turkey and Syria, for example—has largely been supplanted by concerns of....

I mean, even the action against Libya was not really against Libya. It was against a specific regime and an individual in Libya. But the idea of states warring against each other seems to have fallen out of...at least what is our current experience. This has an impact on both what NATO is doing and what NATO needs to do, but also around nuclear disarmament, as you've talked about, Professor.

I'd like to hear, first of all, how we're managing that shift, or how we should manage that shift, from being about warring states, which was the old model of peacekeeping, to much more anti-terrorism, promotion of security, guerrilla warfare between different factions within states.

Secondly, you talked a lot about nuclear deterrents...but talking about both, in that regard, having individuals or organizations that aren't states beginning to access nuclear weapons, and how that affects the nuclear atmosphere we're in, linking a little bit to certain conventional munitions—chemical, biological, or, specifically in this case, cluster bombs—that have larger implications than others for our global security.

I'd turn it over to both of you, please.

12:35 p.m.

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

Dr. Ernie Regehr

Thank you.

The threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons to non-state actors, or nuclear materials, even if not in weapon form, has had the most sobering effect on the move towards stricter adherence to non-proliferation and disarmament. When Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and George Schultz made their statements about nuclear disarmament, that's one of the things they were particularly concerned about.

We're recognizing that the notion that we can have a stable international community in which some remain “have” states of nuclear weapons for a long time while others do not is not possible in a world in which nuclear material, nuclear know-how, is widely dispersed. Any emerging industrial country—Iran would be an example—that has some universities and a scientific community, plus access to nuclear materials, can gain access to nuclear weapons. They have particular relationships with non-state groups. That's the most sobering element of it.

By the way, placing small bombs in a whole bunch of airfields around Europe is probably not the best security move.