Canada should spend more on defence

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.

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NATO Summit

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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A Canadian Primer to the NATO Summit in Brussels July 11-12, 2018

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.  

 

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NATO Brussels Summit

A Primer to the Brussels NATO Summit

by Colin Robertson
CGAI Vice President and Fellow
May, 2017

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Table of Contents


Executive Summary

On May 25-26, NATO leaders will meet in Brussels. This will be the first multilateral forum in which President Donald Trump will be in attendance, and where much of the focus will be following his varied comments on NATO. From its original 12 members, NATO now stands at 28, including many former Warsaw Pact nations, and has operated in Afghanistan, performed anti-piracy missions, and taken part in humanitarian operations as well.

Despite these successes, President Trump, both as a candidate and since, has called on the Alliance members to increase their share of the burden, symbolized to him by the two percent goal. There are six big-ticket items which will be discussed at the summit:

  1. NATO readiness to reinforce collective defence, including investing in capabilities;
  2. Defence spending;
  3. Relations with Russia;
  4. Deepening partnerships and maintaining NATO’s open door policy;
  5. Afghanistan; and
  6. ISIS and Terrorism.

It is expected that President Trump will again forcefully push for all members to meet the 2 percent of GDP spending on defence commitment. In return the other leaders will expect a clear commitment to collective defence. As leaders meet, new Pew Foundation survey numbers reveal strong support among the populations of NATO member countries for both the Alliance itself and, more importantly, collective self-defence.

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Introduction

Presidents and prime ministers will meet in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday (May 24-5, 2017) in a summit meeting of the 28 partner nations. The focus will be on U.S. President Donald Trump, appearing in his first formal multilateral forum. It will also be the first meeting for France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron.

The conference takes place against a complicated backdrop; upcoming elections in the United Kingdom and Germany, the recent elections in France and the Netherlands, the Brexit negotiations, the ongoing campaign against ISIS, turmoil in Syria, questions about Afghanistan, the continuing migration from the Middle East and North Africa, the latest Greek bailout, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s authoritarianism in the wake of the recent constitutional referendum, the continuing Russian occupation of parts of Ukraine and improved Russian military capacity, Chinese elbowing in on the South China Seas, North Korean nuclear and missile testing, increasing cyber-attacks, including those that shut down parts of Britain’s health services and a new terrorist incident at a concert in Manchester.

NATO leaders will dedicate and then meet in the organization’s new, multi-billion euro headquarters. A section of the World Trade Center – The 9/11 and Article 5 Memorial – the only time in its history that NATO invoked Article 5, the mutual defense clause, will be unveiled by President Trump. A section of the Berlin Wall, underlining how NATO kept the peace during the Cold War, will be dedicated by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Critics say the new headquarters also reflects the challenges confronting the Alliance: it is behind schedule and over-budget.

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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 28 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 Secretary General Stollenberg 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 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.” A collective security agreement, an attack on one would be considered an attack on all, enshrined in Article 5. NATO was also designed, at Canadian insistence, to have an economic dimension to promote trade, investment, and commerce between the members (Article 2).

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

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. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, NATO membership is now 28 countries – most of the former Warsaw Pact countries, including the Balkan states created with the dissolution of Yugoslavia (Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia). Montenegro will join when its membership is ratified by all member countries and Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are on NATO’s membership action plans, a kind of waiting-room for membership. Georgia and Ukraine have declared an interest in joining NATO and at the Bucharest summit (2008) NATO said the door was open although, since 2010, Ukraine has not formally pursued membership.

NATO is headquartered in Brussels, where former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg leads its Secretariat with Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller, a former U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security NATO military operations are headed by two commanders: Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) based in Brussels is currently U.S. General Curtis Scaparrotti; and 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 and legislators meet annually in the NATO parliamentary assembly. A Canadian has never held the post of Secretary General but Canadian General Ray Henault, a former Chief of Defense Staff, served as Chairman of the Military Committee from 2005-2008.

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What has NATO done?

NATO has three core tasks: collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security.

For its first 40 years NATO’s purpose was to deter Soviet aggression. Today, arguably, it is to deter Russian aggression. Canadian troops were stationed in Europe, mostly in Germany.

With the end of the Cold War, NATO shifted to help the former Soviet-bloc countries embrace democracy and the market economy.

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 operation in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.

NATO forces were involved in bringing peace to the Balkans (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo), operations that continues 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 (1990-1) and a training mission (2004-11). 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 U.N.-sanctioned Libyan campaign (Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR in 2011), maintaining a no-fly zone and conducting air strikes against the Gaddafi regime. Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard directed that air campaign.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2014 presented NATO with a renewed challenge, while events on its southern flank – in North Africa and the Middle East – require ongoing attention.

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President Trump and NATO

All eyes at the summit will be on President Trump, who arrives as part of his first official trip abroad, which also took him to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the Vatican, and finally Brussels.

NATO leaders usually meet in the aftermath of the election of a new American president, as it is the U.S. that provides the muscle for the organization. During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Mr. Trump called NATO “obsolete”, warned the Allies that they would have to carry more of the load, and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Since his election his statements on NATO have reflected a more traditional U.S. stance. During his meeting in April with U.N. Secretary General Jens Stollenberg, President Trump re-affirmed U.S. support for NATO saying the Alliance was “no longer obsolete” but declared that “NATO members meet their financial obligations and pay what they owe.”

Vice President Mike Pence and the senior security and defence team all support NATO. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Defence Secretary James Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly – all served as generals in the U.S. Forces. His Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was CEO of Exxon. Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, his ambassador to the United Nations, has been vocal in her criticism of Russia.

At the Munich Security Conference in February, Vice President Pence said “the United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to this trans-Atlantic alliance”. He also reiterated Mr. Trump’s message that the Allies need to pay their “fair share…That pledge has gone unfulfilled for too many for too long and erodes the very foundation of our alliance.”

The U.S. effort leading to the Brussels summit was handicapped by the lack of senior personnel in the U.S. Administration. Many posts at the National Security Council, Pentagon, State Department, as well as ambassadors, including to NATO and most of its member nations, have yet to be named, let alone confirmed by the Senate.

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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 have underlined the need for NATO readiness, including 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, have argued “Article 5 collective defence must be modernised and re-organised around cyber-defence, missile defence and the advanced deployable forces vital to contemporary defence.”

2. Defence spending

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

The American argument is expressed well in the valedictory remarks to NATO (June 10, 2011), of former U.S. defense 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.”

Speaking in February to his fellow defence ministers Defence Secretary James Mattis 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.

Defence spending in 2000 for most NATO members was 2 percent of GDP but it then steadily declined. According to NATO figures released in March, 2017, only five of the 28 members meet NATO’s target of spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defence: the U.S., the U.K., Poland, Greece and Estonia. The U.S. spends 3.61 percent on defence and the U.K. 2.17 percent, based on NATO figures for 2016, while Germany spends 1.2 percent, France 1.7, Italy 1.11 and Spain 0.9. By NATO’s estimates for this year, Canada will spend 1.02 percent of its GDP on defence.

3. Relations with Russia

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and illegal annexation of Crimea violates the U.N. charter, the Helsinki Final Act, and Russia’s 20-year old commitment “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine”.

With the end of the Cold War there was hope that Russia would eventually become a NATO partner and 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 cooperative security.” Like the Obama ‘reset’ it has not worked out as planned. The NATO-Russia Council, created in 2002, meets in the belief that “in times of tension, dialogue is more important than ever.” NATO has responded to the changed security environment by enhancing its deterrence and defence posture.

President Putin wants 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 (and the European Union). Ukraine is not his first incursion into a neighbour’s territory. In 2008, at his instruction, Russian forces invaded Georgia and occupied the South Ossetia region.

4. Deepening partnerships and maintaining NATO’s open door policy

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 forty nations around the world – including Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and Pakistan. 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.

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 has been involved in Afghanistan since the U.N. Security Council authorized the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that operated from August 2003 to December 2014. ISAF was NATO’s longest mission employing more than 130,000 troops from 51 NATO and partner nations, including Canada. A new NATO-led mission (Resolute Support) was launched in January 2015 to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions.

In his meeting with Secretary General Stollenberg in April, President Trump said he would like more NATO members to re-involve themselves in Afghanistan.

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

NATO’s current mission in Afghanistan, RESOLUTE SUPPORT, was launched to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and institutions in January 2015. A total of 39 countries (and all NATO members with the exception of Canada and France) have contributed a total of 13,459 troops at last official count.

6. ISIS and Terrorism

President Trump told Secretary General Stollenberg during their April meeting in Washington that he hopes that “NATO will take on an increased role in supporting our Iraqi partners in their battle against ISIS.” In his first major foreign policy address abroad (May 21), President Trump told Arab leaders in Riyadh that the fight against terrorism ‘‘is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between those who seek to obliterate human life and those who seek to protect it.’’

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What results can we expect from the Brussels summit?

NATO Leaders will want to hear President Trump explicitly confirm his commitment to Article 5.

President Trump’s pronouncements aside, reinvigoration of the Alliance begins with political will, and this is a hard commodity to coalesce.

President Trump will reiterate his demand that the Allies spend 2 percent of GDP on national defence, the target originally set by NATO in 2002. Without an agreed strategy on what the spending is to support, binding commitments before 2020, the date set at the 2014 Wales summit, are unlikely.

Commitments would have to include actual capability requirements as well as agreement to make those resources available for combat. The Afghan and Libyan missions were handicapped by the caveats imposed by some NATO members on use of their personnel and equipment.

President Trump will likely push for NATO to formally join the anti-ISIS coalition. Germany is reportedly pushing back against the idea but some form of NATO commitment may be forthcoming. In meeting with reporters last week Secretary General Stollenberg said ““Allies who are arguing in favour are pointing to the fact that by joining the coalition NATO could send a clear message of political support.”

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Canadian involvement at the summit?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be pressed about Canada’s financial commitment to NATO. During his address to Parliament in June 2015, President Obama also pushed Trudeau for more spending, saying not once, but three times that “NATO needs more Canada.

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Mr. Trudeau is likely to respond to President Trump as he did during his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in February when he said that “there are many ways of evaluating one’s contribution to NATO” noting that Canada has “always been amongst the strongest actors in NATO.”

Trudeau will likely cite Canada’s leadership of a multinational NATO mission in Latvia (a commitment he made at the Warsaw summit in 2016), as part of broader Canadian support to Operation REASSURANCE, and note the “significant procurement projects” — especially the ongoing construction of new warships and the purchase of fighter jets – and Canada’s renewed activist internationalism.

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Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told Parliament that the Defence Policy Review – which may include new spending for defence – is scheduled to be announced on June 7.

In practical terms under Operation REASSURANCE, Canadian fighter jets patrol the Baltic skies, and since April 2014 Canada has deployed five Halifax-class frigates in support of NATO reassurance measures. Canada is providing humanitarian and Special Forces support to a U.S.-led multinational effort to support pro-Iraq forces battling the Islamic State.

In terms of readiness, Canadian forces already have achieved significant interoperability on land, air and sea with the U.S. through NORAD, our binational aerospace and maritime surveillance agreement, and through both joint exercises and active operations in theatres like Afghanistan and Libya, and now in Latvia.

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Public Opinion and NATO

Public opinion continues to support NATO.

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 finds positive views of the military alliance.

Asked about 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 percent), Poland (62 percent), United States (62 percent), Canada (58 percent) and France (53 percent), to living up to their mutual defense commitment as a member of NATO.

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BrusselsNATOSummit5.jpgTwo-thirds of Canadians hold NATO in high esteem, a rise of 10 percent since 2015, with rising support across demographic groups and with strong support amongst the major parties: Liberal Party (75 percent), Conservative Party (74 percent) New Democratic Party (65 percent).

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

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In a 2015 survey a third of those surveyed said their country should increase its national defense spending, while nearly half (median of 47 percent) want to keep spending the same and 14 percent favor decreasing defense spending. The figures for Canada were 31 percent increase spending, 52 percent stay the same and 13 percent saying decrease spending.

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

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About the Author

A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is Vice President and Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Executive Fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. He is Senior Advisor to Dentons LLP working with the Business Council of Canada. He is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. He is a member of the advisory councils of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute and the North American Research Partnership and participant in the North American Forum. He is a past president of the National Capital Branch of the Canadian International Council. He is an Honorary Captain (Royal Canadian Navy) assigned to the Strategic Communications Directorate. He writes on international affairs for the Globe and Mail and he is a regular contributor to other media.

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Canadian Global Affairs Institute

The Canadian Global Affairs Institute focuses on the entire range of Canada’s international relations in all its forms including (in partnership with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy), trade investment and international capacity building. Successor to the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute (CDFAI, which was established in 2001), the Institute works to inform Canadians about the importance of having a respected and influential voice in those parts of the globe where Canada has significant interests due to trade and investment, origins of Canada’s population, geographic security (and especially security of North America in conjunction with the United States), social development, or the peace and freedom of allied nations. The Institute aims to demonstrate to Canadians the importance of comprehensive foreign, defence and trade policies which both express our values and represent our interests.

The Institute was created to bridge the gap between what Canadians need to know about Canadian international activities and what they do know. Historically Canadians have tended to look abroad out of a search for markets because Canada depends heavily on foreign trade. In the modern post-Cold War world, however, global security and stability have become the bedrocks of global commerce and the free movement of people, goods and ideas across international boundaries. Canada has striven to open the world since the 1930s and was a driving factor behind the adoption of the main structures which underpin globalization such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and emerging free trade networks connecting dozens of international economies. The Canadian Global Affairs Institute recognizes Canada’s contribution to a globalized world and aims to inform Canadians about Canada’s role in that process and the connection between globalization and security.

In all its activities the Institute is a charitable, non-partisan, non-advocacy organization that provides a platform for a variety of viewpoints. It is supported financially by the contributions of individuals, foundations, and corporations. Conclusions or opinions expressed in Institute publications and programs are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Institute staff, fellows, directors, advisors or any individuals or organizations that provide financial support to the Institute.

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