NAFTA and Trump

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 Sentiment Factoring Into NAFTA Negotiations
Colin Robertson – Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Farmscape for August 13, 2018

The Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute suggests a growing protectionist sentiment within the United States is factoring into the NAFA negotiations.
Negotiations aimed at modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement are essentially on hold until next year awaiting results of the U.S, mid-term elections.
Colin Robertson, the Vice-President and a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says the U.S. public and now a large number of elected representatives in Congress and at the state level, recognize the value of NAFTA but the tide of protectionism is increasing.

Clip-Colin Robertson-Canadian Global Affairs Institute:
Polling, and I rely particularly on Pew, P E W, I think they’re the gold standard for polling in the United States, their most recent poll, which I think was March or April, suggested that a majority of Americans, around 55 to 60 percent see value in free trade agreements.
They think the United States has actually got something out of it.
They see particular value in a Canada-U.S. free trade agreement because they think we’re fair traders.
However the same polling shows that the base of the Republican party is becoming increasingly protectionist, more protectionist indeed than their representatives and it is that base that Donald Trump relies upon.
A good 40 percent to 50 percent of his base is really anti-trade.
When he speaks on trade he’s playing to that base and that is a factor we have to take into account because that’s the group he’s going to rely upon if he wants to seek reelection in 2020.

Robertson  suggests pressure from the farm community, which voted mostly for President Trump, and the manufacturing sector, many of whom voted for President Trump, is probably what has kept him from rescinding the NAFTA but it has not influenced the administration to bend on some of its more unreasonable positions.
For Farmscape.Ca, I’m Bruce Cochrane.

Lopez Obrador and NAFTA

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Stand of Mexican President-Elect on NAFTA Positive
Colin Robertson – Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Farmscape for August 9, 2018

The Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute observes the stand being taken by the President-Elect of Mexico on the North American Free Trade Agreement appears positive.
Among the key recent developments in terms of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement has been Mexico’s election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Colin Robertson, the Vice-President and a Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, notes Lopez Obrador won 53 percent of the popular vote, he took a majority in their House of Representatives, their Senate and a significant number of the 31 Mexican states so he goes in with a big mandate.

Clip-Colin Robertson-Canadian Global Affairs Institute:
Obviously a new administration will take a different perspective and this is the first truly left wing government we’ve had in Mexico in really 100 years and he’s assembled a cabinet that, by most pundant’s assessment, are technocrats and could fit almost into any administration.
While there had been some concerns that he was opposed to NAFTA, he’s certainly not indicated that.
In fact he seems to be committed to continuing the policies of the Pena Nieto regime in terms of participation in the NAFTA and in staying in close alignment with Canada.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and our new Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr where in Mexico two weeks ago and they met with the transition team as well as President-Elect Lopez Obrador and, coming out of that meeting, the staff of President Lopez Obrador said that he wanted to remain working closely in partnership with Canada in the NAFTA negotiations and to continue to improve the Canada-Mexico partnership generally.

Robertson suggests Canada and Mexico need to stand together.
He says we also need to double-down on our outreach pointing out to our American friends that North American trade is a proven win-win-win proposition.
For Farmscape.Ca, I’m Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork

 

NAFTA

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What’s ahead for NAFTA as U.S. and Mexico meet again without Canada

Colin Robertson, VP and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and member of the team that negotiated the original NAFTA deal, joins BNN Bloomberg to provide perspective on what’s ahead in NAFTA 2.0 negotiations, as the U.S. and Mexico meet.

  • 08/09/2018 – 3:15 PM EDT
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    Colin Robertson, VP and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and member of the team that negotiated the original NAFTA deal,...

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    What’s ahead for NAFTA as U.S. and Mexico meet again without Canada

    Colin Robertson, VP and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and member of the team that negotiated the original NAFTA deal, joins BNN Bloomberg to provide perspective on what’s ahead in NAFTA 2.0 negotiations, as the U.S. and Mexico meet.

 

Diplomacy by Tweet

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Trudeau says Canada standing firm on Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says diplomatic talks with Saudi Arabia will continue but he’s not backing down on Canada’s criticism of the kingdom over the arrest of several social activists last week.

Trudeau said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland had a long conversation with her Saudi counterpart on Tuesday and Canada is engaging directly with the Saudi government in a bid to restore diplomatic ties between the two countries. But an apology from Canada or a withdrawal of the human rights concerns Canada raised, is not on the table.

“As the minister has said and as we will repeat, Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights,” Trudeau said during an event Wednesday in Montreal.

The diplomatic dispute began last week after Freeland tweeted concerns about the arrests of social activists, including Samar Badawi, who has advocated for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Her brother, blogger Raif Badawi, has been in prison since 2012 for criticizing the government, but his wife and children live in Quebec and became Canadian citizens earlier this year.

On Aug. 2, Freeland called for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi and, a day later, her department tweeted further criticism and called for the “immediate release” of Samar Badawi and all peaceful human rights activists.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador, suspended diplomatic relations and slammed the door to new trade with Canada. It has since recalled thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada, moved to transfer any Saudi patients out of Canadian hospitals and barred the import of Canadian wheat. As of next week, the Saudi-owned airline will cease direct flights to and from Toronto and there is at least one report that the government has also ordered state-owned pension funds and banks to sell off Canadian assets.

Many Saudi media outlets and online personalities have taken to the web and airwaves to criticize Canada for everything from the opioid epidemic to its treatment of Indigenous Peoples.

Trudeau said Canada’s goal is not to have a bad relationship with Saudi Arabia.

“We don’t want to have poor relations with Saudi Arabia,” he said in French. “It’s a country that has a certain importance in the world and is making progress on human rights. But we will continue to underline challenges when they exist there and everywhere in the world.”

Earlier Wednesday, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh that Canada has been given the information it needs to correct the tweets and that it’s up to Canada to step up and fix its “big mistake.”

The intensity of Saudi Arabia’s response has puzzled many, who say it is an extreme reaction to a relatively tame tweet that isn’t much different from what Canada has said before.

Former diplomat Colin Robertson, now vice-president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says Saudi Arabia’s “Defcon 3” response is extraordinary, but thinks Canada’s decision to send the message on Twitter may be partly to blame.

“We are becoming too carefree with tweets,” said Robertson.

The 140-character limit, or 280 in some cases, is not enough to allow for the level of nuance that is required in diplomatic relations and tweets may not be subjected to the same rigorous review process, including sign off by the ambassador, that an official statement would be, he said.

“It is diplomacy by tweet that is responsible,” he said. “When you’re the government of Canada and the ministry of foreign affairs you’ve got to be careful.”

Trudeau, who was heavily criticized for his 2017 tweet welcoming refugees to Canada as the U.S. was clamping down on its asylum system, didn’t apologize for making use of the medium in this situation.

“I think people understand that in today’s world there are a broad range of communications tools available to individuals, to countries, to share messages, to make statements,” he said. “We will continue to use the full range of methods of communication as appropriate.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said his sources have told him it was patronizing language in the Arabic translation of the Canadian tweet that really got the Saudis upset. He said the Trudeau government’s apparent preference for social media over person-to-person communications is a mistake.

“Increasingly, both ministers and departments in this government have started using Twitter as a primary means of expressing concern and that has already caused a number of embarrassments for Trudeau.”

Canada needs to learn from its mistake and work on its face-to-face diplomatic skills, said O’Toole, who nonetheless characterized the Saudi response as being “over the top.”

Pm Trudeau says talks are ongoing between Saudi Arabia and Canada to address the diplomatic dispute. Glen McGregor reports.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly planning to sell off its Canadian assets. CTV’s Michel Boyer reports.

Observers say it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will back down in an escalating diplomatic feud with Canada. Joyce Napier has the latest.

 

Laura PaytonOttawa News Bureau Online Producer

@laura_payton

Published Wednesday, August 8, 2018 10:37AM EDT 
Last Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2018 4:37PM EDT

OTTAWA — The federal government should have been more careful when it tweeted concerns about the arrest of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, a former diplomat says.

Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a career diplomat, says “diplomacy by tweet” is a bad way to issue policy statements.

“Diplomacy by tweet is best taken with great care… as we have learned to our cost,” Robertson said in an interview with CTV News.

“You cannot say in 247 characters or 400 characters the nuance that you want to capture in a diplomatic statement.”

Robertson says a tweet about Saudi Arabiaarresting women’s rights activists is the cause of Canada’s current problems with the kingdom, whose leaders took offence to the call for the activists’ “immediate release.”

“They felt it prejudged their judicial system,” he said.

A number of human rights organizations have raised repeated concerns about the Saudi Arabian judicial system, which sentences people to lengthy prison sentences and employs corporal punishment as well as the death penalty. Amnesty International says torture remains common, and activists have been sentenced to death following “grossly unfair trials.”

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird agrees Twitter was the wrong platform on which to send the message.

“This relationship has gone south and it’s gone south fast, and it’s not too late to rescue it,” Baird said in an interview with CTV News.

“We share an important amount of interest with Saudi Arabia. They’re battling the Islamic State, they’re battling Iran, who has taken out the government in the neighbouring country of Yemen, and it’s in our interest to work cooperatively.”

Baird says he spoke for 15 minutes about women’s rights when he met with the man who is now Saudi King Salman. Baird was Canada’s foreign affairs minister from 2011 to 2015. He now advises several companies and has three clients who do business in Saudi Arabia.

Trudeau must fly to Riyadh to speak directly to the King or Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

“You do it respectfully and face to face, and not do diplomacy via Twitter,” Baird said.

Officials say Canada routinely raises human rights issues in private meetings with Saudi Arabia and noted that Freeland raised them in May during a bilateral meeting with the Saudi foreign minister. They did not directly answer whether she raised the concerns noted in the tweet before it was sent.

Speaking in Montreal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government continues to engage with the Saudi Arabian government.

“The minister of foreign affairs [Chrystia Freeland] had a long conversation with their foreign minister yesterday and diplomatic talks continue,” he said.

“But as the minister has said and as we will repeat, Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights.”

Saudi Arabia selling Canadian assets: report

The repercussions now include Saudi Arabia’s central bank and state pension funds issuing orders to eliminate new Canadian investments “no matter the cost,” according to a report by the Financial Times.

The move could explain Tuesday’s poor performance by Canadian markets, which fell due to selling activity by an unknown investor.

The reported sell-off is the latest in a series of measures taken by Saudi Arabia since the Canadian government called on the kingdom to release detained female bloggers and activists.

The Saudi government instructed Saudi nationals staying in Canadian hospitals to leave the country. More than 15,000 post-secondary students were previously ordered to leave Canada and return to Saudi Arabia.

Canada’s ambassador to the country was expelled earlier this week, while the Saudis recalled their own ambassador from Ottawa. Trade has also been frozen between the two countries.

Analysts say the moves suggest Saudi Arabia is using Canada to send a message to the rest of the West about attempts to interfere in what it sees as its internal affairs.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister shifted responsibility for resolving the dispute back to Canada, telling a news conference in Riyadh that “Canada knows what it needs to do,” according to multiple reports.

Adel al-Jubeir said there’s nothing to mediate in the spat, and said Saudi Arabia is considering additional measures against Canada.

“A mistake has been made and a mistake should be corrected,” he said, according to a Reuters report.

The Canadian government says it continues to seek clarity from the kingdom “on various issues” and referred questions about the reported asset sell-off, as well as about the foreign minister’s remarks, to the Saudi government.

“The Embassy’s trade officers in addition to the wider Trade Commissioner Service are actively engaged with Canadian business interests and will continue to work with them and the relevant authorities in the coming days,” Amy Mills wrote in an email to BNN Bloomberg.

Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation that provides financing and advice to Canadian exporters, says it is reviewing its position on Saudi Arabia. The commercial institution had the country listed as open for business with a low risk of political interference, the National Post said Tuesday. By Wednesday it had removed the previous assessment and noted the review is happening “in light of recent events.”

With files from CTVNews.ca staff

Trudeau going into Year Four

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Justin Trudeau is in trouble, but he can fix that

Michael Bociurkiw is a global affairs analyst and a former spokesperson for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A native of Canada, he has written for the Globe & Mail, the Winnipeg Free Press and frequently comments on Canadian television. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his; view more opinions on CNN.

(CNN)There was a jarring sense of déjà vu last week in Canada as images of yet another attack on innocent civilians in Toronto played out on newscasts. A reportedly mentally ill man went on a gun rampage on Sunday evening in Toronto’s popular Danforth neighborhood, killing two people and injuring 13 others. The attack occurred less than three months after a man drove a van into pedestrians in another busy part of Toronto, killing 10 people.

And those were just in 2018. In January 2017, in Quebec City, a man using a restricted firearm killed six people and injured others. And in September of that year, in Edmonton, a man carried out a stabbing and van attack, injuring five.
According to Toronto police, up to half of the guns on the streets of Toronto are smuggled in from the US, and the Canada Border Services Agency is routinely seizing illegal firearms at the Canada-US border. (Media reports say the semi-automatic handgun used in last week’s Sunday shooting originated in the US, although Canadian-sourced illegal firearms arms are a big part of police seizures as well).
Michael Bociurkiw

And these stories are not just anecdotal. According to the Canadian government, the number of homicide victims killed by firearms has been steadily increasing over the last three years. With gun violence on the rise in North America’s fourth-largest city, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must now contend with growing calls for a crackdown on guns in Canada where, unlike in the US, people do not have a constitutional right to bear arms.
The surge in violence on Canadian streets adds to the list of issues Trudeau is going to have to deal with as he prepares for a federal election next year. Just three years into his mandate, the photogenic Trudeau must juggle a host of controversies that have hurt his popularity. Introducing a possible handgun ban in response to the violence and adding a new post for “border security and organized crime reduction” in a cabinet shuffle on July 18 are some of the ways Trudeau is getting battle ready.
But it will take more than that. With his protracted honeymoon over, Trudeau must project himself less as a Prime Minister known for viral selfies and more as a decisive leader willing to stand up to external threats. That may require a shakeup of his own team to prioritize issues management and damage control.
His focus should be on what he can control, starting with curbing the flow of migrants crossing into Canada. Ottawa is also under growing pressure from provincial premiers and big city mayors who say they are overwhelmed with the burden of caring for new migrants who can languish for years as they grind their way through Canada’s notoriously clogged immigration processing system. Last year alone, more than 20,000 “irregular” asylum seekers were intercepted by police along the US-Canada border. These are individuals who have either transited through the US or have already claimed asylum in the US and use a loophole to cross into Canada where the chances of staying are much higher (all the while receiving such benefits as free health care, shelter and work permits).
Little of what the government has done so far has plugged the loophole, and if the northward flow continues, the Trudeau government could be forced to make the entire border off limits to those who don’t use official crossings. Although images of distressed asylum seekers from Nigeria and Haiti may not play well on TV in an election season, cracking down on what some Canadians regard as queue jumpers would have little political downside.
Tough language, a cabinet shuffle and making Canadians feel safer. But with just a little over a year to go before voters head to the polls, is this too little, too late?
Recent public opinion polls seem to indicate a bumpy road ahead for Trudeau, who came into office at 43 with little political experience but good looks, charm and a weighty legacy as the son of Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s third-longest serving prime minister.
According to CBC’s poll tracker, which incorporates several public opinion surveys, with a spread of less than 1%, if an election were held today, the Liberals would either be defeated or end up with a minority government.
Considering that in 2015 the Liberals achieved the largest-ever seat gain in a Canadian election, the plunge in popularity is nothing short of stunning.
Many trace the pivot point back to the Prime Minister’s disastrous week-long, state visit to India last February, when he was widely ridiculed for dressing his entire family in traditional Indian attire. (As Sun Media’s Adrienne Batra put it, the India visit featured more wardrobe changes than a Cher concert). Further damage came first from revelations that a convicted terrorist, Jaspal Atwal, had been invited to two events with the Prime Minister, and then from suggestions from an official in Ottawa that factions in the Indian government had sabotaged Trudeau’s visit.
With an election on the horizon, the disastrous India visit is expected to make for explosive campaign ammunition. “The Tories will play and re-play the India trip dress-up that went down very badly. The lesson being, don’t combine family trips with state visits,” said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
Justin Trudeau addresses groping allegations

Justin Trudeau addresses groping allegations 00:57
But also looming in the background, and considered by pundits as legitimate election fodder, are groping allegations against Trudeau from 18 years ago that have just become public and which many feel have been insufficiently addressed by the Liberal leader, who’s branded himself as a fierce defender of women, even booting a Liberal MP from the cabinet for allegedly calling a woman “yummy” almost a decade ago. Having raised the ethical bar so high, and yet possibly unable to live up to his own standards, the gap will almost certainly be played by political opponents as evidence of hypocrisy. As for Trudeau, he has gone on the record saying he has no recollections of the incident but added, “I respect the fact that someone else might have experienced that differently.”
Then there is a questionable environmental record, damaged by the government’s billion dollar bailout of a controversial pipeline that would bring oil from Alberta, via British Columbia, to Pacific Ocean ports. The nationalization of the US energy firm Kinder Morgan’s pipeline has already generated heated protests in BC and has called into question Trudeau’s green credentials. And it could get worse — a lot worse — should environmental activists and aboriginal groups block construction bulldozers. Ottawa political analyst Yaroslav Baran told me “At the end of the day, if there are First Nations protesters chained to the pipeline right of way, Mr. Trudeau won’t have the guts to send in the army to remove them.”
But, as Canadians prepare for the next election, Trudeau may benefit from an unlikely source: President Donald Trump. In the past weeks, the Trump team has mercilessly taunted Trudeau and rallied against Canada for everything from unfair trade practices to disagreements at the G7 summit in Quebec. Trudeau has been fiercely standing up for Canada — or donning the “Captain Canada hat” as Baran puts it — which in turn has been giving him a slight boost in the polls.
And with every anti-Canada or anti-Trudeau tweet, it’s the gift that could keep on giving for the Trudeau camp. “The federal government’s firm but polite pushback against an increasingly combative Donald Trump on the international stage is playing well politically for the Trudeau government,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute of Vancouver.
But, as she and others pointed out, if job layoffs, especially in the auto sector, start to occur as a result of the trade disputes, the going could get really tough for the Trudeau government. He may need to get relief from punitive tariffs from Trump — similar to what the EU achieved last week — all the while shoring up the Canadian economy against growing competition from a super-charged US economy.

NATO Spending

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Canadian soldiers on NATO duty in Latvia June 11, 2018. Prime Minister Trudeau who visited prior to the NATO summit announced Canadian leadership of the multinational battle group is being extended The NATO group includes Albanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Czech, Polish, Italian and Spanish forces. (Combat Camera- Cpl J-R Chabot)

NATO: defence spending claim and counter-claims

U.S President Trump once again ruffled some feathers at the NATO summit this week. Among other things he complained that other members were not meeting their financial obligations. His gruff talk however seems to have had some effect.

Colin Robertson is vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, a non-partisan think tank on international issues. He is also a former Canadian diplomat and trade negotiator.

ListenWith the end of the Cold War, most countries took what they called a “peace dividend” and reduced their defence spending by a significant amount. Canada also cut its spending quite considerably.

In 2014 NATO countries agreed they would boost spending to two per cent of their gross domestic product,by 2024. Canada it seems has been among the countries lagging.

The U.S meanwhile has consistently spent far more than 2 two per cent. Both prior to, and during the summit, U.S President Trump said that the U.S was tired of footing as much as  two-thirds of the  NATO bill.

President Trump came in very unhappy, but after an emergency meeting earlier today, said he was happy that other nations had agreed to “pay more and pay more quickly”.

That may or may not be the case.

For example, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when asked by reporters afterward said only that he had agreed to move “toward” the two per cent goal by 2024, but made no mention of achieving the two per cent target.  Italy and France also said they had agreed only to the same deal they had made in 2014.

Recently Canada announced a continued commitment to NATO in Latvia, an increased responsibility in Iraq, and has recently begun sending peacekeepers to Mali.

With Canada’s current defence spending at under one per cent, and moving toward the two percent goal of 2024, (actually heading toward 1.4 per cent), Robertson says with the expense and wear on already often well-worn equipment and personnel  involved with the current military NATO and peacekeeping commitments abroad it will be interesting to see to what extent Canada will be able to continue to increase spending and meet present and future NATO spending.

The end result of President Trump’s rough tone, may have had some effect on boosting NATO funding, but although the now 29 member states may have understood a greater sense of urgency on spending, what Trump is claiming  and what other states actually contribute and how quickly may not be quite the same thing.

additional information

Why NATO Matters

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July 10, 2018 6:39 am
Updated: July 10, 2018 8:48 pm

Justin Trudeau adding more Canadian troops in Latvia, extending mission

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada is extending its NATO commitment in Latvia by another four years to March 2023 and will boost the number of troops in the country to 540 from the current 455 in a show of ongoing solidarity with the alliance.

WATCH: Canada extending mission in Latvia; adding more troops

Trudeau made the announcement in Riga following a meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Maris Kucinskis and indicated that he hopes the increased Canadian commitment to Latvia gets the attention of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

READ MORE: Why Donald Trump’s attacks on NATO might make some leaders less likely to spend more

Canada is part of a NATO battle group in Latvia, which was established as the alliance’s response to Russia’s surprise annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its invasion of eastern Ukraine.

“We certainly hope that the message is passed clearly to President Putin that his actions in destabilizing and disregarding the international rules-based order that has been successfully underpinned by NATO amongst others over the past 75 years or so is extremely important,” said Trudeau.

“We certainly hope that Russia will choose to become a more positive actor in world affairs than it has chosen to be in the past.”

The Canadian-led group is one of four in the region, and includes troops from seven NATO allies. Germany leads a similar force in Lithuania, Britain leads one in Estonia and the U.S. leads in Poland.

WATCH: Trudeau reaffirms NATO commitment ahead of contentious meeting

Before leaving Canada on Monday, Trudeau spoke to NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg by telephone to stress the “importance of the alliance’s unity and solidarity on defence and security issues.”

Trudeau’s announcement comes a day ahead of a NATO summit in Brussels, where the stage is set for another confrontation between world leaders and Donald Trump, as Canada and other NATO allies prepare to counter the U.S. president’s complaint that they aren’t carrying their fair share of the burden of being part of the military alliance.

Trudeau also met in Riga Tuesday with Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis.

READ MORE: Final rotation of soldiers returns to Edmonton from NATO-led operation in Poland

He also laid flowers at the monument of freedom and took part in a number of activities at a military base in Adazi. Trudeau also attended a candlelight vigil at a Latvian memorial to fallen soldiers, a vehicle display by multinational troops and spoke to Canadian military personnel.

Trudeau’s visit to Latvia comes as the stage is set for another confrontation between world leaders and Donald Trump, with Canada and other NATO allies preparing to counter the U.S. president’s persistent complaint that they aren’t carrying their fair share of the burden of being part of the 69-year-old military alliance.

LISTEN: Retired diplomat Colin Robertson looks at the history and importance of NATO

https://globalnews.ca/news/4322396/justin-trudeau-canadian-troops-latvia-extending-mission/

Trump’s ongoing efforts to portray Canada and other member states as pinching pennies when it comes to the military spending target of two per cent of GDP – a benchmark agreed to by allies at the 2014 summit in Wales.

Trump has threatened to pull out of the alliance entirely if other member nations don’t pony up.

WATCH: Canadian soldiers in Latvia send messages home for Canada Day 2017

The president acknowledged Monday on Twitter that other member states have increased their defence spending, but repeated his complaint that the U.S. contributes far more than other countries, which he said “is not fair nor is it acceptable.”

If the U.S. were to leave NATO, it would have a “huge and highly negative” affect on Canada, said David Perry, a senior defence analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“If you take his rhetoric at full value … it would actually start to undermine the solidarity alliance, it would be hugely consequential for Canada because NATO has been so important to it.”

Having a forum in which Canada can engage in discussions about key security issues with the U.S. as part of a larger alliance of nations also offers Canada some counterweight that doesn’t exist in North America alone, where the United States is the “800-pound gorilla,” Perry added.

WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Latvia visiting with Canadian troops stationed there

But given that Trump has followed through on other threats – including tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and the European Union, as well as a full-blown trade war with China – Perry said allies ought to be concerned about the possibility that Trump isn’t bluffing.

“He does seem to have a habit of doing what he says he’s going to do.”

Concerns about U.S. disengagement have also deepened given that Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin just days after the summit.

Some see the controversial meeting as an undermining of the alliance itself, considering some of NATO’s active military missions – including the one in Latvia – were undertaken in direct response to Russia’s escalating aggression in the Baltic region.

“The Trump-Putin summit could potentially aggravate U.S. allies who want to isolate Putin,” said Jayson Derow, a research analyst at the NATO Association of Canada.

READ MORE: New best friends? Canada and Latvia have some ties, but some work to do

“However, while U.S. President Donald Trump’s rhetoric has surely shaken the confidence of U.S. allies and NATO members across the Atlantic, the alliance is still standing and the Trump administration has taken tangible steps to bolster the alliance and European security, while countering Moscow with the sales of military hardware and its own deployments in eastern Europe.”

Canada should spend more on defence

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Obnoxious he is, but when it comes to NATO burden-sharing, U.S. President Donald Trump has a point. With the United States shouldering almost two-thirds of defence expenditures by the alliance members, the other 28 members, including Canada, can do more.

At this week’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should commit to meet the NATO defence commitment guideline − 2 per cent of gross domestic product − by 2024. In doing so, he could also commit to increasing Canadian development assistance to 0.7 per cent of GDP, the target first recommended by former Canadian prime minister Lester Pearson. If the United Kingdom can manage these commitments for defence and development, so can Canada.

While these pledges will discombobulate some, it would further validate the Trudeau government’s declaration that “Canada is back” as a constructive internationalist.

In terms of readiness, Canadian Forces already have achieved significant interoperability on land, air and sea with U.S. forces. We do this through NATO as well as NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command), our 60-year-old binational aerospace and maritime surveillance agreement. We also achieve it through joint exercises and active operations in theatres such as Afghanistan and Libya and now in Latvia.

But we should do more.

This means spending more, not because Mr. Trump says so, but because Canadian sovereignty requires it. In their commendable, recently tabled report on NATO, the House of Commons National Defence Committee recommended that Canada meet the NATO target. They also encouraged developing quantitative and qualitative evaluations that better represent national contributions beyond the 2-per-cent metric.

There will be many opportunities for reinvestment. Three initiatives would immediately serve Canadian interests:

1) Increase the reserves: The Canadian Forces face recruitment and retention problems. This would bring in more young people as well as those who want to complement their current employment. They will learn a trade and serve their nation.

2) Assert our sovereignty, especially in the North. We need to pick up the pace for construction of icebreakers by using all of Canada’s shipyards and building more Arctic offshore patrol ships and supply ships for use in all three oceans. We should also invest now in the next generation of submarines – they are the ultimate stealth weapon to deter unwelcome intrusions into our maritime space. And why not build a pair of hospital ships to provide humanitarian relief in the increasing number of climate-related disasters that beset coastal nations?

3) Meet new threats. Canada should join the three NATO Centers for Excellence to address hybrid threats (Helsinki, Finland), cyber threats (Tallinn, Estonia) and strategic communications (Riga, Latvia). Their work would fit right into the government’s innovation agenda, while also bolstering the strategic partnership with the European Union.

The threats we face are real. These include a hostile Russia that has occupied Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine. Russia also actively undermines democratic institutions using chemical, hybrid and cyberweapons, tools that are also used for subversion, crime and terrorism. Terrorism, fuelled by failed and failing states and perverted ideologies requires constant vigilance. Nuclear proliferation requires ongoing containment.

For the democracies, NATO continues to be the best defence against threats, new and old. While the alliance is trans-Atlantic, its footprint is global, with partner nations including Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea.

But like any institution that turns 70 next year, NATO can be improved.

A useful starting point is the recent report of the GLOBSEC NATO Adaptation initiative. To meet and master the many technology and affordability challenges from “hybrid warfare to hyperwar”, the authors recommend a strategic review for next year’s summit so that NATO is “prepared, fit and able to act across the seven domains of grand conflict: air, sea, land, cyber, space, information and knowledge.”

Canada, like the rest of the Alliance, took the peace dividend after the fall of the Berlin Wall and end of the Cold War. The Chretien government used the savings to pay down debt and put our financial house in order. Alas, the end of history did not arrive and the triumph of democracy was premature.

Now we need to reinvest in our collective security. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt, John F. Kennedy said, can we be certain, beyond doubt, that they will never be employed.

NATO Summit

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What To Expect From This Week’s NATO Summit: A Discussion with Elinor Sloan

July 9, 2018

On today’s Global Exchange Podcast, we sit down with CGAI Fellow and Carleton University professor Dr. Elinor Sloan to discuss this week’s NATO Summit, and what it means for the future of the transatlantic alliance. Join Colin and Elinor as they consider Canada’s future within NATO, Donald Trump and NATO’s 2%-of-GDP defence funding bar, the alliance’s revamped command structure, and the role of NATO in a world of shifting power dynamics and growing nationalism.

Participant Biographies

  • Colin Robertson (host): A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
  • Dr. Elinor Sloan: A professor of international relations in the department of political science at Carleton University, a former defence analyst with Canada’s Department of National Defence and a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

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Book Recommendations

 

by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice President and Fellow
July 2018

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Table of Contents


Introduction

Presidents and prime ministers will meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday (July 11-12) in a summit meeting of the 29 partner nations. Initiatives on the table include increasing Alliance readiness to counter Russian aggression in NATO’s east; implementing military command structure reform; introducing a new training mission in Iraq; counterterrorism support to Afghanistan, Jordan and Tunisia; and a Black Sea regional security initiative.

But the elephant in the room will be U.S. President Donald Trump.

The conference takes place against unsettled and unsettling times: divisions within the NATO Alliance and threats on its eastern and southern flanks. The recent G7 Charlevoix summit was upset by Mr. Trump’s belligerence, especially towards his host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Trump-inspired trade war with China has begun. Mr. Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum have met with retaliatory tariffs from Canada, the Europeans and Mexico. In the European Union there are deep divisions within and between member countries challenging EU unity on issues of migration and the Eurozone. Then there are the Brexit negotiations that have now splitBritish Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet.  While southern allies are focused on migration and border concerns, northern and eastern allies are concerned about Russia.

Russia continues to occupy parts of Ukraine and meddle in Syria and the Middle East. The death of a Briton from Soviet-made Novichok toxin will only exacerbate the strain caused by the Sergei Skripal affair and Ms. May will continue to press for sanctions on Russia. Meanwhile, Russia continues to apply the techniques of hybrid warfare against NATO members – cyber-, fake news and interference in elections – while reinvesting in its military capacity and conducting exercises with the Chinese. The North Korean puzzle is more complicated in the wake of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit. He described it as “productive” while North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused the Trump administration of pushing a “gangster-like demand for denuclearization”.

Attention will be focused on Mr. Trump: will he disrupt the meeting? And amid concerns about what concessions he may offer the Russian leader, will he share his plans for his July 16 summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin? Former U.S. ambassador to NATO Victoria Nuland observes that these back-to-back summits “will either restore American global leadership or kill it off, depending on how he plays our hand.”

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What is NATO?

NATO is a military and political alliance constructed around the principles of collective security, democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. It has 29 members including Canada, the United States and most European nations, as well as a host of Euro-Atlantic partner nations. NATO represents half of the world’s economic and military power. As NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg observes, “no other superpower has ever had such a strategic advantage.”

In the wake of the Second World War, the victors set up a series of international institutions. The foremost was the United Nations, with universal membership designed to advance human progress and prevent the “scourge of war”. Responding to what Sir Winston Churchill described as the “iron curtain” descending “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic”, the western alliance set up a collective security agreement called the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

In the words of its first secretary general, Lord Ismay, NATO was to “keep the Russians out, the Germans down, and the Americans in”. Most importantly, it’s a collective security agreement – an attack on one would be considered an attack on all (Article 5). NATO was also designed, at Canadian insistence, to have an economic dimension to promote trade, investment and commerce among its members (Article 2).

The agreement was signed in Washington on April 2, 1949. Its original membership included 12 countries – the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. In signing the agreement then-Canadian External Affairs minister Lester Pearson said that Canadians “feel deeply and instinctively” that the treaty is “a pledge for peace and progress”.

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The Alliance expanded: Turkey and Greece joined in 1952, West Germany in 1955 and Spain in 1982. France left the military alliance in 1967 but rejoined in 2009. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, NATO membership is now 29 countries – including Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

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NATO Today

NATO is headquartered in Brussels, where Mr. Stoltenberg, a former Norwegian prime minister, leads its Secretariat with Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, a former U.S. undersecretary for arms control and international security

NATO military operations are headed by two commanders: the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) based in Brussels is currently U.S. General Curtis Scaparrotti; and the Supreme Allied Commander, Transformation (SACT) based in Norfolk, Virginia is currently French General Denis Mercier.

Member nations are represented in both the NATO council and military committee. A Canadian has never held the post of secretary general but Canadians have twice served as chair of the Military Committee; General Ray Henault, a former chief of defence staff, was chair from 2005-2008. The current chair is Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach.

Legislators from NATO nations meet annually in the NATO parliamentary assembly and in November Canada will host the assembly in Halifax. Ontario MP Leona Alleslev, a former RCAF officer, chairs the Canadian NATO interparliamentary delegation.

Defence Expenditure as a Share of GDP (%)
(based on 2010 prices and exchange rates)

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What has NATO done?

NATO is the classic defensive alliance with Article 5 of its charter declaring that “an attack on one is an attack on all.” Arguably the world’s most successful military alliance, alliance unity and its deterrence capacity contributed significantly to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, the reunification of Germany and the demise of the communist threat in Europe.

NATO has three core tasks: collective defence, crisis management and co-operative security. For its first 40 years NATO’s purpose was to deter Soviet aggression. With the end of the Cold War, NATO shifted to help the former Soviet bloc countries embrace democracy and the market economy. Today, it deters Russian aggression.

NATO forces were involved in bringing peace to the Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo) in operations that continue today. NATO forces, under the umbrella of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), have been present in Afghanistan since 2003. There have been operations around Iraq (1990-1991) and a training mission (2004-2011). In 2005, NATO assisted in the relief efforts following the Pakistan earthquake. In recent years, NATO has also provided support to African Union peacekeeping missions in the Sudan and Somalia. NATO led the UN-sanctioned Libyan campaign (Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR in 2011), maintaining a no-fly zone and conducting air strikes against the Gadhafi regime. Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard directed the air campaign.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2014 presented NATO with a renewed challenge. Conflicts within and between states have created failing states and mass migration on its southern flank – in North Africa and the Middle East – that require ongoing attention.

Since 1989, NATO has also become involved in a series of out-of-theatre missions. Over 150,000 troops served under NATO command in six different operations on three continents, including counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

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President Trump and NATO

Attention once again will be focused on President Trump as he attends his second NATO summit. There is no denying that the U.S. provides the muscle for NATO. At a South Carolina rally last month, Mr. Trump said that America is “the piggy bank that (NATO) likes to take from” and at the Charlevoix summit he is said to have called it “as bad as NAFTA”.

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Mr. Trump subsequently wrote letters to Prime Minister Trudeau and other NATO leaders from Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Germany telling them that the U.S. was losing patience with them for investing too little in their militaries and not meeting their collective security obligations. He concluded that it will “become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries continue to fail to meet our shared collective security commitments.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has also written to his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson, warning that British influence is “at risk of erosion … A global nation like the U.K., with interests and commitments around the world, will require a level of defence spending beyond what we would expect from allies with only regional interests. Absent a vibrant military arm, world peace and stability would be further at risk”. And, “… it is in the best interest of both our nations for the U.K. to remain the partner of choice. In that spirit, the U.K. will need to invest and maintain robust military capability”.

The Washington Post also reported that, surprised at the size and cost of the U.S. presence in Germany, Mr. Trump is considering withdrawing its 35,000 troops although the White House has since denied that this is in the works.

During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Mr. Trump called  NATO “obsolete” and while he has relented somewhat and confirmed that his administration would honour Article 5, he has consistently declared that “NATO members meet their financial obligations and pay what they owe”. While his manner is obnoxious, when it comes to burden-sharing within the Alliance, Mr. Trump does have a point.

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Big Ticket Items

1. NATO Readiness to Reinforce Collective Defence (including investing in capabilities)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and intervention in Syria underline the need for NATO readiness. In practical terms this means a rapid combat-ready expeditionary force with attention to cyber-defence and maritime security. As NATO scholar Julian Lindley-French and Admiral (ret’d.) James Stavridis, former SACEUR, argue: “Article 5 collective defence must be modernized and re-organized around cyber-defence, missile defence and the advanced deployable forces vital to contemporary defence.”

Recent military exercises have demonstrated shortcomings in NATO’s ability to move forces across Europe, because of bureaucracy (customs officials asking to see passports at borders) and inadequate infrastructure (the bridges, roads and railways that have to handle military transports). In June, NATO defence ministers agreed to the “Four Thirties” initiative, a military readiness plan that would see the Alliance have — by 2020 — 30 land battalions, 30 air squadrons and 30 navy vessels, ready for deployment in 30 days or less.

Assuming it is adopted, NATO allies will need to designate troops, establish a reporting mechanism and plan for readiness exercises. There are also plans to create  two new commands — one in Norfolk, Virginia to ensure U.S. maritime access across the Atlantic and the other in Ulm, Germany, focused on logistics in Europe.

2. Defence Spending

The United States shoulders nearly three-quarters of the Alliance’s operating budget. U.S. presidents and cabinet secretaries have consistently encouraged NATO members to spend more.

Defence spending in 2000 for eight of the 18 NATO members was two per cent of GDP but it steadily declined. At their Wales summit (2014) allies agreed to meet two per cent of GDP spending on defence “within a decade.” According to NATO figures (March 2018), only five of the 28 members meet NATO’s target of spending at least two per cent of GDP on defence – the U.S., the U.K., Poland, Greece and Estonia. The U.S. spends 3.57 per cent on defence and the U.K. 2.12 per cent, while Canada spends 1.29 per cent, Germany spends 1.24 per cent, France 1.79 per cent, Italy 1.12 per cent and Spain 0.92 per cent.

The combined defence budget of NATO nations has grown by US$14.4 billion since the Wales summit (2016) with all but one of 28 allies increasing spending, and 26 sending more troops for NATO missions. Sixteen – but not Canada – are on track to spend the NATO target of two per cent of their gross domestic product on defence by 2024. Those allocating at least 20 per cent of their defence budget to major equipment ­(another pledge from a summit in Wales in 2014) have risen from 14 to 24 (including Canada).

The U.S expects more from its allies. Mr. Mattis has said, “America will meet its responsibilities, but if your nations do not want to see America moderate its commitment to this alliance, each of your capitals needs to show support for our common defence.” The U.S. argument was best expressed  in the valedictory remarks to NATO (June 10, 2011) of former U.S. defence secretary Robert Gates who warned, “The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. Congress — and in the American body politic writ large — to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”

3. Relations with Russia

With the end of the Cold War, there was some expectation that Russia would eventually become a NATO partner. In 2009, NATO and Russia signed an accord to “build together a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and co-operative security.” The NATO-Russia Council, created in 2002 and suspended in 2014 after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has resumed with seven meetings over the past two years.

President Putin’s objectives are clear: he wants an end to sanctions and an end to U.S. military exercises in Europe and the scaling back of U.S. forces there. Mr. Putin is also seeking to create a sphere of influence on his frontiers and, through the creation of his Eurasian Union (a free-trade customs union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus), a counter-weight to NATO. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and continuing incursions into Ukraine violate the UN charter, the Helsinki Final Act and Russia’s own commitment “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine”. Ukraine is not Mr. Putin’s first incursion into a neighbour’s territory. In 2008, at his instruction, Russian forces occupied southern Georgia.

Russia also retains a “longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order” and is acting on it, according to a declassified report from U.S intelligence agencies on hacking during the U.S. election.

4. NATO Partners and NATO Expansion

NATO’s partnerships, born out of its 1990 London summit, focused first on the former Soviet bloc nations (many of whom are now full members), then on crisis management in the Balkans, and, since 9/11, on wider partnerships now including more than 40 nations around the world – Australia, New Zealand and, as the latest addition, Mongolia. At its peak, the ISAF mission in Afghanistan included 22 partner nations. Partnership does not include the security guarantee of Article 5.

Ukraine and Georgia want membership in NATO and, at the Bucharest summit in 2008, NATO encouraged this. But NATO enlargement is controversial and there is discussion of different architecture to guarantee security. With the name dispute over Macedonia resolved, Mr. Stoltenberg expects Macedonia will soon join NATO.

A wise persons’ report (2016) commissioned by the Finnish government concluded that Finland and Sweden should stick together, whatever the decision, but that membership would provoke Russia. It described Russia as an “unsatisfied power” that “has made unpredictability a strategic and tactical virtue, underpinned by an impressive degree of political and military agility.”

5. Afghanistan

NATO continues to lead a non-combat mission – Resolute Support – involving 13,576 troops and 39 nations (but not Canada) to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions. NATO and its partners are already committed to providing financial support to sustain the Afghan forces until the end of 2020.

NATO has been involved in Afghanistan since the UN Security Council authorized the NATO-led ISAF that operated from August 2003 to December 2014. ISAF is NATO’s longest mission, employing more than 130,000 troops from 51 NATO and partner nations, including Canada.

Canadian Forces left Afghanistan in March 2014 after a 12-year campaign and the loss of 161 men and women. Yet Canada continues to support a number of programs and activities.

6. Countering Terrorism

Mr. Stoltenberg says NATO will do even more to combat terrorism, with continued commitments to Afghanistan and a new training mission in Iraq. NATO is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and supports it through AWACS intelligence flights. Its Counter-Terrorism Policy Guidelines focus Alliance efforts on three main areas: awareness, capabilities and engagement.

7. Migration

NATO and the EU are working together on migration, seeking to tackle the root causes and to help stabilize the source countries, including training local forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. NATO is also assisting in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, and providing help to the EU’s Operation Sophia in the Mediterranean, with 10 ships and maritime surveillance aircraft currently in the region.

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What Results Can we Expect from the Brussels Summit?

President Trump wants the Allies to meet the NATO norm, originally set by NATO in 2002, of two per cent of GDP spending on national defence. While the Allies are spending more and more on equipment, the pace of increase is slower than Mr. Trump wants.

Rather than spend their time debating defence spending, leaders should focus on actual capability requirements and how quickly these resources can be made available for combat. The Afghan and Libyan missions were handicapped by the caveats some NATO members imposed on use of their personnel and equipment.

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Canadian Involvement at the Summit?

As a founding member of NATO, Canada has stood with its NATO Allies since 1949. Mr. Trudeau will be pressed on Canada’s financial commitment to NATO. The government’s Strong, Secure, Engaged defence policy (2017) commits Canada to increasing its defence spending to 1.4 per cent of GDP by 2026-2027, well short of the NATO two per cent norm. But as Mr. Trudeau has said, “there are many ways of evaluating one’s contribution to NATO”, noting that Canada has “always been amongst the strongest actors in NATO.”

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This includes Canada’s leadership of a multinational NATO mission in Latvia (and Mr. Trudeau will visit Latvia before going to the NATO summit). The 450-strong Canadian Forces contingent represents the commitment Mr. Trudeau made at the Warsaw summit in 2016, as part of broader Canadian support to Operation REASSURANCE, and notes the “significant procurement projects” – especially the ongoing construction of new warships and the purchase of fighter jets – and Canada’s renewed activist internationalism.

As part of Canada’s commitment to NATO’s Operation REASSURANCE, Canadian fighter jets patrol the Baltic skies. Since April 2014, Canada has deployed our Halifax-class frigates, most recently HMCS Charlottetown and HMCS St. John’s, in support of NATO reassurance measures. HMCS Windsor, one of our Victoria-class submarines, recently returned from five months in the Mediterranean where its mission included tracking Russian submarines. Canada is providing humanitarian and Special Forces support to a U.S.-led multinational effort to support pro-Iraq forces battling the Islamic state.

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In terms of readiness, Canadian forces already have achieved significant interoperability on land, air and sea with the U.S. through NORAD, our bi-national aerospace and maritime surveillance agreement, and through both joint exercises and active operations in theatres like Afghanistan, Libya and now in Latvia. Mr. Trudeau can also point to Canada’s new mission, as part of the UN peacekeeping operation in Mali, involving 250 Canadian soldiers and eight helicopters.

But we could do more. That means spending more, not because Mr. Trump says so, but because Canadian sovereignty requires it.

The Canadian Forces are having trouble with recruitment, so why not increase the reserves and bring in more young people who will learn a trade and, inevitably, be involved in useful community work around natural disasters?

We could also do much more to assert our Arctic sovereignty – picking up the pace for construction of the icebreakers by using all of Canada’s shipyards and building more Arctic offshore patrol ships and supply ships. We should also invest now in the next generation of submarines – they are the ultimate stealth weapon to deter unwelcome intrusions. And why not invest in a hospital ship to provide humanitarian relief in the increasing number of climate-related disasters that beset coastal nations?

Given the changing nature of threats, Canada should seek membership in the EU/NATO Centres for Excellence:

  • hybrid threats in Helsinki, Finland (current membership is Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Italy, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S.)
  • cyber-threats in Tallinn, Estonia (current membership includes Austria, Belgium, the Czechia, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States)
  • strategic communications in Riga, Latvia (current membership includes Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Finland and Sweden have become partners. France and Canada have seconded staff)

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Does NATO Still Matter?

Yes. But collective security means collective contributions. Despite his bullying manner, Mr. Trump is right – the Allies do need to share the burdens. As former president Barack Obama repeatedly told Canada’s Parliament: “NATO needs more Canada”.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland gets this, telling a Washington audience recently (June 2018) that:

Since the end of the Second World War, we have built a system that championed freedom and democracy and prevented regional conflicts from turning into total war. Canada for one is going to stand up in defence of that system … America has been the leader of the free world. We Canadians have been proud to stand at your side and to have your back. As your closest friend, ally and neighbour, we also understand that many Americans today are no longer certain that the rules-based international order of which you were the principal architect and for which you did write the biggest cheques still benefits America.

At the centre of that defence arrangement, as Ms. Freeland told parliamentarians (June 2017) in laying out the Trudeau foreign policy: “NATO and Article 5 are at the heart of Canada’s national security policy.” We now need to up our defence contribution.

NATO still matters. As the New York Times recently editorialized:

Born after World War II, NATO linked America and Europe not just in a mutual defense pledge but in advancing democratic governance, the rule of law, civil and human rights, and an increasingly open international economy. The alliance was the core of an American-led liberal world order that extended to Asia and relied on a web of international institutions, including the United Nations and the World Bank. It remains the most successful military alliance in history, the anchor of an American-led and American-financed peace that fostered Western prosperity and prevented new world wars. No one has proposed anything credible to improve upon it.

But NATO also needs to be continuously improving to adapt to changing world conditions.

A good starting point is the recommendations of the GLOBSEC NATO Adaptation Initiative, led by General John Allen and including CGAI Fellow Julian Lindley-French. In the spirit of the Harmel Report (1967) and “to better prepare NATO not only to meet the many technology and affordability challenges but to master them  –  from hybrid warfare to hyperwar” they recommend a strategic review in time for the 70th anniversary summit so that NATO is “prepared, fit and able to act across the seven domains of grand conflict: air, sea, land, cyber, space, information and knowledge.”

Defence Expenditure as a Share of GDP (%)
(based on 2010 prices and exchange rates)

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Public Opinion and NATO

In a spring 2017 Pew Research Center survey of six EU nations (France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom), the U.S. and Canada find positive views of the military alliance.

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Asked whether their own country should militarily defend a NATO ally (i.e., Article 5) if embroiled in an armed conflict with Russia, there is strong support in the Netherlands (72 per cent), Poland (62 per cent), United States (62 per cent), Canada (58 per cent) and France (53 per cent) for living up to their country’s mutual defence commitment as a member of NATO.

Two-thirds of Canadians hold NATO in high esteem, a rise of 10 per cent since 2015, with rising support across demographic groups and with strong support among the major parties: Liberal Party (75 per cent), Conservative Party (74 per cent) and New Democratic Party (65 per cent).

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Germany has the fourth largest defence budget in NATO, but only 40 per cent of Germans believe they should come to the aid of an ally. More than half (53 per cent) do not support such aid.

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A Gallup survey in February 2017 revealed 80 per cent of Americans support the Alliance. When Gallup first asked Americans about their views on NATO in July 1989, 75 per cent thought the alliance should be maintained. This percentage dropped to 62 per cent in 1991, months before the Soviet Union’s formal collapse, staying at that level during NATO’s 1995 intervention in the Bosnian War.

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Further Reading

NATO has a comprehensive website. The Canadian Global Affairs Institute produced a series of papers on NATO in advance of parliamentary hearings by the House of Commons National Defence Committee into NATO that recently tabled its report Canada and NATO: An Alliance Forged in Strength and Durability. See also the GLOBSEC NATO Adaptation Initiative report, One Alliance: The Future Tasks of the Adapted Alliance.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 4, 2018. Stoltenberg says recent Russian missile tests do not pose any direct threat to the Canadians or their allies, but they underscore the importance of a strong NATO presence in Latvia and the rest of Eastern Europe.