On John Kerry’s First Speech as Secretary of State

Scotty Greenwood of McKenna, Long and Aldridge with Colin Robertson interviewed by Don Martin on CTV Powerplay, Thursday, February 21

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A Conversation with Hon. John Manley on Global Developments

CPAC The Conference of Defence Associations Institute (CDA Institute) and the CDA host the 2013 Ottawa Conference on Defence and Security. (February 21, 2013)

John Manley (CEO, Canadian Council of Chief Executives) has an in-depth conversation with former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson about Canada’s role on the world stage: Afghanistan, conditions for Canadian intervention, Pacific Century, procurement and the Jenkins Report, aerospace and shipbuilding, Team Canada missions and promoting Canadian world-class capability,  China, Japan, India, new defence challenges.

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On Nato and Canada: Commitments and Cybersecurity

NATO’s toughest battle is the discussion about its future

COLIN ROBERTSON Special to The Globe and Mail Published Wednesday, Feb. 20 2013

When NATO’s Defense ministers meet in Brussels this week, they will talk about the endgames in Afghanistan and Mali, and defence spending. Canada should use the occasion to press for an honest discussion on NATO resourcing and encourage the Alliance to focus on the emerging challenge of cyber-security.

Most of the allies, including Canada, have served notice that they will be gone sooner than later from both Afghanistan and Mali, leaving only a residual force in both places. For now, there is no enthusiasm within the Alliance for out–of-area operations and with reduced spending there is even less capacity to act.

In 2006, the Allies committed to defence spending of a minimum of two per cent GDP. In 2012, only four of the twenty-eight member nations met the target.

In addition to the division it creates between member countries, the effect of these disparities is threefold writes Secretary General Rasmussen: first, an ever greater military reliance on the United States. Second, growing asymmetries in capability among European Allies. Third, a defence gap that will compromise the Alliance’s ability in international crisis.

The US has carried the load in the Alliance.

Sequester and cuts will reduce American capacity. It expects more from the partner nations, with former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, warning that future US leadership, “for whom the Cold War was not the formative experience that it was for me – may not consider the return on America’s investment in NATO worth the cost.”This deserves a frank discussion.

As a start, NATO should probably revise its commitment figure to reflect fiscal realities – probably closer to the 1.5 per cent that Canada, and most other members, currently spend on defence.  Then look hard at how the money is spent.

A fifth of Alliance defence spending is supposed to go towards new equipment, crucial for NATO modernization efforts. This makes sense yet, only five allies meet the target.

NATO needs to look at procurement and discuss best practices so we can spend our money with effect. Nobody, except perhaps the French, do it well.

Part of the problem, as we witness in Canada over the F-35 debacle, is the inability to accurately predict costs or meet a schedule. In a useful report, Canada First: Leveraging Defence Procurement through Key Industrial Capabilities, business leaderTom Jenkins presented a series of recommendations that focus on five clusters: Arctic and Maritime Security, Protecting the Soldier, Command and Support, Cybersecurity, Training Systems and In-Service Support.

Jenkins’ recommendations are sensible and they should feed into discussion of an industrial defence strategy that also includes concepts like buying off-the-shelf and performance incentives (and penalties).

In a look at the wider world, another useful report, Strategic Outlook for Canada: 2013, authored by Ferry De Kerckhove and George Petrolekas, enumerates a baker’s dozen threats including nuclear proliferation from North Korea and Iran, turmoil in Syria and the Middle East, a cloning Al-Qaeda, China’s disputes with its neighbours, especially Japan. There are also threats closer to home: the continental drug trade, Haiti “the perennial rock of Sisyphus” and “a new, very cold war, in cyberspace.”

The cyber-threat deserves immediate attention.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano observed last week that not a day goes by without intrusions on the US defense and financial establishment. This likely holds true for us as well. Most of it originates from three countries: China, Russia and Iran.

In one of the first actions of his second term, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing US government agencies to prepare cybersecurity standards for the nation’s rail, road, air and energy grids.

The Order should stimulate Canadian cyber-preparedness. Our continental grid system is so integrated and vital to our economic well-being that we should act in tandem with the US.

NATO also has an economic mandate – inspired by Canada – so let’s make cyber-standards an Alliance initiative.

Canada was present and actively participated in the creation of NATO. Times and circumstances have changed, but the rationale for collective security in an alliance of like-minded democracies remains the same.

Strategic Outlook predicts that Canadian policymakers will increasingly favour pragmatism over principle; containment over involvement; reflection over engagement. These attitudes are likely shared across the Alliance. Leaders should bear them in mind as they envisage the future NATO.

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Canada-Europe Trade Deal and the US

Excerpted from A Canada-Europe trade deal represents a great opportunity. Can we seize it? by John Ibbitson Globe and Mail February 13, 2013

…Now the Americans also want a free trade agreement with Europe. Canada is already ahead of them. An agreement on CETA was due in December. The new deadline is March or April.

With the United States about to take centre stage, Canada risks being pushed off the stage entirely, unless it can wrap up the talks by April at the very latest.

“We’d better get our act together and conclude these negotiations quickly,” said Colin Robertson, the former diplomat who now writes and advises on trade issues, “because all of the oomph and energy on the part of the Europeans is going to immediately shift to what they see as the bigger game: the US-EU negotiations.”

As Mr. Robertson pointed out, in the last decade Canadian dithering froze this country out of a free-trade agreement with South Korea, once the Americans stepped in to do their own deal.

The reason for the delay on the Canada-European agreement is that CETA would be a very 21st-century deal. Rather than simply lowering tariffs on manufactured goods, it aims to open up government procurement to foreign bidders, to lower agricultural tariffs and to enhance patent protection, especially in pharmaceuticals…

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Wise Words from ‘Wise Men’ on US Defense and Security

From Winter edition 2012  ON TRACK Vol. 17 No. 3.

Wise Advice on the Fiscal Cliff and US Security

The reelection of President Obama to a second term and his determination to deal with U.S. economic challenges – currently characterized by the ongoing discussions around the ‘fiscal cliff’- mean that the US Forces face a degree of austerity.

After a decade of expansion and active combat in foreign wars, re-examination of American national security policy and capacity is sensible. Common sense should prevail. Regardless, more will be expected from the rest of the Alliance.

Sequestration and already scheduled cuts would impose a haircut of almost 10 per cent on the Pentagon over the next decade. While Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has warned of a ‘meat-ax’ approach that would jeopardize national security, the devil will be in the detail.

Some perspective is also necessary: during the past decade, the base defense budget has nearly doubled, from $297 billion in 2001 to more than $520 billion and it was projected to rise to $700 billion by 2020. While the scope of the cuts is still unclear

Pentagon spending has lots of congressional protectors, especially with the bases and jobs that depend on research and hardware – aircraft and ships – that are built in nearly every corner of the country. There is acknowledgement even among defense advocates that they will need to do their part.

A group of wise persons – the Coalition for Fiscal and National Security, chaired by former Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral (ret.) Mike Mullen, have intervened with sensible advice that should be read by all the Allies.

Spanning eight administration the Coalition includes former defense secretaries Robert Gates, Harold Brown and Frank Carlucci; Paul Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve;  former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright, James Baker, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill former senators Sam Nunn and Jack Warner, former House Armed Services chair Ike Skelton and former National Security Advisors Sam Berger and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

They argue that the national debt is “the single greatest threat to our national security” and that the crisis “ has revealed a perhaps equally dangerous political one: Our inability to grapple with pressing fiscal challenges represents nothing less than a crisis in our democratic order. “

The U.S. accounts for 48 percent of the world’s military spending. While the overall budget may not shrink it will certainly not grow at the same rate as it has since 9/11. This will mean hard choices within the Department of Defense as they face new challenges around cyber-security and continue the pivot towards Asia, while trying to maintain current Force readiness.

Intelligent pruning is possible, however, and the Coalition observe: advances in technological capabilities and the changing nature of threats make it possible, if properly done, to spend less on a more intelligent, efficient and contemporary defense strategy that maintains our military superiority and national security.”

They argue that “advances in technological capabilities and the changing nature of threats make it possible, if properly done, to spend less on a more intelligent, efficient and contemporary defense strategy that maintains our military superiority and national security.” In the belief that an ounce of diplomacy is worth a pound of ‘shock and awe’, the Coalition recommends spending more on the State Department to enhance the “non-defense dimensions of our national security” and “diplomatic assets.”

In her confirmation testimony Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton elaborated on this approach. She defined ‘smart power’ as using all the tools at Americas disposal –  diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural – “picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation”   arguing that “with smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy.”

The Americans will eventually find a way to avoid their ‘fiscal cliff’ because, as Churchill observed, you can always count on them to do the right thing, “after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” The Coalition concluded that the new compact requires not   “Herculean efforts, but a fusing of common sense, fairness, and pragmatism. It summons the truest form of patriotism – putting our country first.”

It will, however, require the Alliance to step up to the plate.

Both Gates and current Secretary Leon Panetta have called on the Allies to step up to the plate. Afghanistan and Libya illustrated the limits of the Alliance: despite relative unanimity around the mission when it came to operations in the field their commitment was variegated.  Some countries placed limits on their positions or caveats on the use of their forces. In Libya, eight allies bore the burden of the strike mission.

In the decade following 9/11, European defense spending declined by nearly 15 percent. Only five of the 28 allies now spent the agreed target of 2 percent of GDP on defense (for 2011 Canada stood at 1.4 percent).

In his farewell speech to the NATO Council (June 2011),  Gates warned of a ‘two-tiered’ alliance between those “willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership … but don’t want to share the risks and the costs.” Gates observed that “despite more than 2 million troops in uniform — not counting the U.S. military — NATO has struggled, at times desperately, to sustain a deployment of 25,000 to 40,000 troops, not just in boots on the ground, but in crucial support assets.” More recently, at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Prague (November, 2012) Secretary General Anders Rasmussen echoed the appeal and called on the legislators to ‘hold the line’ on defence spending.

Canada will be expected to do its part. We do so, not because the US is asking us to, but because of our longstanding commitment to collective security, More importantly, the national interest requires us to invest in our own security and not rely on others to do it for us.

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A Primer to the State of the Union

Obama’s State of the Union: A Canadian primer

By | Feb 12, 2013 1:05 pm

What is the State of the Union (SOTU)?

He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution

With this constitutional requirement in mind, each president gives an ‘Annual Message’ to Congress. The practice is also followed by some states where the governor will give a ‘state of the state’ address.

George Washington and John Adams spoke to joint sessions of Congress but Thomas Jefferson made it a written report because he considered the speech too ‘monarchial’. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson restarted the practice. Since Franklin Roosevelt the speech is given in late January or early February. The phrase ‘state of the union’ or SOTU in Beltway speak, is attributed to Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt also began the practice of a night-time address in recognition that with the advent of radio, his audience was not just those in the chamber but the American public who listen and now watch. In 1997, Bill Clinton began the practice of live streaming the SOTU on the web. Last year’s State of the Union address reached 48 million people, according to Neilsen.

What happens?

There is a protocol to the SOTU beginning with the Speaker of the House formally inviting the President to address a joint session of Congress.

Tonight,  members of the House will assemble in their chamber and at approximately 830PM EST the Deputy Sergeant-at-arms announces the arrival of the Vice-President and members of the Senate.

They are followed by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices, the Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all of whom seated nearest the rostrum.

By tradition, one cabinet member is designated to stay in a secure location  –the ‘survivor’ to ensure continuity and, since 9-11,  this has also included a few members of Congress. Traditionally the members sit by party. This was obvious in the applause (or lack thereof) but after the Tucson shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords, there has been a mixing of members.

Just after 9PM the House Sergeant-at-Arms in stentorian voice will announce: “Mister Speaker, the President of the United States!” He makes his way slowly through the crowd and takes his place at the House Clerk’s desk and then hands copies of his speech to the Vice President and Speaker. They sit behind him in the Speaker’s desk. The Speaker then proclaims: “Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you the President of the United States.”

The Speech

The President speaks to his agenda and the state of the union for about an hour. George Washington favoured brevity. His address was 10-15 minutes.

The address usually focuses on domestic policy – Lyndon Johnson declared a ‘war on poverty’ in 1964.  There is often a strong foreign policy component. James Monroe declared the doctrine that bears his name in 1823. In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed the ‘Four Freedoms’. In 2002, George W. Bush described North Korea, Iran and Iraq as the ‘axis of evil.’

Since Ronald Reagan, with an eye for stagecraft, the speech will contain references to individuals, sitting close to the First Lady, like Larry Skutnik, the hero of the Air Florida flight that crashed into the Potomac in January, 1982.

Since Lyndon Johnson’s 1966 SOTU, the opposition party has followed the speech with a televised address of rebuttal. Senator Mario Rubio of Florida, featured on the cover of this week’s Time Magazine as “the Republican Savior”, will give this year’s GOP response in both English and Spanish.

What are the Canadian interests?

Listen in particular for references to climate change and trade.

The President resurrected climate change as a priority in his Inaugural Address knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it…”

Legislative effort in his first term sputtered out in the Senate after the then Democrat-controlled House of Representatives had passed a bill (Waxman-Markey) that would have created a cap and trade system on green-house gas emissions with mandates for renewable energy generation, subsidies for wind, solar and other ‘green’ energy, as well as a renewable electricity standard (RES). From the Canadian perspective we want to ensure that our big hydro projects in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec (and eventually Labrador) are included in the definition of RES.

Cap and trade would potentially raise the costs, in the short term, for American manufacturers there was suggestion that a levy would be assessed on goods from countries that did not have the same energy standards as the US. While aimed at China there was always the potential that Canada could get side-swiped because of the oli sands.

The President has set an “all of the above” approach to achieving US energy independence. This includes the potential increase in supply of both offshore and inshore oil and especially natural gas through fracking although this is still in its infancy. Environmentalists point to contamination of water and air.

Energy from Canada and Mexico play into the energy independence scenario.

Our immediate interest is the permit for the XL pipeline. This is the second application. The first application was denied in January, 2012 after Nebraska expressed concerns about its routing through the Ogallala Aquifer, that Governor Dave Heineman described as “the lifeblood of Nebraska’s agriculture industry”. The route was changed. After an extensive inquiry by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality, Governor Heineman wrote (January 22) the President and Secretary Clinton saying that Nebraska now favours the pipeline.

The permit for the pipeline is granted through the State Department. Foreign Minister John Baird raised it Friday (February 8) when he met Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry was non-committal noting that the environmental assessment was currently underway but he “agreed to stay in touch on the Keystone pipeline.”


This coming Sunday (February 19) exhorts the Sierra Club website (and its ally 350.org) “thousands of activists will head to the White House and tell President Obama to shut down the climate-killing Keystone XL pipeline once and for all”. They promise it will be the “biggest climate demonstration yet”  against “Big Oil”. Their goal is “to form a massive human pipeline through Washington and then transform it into a giant symbol of the renewable energy future we need and are ready to build, starting right away.”

The XL pipeline has become as a rallying point for environmentalists and other activists in the same fashion as was the debate over ‘clear-cutting’ in the Great Bear Forest and the seal hunt. But the strategic value of Canadian oil and gas is not lost on the Pentagon. As for the US environmentalist movement, Prime Minister Harper has tartly observed in the context of the Northern Gateway application that “just because certain people in the United States would like to see Canada be one giant national park for the northern half of North America, I don’t think that’s part of what our review process is all about.”

The oil sands and XL debate underlines why we have to get our oil and gas by pipeline, rail or truck to tidewater ports on the Pacific or Atlantic coasts if we are to diversify our markets and get a better price for our product.

Trade between Canada and the US continues to be the biggest between any two nations.

Trade generates jobs and with the American public consistently putting the economy and jobs at the top of their priority list it will feature large in the SOTU. The President has promised to double American exports. Last year a study commissioned by the Canadian Embassy concluded eight million jobs in the US depend on trade with Canada and that for 35 American states Canada is their main export destination.

If the President talks about infrastructure then we can hope for an early permitting of the proposed new Second Crossing between Detroit and Windsor. This is our busiest commercial gateway and it has encountered many obstacles including a ballot initiative sponsored by the Ambassador Bridge owner that was defeated in November. As Ambassador Doer remarked at that time, the bridge will create 10,000 – 15,000 direct construction jobs in Michigan. Michigan’s share of the bridge cost, estimated to be $550 million, will be paid by the Government of Canada and recouped through bridge tolls. Any cost overruns or revenue shortfalls will be paid by Canada. The bridge will be built with U.S. and Canadian steel.

Departing Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood talked positively of the project last week saying that “I think everything is possible in Michigan when it comes to transportation. I think of the leadership of the governor (Rick Snyder) with Canada on the bridge crossing; what that will mean in terms of jobs, what that will mean in terms of the kind of relationship we have with Canada in terms of exports and imports. They need to get this project under way, get it done, and continue this kind of continuity of leadership that exists.”

Access to the US market is always a top Canadian priority.

A pair of initiatives launched by the President and Prime Minister in February, 2011 put aside the false choice between security and trade recognizing that economic security is vital to North American competitiveness. The initiatives are aimed at improving border access and regulatory cooperation based on the principle of “cleared once, inspected twice”. Process can be a placebo for action,  but in this case process is progress because we need to see attitudinal change on the part of those who mind the border.

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State of the Union and Canadian Interests

Obama talks: What Canadians should listen for

Special to The Globe and Mail Published Tuesday, Feb. 12 2013, 9:44 AM EST

Within the Washington beltway, SOTU (State of the Union) is as well known an acronym as POTUS (President) and SCOTUS (Supreme Court). It titled a Frank Capra movie and today it’s the name of a political talk show. But, on Tuesday evening, we’ll see the real thing. House Speaker John Boehner will gavel to order members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the joint chiefs of staff, the Supreme Court, foreign ambassadors and invited guests. Then President Barack Obama will deliver the first State of the Union address – SOTU – of his second term.

The speech will spell out how the president wants to achieve the priorities spelled out in the recent inaugural, especially around the economy and the environment. With our deep economic interdependence and shared space, we need to listen carefully because SOTU has potential implications for Canada.

First, listen for a re-commitment to job creation.

With unemployment at 7.9 per cent, jobs and the economy continue to be top of the public agenda. A promise of new money for infrastructure could benefit the planned second crossing between Detroit and Windsor. Nearly a quarter of Canada-U.S. trade passes through this gateway. Dogged by rear-guard action from the owner of the Ambassador Bridge – including a failed effort in the November ballot to secure a referendum – it now requires a presidential permit before it can be built. Canada has committed a half-billion dollars for its construction.

In earlier SOTU addresses, Mr. Obama promised to create jobs by doubling U.S. exports. Even if his language is mercantilist, the emphasis on trade is important. In our global economy, trade depends on imports as much as exports to generate jobs. A commitment by the President to the Trans-Pacific Partnership can give it the political heft necessary to move the negotiations forward. If he also endorses a European free-trade agreement (FTA) then we need to quickly seal our own CETA deal with the EU. When the U.S. moved on its South Korean FTA, we were left in the cold. A Canada-South Korea deal is still not concluded.

Second, listen for a renewed commitment to the environment.

Frustrated by the failure of Congress to achieve significant climate change legislation in his first term, the administration used its regulatory powers, mostly through the Environmental Protection Agency, to raise auto emission standards (that Canada mirrored) and to tighten the screws on greenhouse gas emissions. King Coal still provides half of America’s power generation. With shale gas a game-changer for power generation, look to more regulatory action on coal-fired plants.

Canada’s immediate objective is getting the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. After his meeting on Friday with new Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister John Baird got the equivalent of a pat from a cousin when Mr. Kerry promised that he “would keep in touch” on Keystone. It underlines why we have to get our oil and gas to tidewater – new markets and better prices.

Mr. Kerry will be watching to see what happens this Sunday when the Sierra Club and its allies rally around the White House to “tell President Obama to shut down the climate-killing Keystone XL pipeline once and for all” in their “biggest demonstration yet” against ‘Big Oil’.

With Nebraska now onside, the State Department’s environmental assessment is the last significant hurdle to Keystone. It should be the ‘no-brainer’ that Prime Minister Stephen Harper once described it as, given that the first application received a positive environmental assessment. But the environmental movement has made the pipeline the surrogate for the oil sands, and thus a litmus test for the President’s commitment to climate change.

Third, look to what the President says on defense.

Looming ahead is ‘sequester,’ a terrible word with terrible consequences: across the board indiscriminate spending cuts, especially in defense. In his farewell remarks, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned that a “pattern of constant partisanship and gridlock and recrimination” degrades America’s national security, and “ability to respond to crisis precisely at a time of rising instability across the globe.”

Mr. Panetta has also called on the allies to contribute their fair share or, as his predecessor Bob Gates put it in his NATO valedictory, we face “a dim, if not dismal future for the transatlantic alliance.”

Only five members of the 28-member alliance currently spend the agreed minimum 2 per cent of GDP on defence. Canada is not among them. In an age of globalization, sea-power counts. As we develop Pacific markets we have a vested interest in secure sea lanes. The U.S. will expect us to move on our promised new warships and remind Mr. Harper of his own words that, “Canada and its economy float on salt water.”

For a second term president, the first eighteen months are critical in terms of achievement and legacy. The political dynamic then inevitably shifts to the mid-terms. After that the president is considered a ‘lame duck’ and the campaigning for 2016 and a new president begins in earnest. If the inaugural address provides the vision for a new administration, the State of the Union sets the blueprint. So listen carefully to tonight’s SOTU.

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